Monday, August 20, 2007

Syllabi Part II: Us and Them, or the Rise and Fall of the Iron Curtain

And now, Cold War:

History 466
Cold War
Fall ’07/WSUTC


Page and diagram from pamphlet, USSR-USA in Statistics(Moscow, l961), a booklet handed to me by a Soviet citizen in l988. The diagram and caption boast that Soviet workers, industrial production and growth have taken flight in a supersonic aircraft, leaving the hapless United States and its workers earthbound. Nikita Khrushchev was fond of telling Americans that “their grandchildren will live under Communism(!).” Alas, now his son, Sergei, is now an American citizen with a whole portfolio of Rotten Capitalist Investments…if his father could see him now!

Essential info: Office 207 J West Building 332-7257. Reality-based, up-close and personal office hours: 3:30-5:30pm Tuesday and Thursday; virtual office hours 24/7 by email at I always will try to get back to you as soon as possible—email is my favorite means of communication. For emergencies, my ancestral estate in Pendleton, Oregon may be reached at 541-276-6962.
N.B. I have a blog entitled “Blogside Inn,” after the Bogside Inn in Londonderry, N.I., where I first learned about Irish history and culture, especially as they relate to the Protestant-Catholic “troubles.” I generally post articles and comments about history and culture broadly defined, basically anything I find interesting, and I also will post syllabi and exams there, so that you will always have access to essential class materials. I will be posting announcements and heads-ups there as well, so try to visit every other day or so. Address: If you want, register(you can be yourself or someone else, whatever) and make your own comments. The more the merrier.

Attention Students with Disabilities: Accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. See Cherish Tijerna, Disability Resources Coordinator as soon as possible to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. To make an appointment, please call 372-7352. Translation from Officialspeak: If you have a learning disability, people and resources are available to help you.

Non-essential info: I actually “fought” in the Cold War,--a 14-month rearguard campaign as a United States Information Agency Exhibit Guide in l987-88. We were there ostensibly to give an accurate picture of what life was like in America, since Soviet citizens had been taught that we were imperialist/racist/warmongering/babykilling monsters. Our vehicle was American computer technology—I used to show how you could use Apple computers in education. But mostly, we ended up talking to people about our lives and trying to refute popular perceptions about America. I personally answered the following questions hundreds of times: “Why do you want war?” “Why do you allow people to own guns?” “Why do you kill your Presidents?” “Why don’t Americans know anything about Russians?” and…”How many volts do you give them in the electric chair(answer: “Enough”)?” I was happy if I could leave people with the idea that Americans weren’t good, weren’t evil, just a combination of both, like all the other humans on the planet. But sometimes, I felt as if I’d been in the trenches…and I was actually arrested for espionage briefly. I’ll tell that story sometime.
Other than that, this is my l2th year at WSUTC. I was born just over the mountain, in Pendleton, Oregon, and graduated from high school there before going off to attend Georgetown University(B.S. French language and Russian area studies l979)and Indiana University(M.A. Slavic Languages l984, Ph.D East European and Russian history, l991). I taught at Baylor University for a few years, escaped, then was lucky enough to find my way back to the Pacific Northwest, actually back to Pendleton, and a job here in Tri-Cities. If you have to work for a living, there’s no better place to be than this campus.

