Archive for September, 2011

Concert of Europe

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

No not that concert.

What does Kissinger mean by the Concert of Europe?  Where did it come from and how does it work?  What happened to it in the end?  What is meant here by “liberal” and “conservative” values?  Bit different than today.  Why was it important to have shared domestic values and what were they?

As I shared earlier Kissinger’s main man is Metternich.  Why do you suppose he was so impressed by him?  What is it that Metternich does, and what happens when Metternich goes away?

Key players here are pretty well summed up in the quadruple alliance the Holy Alliance and the German confederation.   Know who they are and what they wanted and what (they thought) they stood for.    The quadruple alliance, born out of the Congress of Vienna and, along with the Holy Alliance, Kissinger says was responsible for 100 years of peace (except for Crimea) and if something similar had happened after WWI we may not have had WWII.

Do you buy it?  Was it really all that?

Richelieu and the emergence of the balance of power

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Words words words.

Lets start with words, or phrases.  bishoprics, fealty, “bled white”, finlandized, imprimatur, nemesis, rapine, and of course raison d’ etat.

To be fair I think Kissinger does try to explain the final phrase quite a bit and we’ve certainly discussed it in class.  The others, while some are not at all central to understanding, are not explained and so you might do us all a favor by looking them up and explaining what you take their meaning to be as they are emplyed here.

For the rest of it…  breath deep.  This is a tough chapter.  I doubt if you’ve read a great deal about the 30 years war, but the Peace of Westphalia and the map above as its result is imporant in the emerging geopolitical reality of Europe and as Kissinger says there are interesting parallels between that world and ours.  Some one might help us by reminding us just what they are and what you think of them.

Try not to get bogged down in dates here.  Though they do have importance in our later studies this is more of a broader sweep simply setting Europe up for the calamity of the first WW.  Think of it as that furthest circle in the circles of causality.

Look at your terms.  What terms showed up here?

Cardinal Richelieu                     raison d’ e’tet              nation state                  

Grace of Alais of 1629 Peace of Westphalia                 Congress of Vienna

and even;

Gladstone and Collective security.

Those are all guideposts to potential quiz questions.

So, consider putting up a comment defining one of those earliest words, describe the comparison between now and then, or share any other comment, question or confusion.

The hinge

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Roosevelt, Teddy, vs Wilson, Woodrow. Kissinger here makes the claim that the big stick president played power politics all too well, but, that, despite failure to join the League, it was the first president representing the Democratic party in over a generation who changed US foreign policy for the forseeable future. Wilson argued the nation must act to do what is right, not merely to do what is in our national interests.

I have some questions here for Kissinger that, in his absence, you might respond to. He cites many examples of power politics up to and including TR. Grant’s desire to take over Cuba. The panama canal episode. Everything couched in that wonderful euphemism Manifest Destiny. Was this not the US acting in it’s national interest devoid of any righteousness?

When Wilson laid out his 14 points hadn’t others, lord Salisbury maybe, already offered up similar ideas to what would be ome the League of Nations?

My point is simply this. Wasn’t the transformation of world politics from naked power to the language of the law simply in the air? It is not just the US today, but the EU, the UN and think every nation from Iran to China who publicly displays their actions as “right” as opposed to simply selfish.

I do believe there was a change. I just wonder if the US in the 19 th century was more like Europe and Europe and the rest of world in th 20th century wasn’t more like the US than he gives credit to.

What do you think?

The New World Order

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Sorry to those of you expecting an expose on the Illuminati or some other conspiracy theory about some secret cabal taking over or running the world.  Not here (Kissinger wouldn’t admit it anyway).  For a quick diversion look up a YouTube of the Simpson’stonecutters song.  Funny stuff.

No, what HK is talking about here is something he is very serious about and something that is much more tangible.  He is arguing that our world has gone through several fundamental changes vis-a-vis the way populations inter-relate with each other.  Once the dream of universal empire died in Europe (for reasons you’ll read about later) what percolated up into existence was a few nations with more or less equal power.  The way these nations got along is often referred to as the “balance-of-power” (depicted above) such that if any one nation should get too strong, or be too belligerent and threaten the other nations, then those other nations would come together to defend themselves.  This was not done out of any ideological commitment like democracy but out of simple necessity.

As the remaining empires (Russian, Austro-Hungarian) crumble in the first WW another nation, safely bordered by two vast oceans and two weak and unambitious neighbors, ushers onto the national stage in 1917 and is not interested in playing the balance of power game.  Indeed the US has operated more like an empire in its hemisphere (though we disdain from such thinking, look up John Keegan for an interesting exploration of US as empire) and now that it involves itself in European and Global affairs it, and Woodrow Wilson, introduce a new way for nations to inter-relate.  Collective security (more on that later). 

