Archive for February, 2012

The Extrication

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I have never read or heard this anywhere but it is the impression I have always had about this book.  I think it was written for the sole purpose of this chapter.  This chapter would not have worked as an Op-Ed piece or any other stand alone article. Kissinger needed to put his actions and decisions in context.  The context he chose, of Richelieu, Bismark, Wilson and the rest (remember TOK) colors the way this chapter reads in a way that it would not have as a stand alone piece.

Kissinger is wise here to admit his views are necessarily affected by his role in the events.  He paints a dark and depressing mural of events and leaves us with three “lessons” that seem to mimic the “Powell Doctrine” (look it up).

So the question is at hand.  Did Kissinger and Nixon achieve the best possible outcome given the situation, or, as Hitchens argues in his “Trials of Henry Kissinger”, did they behave like war criminals?  Putting on your TOK hats try to give some credibility to each side.

Also too look at substantial differences with Ambrose. Remember what Ambrose said about the war protesters?  What does Kissinger say?  Does Ambrose suggest they got in 68 what they could have gotten in 74?  What would Kissinger say in his defense?

“Peace is at hand!” – Henry Kissinger

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Is that really the Quote?  I swear I saw that in Ambrose this time but I can’t imagine HK uttering a phrase he would know to be so closely associated with appeasement and Chamberlain and WWII.  Maybe it was some kind of code.

But her he is, a “brilliant”, “megalomaniac”, whose self-confidence knew no bounds.    What else can you make of A&B’s assessment of HK?  Was he a war criminal?




Was he just a doddering old man?

and how was his, and Nixon’s, foreign policy?


“We had to destroy the city to save it”

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

What a sad chapter.  The “tragic” figure of LBJ who had done “more for black Americans than any president since Lincoln found himself accused of fighting a racist war with racist methods”.  How had this all come about?  What was the genesis of the debacle, the quagmire of Vietnam that, I would argue has had more to do with our current debates than almost any other episode in history?

Part of it starts here;

Daisy ad 1964

I hope that works for you.  If not google “Daisy ad” and click on first YouTube link.  One of the most famous ads in TV history and I believe I read somewhere it was only aired once because it was too inflammatory.  But.  Remember that little exercise I did with you on presidential election years?  This is where it works for you.  The “Daisy ad” of 1964 was also the year of what?  Yes!  the Gulf of Tonkin.  Other historians note that LBJ really didn’t want it to happen in 8/64, three months away from the election, as he had promised to keep American boys at home.  Others, Ambrose here, say he “seized the opportunity” to show he was “tough on communism” especially in the face of his opponent, and unamed target of the above commercial, Barry Goldwater, who was threatening to use nukes to end the war.

Ambrose also argues that there were no voices of dissent in the view to bomb and increase pressure, but gradually.  George Ball is an interesting exception to that that Ambrose and Brinkley don’t bring up.

What they do bring up, counterinsurgency, the “fuzzy legal situation” of “South Vietnam”  Diem’s relationship with his people pictured here;

which Ambrose and Brinkley argue resulted in no reevaluation of policy on behalf of JFK, though they are not without serious opponents of that position, the “strategic hamlets” , the “best and the brightest”  and comparisons to events in the Dominican Republic are all just the beginning of the convoluted story of the US war in Vietnam.

Inside the Soviet Camp

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

“Inside the Soviet camp.”  Lets start by reflecting on that title.  Castro in 1961 in the last chapter and here again in Africa and Latin America, is trying to assert himself as a leader of the “Non-aligned” movement.  Why then, does Gott title these years, up to 1985 as “inside the Soviet camp?”

Terms?  I would probably include Brezhnev, Ksygin, Allende (in the picture above) Angola, Kissinger (just because he shows up and we know him so well) and certainly the Mariel Boat-lift.  Carter is probably an important one as well and possibly Grenada and/or the Sandinistas.

This is our last reading of Gott.  I’d be interested to hear your impressions.  I know his chapters are long but I find him very readable.  I know he brings in things you’re likely very unfamiliar with, like South Africa, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  So what do you think?  Good?  Bad?  Ugly?

