Week 5 discnn
|Making Presidential Decisions (graded)|
President Harry Truman, the first Cold War President, had a sign on his desk saying “The Buck Stops Here.” The Webliography contains a link to the photo and story. Indecisive people can pass on their responsibilities and “pass the buck,” and advisory people can propose their concepts and lobby for acceptance, but the President can ultimately turn to nobody else. Presidents must make the hard decisions. It is a heavy mantle to bear on those presidential shoulders. It is lonely at the top.
President Johnson’s “wise men” possessed depth in their areas of expertise beyond that of the President, who was a master mover of legislation to accomplish domestic social programs but very much out of his league in military matters and international relations.
To begin, evaluate this question: To what extent was the March 1968 reevaluation of the Vietnam War, as a function of Cold War ideology, accomplished to satisfy domestic concerns rather than international concerns? In a time of mixed obligations, how can we differentiate what is domestic from what is international in American politics?
Impact of News Photography (graded)
When the dissolution of European colonialism began after World War II, the news media technology of the day was called a “newsreel.” To see the faces and hear the voices of world leaders and reports of events, you would watch one or two short films at the movie theaters along with the movie previews. These newsreels would be weeks or even months old, but they were the closest one could get to witnessing the events that we can see instantaneously on television today. If, as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then the photographs in newspapers and the filmed newsreels taught powerful lessons. Our textbook contains some powerful photographs that still rivet our attention today.
• Page 68 Figure 3.1 – President Eisenhower greeting President Ngo Dinh Diem at Washington National Airport in 1957
• Page 105 Figure 4.3 – The Buddhist monk immolating himself on a Saigon street in 1963
• Page 232 Figure 8.5 – Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong member on a Saigon street in 1968
• Page 340 Figure 12.2 – President Nixon greeting returning POW LCDR John McCain in 1973
Your assignment is to go on a field trip through the Internet and bring back two photographs for discussion of their impact: one from Vietnam activity (not necessarily combat-related) and one from any other source that you think made significant impact on the public. Be sure to give the URLs in your discussion post for others to go and see them. Then, with each one, write a paragraph about why that photo made significant impact on the public perception of events. Okay, off you go on your field trip. We will await your return.
Week 6 discnnn
How Diplomacy Involves Saving Face (graded)
The class lectures and readings from Dr. Moss’ book speak about how presidents get personally invested in the results of their work, and how that investment impacts the decisions they make. Presidents do not, however, engage in diplomatic negotiations directly. They send ambassadors and negotiators who may be as senior as the Secretary of State, in the example of Dr. Henry Kissinger at the Paris Peace Talks. Diplomats also get personally involved. They get involved with their own desires for career success, as well as their desires for positive outcomes for their own countries. Doing poorly and conceding often requires that negotiators not be embarrassed; that is, that they “save face” for themselves personally and for their governments at home. Let’s start this discussion with the famous leaders mentioned so far in the course: In the Week 6 readings you see their own need to “save face” for themselves and their countries. What are some of the great examples shown so far of “saving face” on the part of diplomats? What does “saving face” mean in diplomatic situations?
Welfare of Those Who Serve (graded)
By 1968, over one million Americans were stationed outside the United States on their country’s business, wearing the uniform and trying to accomplish the missions of their commander-in-chief. Of that number, over a half million served in and near Vietnam, with that number capped at 549,500 in April 1968.
Vietnam assignments “in country” were generally limited to thirteen months fixed duration. Service members reported in and departed individually on fixed departure dates called DEROS (date of rotation) rather than with their whole unit together.
How can we assess the impact that deploying individually rather than by unit had on those who served those tours? How might that differ between those who had joined the Army voluntarily and those who had been conscripted for service by the Selective Service System?
Week 7 discnn
|Coping with After-effects of Combat (graded)|
Everyone reacts to experiences, often for a lifetime. The scars of warfare are not all physical ones. The deepest scars are not seen; they are psychological and well hidden. People who live and work with combat veterans often cope with those effects also, because they relate to those veterans who struggle with their memories and harsh experiences. The Vietnam War differed from other wars, in that the experiences were highly individualized and personalized. Divisions and support units were deployed to Vietnam for many years, and individuals would transfer in and out for tours of specified length, most commonly for 13 months. They would fly in for transfer to replace somebody who had been there for 13 months, or who had been wounded or killed, and then fly out alone to other assignments at the end of their own tour. This system was very destructive to both unit integrity and personal welfare. Perhaps you are, or know some combat veterans from Vietnam. With great care to not violate the privacy of people or divulge their names, what can be understood and applied from the stories of those who served and left their commands and teams to return home individually, as opposed to the experiences of other war veterans?
|American Foreign Relations After the War (graded)|
Cold War ideology after World War II fostered the developing viewpoint that the American military was invincible, even as a viable and dangerous enemy worked toward global superiority: the Soviet Union.
The practical application of this ideology was the policy of containing the expansionist intentions of global communism as attempted by the Soviet Union in locations of opportunity. The most notable of these proxy confrontations was the attempt to contain the communist threat in Vietnam– the subject of this course.
President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger labored long and hard to achieve “peace with honor” and end American involvement in Southeast Asia in the Paris Accords of 1973. The failure of that peace to endure is the story that ends our course.
Looking beyond the fall of Saigon in April 1975, we will consider how the domino theory ultimately proved false, as President Johnson had speculated: There was no global Communist surge of expansion, and the United States, with its NATO allies and its worldwide interests, did not collapse. How has American ability to act worldwide been affected by the fact that some of the most dire claims made in support of the war ultimately proved wrong?