[FOUNTAIN]When illness leads to warFor his British daughter-in-law, Friedrich the Great built the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, Germany, in British style to relieve her homesickness. The Potsdam Conference which split Germany was held there from July 17 to August 2 of 1945.
A photograph from the earlier Yalta conference, held in February 1945, implies the world’s fate. The conference was in Yalta, on the north shore of the Black Sea, at the request of Joseph Stalin who was reluctant to leave Russia following his doctor’s advice. In the middle of the historical photograph is U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was suffering from heart disease and dementia, sitting wearing a shawl and looking absent-minded. On his left is Britain’s tired Winston Churchill, who was suffering from obesity and hypertension.
On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt suddenly died and Harry S. Truman took over the U.S. presidency. He wrote a letter to his wife from Potsdam. “Two months ago, I was mostly happy, satisfied as vice-president . . . Now I am depressed. There is not much I can do at Potsdam.” Mr. Churchill’s calling the conference “the last stop” turned out to be true for him. He lost in the July general election and left the negotiating table during the conference.
Mr. Stalin pushed Mr. Truman hard all through the conference. When the German-Poland border line came into question, Mr. Stalin brought Polish government officials, including the prime minister, to the conference. Mr. Truman handed over East of the Oder River to Poland, and Russia showed the intention of making Poland a satellite state.
It is common for a country’s fate to change due to the leader’s health. Former American Professor Gerald R. Ford analyzed, “Russia’s Yeltsin often made drastic decisions to show that he was in good condition, since he suffered from alcoholism and heart attacks.” Mr. Ford assumed this was why President Yeltsin waged war on Chechnya. Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a walking hospital case, especially suffering from Addisons disease which disturbs the secretion of adrenaline and causes skin to become darker. On color television, however, his “healthy copper-skin” helped him win the presidential election.
Last week Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon collapsed after a stroke, bringing red lights to peace attempts in the Middle East. He recovered from a coma but it looks impossible for him to return as prime minister. Israel and Palestine hard liners are cheering that Sharon’s accident is “the best opportunity.” Although it is said “War is the biggest disease of the human race,” it causes anxiety that a leader’s disease can also bring war.
by Lee Chul-ho
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
Revolt and its ramifications
A kiddie talent pool
A well-calculated move
Waking up from an illusion