The Revolution in power 1961-1968

Friday, February 10th, 2012

From the Bay of Pigs to the Cuban Missile Crisis to attempts to export the revolution to not just Africa and Latin America, but to the USA as well, Mr. Gott has got a lot to say in these 40 easy to read pages!

If I were doing terms they might look something like this;

Operation Mongoose

Belgrade conference of 1961

Robert McNamara

“freedom flights”

“On Guerilla Warfare”




The really striking thing to me in this chapter is the detail Gott goes into of the post-colonial African experience and how Cuba, Castro and Che tried to tie into that and link it to or at least support it along with, the increasingly radicalized Civil Rights movement in the USA.  The way Gott suggests those US revolutionaries were sort of “problematic” in Cuba is really curious but certainly lends some credibility to the US security forces interest in those movements. 

But yet the “finger-waving” of Kosygin (another term?) leads Castro to remove even rhetorical support for armed struggle after was it 1967?  Fascinating.  Was it the collusion of the US and the USSR and their “peaceful co-esxistence” that helped put the brakes on the increasingly out-of-control situation here? 

Now that would be an interesting IA.

Gott & Cuba: “Castro’s revolution takes shape”

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012



New Book.

New unit.

You have to look things up.

What is the signifigance of the above picture?  Yes that is who you think it is.

The July 26th movement?

Jose Marti?

the Granma?

Herbert Matthews?

Fangio? (kidding, but it is interesting)


the hotel in NYC?

Find all of those references in the reading and you should be set for the quiz!

What I find most interesting here is Gott’s perspective on the relationship between Fidel and communisim.  Hope you enjoy it!

Oh, and then there’s this;


JFK & the “new frontiers”

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Not the “New Frontier” they intended.  JFK was no dove.  He was no peacenik.  The legacy of his administration is greatly muddled in the public mind I think, by his tragic assassination.  It was JFK and “Mac” the knife, who ushered in “the greatest arms race in history according t o Ambrose.

Really?  The nuclear weapons race between the USSR and the USA?  It wasn’t the Republicans?  It wasn’t Nixon or Reagan, or affable old Ike?  Nope.  Not according to Ambrose.  The arms race, which produced the ability to destroy our world many times over, though maybe exacerbated by Nixon and Reagan, started with Kennedy.

“13 days” is a great film about the Cuban Missile Crisis that I used to show my tenth graders.  Well worth watching and good extra credit for this unit.  Get a handle on JFK and his administration’s stance vis-a-vis Cuba and you’re in the hunt for a solid quiz score.

Remember of course tomorrow to bring in your Eisenhower tests and terms! & be ready for Cuba!


On China

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012


What remains of the diplomatic legacy of Henry Kissinger, probably the most charismatic—and easily the most controversial—secretary of state of the 20th century?

The Paris Peace Accords, for which Mr. Kissinger shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 with Le Duc Tho, his North Vietnamese counterpart, quickly foundered on Hanoi’s determination to conquer South Vietnam and Congress’s refusal to help defend it. Détente with the Soviet Union was upended by Moscow’s expansionism and the Reagan administration’s commitment to winning (rather than simply managing) the Cold War. Shuttle diplomacy after the 1973 Yom Kippur War charted the course for peace between Israel and Egypt, but now that legacy is also in doubt as Cairo seeks new friends in Gaza and Tehran.

But then there is China. Nobody living can claim greater credit than Mr. Kissinger for America’s 1971 opening to Beijing, after more than two decades of estrangement, and for China’s subsequent opening to the world. So it’s fitting that Mr. Kissinger has now written “On China,” a fluent, fascinating and sometimes infuriating book that is part history, part memoir and above all an examination of the premises, methods and aims of Chinese foreign policy.

On China

By Henry Kissinger
(The Penguin Press, 586 pages, $36)

Mr. Kissinger takes the long view. China is an ancient civilization long convinced of the superiority of its ways, and for most of its history justifiably so. As late as 1820 the Chinese produced some 30% of global GDP, more than America’s share today. Yet supremacy also bred complacency: “In the Chinese version of exceptionalism,” Mr. Kissinger writes, “China did not export its ideas but let others come to seek them.” And come they did: first as amazed visitors but eventually as rapacious colonizers with superior ships and firearms.

