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January 28, 2013 at 10:55 AM

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Who will be Afghanistan’s Stanley Karnow?

Certainly a war has to end before its definitive history can be written, but the death of journalist and historian Stanley Karnow stirs the question.

Karnow, author of the 1983 epic “Vietnam:: A History,” died Sunday, Jan. 27, in Potomac, Maryland. Monday was the 40th anniversary of the cease-fire negotiated in Paris. President Richard Nixon noted the agreement “brings peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.”

That conflict roiled American politics for decades. The United States cut its first check to help the French in 1950, and the first American combat deaths came in 1959. More than 58,000 would follow.

Today in the Times a compelling look at the coffee business in India, by business reporter Melissa Allison, has a chart that notes America imports 25 percent of its coffee beans from Vietnam, the second-highest provider. The country also provides racks full of clothes for the U.S. market. Tourism is popular, including visits by vets who want to honor fallen comrades.

Understanding the big picture of traumatizing events can help nations and troubled souls adjust. Karnow did that with his writing and reporting. Afghanistan, another mystifying conflict, will find its muse.

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