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Reap the Whirlwind — The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv Gandhi, son of India’s long-time Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had no intention of entering politics like the rest of his family, but as heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, such a step was almost pre-ordained. Rajiv Gandhi became India’s seventh Prime Minister on October 31, 1984 just hours after his mother was assassinated by two of her own bodyguards. As a member of India’s post-independence generation, Gandhi was viewed hopefully as a modern technocrat who would help transform the populous nation.

However, it was old-school Realpolitik that ultimately proved to be his undoing. India had long supported the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had been fighting for independence from Sri Lanka since its founding in 1976. When the conflict intensified, Rajiv Gandhi sent in the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka in 1987 in the hopes of disarming the LTTE and defusing the violent conflict. This backfired badly, as the LTTE began to resent the presence of Indian troops and the government’s strong-arm tactics. Read more

The NPT and the Aftermath of India’s Nuclear Test — May 1974

Operation Smiling Buddha was the assigned code name for India’s first nuclear weapons explosion on May 18th, 1974. India declared that this test was simply a “peaceful nuclear explosion” or PNE, yet it was later discovered that this was actually a part of a nuclear weapons program. The sharp backlash by the international community  stemmed in part from the fact that India was not a member of the UN Security Council.

After the first nuclear bomb was exploded by the United States in 1945, other nations – the USSR, Great Britain, France, and China –- soon followed suit and developed their own nuclear weapons capabilities. These five nuclear powers soon realized the potentially devastating effects of nuclear weapons development and pushed for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which went into effect in 1970. Read more

The Longest Day — Tales from D-Day, 1944

The June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy marked the beginning of the end of World War II. Planning for what would be the largest seaborne invasion in history began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted substantial disinformation regarding the date and location of the main landings in order to mislead the Germans, who were spread thin throughout northwest Europe. The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and the landing of 24,000 British, U.S., and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight. Allied infantry and armored divisions began landing on the coast of France at 6:30 in the morning.  Read more

Normalizing Ties with Franco: “I don’t have to like the son of a bitch, do I?”

For many people, Spain in the 1930s and 40s was a country of despair, where the dreams of democracy and freedom were brutally crushed during the Spanish Civil War. Its leader, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, had proclaimed Spain’s neutrality during World War II, yet still provided war materiel and assistance to the Axis Powers. Franco then carried out a disastrous economic policy, which stressed self-sufficiency through state price controls. After the end of the war, the Spanish economy was in shambles and Spain was increasingly isolated, as Mexico and others pushed to have it excluded from the newly created United Nations. Shortly thereafter, in December 1946, the UN recommended that all members withdraw their ambassadors from Madrid. The U.S. then excluded Spain from the Marshall Plan as long as the dictatorship remained.   Read more