End of the Cold War Ambrose 16

April 18th, 2014


In 1989 Franis Fukuyame wrote an essay titled “The end of history“.  In it, and its subsequent 1992 book, he argued that with the advent of democracy humankind had found its last form of government.  Seems kind of naive now doesn’t it?

So could it have been, or in what way was it, the “end of history”?  It appeared to be the end of the Cold War, just don’t tell that to Castro’s Cuba or the imprisoned citizens of North Korea, or citizens of Ukraine.  It is sad reading this chapter that the word “terrorism” isn’t used once yet the idea of a “new world order” is touted about by Ambrose and Bush and others.

In an editorial in Life Magazine (remember those?) near WWII Henry Luce declared the 20th century the “American Century”. arguing that all centuries have great nations that lead the way, Britain the 19th century, France in the 18th, and that now it was America’s turn.

Derrick Bell snidely commented that the “American Century foundered on the shoals of Vietnam”.  But did it?  What would Ambrose say?  And why do you think, or does Ambrose think, we didn’t financially support the emerging democracies in eastern Europe any better?  Did we really need to spend $* billion on the unwindable “war on drugs”?

In terms of the quiz keep an eye on Gorbachev, other names you may know, like Dick Cheney and of course the immediate events, the dot in the center of the circles of causality, that caused the end of the Cold War.

Reagan and the Evil Empire

April 16th, 2014

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Have you all seen these before?  They’re called “Word clouds”.  You can cut and paste and text and the words will be randomized but also manipulated in size by their frequency.  In other words in Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech, above, he used “God” quite a bit and “communism” rather less so.  I think they are interesting.

Here in Ambrose and Brinkley’s 15th chapter we have a marathon of words.  40+ pages!  Note the 5th edition was published in 1988, the sixth in 1991.  In one of those editions, the 6th I suspect, this chapter was new and a classic case of not having enough historical distance to weed out the significant from the non.  Student in one class lost his book and has newer edition which he says has this chapter much trimmed down.

If I were hunting for terms I might choose Ambrose’s take in the Iran-Contra affair, Lebanon, Grenada and maybe the Falkland Islands.

So what do A&B think of old Ronnie?  Good or bad or somewhere in-between?

Testing the Limits

April 10th, 2014

“Breaking a Han Dynasty urn” is the title of the photo taken by the often jailed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.   What do you suppose he intended to say with this photograph?

On to Spence and of course the protests of 1989.  The protests of course don’t fall out of the clear blue sky.  Though the excuse was the death of Deng’s former compatriot Hu Yaobang what was the “real” or longer term reason for the events?

Interesting at the opening of the chapter of how all the changes and reforms in China, like getting rid of the communes, weren’t really seen as completely positive.  China was in a muddle in many ways, and despite economic growth of even recent years, might still be.

There is a lot here.  The Not-Not manifesto is interesting.  The “communist weeds” vs. capitalist seedlings, and a literal return to 100 flowers.

Enjoy your final read of Spence.

Levels of Power

April 8th, 2014

image above is Hong Kong

As China enters the 1980s here it appears that China is really entering the world.  The revolution of 1949 appears a convulsive act that required a generation of flitting recovery for the new China to emerge from.  How is this new 1980s China really different from the one in the teens or twenties or even the one that preceded the 1911 revolution?

Now in the 80s, no doubt inspired by full relations with the US and the “West”, China needs lawyers, international law, a solid education system, incentives for workers and even allows the free-wheeling Hong Kong to keep on keepin’ on.

How did all of this come about?  How does China seems to escape the fate of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union of the same time period?  What was really different here?

We are at crunch time for our little class.  I know you all have may exciting things going on and opportunities to look forward to, but the extent to which for the next simple 4 (only) or 5(stretch) weeks you can double down and focus with me on the final units and reviews as they unroll, you will see, and I will see, I think some extraordinary results.

Hang in there.

Redefining Revolution

April 6th, 2014


How is this a redefinition of revolution your might ask?  well, embedding an icon of capitalism into a communist system is pretty revolutionary I think.  Marx would be rolling in his grave.

China’s (Deng Xiaoping’s) desire to modernize in agriculture and industry etc.  saw them get in bed with the United States, and Coca-Cola and Boeing, and then attack a communist nation (Vietnam) in part because of its leanings towards Socialist country #1 the USSR!  Seems like crazy stuff.

What’s really crazy stuff is that Mao was right 70% of the time.  Claims like that make me think of “Lost in Translation” because I find pronouncements like that sort of funny, yet in China I know it was taken with the greatest seriousnesses.

For comments here consider spelling out your understanding of the rise of Deng, the significance of the “Fifth” modernization and/or how our relationship with Taiwan went the way that it did.


We can’t go on like this

March 24th, 2014

No this was not a lover’s warning, this was rather Gorbachev’s assertion, on the eve of taking power, that something was fundamentally wrong.  He believe change had to come, and it came, but not in ways he could have predicted.  In 1988 the state history exams were cancelled because as “glasnost” unrolled, the lies of the soviet textbooks became more and more evident.

