Ambrose 5 – Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan

truman in november

Two halves of the same walnut.

That which Truman was most proud of, that we thoroughly defeated our enemies and then helped them rebuild their economies, is the story here, and it almost didn’t happen.

Opposition for the TD/MP was almost universal in the Republican party with the exception of Senator Vandenberg who tells Truman he must “scare the hell” out of the American people. We know how things went of course but what is interesting is the way things might have gone.

What if communists came to power in Greece and Turkey?  What would really change?  What if communists were elected in Italy?  What if the CIA had never been given authority to conduct covert operations?

Ambrose’s little jibe at Truman being disingenuous and losing sleep over his decision is I think miss-placed.   I agree Truman had made up his mind as to what to do, but I think he struggled greatly at figuring out how to get it done.  How do you take a people that has been traditionally isolationist, and re-enroll them into an international struggle that could turn as ugly as any preceding World War, or even more so, and convince them to join the fray after four long years of devastating warfare?


Kissinger 18 – the Success and Pain of Containment



The man pictured above is George F. Kennan.  He is worth a google.  His influence, according to Kissinger, through the Long Telegram, and the “Sources of Soviet Conduct” published in “Foreign Affairs” under the pseudonym “X” not only were the foundation of the policy of containment but went so far as to predict what would happen under Gorbachev, namely, the dissolution of the USSR.

Was it just me or did anybody else think, wow, this kind of describes Putin, when you were reading excerpts from the long telegram?  Do you think Putin knows his rule is “archaic in form, fragile and artificial”? I sort of do.  It is fitting to remember Pipes’ claim that the distinction between Czarist rule and communist was communist brutality.  There were otherwise the same.  Is Putin a similar extension of Russian history’s “mechanical” rather than “organic” structure of state, as advanced by Pipes?

There is a lot here in this little chapter.  What if Lippman had been more influential?  What about Wallace?  Was Truman really returning to a style of Realpolitik (Is that why Kissinger likes him so much?) and merely couching the protection in moral codes, or did he really believe he was advancing collective security?  Did Acheson really believe NATO was not an alliance aimed at the Soviet Sphere?  The Matthews Memorandum is worth noting as is Clark Clifford.

Were the suggestions of Kennan really implemented or did he want them to be interpreted as they were.  In 1957, over a decade later he said where we should best apply our efforts to the Soviet threat was to our own American failings.  What do you think? Without getting off of too much of a tangent do you think our best strategy in the face of ISIS and Putin and Syria is to address our domestic problems?  Are ISIS, Putin and Syria even really similar threats?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Kissinger 17 – the Cold War


So that’s my Dad on the right.  Summer after his freshman year at college he signed up.  Pearl Harbor had happened just six months earlier.  That’s his brother Robin on the far left.  He would end up in the foreign service after the war, in the beginnings of the Cold War, in Iran and Hungary where he helped smuggle anti-communists out in the trunk of a car.  His service ended with a recurrence of childhood Polio and he would spend his career as a professor of Russian studies in Eugene Oregon.    In the middle is their younger sister, my Aunt Mary.  One of my favorites.  Passed away the spring before last.  A professor of English literature she was.  Her dissertation was on Virginia Woolf.

Wow.  Look at your page numbers.  445.  The whole book is 835 pages long.  You’re over half way through with Kissinger!  Congratulations!


Truman, whose famous “Whistle Stop” campaign of 1948, was the only election he ran in for the executive office. In 1952, like LBJ in 1968, he would be too unpopular to run, largely because of an increasingly unpopular war in Asia; Korea for Truman, and Vietnam for LBJ.  Truman of course became president in 1945 on FDR’s death.

So this is the start of the Cold War, and I would argue the start of the world as you know it.  Was it Molotov’s intransigence as Kissinger argues, that turned America’s good will into the confrontation that would become the Cold War?  If this is the case can we / should we lay the blame for the Cold War, and the near annihilation of our population in 1962, on Molotov, or do we lay blame on Stalin who Molotov was so fearful of displeasing?

Or, do we blame Truman who talked to Molotov like a “Missouri mule driver”?  Or Churchill?  Why did we really care about free elections in Poland? The “Russian” people, as Stalin called them in his last address as political leader of the USSR, had paid in blood and guts, 40 million, and didn’t they deserve a little security on their borders?

