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Year: 2007

Germany and the United States on the Eve of the Cold War

Almost anyone who has lived in Germany over the past sixty years will find the following video very strange indeed. It appeared in the early days of the occupation, when the Cold War was still only on the horizon and a strict anti-fraternization policy made sense to the U.S. military leadership. By the way, if you are a Dr. Suess fan, listen to the language. I’ve read many of his stories to my son, and I can hear the hand he had in this film. If that film appears ridiculous,… Read more Germany and the United States on the Eve of the Cold War

Military Studies in Liberal Arts Education

Samuel R. Williamson Jr and Russel Van Wyk make an interesting point on the last page of an undergraduate documentary history of the Great War’s causes. At the start of the new millennium, and after September 11, 2001, there is an urgent need for civilian understanding and control of the military forces of the state. Yet paradoxically, this need comes at a time when very few civilians in western society have had any direct experience in the military, either as members of the uniformed services or as students of strategic… Read more Military Studies in Liberal Arts Education

Outsourcing Revisited: Doonesbury at War

Checking out his email in the kitchen and talking to Reverend Sloan, B.D. says:

Man, does Ray seem down lately. He keeps asking if people at home still support the troops—as if most Americans actually had a personal stake. Emotionally, we outsourced this war—to a professional class that mainstream America has almost no contact with. Most people are completely baffled why anyone would serve. Ray has no idea how isolated he really is.

Zonker sits down and says, “Boy B.D., when you’re right, you’re right.” Boopsie, B.D.’s wife, agrees and asks, “Should we send Ray something to show we’re thinking of him. Zonker suggests a box of medals. “Don’t soldiers like medals?” Enthusiastic, Boopsie replies, “I know B.D. does. Good thought!”

Meanwhile, B.D. is covering his face with his left hand and looking down in disbelief, disgust, or despair, while the reverend tells him, “You can rest your case.”

Historians and Politics

Yesterday I wrote about the present in this blog about my work with the past. What possible justification could I have for doing that? (I mean besides the obvious point that this is my blog.) I wrote about outsourcing military functions in Iraq not because I possess special knowledge of the subject, but because my expertise in history makes me frame the issue in ways that are different from what I find in the media. I do not possess any special insight into what we should do about the Iraq… Read more Historians and Politics

Outsourcing Military Tasks

There has been much scrutiny in the press recently about the U.S. outsourcing military missions to private companies like Blackwater. P.W. Singer pointed out many problems with this trend in yesterday’s Washington Post. The most important from my point of view is the weak link between the American people and warmaking: Since the end of the Vietnam War, the United States has sought to ensure that there’s a link between the public and the costs of war, so that good decisions will be made and an ethos of responsibility fostered.… Read more Outsourcing Military Tasks

The Cold War Museum

The Cold War Museum does not yet have a permanent home, but you can visit it on the web. While I welcome this resource, I am disappointed that it focuses almost exclusively on the military side of this conflict. What about the Cold War’s broader impact on culture, politics, and the economy? I suppose the museum’s current focus cannot be helped, given its close relationship with the Cold War Veterans Association, with which it issues a quarterly electronic newsletter. This association seeks recognition for the service of Cold War veterans… Read more The Cold War Museum

Good Old Stalin

History can be used to justify all manner of circumstances in the present. Want to justify an authoritarian regime in Russia? Referring to Russia’s present conditions can help, but even more effective can be skillful tradition-building that shows Russia’s long line of great authoritarian rulers. And what better place to start than with history teachers in the schools? The New York Times published a remarkable article yesterday about a new history guide for high school teachers in Russia. After a brief introduction, it offers verbatim excerpts on Stalin, who comes… Read more Good Old Stalin

Across Generations

When I went to the student coffee shop on Friday, the student at the cash register guessed my order before I could tell him what I wanted. I remarked that I had had similar experiences with regulars when I worked at a Dunkin’ Donuts over twenty years ago. His response: “They had Dunkin’ Donuts back then?” For me there has always been a Dunkin’ Donuts. Indeed, according to Wikipedia and the corporate website of Dunkin’ Donuts, the first store opened in 1950, which is close enough to “always” for someone… Read more Across Generations

Politics in the Classroom

Do partisan politics have a place in the classroom? No. On the other hand, in a history class it is hard, even impossible to discuss many subjects without politics forming a subtext of the conversation. This difficulty is especially inherent in modern history. How, for example, can we talk about state-building, gender roles, participatory politics, and political ideologies without entering terrain in which we have a personal stake? And once we do that, how do we keep out partisan politics? The trick is to make that difficult mental leap into… Read more Politics in the Classroom

On Writing

Writing is hard work for almost everyone, no matter how talented or inspired. Writing is thinking. Good writers do not usually have finished ideas that they then type out. The process of writing and revision is an act of thinking and discovery. That is why writing papers can be so frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Want to improve your prose? Keep a journal, in which you produce a page of text per day. The text can be about anything, but use standard prose, not the kind of abbreviations… Read more On Writing

Writing Strategies

I wrote this somewhat confusing piece for my students in a required history survey and posted it on a course blog called History Survey. After I discontinued that, I moved the piece to Language for You and then here. The insight behind the piece is valid, but the attempt to write about it in the form of directions naive. (June 2018) Most people will tell you to build a paper around a thesis statement and an outline. This is good advice, but many of us have to go through a… Read more Writing Strategies