Peter Bridges

36 posts
Peter Bridges is a former ambassador to Somalia, and cofounder of the Elk Mountains Hikers Club in Colorado. He was born in New Orleans, grew up in Chicago, and studied at Dartmouth College and Columbia University. Aside from CLR, his articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in the "Christian Science Monitor," "Foreign Service Journal," "Los Angeles Times," "Michigan Quarterly Review," "Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London," "Virginia Quarterly Review," "Washington Times," and elsewhere.

Jays, Films, and Georg Steller

O’Brian based Aubrey on a Royal Navy captain of two centuries ago, Thomas Cochrane. Lord Cochrane’s exploits were at least as great as those of the fictitious Aubrey, and hardly less than those of Britain’s greatest naval hero, Lord Nelson. But while O’Brian admitted that Cochrane was the inspiration for Aubrey, he did not tell us before he died in 2000 whether he had a real-life model for Maturin. The answer, I think, lies in the handsome bird that I see now beyond our sun room window.

Book Review: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis

George Frost Kennan was one of the most influential of all American diplomats, as well as an historian and writer who won two National Book Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes. It was Kennan who, first in his “long telegram” sent from the American embassy at Moscow in February 1946, and then in his anonymous “X” article in Foreign Affairs the following year, laid out for policy-makers, and then for the American public, the true nature of Stalinism and Soviet policy at a time when some still took a benevolent view of our wartime Soviet ally.

Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame

Never perhaps has there been such a masterful account of the man’s failures—and successes—in this country’s most taxing job. Look what Burlingame says he did in just his first hundred days in office: “…he raised and supplied an army, sent it into battle, held the Border States in the Union, helped thwart Confederate attempts to win European diplomatic recognition, declared a blockade, asserted leadership over his cabinet, dealt effectively with Congress, averted a potential crisis with Great Britain, and eloquently articulated the nature and purpose of the war.”

Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting by John Maxwell Hamilton

Not all of the foreign correspondents for American papers were themselves American. Karl Marx contributed almost five hundred articles on the European scene to Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune during the years between 1852 and 1861. This was after Marx had published the Communist Manifesto and was working on Das Kapital; but his reportage for Greeley, though left-leaning, looks to a modern reader relatively objective.

Dear President-Elect Obama, We Need Trains, Too!

President-elect Obama said in his radio address on Saturday, January 10, that “We’ll put nearly 400,000 people to work by repairing our infrastructure–our crumbling roads, bridges and schools.” What about our passenger train system, that lags sadly behind other developed countries–and is far worse than what Americans enjoyed decades ago?

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson

Lincoln came to the Presidency without any real military experience. He had been an Illinois militia captain in the Black Hawk War of 1832 but as he said in self-deprecation to his fellow Members of Congress in 1848, his combat record amounted to “charges upon the wild onions” and “a good many struggles with the musketoes.”

Engaging, Not Confronting, Russia

The West would exacerbate rather than ease this problem if it brought Georgia into NATO. Nor should we try to bring Ukraine into NATO. Ukraine is now independent and recognized by the world as such, but for most of its history its relationship with Russia has been, to say the least, very close; Kiev was the capital of the first Russian state. One assumes the Europeans will continue to prevent either Georgia or Ukraine from joining NATO; but this has not stopped George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, and John McCain from continuing to push the idea.

A Boy’s View of a World War

The three Libby’s men were the first American businessmen to receive Allied permits to travel to the Continent. They spent most of the summer there. My father kept a journal that was full of business data but also recorded tragic scenes, including the crowds of people walking down Dutch roads, coming back from forced labor in Germany, and the almost total desolation in Hamburg, where Allied bombing raids had killed perhaps fifty thousand people and a million others fled the city.

Worries of a Liberal Conservative

My friend objects that “Islamofascists” will never change their ways. Sure, there are deadly and dangerous people out there (and also here), but they may not always be so. Members of Italy’s Red Brigades, who were targeting Americans when I last worked in Rome, decided to turn to sales or accounting after their movement failed to attract public support and the government began to grab them. One former terrorist, Menachem Begin, later got the Nobel Peace Prize; another, Michael Collins, is revered as a creator of independent Ireland. Do I speak lightly about such things? I have lost four friends and former colleagues to terrorism. How many have you lost?

Notes From Italy: Villains, Romance, and Views

Filettino was not always a happy place, in history or in fiction. In the time of the Caesars the people here were Aequi, an Italic tribe of rough herders whom the Romans subdued with difficulty. For many centuries, probably millennia, the Aequi practiced transhumance, leading their herds over the Serra in late autumn to spend the winter in pastures in the Liri valley far below, and returning to the uplands for summer.