As Kissinger write this book in the mid 1990s at the end of the Cold War, he imagines the need for another New World Order to be created and posits that this exploration (this book) about when the Order has changed in the past and what worked and what didn’t, might be a valuable exercise.

What I want to know from you is what you think of the whole beacon vs. crusader idea, why the US’s uniquely geopolitical, historical position would incline it to a belief in international law and democracy and why that would be resisted by others.

Any questions are open territory of course.  If you’re completely lost remember “Notes on the board”.  Grab a quote and throw it down and ask a question or make a comment. It’s all good.

Have Fun!

Why did Stalin succeed Lenin?

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

I like cars.  I always have.  I think I learned to read in the pages of “Road and Track” when I was a child.  In my cursory research on the post WWII international auto race in CZ (Czechoslovakia), the last international race in the “east” for the entire Cold War era, I came across this image of “Stalin’s race car” apparently from the early 50s, several years (6?) after the race in CZ.   I found this very interesting because it suggested that some persons in the Soviet Union wanted to challenge the evils of capitalism on the track, as they would in the Olympics, Space Race and the World Cup.   What is interesting is that I have never, ever heard of motor-sports competition in the former Soviet Union or its satellites, yet I guess there was some interest in it.  Must’ve been.  That might be an interesting piece of research.  Motor-sports in the USSR! 

So why did Stalin succeed Lenin?  Well, for Pipes it seems a foregone conclusion.  With the failure to export the revolution (in the most important war in history!  In Poland!  in 1920!…  ever heard of it?) the emerging  bureaucracy and the emergence of the worker’s opposition Stalin was clearly the man and Trotsky never had a chance.  Lenin just never saw the dark heart of the killer lurking in the back.

One fascinating point made here is that with the failure to export the revolution they needed to wait, and agitate for, another World War.  This historiography on WWII is generally much simpler than WWI.  Everybody says it was Germany’s/Hitler’s fault.  Now though, I wonder.  Were Stalin, and Lenin before, succesful at keeping agitation alive in  Germany insofar as to lead to the emergence of Hitler?  Can we blame WWII on the Soviet union?

Why did the Bolsheviks triumph?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011



fait accompli . Who looked that one up?  There are great and complicated machinations at work in this chapter that I do not expect you to commit to detailed memory.  Even Pipes admits the complexity is too great for his short treatment here.

The long and short of it is that gaining power was as easy for Lenin as “picking up a feather”.  As the woman in the documents you will read in class testifies to the “white” soldiers walked out and dropped their munitions.  There was no resistance.

There were three keys to this event which you should know in at least their basic form.  Failure of a major offensive in WWI, failure of the Provisional Government (PG) to hold an election, and the Kornilov affair, which you should know in the basic terms that Pipes lays down here.

Pipes makes a curious statement here that one, despite Lenin’s fears, cannot “betray” a revolution.  I think what he means here is that whereas there maybe be treasonous persons like a Benedict Arnold, a true revolution from below will have such power as to make their betrayal if not meaningless, than a mere bump in the road.

* a note on the image here.  I pulled it from another blog which noted it as the storming of the winter palace in the fall of 1917.  I noodled around a bit and found out there it is actually a still from Eisenstein’s 1926 film “October” and that the film sequence was actually modeled after the 1920 reenactment in which Lenin actually took place, not on the event of 1917 which was “far less photogenic” according to Wikipedia.

Reading #1

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Who is this man?  Google him.  What is his gig?  Tell us all you can about him (that is relevent) for your point.

Alternatively here are three quotes you might grapple with (or choose your own!)

Soviet and later (revisionist) Western history has seen the fall as inevitable, preordained, “driven by social conflicts”. (p.6)

 “…when the so called masses are discontented, they are inspired by specific grievances that are capable of  being satisfied within the existing system.  Only intellectuals have universal grievances…” (p.15)

The population was the object of state authority, a “mechanically rather than an organically structured state that denies the population any voice in government” (p.18)


Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Dear all,

welcome to another, and your final, high school year.  This blog will serve as a substantial resource for your experience in HL History (I hope).  I will update it with every reading assignment (which is every class except test days) and expect to see vast and vociferous comments from all of you.  Every time you make an intelligent comment it will garner you an extra credit point on the daily quiz as well!

In order to comment I must approve you.  Go ahead and make a comment now.  I should see 52 comments here before Friday’s class.  I will approve each and every one of you and then you can comment freely on any further blog entry.

Keep an eye out here Wednesday afternoon/evenings A dayers as that is when I’ll post an entry on your first reading, the first chapter of Richard Pipe’s “Three Whys of the Russian Revolution”.

Good luck and welcome back!

Mr. Steussy