Archive for March, 2011

Redefining Revolution

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

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.

Hang in there!  Spring break is just around the corner…

Reopening the Doors

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Hey gang.  Back to Spence.  I know we have to finish our East German film but now we tread into the days of and after Nixon’s visit.  The attack on Lin Biao (why was this different?) Issues in the economy (how dose this compare to USSR & sphere?)  and the death of the “old guard”  (see any similarities to the USSR?).

There is a comparison in this chapter of certain events to the 1956 uprising in Hungary.  If you can explain that you’re probably on pretty good footing to ace the daily quiz!

“We can’t go on like this”

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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 & change from below

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

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 those numbers (hard to see/sorry) 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 Middle East. Is Libya going to turn out like Romania?  Is Egypt more like Hungary or CZ?  Those sorts of comparisons might provide some really interesting analysis in today’s world.

Thanks.

Natl. Communism & reform

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Why did the “Cold War” the USSR, and commuism in East Europe collapse?  Some will say, Reagan, in the 80s, “tear down this wall!”, 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.

 

CRS

Communism

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Sorry for the post last night.  I was just getting ready to go to bed when I decided to check comments and realized I hadn’t posted anything!  I quickly cut and paste an entry from last year but it probably made no sense.

This is my actual take on chapters 1 and 2.

Communism was not a monolithic block.  I bet you can picture in your head a map from a textbook showing all the east European countries, Russia, the USSR, China etc. as “red”.  In the 50s we were scared of the domino theory but it wasn’t really there.

White makes a good point about Stalin’s fear of encirclement and the need for like minded neighbors.  Some of those like minded neighbors though (like in Poland) had to be persuaded at the point of a gun.  Others, like in CZ, had home grown communist parties of some popularity.  White’s absence of the “coup” there in 1947 is noticeable.

Still, nationalism, history, religion, none of these were easily cast aside hence we have thera of “socialism” because even the Soviets knew they were not truly communist, though Khrushchev certainly had ambitious goals to become that.

Carter and human rights

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Yeah old Jimmy Carter, Peanut Farmer from Georgia, had some problems.  Not least of which was his brother Billy (above).  As far as his 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.

Its a rather long list of problems.  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.

America, The Middle East and Africa

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/postscript-f-w-de-klerk-responds/

Here we have a story with amazing relevance to our world today.  Not just because of Egypt and the Middle East but also because of South Africa as evidenced by the above recent NY Times article, articulating the painful process that led to the end of apartheid.  That that process did not lead to civil war could be counted as one of its successes, but the time, effort and struggle, and the hypocritical stance of America and American investment (though “small” by Ambrose’s accounting) need to be judged in some way as a great failure.  Not until Jimmy Carter, mentioned briefly here, would we have a promise of a US Foreign Policy based on human rights interest, and not national interest, but the failure of that policy, in the upcoming chapter, would bring no real new results, and frankly bring about substantial challenges which will lead to his resounding defeat by Reagan in 1980 and a three term (Reagan, Reagan, George HW Bush) conservative Republican ascendancy along broken by Clinton in ’92 (with the help of Ross Perot) who then faced the “Contract with America” defeat in ’94 referenced so much in our own mid term elections of last year.

So Ambrose begin by illustrating the Middle East as decidedly indifferent to the Cold war.  That two NATO allies could attack each other (Turkey and Greece over Cyprus) is great evidence that the bipolarity of the Soviet – American conflict held little sway in other parts of the world.  That Egypt, under Sadat would at one moment have Soviet advisors  in his country, and in the next be appealing for American aid, goes to show how difficult this terrain was to navigate with the lens of the Cold War.  Furthermore in this time the Middle East is emboldened by the initial success of Egypt and by the success of the oil embargo which resulted in long long lines in the US, cars wrapped around the block waiting for gas at the few stations that had it, a quadrupling of gas prices, the end of Detroit, the ascendence of the Japanese automotive industry and the federal government’s imposition pictured above, of a nationwide federal speed limit of 55mph to assure maximum efficiency of all cars on the road.  Hint:  if you consider yourself a card carrying environmentalist check your mpg driving normally for a tank of gas, then fill the tank and keep your speed at 55 or below, treat the gas pedal like and eggshell leaving stops (avoid stops) and you will be amazed at the difference.

