Archive for April, 2014


Wednesday, April 30th, 2014


I’m not sure if one chapter, devoted only to foreign policy, and written only after his first term, is enough to, “assess Bill Clinton’s Presidency,”, (last year’s test question) in fact I’m pretty sure its not.  But it is what we have.

In regards to terms.  Get them to me when you can.  I do want them done but handing them in on their respective due dates, May 1 and 2 is not necessary.

So Clinton.  Ambrose’s last words?  “genuine progress”.  Certainly there were stumbles along the way.  Criticism of “Band-aid” and “putting out fires”, in other words having no clear guide to USFP plagued Clinton throughout his years.  He had particular trouble in Bosnia, Somalia but then some triumphs in places like Ireland.

So what do you think?  Clinton’s FP in at least hist first term? Good?  Bad?  Ugly?

and “Why?”

A New world Order

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014


So what is this “New World Order”?  I am not inclined to give much credit to the boundless conspiracy theories but they do make for some humorous anecdotes (see Simpson’s “Stonecutter’s Song”).

Seriously though what would Kissinger say now, almost 20 years after the publication of this book, about the New World Order.  There is an inescabably Eurocentric focus to his analysis of the periods of various World Orders, from the Peace of Westphalia to the Congress of Vienna.  What did these conceptions mean to the populations of Southeast Asia, Africa or the Americas?  Not much, thank you.  If that is the case then, if Kissinger is really talking about European hegemony, and I think we could safely argue that the United States is a product of that, then is our current embroilment in the “war on terror” really much of a suprise?

As we conquered the west in the euphamism of “manifest destiny” the native American’s pushed back but could not prevail.  As “we”, meaning the European history and culture of representative democracy, seperation of church and state and free market systems, push into all corners of the globe,  is it really suprising that some are pushing back?  Is it suprising that some have acquired the means to really hurt us?   Will 9/11 be regarded as a sort of modern battle of little bighorn?  Was the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan like the Spanish retreat from the great Pueblo Revollt of 1680? Are the events in Ukraine and North Korea a Cold War 2.0?

By 2110 at least one other “New World Order” will have emerged by then according to Kissinger’s rubric, what will the students of this classroom refer to our time as? Will it indeed be, “the end of history” as we read about last week?  What do you think?


Kissinger on Reagan

Thursday, April 24th, 2014



I don’t know about you, but I find Kissinger’s analysis of Reagan hysterical.  His historical anecdotes having no “basis in facts, as facts are generally understood”, “the shallowest of academic backgrounds”, yet a man who developed a foreign policy of “extraordinary consistency and relevence”.  Yet he was bored with the details.  (Maybe he was just bored by Kissinger)

Frankly there were many, and I think still are many, that believe Ronnie was a puppet controlled by his advisors like Alexander Haig, yet letter recently published in “Morning in America” reveal a leader very much in control of his decisions and ideas.

So why does the Cold War end according to Kissinger?  What was Reagan’s role?  What about Gorbachev, and backing up a bit how do explain this electoral map of 1984?


Bush & the Gulf War

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

So how did the first post-Cold War crisis go?  Operation Desert Sheild & Storm buried the Vietnam syndrome, for some, forever in the sand of the Middle East.

What about Operation Serbia?  There was no operation Serbia?  Why not?  Serbia is engaged in the worst battle that Europe has seen sine the Nazis and Bush sends “a little food”.  What’s up with that? Kuwait gets more military hardware/manpower than was devoted to Vietnam A&B claim and Croatia and Bosnia, defending themselves against Serbia get squat.  Why?

Bush does have a banner day in terms of his popularity.  90%.  The highest ever recorded, even higher than Jr’s after 9/11 I  think (but I’d have to look that up/maybe you can) this despite the fact the we had helped arm Saddam Hussein, even helped him begin to develop a nuclear weapons program back in the 1980s, when we were also (secretly) helping Iran, who he was at war with.

Finally, as opposed to Fukuyama, A&B see the future rather darkly I think as ideology gives way to struggles over nationalism (this is what is behind the Serbia story) which they call THE great cause of instability, poverty and disorder in the world.

End of the Cold War Ambrose 16

Friday, April 18th, 2014


In 1989 Franis Fukuyame wrote an essay titled “The end of history“.  In it, and its subsequent 1992 book, he argued that with the advent of democracy humankind had found its last form of government.  Seems kind of naive now doesn’t it?

