TODAY CHILE IS careening, quietly and in a carefully planned way, toward the greatest political catastrophe of its history. Within the next year or so, its people will be permitted to decide by plebiscite whether or not to accept a president proposed to them by their ruling military junta.
Seoul There's no question that something wonderful happened here on June 29. South Korea's authoritarian government had been expected to concoct the narrowest set of concessions necessary to placate its opposition, stop the rioting, and avoid martial law.
The Palace File by Nguyen Tien Hung and Jerrold L. Schecter (Harper & Row, 542 pp., $22.95) The literature on Vietnam, so scant in the 1960s, when it was most needed, is now swelling toward flood tide. Much of what is being produced is either redundant or merely memoiristic; but one can now add The Palace File to the relatively short list of important books on this grim and complicated subject.
"I was of course very stunned and grateful, and melancholy," Elie Wiesel told the The New York Times about his initial reaction to winning the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. "I fell back into the mood of Yom Kippur, serious reflection about my parents and grandparents. It me half an hour to get out of it." But when Wiesel finally came to, he told a press conference in New York, "There are no coincidences. If it [winning the prize] happens after Yom Kippur here, then some of my friends and myself have prayed well." Actually, they did a little more than pray.
In the Middle East, as in much of the world, if a ruler can ward off the assassin’s hand, he need not govern effectively or justly to remain in power. But the career of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi demonstrates that the key to power in a place like Libya is not just brute force. It is the ability to mesmerize the mob. The mob is fickle, easily roused and easily disenchanted. With minimum expectations of what life might otherwise offer in a rationally organized economy and free polity, it feeds on slogans and fantasies.
The next battlefield over the so-called Regan Doctrine is the decade-old consensus that America should stay out of the civil war in Angola. Based on the belief that the United States should assist anti-Communist freedom fighters everywhere, elements within the Reagan administration and in Congress are urging that the U.S. supply as much as $200 million in aid to Jonas Savimbi's anti-Marxist guerrilla group, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
We can't prevent earthquakes. But technology and techniques now exist to save lives after such tragedies, and that is why it has been so disturbing to witness trained rescue workers arriving in Mexico City too late to help many trapped in collapsed buildings. Members of a French team complained bitterly that they could have saved dozens, if not hundreds, of additional lives if they had been called to the scene promptly after the disaster struck.
Many of China’s writers were less than enthusiastic when they heard there was to be a national Writers’ Conference in December 1984.