On to South African we have there an excellent example of national interests in conflict any legitimate view of human rights, civil rights, equity that serve to show terrible contradictions with America as either a beacon or crusader.  Read the above linked article for a South African view on the lurching policy of America in those years.

Blogging from 30,000 feet.  Had a successful Big History workshop and am looking forward to getting back down to work with you all.  Questions to pose here for your comments might include an assessment of why the Cold War didn’t mattter in Africa, what was going on in Portugal and Angola and why that matters to this story and anything else you find interesting, confusing, or curious.

Kissinger 29

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I have alwys believed that Kissinger titled this chapter with full knowledge of its allusion to Sigmund Freud’s famous book of 1930, “Civilization and its Discontents”.  In Freud’s book he wrote that individuals and societies are in inherent conflict.  Individuals have certain desires which orderly society must thwart.  I wonder how Kissinger would explain this vis-a-vis “Detente”.

So what exactly is detente and why don’t people like it?  How does it work and what are some tangible examples that Kissinger offers up?  What goes on in the Middle East, with arms control, eastern europe and the USSR that serve as results of detente and to what end?  Where did this all take us?  One thing to muse over of course is the image in the “Time” magazine article above.  Who do you suppose the little man pulling on Nixon is?  I hope you know who Nixon is shaking hands with!

The Middle East and Africa

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/postscript-f-w-de-klerk-responds/

Here we have a story with amazing relevance to our world today.  Not just because of Egypt and the Middle East but also because of South Africa as evidenced by the above recent NY Times article, articulating the painful process that led to the end of apartheid.  That that process did not lead to civil war could be counted as one of its successes, but the time, effort and struggle, and the hypocritical stance of America and American investment (though “small” by Ambrose’s accounting) need to be judged in some way as a great failure.  Not until Jimmy Carter, mentioned briefly here, would we have a promise of a US Foreign Policy based on human rights interest, and not national interest, but the failure of that policy, in the upcoming chapter, would bring no real new results, and frankly bring about substantial challenges which will lead to his resounding defeat by Reagan in 1980 and a three term (Reagan, Reagan, George HW Bush) conservative Republican ascendancy along broken by Clinton in ’92 (with the help of Ross Perot) who then faced the “Contract with America” defeat in ’94 referenced so much in our own mid term elections of last year.

 

So Ambrose begin by illustrating the Middle East as decidedly indifferent to the Cold war.  That two NATO allies could attack each other (Turkey and Greece over Cyprus) is great evidence that the bipolarity of the Soviet – American conflict held little sway in other parts of the world.  That Egypt, under Sadat would at one moment have Soviet advisors  in his country, and in the next be appealing for American aid, goes to show how difficult this terrain was to navigate with the lens of the Cold War.  Furthermore in this time the Middle East is emboldened by the initial success of Egypt and by the success of the oil embargo which resulted in long long lines in the US, cars wrapped around the block waiting for gas at the few stations that had it, a quadrupling of gas prices, the end of Detroit, the ascendence of the Japanese automotive industry and the federal government’s imposition pictured above, of a nationwide federal speed limit of 55mph to assure maximum efficiency of all cars on the road.  Hint:  if you consider yourself a card carrying environmentalist check your mpg driving normally for a tank of gas, then fill the tank and keep your speed at 55 or below, treat the gas pedal like and eggshell leaving stops (avoid stops) and you will be amazed at the difference.

 

On to South African we have there an excellent example of national interests in conflict any legitimate view of human rights, civil rights, equity that serve to show terrible contradictions with America as either a beacon or crusader.  Read the above linked article for a South African view on the lurching policy of America in those years.

Blogging from 30,000 feet.  Had a successful Big History workshop and am looking forward to getting back down to work with you all.  Questions to pose here for your comments might include an assessment of why the Cold War didn’t mattter in Africa, what was going on in Portugal and Angola and why that matters to this story and anything else you find interesting, confusing, or curious.