So could it have been, or in what way was it, the “end of history”?  It appeared to be the end of the Cold War, just don’t tell that to Castro’s Cuba or the imprisoned citizens of North Korea, or citizens of Ukraine.  It is sad reading this chapter that the word “terrorism” isn’t used once yet the idea of a “new world order” is touted about by Ambrose and Bush and others.

In an editorial in Life Magazine (remember those?) near WWII Henry Luce declared the 20th century the “American Century”. arguing that all centuries have great nations that lead the way, Britain the 19th century, France in the 18th, and that now it was America’s turn.

Derrick Bell snidely commented that the “American Century foundered on the shoals of Vietnam”.  But did it?  What would Ambrose say?  And why do you think, or does Ambrose think, we didn’t financially support the emerging democracies in eastern Europe any better?  Did we really need to spend $* billion on the unwindable “war on drugs”?

In terms of the quiz keep an eye on Gorbachev, other names you may know, like Dick Cheney and of course the immediate events, the dot in the center of the circles of causality, that caused the end of the Cold War.

Reagan and the Evil Empire

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Have you all seen these before?  They’re called “Word clouds”.  You can cut and paste and text and the words will be randomized but also manipulated in size by their frequency.  In other words in Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech, above, he used “God” quite a bit and “communism” rather less so.  I think they are interesting.

Here in Ambrose and Brinkley’s 15th chapter we have a marathon of words.  40+ pages!  Note the 5th edition was published in 1988, the sixth in 1991.  In one of those editions, the 6th I suspect, this chapter was new and a classic case of not having enough historical distance to weed out the significant from the non.  Student in one class lost his book and has newer edition which he says has this chapter much trimmed down.

If I were hunting for terms I might choose Ambrose’s take in the Iran-Contra affair, Lebanon, Grenada and maybe the Falkland Islands.

So what do A&B think of old Ronnie?  Good or bad or somewhere in-between?

Testing the Limits

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

“Breaking a Han Dynasty urn” is the title of the photo taken by the often jailed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.   What do you suppose he intended to say with this photograph?

On to Spence and of course the protests of 1989.  The protests of course don’t fall out of the clear blue sky.  Though the excuse was the death of Deng’s former compatriot Hu Yaobang what was the “real” or longer term reason for the events?

Interesting at the opening of the chapter of how all the changes and reforms in China, like getting rid of the communes, weren’t really seen as completely positive.  China was in a muddle in many ways, and despite economic growth of even recent years, might still be.

There is a lot here.  The Not-Not manifesto is interesting.  The “communist weeds” vs. capitalist seedlings, and a literal return to 100 flowers.

Enjoy your final read of Spence.

Levels of Power

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

image above is Hong Kong

As China enters the 1980s here it appears that China is really entering the world.  The revolution of 1949 appears a convulsive act that required a generation of flitting recovery for the new China to emerge from.  How is this new 1980s China really different from the one in the teens or twenties or even the one that preceded the 1911 revolution?

Now in the 80s, no doubt inspired by full relations with the US and the “West”, China needs lawyers, international law, a solid education system, incentives for workers and even allows the free-wheeling Hong Kong to keep on keepin’ on.

How did all of this come about?  How does China seems to escape the fate of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union of the same time period?  What was really different here?

We are at crunch time for our little class.  I know you all have may exciting things going on and opportunities to look forward to, but the extent to which for the next simple 4 (only) or 5(stretch) weeks you can double down and focus with me on the final units and reviews as they unroll, you will see, and I will see, I think some extraordinary results.

Hang in there.

Redefining Revolution

Sunday, April 6th, 2014


How is this a redefinition of revolution your might ask?  well, embedding an icon of capitalism into a communist system is pretty revolutionary I think.  Marx would be rolling in his grave.

China’s (Deng Xiaoping’s) desire to modernize in agriculture and industry etc.  saw them get in bed with the United States, and Coca-Cola and Boeing, and then attack a communist nation (Vietnam) in part because of its leanings towards Socialist country #1 the USSR!  Seems like crazy stuff.

What’s really crazy stuff is that Mao was right 70% of the time.  Claims like that make me think of “Lost in Translation” because I find pronouncements like that sort of funny, yet in China I know it was taken with the greatest seriousnesses.

For comments here consider spelling out your understanding of the rise of Deng, the significance of the “Fifth” modernization and/or how our relationship with Taiwan went the way that it did.