Archive for November, 2011

Containment Tested

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

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?


Monday, November 28th, 2011


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 in 2010 , a Republican take over of Congress in mid-term elections, blocking legislation, like the Marshall Plan (or today raising debt cielings) , fear of pulling “British chestnuts out of the fire” in Greece, and then you have the coup in CZ.

The militarization of the Truman Doctrine needs some examination as does the role of the CIA.  What does the CIA do in Italy?  Can you think of another country, maybe outside of the current discussion, where the CIA has done something similar?

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?

Kissinger 18

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

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?  The Matthews Memorandum is worth noting as is Clark Clifford.

Were the suggestions of Kennan really implemented?

So tomorrow it appears we are on for game time.  We’ll have a quick quiz and the head out to be spys.  Be careful.  One participant today had “COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY” tattooed all over his body and ended up in the Gulag!

The Beginnings of the Cold War

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

So here is a map of Europe circa 1948.  Anything suprise anybody?  Anything  look odd?  Go ahead and zoom in.  The detail is pretty good.  Look around.  Maybe compare with Kissinger’s.

But we weren’t reading Kissinger for today.  We’re back with your buds Ambrose & Brinkley.  Events here are focused largely on Poland and Eeastern Europe and also Iran and the Middle East.

The question remains…  What caused the Cold War?  A&B say it right up front that there is no clear beginning of the Cold War.  So here’s another way to look at it.  When would you say the Cold War began?  How would things have been different if FDR had lived.  I thinkn Kissinger will make a big deal of Molotov’s “truculence” in his meeting with Truman, but re-reading this chapter makes me wonder about Truman’s belligerence in the same meeting.

Another issue here is the bomb.  Why wasn’t it more useful?  W

The Beginning of the Cold War

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Harry Truman.  One of the top presidents I would want to have met.  KIissinger of course did meet him, and shows up in his book here, explicitly, for the first time.  What did they say and what did they take away?  What did either of them merit from their discussion?

The Truman, Churchill, Stalin and Molotov relationship, as well as Davies and Hopkins should be examined by you in some detail.  George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” is believed by many historians to be of huge importance in the emerging policy of containment and General George Marshall, now Secretary of State, played a crucial role in the subsequent policy.  How and why? 

Big question.  How did the Cold War Start?

War in Asia

Friday, November 4th, 2011

“Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips”… oh my.

So this our first treatment of the war in Asia but it won’t be our last.  In the unit on the Chinese Revolution (coming up after Truman, next) we will have an entire chapter in Spence’s book on WWII.

But what do we have here.  That last claim about American prestige never being higher is interesting.  What do you think?  Do you understand the lack of ground forces, the whole Indochina thing and the Army vs. the Navy?  General Douglas MacArthur was quite a character.  You should google  him. 

Thats about it from my end.  Test review coming up and then test!  Terms due soon!  Don’t forget to throw down some facts from our “speed dating” exercise!

The War in Europe

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Well ther it was in 20 easy to read pages.  The “War in Europe”  and now we press on against the …  excuse me?  What’s that say? 

So what do you make of this “Strange Alliance”?  What was so strange about it?  And what about the decision to go into Africa?  Why not then press on into the Balkans.  Instead of going into Africa (TORCH) Eisenhower wanted to press for invasion into France.  Why?

And what happened in Italy, esp vis-a-vis Stalin?  This is all going to be very important I think when we get into the next unit and the emergence of the Cold War.

Also, please remember to include your facts from speed dating.  Don’t include all, just the ones that you think are most interesting or significant.

Also see here for the 1940 NYT review of the opening night of Chaplin’s Great Dictator.  Thanks Kalvin!  Be sure to see the “celebrities in attendance” at the bottom