Archive for November, 2010

Containment tested

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The famous Whistle Stop campaign.  Truman does win in 1948 (barely) but he has a hard road ahead.  So hard are the next four years that Truman will elect not to run in 1952 and his poll numbers will be at an all time low for any American president (even Nixon after his resignation).  So what happened?  How did things go so badly?  Part of that story is here, part of it is in the domestic arena, and part of it is in the next chapter, on Korea.

Here, the Soviets get the bomb, China “falls” and Americans are accused of giving away secrets to the communists.  Despite the great victory in the Berlin airlift of 1948, the above three events lead many Americans, to look at the enormous “Red” Army in Europe, and conclude we were losing the cold war.

So, NSC-68 rolls out, claims we can spend 20% of our GDP on defense, later Eisenhower warns of the “military industrial complex”, after we join NATO and G. Kennan is rolling in his proverbial grave (he lived until 05) because his idea of containment, had been diplomatic and economic, not military.

So here we roll into the 50s, fear of communism, Korea, the Civil Rights movement will take center stage on the domestic front, and on the lighter side, the Mickey Mouse Club and TV will come along, as will Elvis and Rock & Roll. 

The 50s isn’t all “Leave it to Beaver” though.  What do you think of, when you think of the 50s?

Truman Doctrine & the Marshall Plan

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Czechoslovakia.  That little country, with the plaque of Woodrow Wilson.  That little country which had shown the world Hitler’s intentions.  That little country where my father fought in WWII and his buddy in the trenches next to him was killed.  “With invaluable assistance from Soviet actions in Czechoslovakia, the Administration…” got the Marshall Plan.

I love the way the political battles of the Dems v. the ‘Pubs echo today over, big government intervention, billions of dollars in aid, interventionism, isolationism, and the public and political will to put troops on the ground or enact a draft.

Here you have, as we just had, a Republican take over of Congress in mid-term elections, blocking legislation, like the Marshall Plan, pulling “British chestnuts out of the fire” in Greece, and then you have the coup in CZ.

There is a wonderful cartoon I couldn’t find, although I like Stalin playing basketball, of schoolmistress Molotov hurrying her schoolchildren by the American hot dog stand (Marshall Plan).

So where does the fault lie for the emergence of the Cold War?  Is it Truman?  Is it Stalin?  Is it Fear?  What do you think?

The Success and Pain of Containment

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

The mam pictured above is George F. Kennan.  He is worth a google.  His influence, according to Kissinger, through the Long Telegram, and the “Sources of Soviet Conduct” published in “Foreign Affairs” under the pseudonym “X” not only were the foundation of the policy of containment but went so far as to predict what would happen under Gorbachev, namely, the dissolution of the USSR.

There is a lot here in this little chapter.  What if Lippman had been more influential?  What about Wallace?  Was Truman really returning to a style of Realpolitik (Is that why Kissinger likes him so much?) and merely couching the protection in moral codes, or did he really believe he was advancing collective security?  Did Acheson really believe NATO was not an alliance aimed at the Soviet Sphere?

So many questions.  But tomorrow we have a funny day.  As you all know I presume, Mr. Scranton is retiring soon.  For the last 10+ years he has come into my classroom and shared his experiences as a foot soldier in Vietnam and his experiences as a veteran.  It is an extraordinarily compelling story.

Of course we normally have him present when we are studying Vietnam, not the early Cold War, but because of practical matters (he won’t be here) he is going to present tomorrow.  We will knock our quiz out quickly in 3A and then listen to Walt.  He was in Vietnam in 70-71 if you want to look up that era and remind yourself exactly what was going on.  It would be great if you had some questions for him.

Period 2B will have the same presentation but in Ms. Enoch’s room as there will be a film crew in my room.  The quiz take place, on Kissinger’s chapter, so be prepared, but do come in with your questions.

Spy v Spy

Monday, November 15th, 2010

For secret special extra credit, dress up as a spy tomorrow.

Also, of course, be ready to explore the differences between Ambrose take on Truman and Kissinger’s.  Try some examples in the comments section.

The Beginning of the Cold War

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

So here we are, drawing closer to the pinpoint, the flashpoint, the assassination of the archduke Ferdinand, of the Cold War.  Just what is it.  When do we start referring to the “Cold War”?  Google it.  What do you think?

How much of the Cold War is due to Truman?  How much is due to Stalin?  How much is due to measures beyond their control?  To what extent did it become inevitable?

