Day By Day

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Make A Friend Day". So go out there and make some friends. It used to be that you did that by being friendly toward people and doing nice things, but today the internet has changed all that. The new key to having lots of friends is to become a celebrity. They have thousands and thousands of friends. Even better, become a politician. You can see for yourself -- just check out Facebook. Sarah Palin has 1.3 million friends.

On this day in 1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin signed the Yalta Agreement. The Yalta Conference was the second of three meetings of the "Big Three" allied leaders during World War Two. The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate plans for the reorganization of Europe after the war was won. The resulting agreement was, in many people's opinion, overly generous to the Soviet Union.

Stalin demanded that Eastern Poland be annexed to the USSR and, as a precondition to entering the war against Japan, he demanded that Mongolia be separated from China [so that it could fall within the Soviet orbit] and that the USSR regain control over Manchuria, including Port Arthur [which had been lost in the Russian-Japanese War of 1904. Roosevelt, who felt that Stalin was trustworthy and had no other territorial ambitions, agreed to these demands. Furthermore the agreement stated that, Germany and Berlin would be divided into zones of occupation and, with some few exceptions, that the governments of nations occupied by the Germans would be restored on a democratic basis. Roosevelt apparently believed that Stalin could be trusted to uphold his promise of free elections in the nations of Eastern Europe and Churchill, despite strong reservations, agreed. They were wrong. Stalin had no intention of allowing nations in what he considered to be Russia's traditional "sphere of influence" to have independent governments.

Many people have strongly criticized Roosevelt for acceding to Stalin's demands and, by so doing, consigning hundreds of millions of people to life under Soviet domination. Supporters of FDR argue that the only alternative to trusting Stalin to honor the pledge to hold free elections was armed confrontation and possibly war between the US and the USSR. In 1945 the American people would not stand for that so Roosevelt had no real choice in the matter. It seems that FDR was naive in that he hoped that the creation of the United Nations organization would be an effective check on Soviet ambitions, but everyone had high hopes for the organization back in those days.

And on this day in 1979 followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in Iran. Turn on any cable news channel and you will find out all you want to know on the subject. They are all covering the anniversary.

And on this day in 1751 Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the United States, was founded in Philadelphia.