And what about today?  Potential meddling by the Russians in the US election, intransigence in North Korea and threats of nuclear war lead one to wonder if the Cold War is really over.  To have that discussion though, we need to really understand its origins.



So I know you are on top of this but here is a reminder that the rough draft of your IA is due next Thursday / Friday the 13th and 14th.  Update.  Due date Monday/Tuesday December 17th 18th of December.  The IA for history is basically a short research paper that ultimately will have the following components;

An OPVL section, a research paper and a reflection.

The word limit for the historical investigation is 2,200 words. A bibliography and clear referencing of all sources must be included in the investigation, but are not included in the overall word count.

A. Identification and evaluation of sources. 6 points possible.

~500 words.  OPVL on TWO of your sources

B.  Investigation ~1,300 words.  This is the part that looks like a traditional research paper. Be sure to cite your sources.  15 points possible here.

C. Reflection ~400 C. Reflection 4 points possible.  Don’t worry about this for rough draft.

Bibliography – You MUST INCLDE full bibliographic information in your rough draft.

So ultimately 2,200 words total worth up to 25 points.

Ambrose 3 – War in Asia

The War in Asia in 17 easy to read pages.  A few things to note.  Mao Tse-tung=Mao Zedong.  Same guy.  Formosa = Taiwan  Same place.  We will explore more in our China unit that we will start just before winter break but just beware that the study of China and Asia in the English language presents some challenges.

So, what of the colonialism thing?  Why couldn’t Great Britain just chill and let French Indochina be governed by a control council until it reached independence.  Thats what they did in Italy, Germany and Austria.  Ho Chi Minh (future leader of war against America in Vietnam) is here helping us find downed pilots, singing our praises in the war and even copying our declaration of independence.  He even claims that want a representative democracy.  Why couldn’t we all just get along?

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, the roots of our conflict in Vietnam are right here.  The roots of our conflict in today’s Middle East are right around the corner in our next unit and were even in the earlier unit where the modern middle eastern map was drawn after WWI.

The world you are entering is the way it is because of what has come before.  No student of today’s current events, be they social, political military or religious, will make any sense of the way things are, without a serious study of the way things were.


Ambrose 2 – WWII in Europe

wwii in europe.jpg

So if you took a TORCH to your SLEDGEHAMMER would you be the  new OVERLORD?  Apparently so.

Well there it was in 20 easy to read pages.  The “War in Europe”  and now we press on against the Japanese.

So what do you make of this “Strange Alliance”?  What was so strange about it?  And what about the decision to go into Africa?  How did that get complicated vis-a-vis Darlan.  The American reaction to allowing him to retain power might be an interesting IA. His assassination seems almost made-to-order for American public opinion.

Why not then press on into the Balkans.  Instead of going into Africa (TORCH) Eisenhower wanted to press for invasion into France.  Why?

And what happened in Italy, esp vis-a-vis Stalin?  This is all going to be very important I think when we get into the next unit and the emergence of the Cold War.

Also… Berlin.  What’s the big deal there?  Why doesn’t Eisenhower want to press on?  Why does he stop at the Elbe?  (Ambrose wrote an entire book about this BTW)  A map might help with this one.


Finally Ambrose says in the end FDR was very concerned with the creation of the UN.  How would it be any different from the League of Nations which had preceded it?


Kissinger 15 – FDR

dr suess WWII.jpg

Recognize the hand that drew that cartoon?  What’s that about?  What’s it mean?

Charlie Chaplin then was not alone as a famous artist taking on social commentary.  Here, as promised, is the original NYT review from October 1940, just months after the fall of France and I really encourage you to read it.

So here before you is HK’s case that FDR was this brilliant leader who changed the course of the country more than anyone but Lincoln, taking his isolationist people into the recognition of the need of war.

“perspicacious”.  How many of you looked that one up?

The analysis of the isolationists vs. interventionists, at the beginning, is interesting.  They basically agreed the Monroe Doctrine gave the US control over the western hemisphere and the League could not require the US to engage in any military type of activity outside of the west.

FDR here, is interestingly not compared to the Bismarcks and the Disraelis in Kissinger’s Realpolitik Hall of Fame.  Why not?

You would do well to do a timeline here.  The Quarantine speench, the Neutrality Acts.  Anschulss with Austria, CZ… how does he react?  What evidence does HK use to show FDR was really, by a certain time, clearly an interventionist?  And why is he not (or is he?)apparently in HK’s “Realpolitik” Hall of Fame?