This course has two objectives. First, as with any history course, it seeks to make you a better reader, writer, and therefore thinker. You will learn how to read arguments based on factual evidence, evaluate those arguments on the basis of that evidence, come to your own conclusions–to think critically and analytically–on important questions concerning that evidence, and express–that is, write–your evaluations persuasively. Second, this course attempts to make you an informed critic of American politics and diplomacy as it affects you today through an understanding of the past as prologue to the present.
Nature of the Course
The first portion of the course is dominated by the impact of the Cold War upon American politics and diplomacy. To an unprecedented degree the two were interlinked on a daily and popular basis. Special attention is given to the challenges of the 1960s to the American political and global orders, from the civil rights activists to Vietnamese communists. The collapse of that order from the Right during the Reagan years, the search for a new world order after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the challenge to that order posed most starkly by the events of 9/11 form the basis for the course’s later topics.
This course assumes a basic knowledge of American history since 1945. If you would like to bolster that knowledge, you should obtain a survey of American history, preferably American foreign relations, for this period. Some good titles would be Thomas Paterson, et al., American Foreign Relations (volume two), Walter LaFeber, The American Age (preferably volume two), or Robert Schulzinger, U.S. Diplomacy since 1900. These books are not required and therefore not available at campus bookstores. They can be obtained online or elsewhere. Another possibility is Robert McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction. This book will be available in the campus bookstore, but it is not required either.
W.R. Smyser, Kennedy and the Berlin Wall
Herbert Schandler, America in Vietnam
Richard Rhodes, Arsenals of Folly
Peter Hahn, Crisis and Crossfire: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Second Chance