What followed was more than a century of humiliation and catastrophe, much of it self-inflicted. Yet even in decline, Chinese diplomats were able to marshal stores of cunning to avert defeat. Antique precepts of “barbarian management” were used to set the “far enemy” against the near one; Confucian self-restraint was pressed into the service of keeping adversaries off-guard. “In your association with foreigners . . . you should have a slightly vague, casual appearance,” the mandarin Zeng Guofan advised his protégé Li Hongzhang in 1862. “Let their insults, deceitfulness, and contempt for everything appear to be understood by you and yet seem not understood, for you should look somewhat stupid.”

Above all, Mr. Kissinger notes, the Chinese pursued a form of Realpolitik fundamentally distinct from Western concepts of strategy. It’s a point he illustrates by comparing chess with the Oriental game of Go (which he calls by its Chinese name of wei qi). Chess, he observes, “teaches the Clausewitzian concepts of ‘center of gravity’ and the ‘decisive point’. . . . Wei qi teaches the art of strategic encirclement.”

Mao Zedong stood to gain from these concepts when he set out to build a new China by destroying the old. But he had his own methods, and Mr. Kissinger can’t quite seem to decide whether they were brilliant or incompetent. Certainly they were daring: Within little more than a decade of coming to power in 1949, he had gone to war with the U.S. in Korea, cemented Washington’s military alliance with Taipei by bombarding the Taiwanese islands of Quemoy and Matsu, waged a brief war with India over some Himalayan outposts, and turned the Soviet Union into an avowed enemy.

AFP/Getty ImagesMao Zedong (left) and Henry Kissinger in 1972.

All this succeeded in demonstrating that China was a country that would not be patronized or trifled with. It also meant that by the mid-1960s China was almost completely encircled by hostile powers, a failure of Go strategy if ever there was one. It was only then, and amid the wreckage of the cataclysmic Cultural Revolution, that Mao reached out to the U.S. Mr. Kissinger’s account of his intricate diplomatic minuets with Mao and his deputy Zhou Enlai will be familiar to readers of his earlier memoirs, but it loses little of its force here.

Mr. Kissinger takes his survey through the 1980s reforms of Deng Xiaoping, a far better Go player than his predecessor. As ever, Mr. Kissinger remains baffled by the successes of the Reagan administration—he calls its approach to China and Taiwan “a study in almost incomprehensible contradictions”—and chalks it up to a triumph of Reagan’s winning personality. A better explanation might be that Deng was reassured by Reagan’s arms buildup and tough line on the Soviet Union after a decade of U.S. weakness and self-delusion.

More troubling is Mr. Kissinger’s account of the June 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square, which shades into an apology for the regime: “The occupation of the main square of a country’s capital, even when completely peaceful,” he writes, “is also a tactic to demonstrate the impotence of government, to weaken it, and to tempt it into rash acts.” Tempt?

The final chapters of “On China” are its weakest, mixing conventional wisdom about China’s recent economic performance with musings as to whether Beijing will continue to pursue its policy of “peaceful rise” or otherwise become a more belligerent player on the world stage. He hardly seems to consider the possibility that the dreams of 1989 aren’t yet extinguished. Incredibly, there is no mention of the pro-democracy Charter 08 movement, one of whose signatories, Liu Xiaobo, shares Mr. Kissinger’s Nobel credentials and now resides in a Chinese prison. With jasmine flowers being banned in China for fear of their revolutionary fragrance, the omission amounts to more than just a moral error. What a pity for the remarkable legacy of Mr. Kissinger, who did so much to steer China toward its best traditions—and so little to steer it away from its worst ones.

Mr. Stephens is the Journal’s foreign-affairs columnist.

FYI – Mr. Stephens will be in our class tomorrow to discuss USFP, the Mid-east, Iran China, Human rights etc.  I though this review might give you some interesting context along with the to articles I handed out in class.