Singled out as one of the most oppressive regimes by White, Honecker’s GDR, being depicted in our movie, was a place where Gorby had to muscle in and force some change.  Some of the claims in the film, problems of corruption, prostitution, are supported by White here, as are the existences of the subversive authors and artists who, in White, want to push harder and harder for reforms.

I think its in Pipes, but it might be in Kissinger to come, someone makes the claim the regimes are at their most vulnerable when they begin to institute reforms.  Reforms begin to trickle in and they’re like “salted peanuts” to use Kissinger’s analogy from before.  People want more and more.

Why did change come in the way that it did?  White has some musings on possible answers.  What do you think?

a system in decline and transition from below

March 20th, 2014

I remember these streetcars in Prague in 1992 looking very much as they looked here.  The only difference is that in 1992 the occasional streetcar would be painted as a giant ad for M&Ms, or Skittles.  Capitalism was on the march.

In these pages White portrays the entire system in the eastern bloc as on the decline economically, despite enormous gains earlier (after WWII).  One might fairly ask though, if we look at economic growth in the US at the same time, don’t we see a similar story?

I’m no economist but the numbers  of growth in the US are generally under 10% and often under 5%.  What is the difference?  White offer up a few clues.  Did you pick them up?

Secondly, in the chapter on “Change” it is so interesting to read this story now when so much potential change appears to be happening in the world. Is Syria going to turn out like Romania?  Is Ukraine more like Hungary or CZ?  Those sorts of comparisons might provide some really interesting analysis in today’s world.  I’ll try to look for my ’92 visit to Prague pictures tonight.  Maybe I can bring a few in for show & tell.

National Communism & the limits of reform

March 18th, 2014

I don’t know about you but I can’t help but think or Crimea and Russia today while reading this.  Like Czechoslovakia Ukraine seems genuinely divided.  Though Czechoslovakia divided itself peacefully that doesn’t see to be the case in Ukraine.  Like Hungary the USSR feels the need to meddle with their decisions in regards to their own government.  Are we going to see Soviet tanks rolling down the streets of Kiev?  If we do will we respond the way we did in Hungary in 1956?  Will we just stand by?  In 1956 Hungary had been designated in the Soviet sphere by Yalta.  Whats our agreement with Ukraine in 2014?
On to the reading…National communism.  What’s that?  If a true communist is one with no state, no nation, how can there be “national communism”?  Maybe there can’t be.  Maybe that was one of the problems.

Why did the “Cold War” the USSR, and commuism in East Europe collapse?  Some will say, Reagan in the 80s, and his “tear down this wall!” speech, but these chapters tell another story.  Here, in CZ in 68, in Poland in 1980 we see the resurgence of independence that these countries had once known, and not too long ago, held dear.

What evidence is here of the collapse?  Look at Hungary in 1956, and China, and try to make a case for the collapse of communism that eventually will come in the late 1980s.  It will do you well.

No Country

March 17th, 2014

Workers were to have “no country”.  No country and no religion.  For a peaople, like the Polish, who identified so strongly with both, its a wonder socialism was successful at all.  Notice I used the word “socialism” instead of “communisim”.  Why?

Communism remained this ideal, for all but Khrushchev apparently, that would only be realized in the far far future.  It would only be much later the individuals would really receive from society based on their need.  In socialism your needs are provided for but in part based upon the work that you do.

What resonates most in these chapters with the people I think is that claim of no exploitation.  No landlords.  No stock traders.  No one making money off of others money, no billionaires, but no paupers (homeless) either.  This would seem a powerful promise after decades of depression and World War.

A nice perspective is also here from White, of the relative isolation of the USSR.   Completely isolated until WWII but then again largely so by the 1960s when not only were Hungary and Poland feeling a bit independent, we also know that China was clearly out on its own.

Both chapters for tomorrow.  1&2.

Ambrose 14 Carter and Human Rights

March 10th, 2014


Yeah old Jimmy Carter, Peanut Farmer from Georgia, had some problems.  Not least of which was his brother Billy (above) who along with selling his name for a model of his pick-up also put his now famous name behind a brand of beer, “Billy beer”.

As far as Jimmy’s presidency and his goals in foreign policy, ambrose says he was the least experienced, in fp, of the post-wwii presidents, and that his goals were wildly impractical, and none were achieved.  Interestingly he was also the first postwar president who had not been a congressman, but rather had been a governor.  Why does that matter? Its the same song you’ll here in 2016.  Anyoneone running as a congressperson, like Obama and HClinton were, will be accused of never having run a large organization, like the USG before, whereas Governors, like Romney, will be accused of having had no experience in USFP.  Governor Palin countered this traditional argument by saying as governor of Alaska she could actually see Russia. (well at least her character on SNL said it)

Back to Jimmy, its a rather long list of problems Carter had.  From arms reduction treaties, to iran, and don’t forget, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.   Where he succeeded and where and why he failed, might be an interesting start to some comments.