I’m working on a history writing question and need guidance to help me learn.
In this assignment, we’ll focus on American foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s. What do we mean by “American foreign policy”? By this, I mean the set of official decisions and attitudes directing the US’s role in world politics and events. These decisions are typically made by the sitting president, the Commander in Chief. So as you explore this assignment, think about how that palpable Cold War tension between the US and Soviet Union played a role in the foreign policy decisions described in the secondary sources featured. After World War I, the US had been committed to a campaign of de-colonization (something about spreading democracy, which requires consent of the governed?!). Why does the US pull back from its de-colonization message after World War II? What was the danger to the US if France were to pull out of her colony in Indochina (today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) after WWII? Why not lend stronger support to the independence movements in the French and English colonies in Africa, given the rhetoric of the war(s) and freedom and self-determination? Why not let the Vietnamese vote and determine their political future in 1954? What was the danger in Iranians electing Mossaddegh in 1953?
We’ll explore in future weeks how those governing now (let’s take our presidential candidates, for instance) are overwhelmingly from a generation born in the 1940s and 1950s, for whom the Cold War atmosphere shaped almost every aspect of their lives growing up, at least through mature adulthood in the early 1990s (including the war in Vietnam and the connected Rights Revolutions). We will spend time discussing how American foreign policy has changed since World War II. Think about the global factors that have shaped your own political worldview. For my generation, it has to be 9/11 and the War on Terror.
Think also this week about Life magazine magnate Henry Luce’s vision of the US’s role in the postwar world.
Step 1: Assess the secondary sources.
Explore this secondary source collection on the influence of Cold War anti-communism on American foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s. Make sure you click through all three tabs on the linked page.
Step 2: Reply to Prompt
Using this week’s videos and images, respond to the prompt below in a 150- to 250-word discussion post. No formal citations necessary, but do reference the sources to support your ideas. You don’t have to answer all the questions, just the ones that get you writing.
Prompt: Describe US foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s. What were the major concerns the US had about the world after the war? In what ways did the Cold War with the Soviet Union begin even before the official end of World War II? How and why did US intelligence agencies, namely the CIA, actually undermine democracy in places like Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam? Why be outward with policies like the Marshall Plan in 1946 and the idea of ‘massive retaliation’, but not other foreign policy actions and ideas? What do you make of a government’s ability to conduct clandestine affairs in the name of its citizens? Do you think covert operations like those of the 1950s undermine American security or have other unintended consequences for the US and her citizens?
Step 3: Reply to Three (3) Peers
- In a short paragraph between 50 and 100 words, add further supporting details or respectfully disagree with the post’s author using evidence from this week’s readings. Include historical details.
- Respond to as many peers as you like, but you must respond to at least three coursemates.
Please reply to peers who do not yet have replies so that all are included in the conversation.
- Early US involvement in Vietnam, 1945-1964
Watch this segment of a documentary series called “Remembering Vietnam: Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War,” produced by the National Archives.
The video below is a segment that combines episodes one through four. The video is about 20 minutes long and has reliable closed captions.