Archive for November, 2012

Containment tested

Friday, November 30th, 2012

 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?

Two Halves of the Same Walnut

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

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 in 2011 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 – The Success and the Pain of Containment

Monday, November 26th, 2012

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?


The Beginnings of the Cold War as per A&B

Thursday, November 15th, 2012


For next class for extra crdit come dressed as a cold war Soviet spy, or any kind of Spy.  It will be fun. One of my favorite days.

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 think 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?  Why couldn’t the US use it to push their agenda onto the USSR?


The Beginning of the Cold War

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

The Whistlestop campaign.  Much of the analysis of our 2012 election and the victory of Obama is suggesting that the Dems had a better “ground game”.  The volunteers on the ground, knocking on doors, making phone calls etc.  were better organized and emplyes than the volunteers for the Pubs.  In 1948 Harry Truman’s ground game (above) set the standard of the day.

Harry Truman.  One of the top presidents I would want to have met.  KIissinger of course did meet him, and Henry 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 the Cold War.  General George Marshall, now Secretary of State, played a crucial role in the subsequent policy as well.  How and why? 

Big question.  How did the Cold War Start?

The War in Asia

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012


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. 

What do you make of the various points of view on the use of the bomb?  What do A&B think?  What do you think?

The War in Europe

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Well there 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 see here for the 1940 NYT review of the opening night of Chaplin’s Great Dictator.  Thanks to alum Kalvin Payne for that little treasure!  Be sure to see the “celebrities in attendance” at the bottom