The Lowdown: Welcome to Cold War, a study of the 50-year “cold” conflict between the Soviet Union and its allies and the United States and its allies that began in the closing days of World War II and ended with the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe, which was followed by the implosion of Communism in the USSR in August l991. I should amend that to read, “mostly cold.” There was quite a lot of “hot” action, as the thousands of casualties in the Korean, Vietnamese and Afghan conflicts would tell you, even if these were officially “proxy wars.” I don’t think you are any less dead for being killed in a “proxy” rather than a direct conflict between the superpowers.
We will be trying this term to determine what caused this conflict, beginning way before l945. We want to trace the course of the “hostilities,” exploring how the war shaped domestic events and culture in the two superpower “belligerents,” that is, US here in America and THEM in the USSR. We won’t get too much farther than l962, because it takes that long to cover the early part of the Cold War, and people tend to have a lot of comments. However, we will do what we can to cover what happened later.
In between, we will try to get acquainted with some of the most interesting people and events from this odd war. Some of you will find them more familiar than others, especially if you are old enough to remember “ducking and covering” to protect against nuclear annihilation
Readings: Our basic text is McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction. This will help you follow the basic narrative of events, which can get complicated at times. Then David McCullough, Truman. Harry S. Truman inherited the postwar world from FDR and found himself fighting a “cold war” with the Russians from the first minute of his term. He had none of the usual qualities you would associate with a President—good looks, charisma, higher education—yet he proved to be an exceptionally prescient and competent leader, even if Americans didn’t think so when he left office. One of Truman’s most persistent critics was Joseph McCarthy, “Tail-Gunner Joe,” senator from Wisconsin. His aggressive investigations of alleged Communists gave the US political dictionary a new term: McCarthyism. Richard Rovere has written a brief but very good biography, Senator Joe McCarthy. Our lone memoir this term—I am partial to these—comes from Robert Kennedy, who was on his brother’s Ex Comm, the group of advisers charged with finding a way out of the Cuban Missle Crisis without destroying western civilization. RFK is very matter-of-fact and understated about the course of events, but he manages to convey the enormity and terror of that assignment very well. He and the others literally held all of our fates in their hands for a time.
Class Procedures and Evaluation: 466 is one of those great Tier III courses, which are designed to bring together knowledge and perspectives from several disciplines and which require a thoughtful writing assignment. You will fulfill this requirement by leaping ahead of where we are in class and attempting to answer the question, “Are the US and Russia in another Cold War?” To do this, you need to read and summarize 2-3 articles per week, culled from online sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, BBC, London Times. I will post any interesting articles I come across on the blog, and you are welcome to use these. You will show evidence of your readings by writing a brief summary of each article you read and keeping it in a binder or folder. About Thanksgiving, you will stop reading and make an assessment of your findings. Then you will write a 5-7 page answer to the original question, based on your reading. You will turn in both the paper and your written summaries on the due date. This assignment will be worth 60% of your final grade.
Also, we(actually YOU, since I’ve already taken tests on this material!)will write two essay exams, one after the end of part II and the other during finals week. Each of these will be worth 20%. In both cases, you will have the questions well ahead of time(at least two weeks), and then either I or you will choose the question you will write on the day of the exam.
Caveats: Come to class and listen—you know what Woody Allen says, 90% of life is just showing up—start the Big Assignment right away and keep up on the not-too-labor-intensive readings. If you do all these things, you’ll have a good time in the course and maybe even learn a thing or two as well.


Part I: Beginnings

America and Russia, l9l7

The first skirmish

Two visions of the ideal world, l9l9

America: the view from the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union: the view from America

Dictators’ rendezvous: the Nazi-Soviet pact, l939

The big doublecross and the new team, l941: USA, USSR, Great Britain

The marriage of convenience

Wartime conferences

Endgame: the race to Berlin

Readings: Text, relevant sections; start McCullough.
Recommended readings: Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution. This will tell you all about the revolution and establishment of Russian Communism,. Also, Louis Auchincloss, Woodrow Wilson. That’s the best short bio of Woodrow Wilson, our own drum major for democracy

Part II: Cold War follows hot, l945-53

Outlines of a divided Europe

The United States and the Bomb

Outlines of a Cold War

Dueling speeches

Containment and Marshall Plan

The “Iron Curtain” in eastern Europe. Plus: the state that escaped

The Berlin Crisis, round I: the Virtual Wall

Stalin gets the bomb

Cold War turns hot and goes global: the “police action” in Korea and revolution in China

The Cold War and the home front: US and USSR

Readings: Text, relevant sections; finish McCullough, Rovere(all)
Recommended readings: Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin. This is a great insiders’ view of what Stalin was REALLY like, behind the all-knowing, all-wise Uncle Joe façade. It wasn’t pretty.

Exam #1 following this section

Part III: Hope, Confusion and (Near)Apocalypse: The Khrushchev years, l953-64

The death of “Uncle Joe” and the rise of Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev

Korean armistice

Khrushchev’s bombshell

Revolution in Poland and Hungary

Khrushchev agonistes

The ascent of John F. Kennedy: “bearing any burden”

Bad beginning: Castro’s revolution and the Bay of Pigs

K2: Kennedy and Khrushchev .

The Berlin Crisis, round II: The Real Wall

Missles in October

Looking down the abyss: confronting nukes off the American mainland

“The other fellow blinked:” the end of the crisis

Nuclear non-proliferation

The end of an era: the end of Kennedy and Khrushchev and the course of the Cold War

Readings: Text, relevant sections; Kennedy, all. Finish up whatever you didn’t get to.
Recommended readings: William Taubman, Khrushchev: A biography. This is chapter and verse on Nikita Khrushchev, a great book, also a demanding one. If you can get Roy Medvedev, Khrushchev, that one is shorter and written from a Russian perspective. On Kennedy, the classic study is Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. A Thousand Days. Schlesinger was the “court historian” of the JFK administration. A more recent(and controversial)bio is Robert Dallek, JFK: An Unfinished Life.

Exam no. 2(non-cumulative)at the regular time during finals.

1 comment:

german said...

do the flights over guam and norway count? seems like some like to relive the old days?????