Truman is treated very positively here, and here of course we have Henry Kissinger arrive in his own book in some substantial way, for the first time.  He met HT while he was a junior prof at Harvard and advising the JFK white house.  HK had also, incidentally, published his first book, on the strategic use of nuclear weapons.  There was some thinking at the time that nukes didn’t necessarily have to lead to “Mutually assured destruction”.  Luckily, I think, we’ve never tested that theory.

But why is Truman treated so positively?  An “extraordinary president” Kissinger calls him.  Yet Truman’s verbiage of laws and morals was not understood by Stalin, Stalin finds it suspicious, and our (along with GB’s) failure to really confront Stalin leaves him in control of all of Eastern Europe, where heads of opposing parties in CZ and Hungary are executed.  We can’t really call that a success can we?

What do you think?

Incidentally, the cartoon is from 1947, before the Berlin airlift, before the coup in CZ, and before, apparently, it was clear just how far Stalin’s sphere would extend.  Its also British, if that helps you OPVL.

test review

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Topics Exam

Unit 3 review

Causes Practices and Effects of World War II

Please choose one of the following questions;

1 – Compare and contrast the causes of the First World War and the Second World War.  (08)

2 – Choose two battles or Campaigns from the Second World War and show how they affected the subsequent course and eventual outcome of the war.


3 – How comprehensively are the characteristics of ‘total war’ illustrated by the Second World War?


4 – ‘The Second World War had one victor, the United States; one loser, Germany; and one hero, Britain.”  Assess the validity of this claim.


5 – “Wars are caused by the miscalculations of the aggressor and the failure of politicians and diplomats to exercise crisis management.”  Discuss the validity of this claim. (in regards to WWII)


6 – To what extent can Germany be held responsible for the outbreak of the first and second World Wars?  5/5/98

7 – ‘by December 1941, the United States was belligerent in all but name.’  Comment on this statement with regards to United States Foreign policy in the decade before Pearl Harbor.  5/4/94, paper 3

The war in Asia

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

“Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” was the name of this one.  There is so much I’d like to show you. Bugs Bunny Cartoons from WWII, episodes from one of the first TV Dramas “Victory at Sea”, letters from Japanese kamikazee pilots and on and on. 

We must move on though.  The Cold War harkens, as does the Chinese Revolution, the 50s, Vietnam, etc. all of which are a direct outgrowth of WWII.  What if we had constructed a four – power trusteeship of Indochina?  Would we have had no American war in Vietnam?  Why did Chiang Kaishek fail so miserably and why did Mao Zedong (Tse-tung) prevail?  How does the atomic arms race roll out in the 1950s?

Of course here Ambrose gives a few pages to the decision to drop the bomb.  I like his Occam’s razor like solution.  The simplest solution is likely the best.  It was a weapon to be used.  We used it.  Back to “Fog of War” last year, we killed over 100,000 people in Tokyo with napalm, or what we called then “fire-bombing”.  How was the atmoic bomb worse?

Howard Zinn, your old buddy, was a bombadier in WWII.  He pushed the button to drop the bombs.  On one of his last missions, after VE day, he was told they had to attack a French town where the Nazis weren’t giving up. He noticed the bombs were differrent.  They were filled with a gelatin like gasoline, napalm, that would stick to people and buildings and everything, and burn.

When he was back in the US transitioning to the war in Asia and he saw the headlines about “the Bomb” he thought, “oh, another type of bomb.”  Like, “no big deal”. If it is true that we bombed 100,000s of thousands of people in other raids, like in Dresden, then why have we, historically, given so much treatment to the bomb?

The War in Europe

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Well there it is.  Along with some nice public bigotry.  Lots here, including the public American pressure to attack Japan, which is of interest, and certainly feeds into the troubles, or divisiveness of FDR.

The issues of the French and Africa are interesting and illustrative of FDR’s willingness to do anything for vistory, as is his allowing conditions, in the “unconditional surrender” of Italy.

Look for clues in here about the emergence of the Cold War to come.  The Cold War had its heated moments, and in that conflict we came very close, unbelievably close, several times that I know of, of engaging in nuclear war.  The origins to the Cold War can certainly be examined on the fringes of the circles of causality, back in the time of national exapnsion of Russia and the US, but we are getting closer to the start, the “spark” that erupted the Cold War here. 

Do you see its origins?