Monday, April 14, 2014

Civil War Review Part I

In your opinion, which is the MOST SIGNIFICANT cause of the Civil War in the United States? (choose ONE topic from reading).

Did it pertain to:

  • Slavery?
  • Sectionalism?
  • Lincoln's election?
  • All of the above?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who is Mao (but seriously, for real, you guys)??

Again, this reading should mostly be review.  It is interesting to read about the Soviet Union and China's communist institutions back-to-back, however. I immediately find myself thinking about how the leaders of respective countries tailor political ideologies to meet their country's unique culture.

In other words, China is old, and BIG.  With over 5,000 years of history, China has a long legacy of political greatness, resilience, and nationalism.  How (and why, for that matter), did Mao Zedong strive to implement communist policies that are unique to China's needs?

In Soviet Russia, Blog writes You!

This reading contains quite a bit of history in just a few pages, but again it should be review for you.  Consider how tumultuous Russia was from the Bolshevik revolution to the end of Brezhnev's presidency.  To what extent was communism always in crisis, even during Lenin's leadership?  How did the 20th century Russian leaders try to prove communism's legitimacy?  How did these strategies evolve over time?

Fundamentals of Communism

Much of this reading will come across as a review for us.  At this point in the year, we should be very familiar with the tenets of communism.  After reading the excerpt from Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto (locations 17-19), consider how the communist ideology aligns with the political practice. To what extent did any ONE (Mao, Allende, Castro, Stalin, etc.) communist leader live up to Karl Marx's ideals?

Predictions for Communism in Crisis

Communism in Crisis is our last and final unit in this class!  We will look at examples from several communist countries and consider how their governments are challenged.  1979-1991 is a pivotal period in history, as many communist governments declined or collapsed.  We will also finally learn how to write Paper 1!

It is fascinating to think about how many ways history repeats itself.  The Olympics are a perfect example.  Consider how controversial Sochi is in 2014, and compare to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.  Why did the United States initiate the boycott against the 1980 Olympics?  How do you see participating countries still reacting against Russia's policies now?

On a completely unrelated (but very important) note: tell me your biggest fears about the IA.  Is it finding sources?  Taking notes?  Turning your research findings into a paper?  Be honest here, because this will help me direct class tomorrow.

Castro: A Rebel without a cause?

This historiographical essay discusses conflicting ideas about Castro's true ideology.  Was he truly a communist, or did he do this simply to spite the United States?  To what extent does he use religion as a way to rally the masses behind him?  Consider the different historian's ideas about Castro--which do you feel are the most convincing, and why?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Life in Castro's Cuba, Part II

What does this section of the reading reveal about the justice system in Cuba under Castro?  How well did special interest groups, such as CDRs and the FMC ensure the success of Castro's revolution?

Life in Castro's Cuba, Part I

It is paradoxical to analyze the social effects of Castro's Cuba.  Consider the statistics at the beginning of the reading--to what extent did living conditions improve in the late 20th century in Cuba since Batista's days?  How do different types of minorities (i.e. blacks, homosexuals) exist in Castro's Cuba? Why was the reputation of the Cuban military--in the form of UMAP--significant to consider?

The Special Period -- Cuba After 1991

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Castro had to reevaluate Cuba's international market, particularly Cuba's relationship with the United States.  To what extent did Castro reopen the doors to the West in Cuba's post-Soviet days?  How did different US administrations receive this relationship?  Consider how George W. Bush equates Castro as part of the 'Axis of Evil' in 2002 (p. 227).

Changes in Castro's Style of Government, 1970-90

After Che Guevara was killed in 1967, Castro lost one of his major allies from the Western Hemisphere.  What were some of the ways that Castro tried to strengthen his own influence, as well as that of the Communist party in the 1970s and 1980s?  To what extent did Cuba become more dependent on the Soviet Union by the 1980s?  How do you think this will affect Cuba when the USSR dissolves in 1991?

Castro's Economic Policy and Opposition to Castro

After Castro's revolution, Cuba was no longer able to trade with the United States.  This led to Cuba's over-reliance on trade with the USSR, and a Cuban economy that was even less able to diversify away from the sugar industry.  Consider how this leads to Cuba's '10 million ton harvest,' which was devastating to the environment.  

Consider the types of people who were likely to be dissatisfied with Castro's government.  How many opponents left the country to seek asylum in places like the United States, and how did this affect Cuba's labor force?

US-Cuba Relations in Castro's Early Years

I'm still interested in why the US would think of withdrawing support from the Batista regime, when Castro's leadership in Cuba was by far the worse option.  Consider how Castro blamed the United States for much of Cuba's troubles, and how it was able to seize control of many foreign companies.

How much do you think the Bay of Pigs invasion reflected JFK's early foreign policy?  Remember that the invasion was planned during Eisenhower's administration, but carried out under JFK.  Why, then, is the Cuban Missile Crisis that much more essential for JFK to solve?

Castro's rise to power

Batista's regime in Cuba from 1952 to 1959 was one marked with corruption and vice.  Consider how a figure like Castro would become popular under Batista's rule.  How do you think Castro's time in prison influenced his popularity?  What about the significance of Che Guevara in Castro's rise? How did the images of Guevara and Castro play out among liberal and youth movements? Why did the US withdraw support from the Batista regime--should we consider this a crucial error in US Cold War policy in Latin America?

Civil Rights and Instability

As you all know, Martin Luther King Day is coming up on Monday.  While we have not studied the Civil Rights Movement in depth yet in this course, we examined it indirectly in our military history, especially with regard to Vietnam.  Black men were disproportionately drafted into the armed services during the Vietnam conflict, and this certainly fueled the civil rights conflict at home.  Consider the fact that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy (brother to JFK, presidential hopeful, and civil rights advocate) were assassinated in 1968, which is the same year that the Johnson administration kicked up the escalation plan in Vietnam.

How much was the Civil Rights movement a reflection of the general instability of the 1960s?  Consider how the Vietnam conflict demonstrated the weaknesses within the United States.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cold War Legacy in Chile

After reading the concluding section of the chapter, we should all be able to evaluate (at least in a general sense) how much the US was involved in shaping Chile's political history from the end of World War II until the present day.  How much do you think Chile was directly influenced by the US, and how much was it playing a tug-of-war game between the East and West by engaging in conversations with the USSR?  How did the dissolution of the USSR affect Chilean politics in the late 1980s?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Evaluating Pinochet's Chile

I find myself torn as I write about Pinochet, largely because historians and Chileans also do not know what to make of him.  While thousands of Allende supporters were tortured, murdered, and some merely "disappeared" when Pinochet took power, Chile's economy did eventually stabilize, and the country most of the Cold War conflicts that seriously afflicted countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador.  How do we evaluate a leader who thought so little of human rights, but did well for the economy?  How do you think the US perspective of Pinochet might have changed over the years as we distance ourselves from the Nixon administration?

Allende revisited: historiographically

So I know we have already read about Allende's coup, but this time, I want you to focus on the approaches of the different historians mentioned in the reading.  First, note Robert Moss, who studied the extent of Soviet involvement in Allende's Chile (p. 197).  Also consider the historical interpretations section of the reading at the end.  Stephen Graubard's reports (p. 200) plus Skidmore and Smith's assessments (p. 201) help shed light on why Allende's government might have failed.  Why are all of these interpretations significant?  Why is it key to note that historians are still not sure about the extent of the US's involvement in the 1973 coup?