When I'm teaching history to undergraduates, I always point out that if you take a historical figure's birthdate, and add about 20 to that, you get the foundational years that shape their view of the world. It's a way to make the ubiquitous birthdates in historical texts useful.
For me, that gets you 2001, and I do think much of my worldview and mindset got fixed into place by 9/11. I was on another coast, don't get me wrong. But there was an experience that got seared into the minds of all Americans that day, especially younger ones.
(Before anyone wants to school me on the difference in experiences between people who were in NYC and people who were not — I know. My wife was in NYC on 9/11. But the non-NYC experience is still an experience.)
For me, it was a cynicism crowding out hope. A sense that there were dark forces afoot, that you weren't really sure how much you should trust the government to handle this (only reinforced in later years), of a vast security state mobilizing that was never going to go away.
It was a sense of history wheeling off on another path than the one it had been on before. A sense that things were going to get uglier. A continuation of the sense that a lot of the good-times had been used up before my generation (and those after) had a shot at them.
Whenever I tell undergraduates about this little historical rule, a few of them inevitably realize that the moment that I am telling them this is that moment for them. They tend to react with a little horror, because the world scene has been pretty chaotic the last few years.
I think about that especially right now, as I teach all but two students remotely, wear a mask whenever I leave the apartment, have not been into NYC itself since March (though I see it from across the river daily), and worry that the ruin of last 4 years will not end soon.
I have been told that research shows that the 20-somethings today prefer hope to cynicism, though I have a hard time imagining it, or believing it, or seeing it when I interact with them. But that might just say more about me and my experiences than them and theirs.

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More from @wellerstein

15 Sep
@NarangVipin @SecDef19 I'm not sure that's what he's saying. The procedures do involve the CJCS, that is clear. It is also implied in much testimony that they can go "around" the CJCS in some situations. This is entirely separate from whether CJCS has a true veto power, beyond disobeying an order.
@NarangVipin @SecDef19 The "standard" chain of command jumps from POTUS to CJCS and from there to the theatre commanders. It is clear that there is meant to be some flexibility to this as well. I read Miley as saying, "don't be flexible, and make sure it goes through CJCS himself, not a subordinate."
@NarangVipin @SecDef19 Here's the cute lil' diagram I made of the US system as described in doctrine and testimony. Person #2 is CJCS or head of STRATCOM (there seems to be flexibility there).

Whole paper is here, diagrams for diff countries (and legend) are at end: nautilus.org/napsnet/napsne…
Read 5 tweets
12 Sep
This is a little painful to read, because it repeats some long-debunked myths about the Nazis atomic program: They didn't fail to make a bomb because of a lack of heavy water, or by being bad at industrial production. ... nytimes.com/2021/09/10/sci…
...they failed because **they didn't invest in an atomic bomb production program.** In early 1942, German Army Ordnance decided that nuclear fission research would be irrelevant to the outcome of the war, and declined to finance a large-scale effort.
Instead, they agreed to keep a small-scale (I would say "pilot") reactor program, as a possible long-term program aimed primarily around military propulsion. This is what the cubes were part of — a small-scale reactor program. The Nazi reactors couldn't have made bombs for WWII.
Read 22 tweets
11 Sep
For 9/11/01 I was I living in a studio apartment on top of a hill in Berkeley with nobody I knew around, no radio, no television. So I got all my news through a terrible dial-up connection. 1/
I remember logging on that morning, after everything had happened, and trying to make sense of the news. It seemed totally non-sequitur. I think my internet was being especially slow that day as well, so pages were only half-loading. It was so surreal. 2/
We still had classes that day, which is I guess surprising in retrospect. People were super worried about there being West Coast targets as well. The bomb squad had parked itself at the front of campus. In class we sort of just talked about it all. 3/
Read 9 tweets
10 Sep
The difficulty for doing Oppenheimer well is that Oppenheimer, the man, was not a relatable character in practically any way. Trying to make him so makes for a bad filmic Oppenheimer. But anchoring a film around an unrelatable character is pretty tough.
I still really like how Daniel London portrayed Oppenheimer on MANHATTAN — as stressed, self-doubting, at times extremely harsh and cold. That wasn't 100% of the real Oppenheimer, but it's a legitimate side of him that is usually NOT visible in dramatic representations.
For me, the two Oppenheimer plot lines that I hate the most (because they are maximum mythical) is "Oppenheimer as martyr" (way more complex than that) and "Oppenheimer as regretful" (he really wasn't).
Read 4 tweets
10 Aug
August 10th, 1945 — another very important day in the history of nuclear weapons. Groves informs Marshall (and Truman) that another bomb will be ready to use in a week. Truman tells Marshall that they are NOT to use it without his express permission. Image
This, and not the "decision to use the bomb" (which Truman played almost no role in), is what establishes the tradition and eventually the policy of "presidential control" for nuclear use orders in the United States (it was still de facto before 1948, when NSC-30 codified it). Image
Truman told his cabinet — as recorded in the diary of Henry Wallace, his secretary of commerce, that he had issued the "stop order" because "he didn't like the idea of killing, as he said, 'all those kids.'" Image
Read 6 tweets
8 Aug
August 8, 1945, has become one of the more important atomic bombing dates in my mind over the years. It's after Hiroshima, but before Nagasaki. It's easy to ignore for that reason. But a few very significant things happened that day.

(A fairly shortish thread)
16 hours after Hiroshima was bombed, the US released Truman's statement about what had happened. The Japanese, of course, did not take it at face value, and sent a delegation of scientists to Hiroshima to confirm that it wasn't just firebombing or something else.
Because of the disruption, it took until the evening of August 8th for them to get to Hiroshima, inspect the damage, do some tests, and to report back to the Japanese high command:
Read 10 tweets

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