Friday, September 27, 2013

What is Eisenhower Trying to Say?

Eisenhower's farewell address comes across as a cautionary tale to his successor about the proliferation of nuclear weapons that took place under his leadership.  He clearly admits that the United States has entered a new era--that the buildup of such weaponry during peacetime has been unprecedented.

Is Eisenhower defacing his decisions or justifying them?  What seems to be the point of his warning of the potential dangers of the 'military industrial complex?'

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Eisenhower's New Look

Eisenhower and Dulles did not want to turn dramatically away from Truman's anti-communist stance, but they did want to change the direction of foreign policy to make it less expensive.  What, according to Dulles, were ways in which massive retaliation could reduce American military spending?  Why do you think the Soviets were reluctant to accept Eisenhower's plan for "Open Skies" after Stalin's death?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How new was the new look?

The election of Eisenhower in 1952 was a seeming transition in many ways.  The Republican party took control after a 40 year period of a Democratic administration.  The Korean War finally ended after a two year stalemate.  The country certainly saw Eisenhower's administration as an opportunity to shift foreign policy in a new direction.

So what was "new" about the new look?  Geographic focus?  Military strategy?  Focus on just one element that you feel to be new when compared to Truman, and consider whether or not the Cold War dramatically shifted in focus.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Korean Reunification

Despite some of the drastic differences between North and South Korea, the goal of reunification looms large over both halves of the peninsula.  We are already well aware of the political, economic, and cultural nature of these differences, and how a 60 year period of isolation has solidified them.  What, according to the reading, are some of the different possibilities for reunification?  Which ones seems more plausible?  What are some of the items at stake?

It may help to think of other instances of reunification from history--consider Germany, and even the North and South United States to help you grasp the concept.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Reasons behind American involvement in Korea

In the readings over the weekend, we read about differing positions as to whether involvement in Korea would thwart a potential third World War, or whether Korea's fall to communism would have minimal effects, so long as Japan, Taiwan, and the Phillipines remained under the United States' sphere of influence.  What is your position on this issue?  Do you think, now that you know how Korea ended, that the US and the UN made the right move by intervening in the Korean conflict?  Does Truman's reference to past events (large empires intervening in more vulnerable countries) carry weight in the answer to this question?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Korea: The Changing Views of War and the American Presidency

NSC-68 was outlined in your optional reading, but not in the excerpt from the IB text, so Secretary Acheson's defense may have been the first you have heard about it.

In short NSC-68 was a paper written by the UN Security Council that placed the policy of containment at the forefront of foreign policy.  It stated that it was the responsibility of the government to not only 'contain' communism where it lay, but also it should take measures to thwart the potential for Soviet influence on other countries.  NSC-68 justified US intervention in Korea and further solidified the US and the USSR as enemies.

The era after WWII redefined the notion of war and broadened the scope of executive power.  How do you view Truman as not only the spokesperson against communism but also as the conductor--the person who actually commands ideology into action.  How is this a change from earlier presidents?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Korea: The First Test of the Containment Policy

Remember that Paper 3 topic that probably few (if any) of you chose?

  • Assess the policies of President Truman, containment, and its implications for the United States.
This question was difficult because we understood what containment was, but how do you really describe it without coherent examples, or an actual case where the US took definitive action in order to 'contain' communism.

How does the Korean War actually show the containment policy in action?  Were there any limits to the ways in which the United States and United Nations would implement containment into military strategy?

Friday, September 13, 2013

"You're next!" The "Us vs. Them" Mentality of Cold War Culture

You need to watch the ending in case you missed it:


The surprise twist ending: Nancy has survived the pod invasion, but Matthew did not.  The bloodcurling zombie scream he emits is his way of alerting other duplicates to a human presence.

So how does all of this relate to the Cold War?  Consider the ways in which Truman's Policy of Containment, as well as the McCarthy Era attempted to identify an "other" as the enemy.  Relate your understanding of the film to the historical context.  In what ways do you see the American government identifying and rejecting an "other" in their policies?  What was the threat posed to American society after the war?  Do we still see such fears and threats posed to our society today?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is culture influencing the government or is the government influencing culture?

Our reading on theater suggests that the entertainment industry had a certain amount of independence from politics.  That is, they could subtly insert a message into their writing to critique or satirize the Cold War or Communism.  However, this is not permanent, as we see playwright like Arthur Miller face HUAC's interrogations.

But also, the government seems to be catching on to the large sphere of influence that entertainment (especially film and television) can have over American thought.  How does the government start to adapt media-like policies to send its own messages across?  Why, then, does the government focus so strongly on education?  Does the government see it as having a similar influence to entertainment?  How so?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Role of American Theater

Towards the end of the reading, on p. 222, the author calls playwrights 'brave and united' in their stand against the McCarthy hysteria.  Indeed, some playwrights themselves faced HUAC investigations and potential blacklisting for the content of their writing...even if it was a satire or critical commentary of the general era of suspicion.

Do you still see art as 'ahead of the curve' when it comes to critical social commentary?  Can you think of things like books, TV shows, and films taking a bolder step towards criticizing the government before other organizations can?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Identifying 'Anti-American' Activities

Realize that while the United States may not have been the definitive 'victor' after World War II, they still emerged as one of the most powerful countries in the world, with a broad spectrum of influence.  The United States saw it as imperative for other countries to rebuild their post-war economies and political structures as democratic and capitalistic in nature, because it affirmed the idea that the American way of life was supreme.

To have a 'kink' in the system (i.e. communist sympathizers) defied the very nature of what made America 'successful' after the war.  Countries like China and Korea demonstrated the threat of communism abroad.  Politicians seized the opportunity to criticize communism in other countries as well as at home as a threat to American ideals.

Why do you think the McCarthy wave caught on so quickly?  Why were initial 'anti-American' investigations targeted towards the Hollywood industry, and then progressed into the government and army?  Why was there so little resistance until the army-McCarthy hearings?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Containment: a good idea in theory?

When Truman first articulated the policy of containment, it was relatively popular, especially among American civilians.  But we know based on the reading that it was extremely difficult to execute, and ultimately backfired in many cases.  Why do you think Congress and the American public were willing to support an idea that we know in hindsight to be a failure?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why Yalta Matters

Your readings consider a series of opinions over whether the Yalta agreements were effective in ending the wars against Germany and Japan.  They also addressed provisions for postwar Europe, which arguably was the most controversial takeaway of the conference.

I don't expect you to be Yalta experts....yet.  But I do want to you to comment on your understanding of Yalta based on the reading.  What were some of the goals of the parties involved.  Why did they receive criticism as well as praise (and why does perspective matter here)?  Finally....what is your take on Yalta?  Was it successful, and if not, what alternative do you suggest?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Who won World War II?

If we are going by the 'middle school' definition, it's pretty easy to say that this is the explanation of the war's end:


video

But, after the reading, what is the more complex answer to this question?  Do you believe the US emerged as the clear winner?  Explain.