Archive for February, 2014

Kissinger 28 Nixon’s Triangular Diplomacy

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Yeah.  He really wanted Elvis as Secretary of State.  Click on link for funny story of their visit.

On a more serious note, “Richard Milhous Nixon inherited near-civil war conditions”.  That quote has always stuck with me .  There is a great book, “1968: The year that rocked the World” that, if you’re interested, really helps get a feel for the trauma of the time.

“Vietnam and beyond” is the title I gave to this unit years ago and it sticks rather well.  Here we get in to Kissinger’s assessment of how Nixon was different, “complex”, and how he pulled the country away, or tried to, from its Wilsonian moorings.  Once again I find Kissinger’s assessment of Wilson complicated.  He seems to say here, that though Nixon did need, he believes, to start focusing on national interests, and allow the old “invisible-hand” to render stability, he appears to have a respect for what Wilson did in his time and how that ushered us through two world wide wars.  I do think though that he feels it was Wislonianism possibly that took us in to the quagmire of Vietnam, yet Nixon, “shared the great American yearning for a foreign policy devoid of self-interest”.

For all the pundits out there on the conservative right that attacked Obama’s offer to “extend a hand if they (Iran, North Korea etc.) wil unclench their fist”, might want to remember that Nixon said much the same in 1969 about the need to talk with China and the Soviet Union, and how those talks helped lead to the final extrication from Vietnam.  Nixon, Kissinger asserted, saw the USSR not as a zero-sum game, but rather as something more complicated.  There is another game he brings into the discussion towards the end.  How does that work?

Kissinger Chapter 26: the road to despair

Thursday, February 27th, 2014


This is LBJ.  Despair. I can’t believe I’ve left this chapter out of my narrative of the American war in Vietnam for the last three years.  I also just realized I am creating a narrative for you.  I’d never really thought of that.  These, books, these chapters, the films, documents and upcoming visit by Mr. Scranton portray the American war in Vietnam in a certain way.  I like the “portrait” and find it compelling, engossing and fascinating.  I hope you like it.

Did you notice HK used the phrase “in retrospect” at least three times?  Diplomacy as published in 1994, 1 year before Robert Strange McNamara’s “In Retrospect”, clearly in final draft stage by that date.  I wonder if thats where the title came from?

So many interesting things here.  HK’s assessment of LBJ is very interesting, we get less of a taste of JFK or Mac the knife.  The San Antonio formula, comparisons to other presidents and world leaders to other world leaders always get my attention.  In the end HK offers up that he thinks LBJ “combined every disadvantage” for his successor in regards to the conflict in Vietnam.  Do you agree?  Could it have been otherwise?

The Extrication: Kissinger Chapter 27

Monday, February 24th, 2014

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: Nixon Detente and the Debacle in Vietnam

Thursday, February 20th, 2014


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 here 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?

Vietnam: Paying the cost of containment

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Vietnam afghan cartoon iraq vietnam bush

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 (see cartoons above) than almost any other episode in history?

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 daisy ad, 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 (McNamara as we shall see in Fog of war), the “strategic hamlets” , the “best and the brightest“  and comparisons to events in the Dominican Republic and concurrent events in Middle East are all just the beginning of the convoluted story of the US war in Vietnam.

Its a sad chapter.

vietnam bush ii

inside the soviet camp

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


“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?”


Gott Chapter 6

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

castro press conf

So here in Gott’s 6th chapter we have the most detailed account yet of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The intrigue of the Cuban View and the Cuban desire vis-a-vis the “rockets” is quite astonishing.  I love Krushchev’s reply when asked by the Cuban delegation just what exactly would happen if the US found out early.  So… I don’t know, arrogant, earthy and human.

The Soviet relation with China is in the background here as well and that deserves your attention as does of course your second look (your first was in the China Unit) of history as recent as 1968.

Castro’s revolution

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Thursday, February 7th, 2013



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.  Nixon’s car getting attacked.