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Table of Contents
Issue: Has the Democratic Peace Theory Helped Lead U.S. Style and Other Western Democracies to a New Historical Stage of Human Freedom?
YES: Jeffrey Pugh, from “Democratic Peace Theory: A Review and Evaluation,” CEMPROC Working Papers Series (2005)
NO: William Appleman Williams, from “Conclusion: History as a Way of Breaking the Chains of the Past,” Verso (2011)
Jeff Pugh suggests that the Democratic Peace Theory remains a viable way to examine democratic relations internationally. He also notes legitimate critiques of the theory: that a democratic nation’s desire to maintain power is a means of ensuring self-preservation (not necessarily democracy), that data presented by democratic peace theorists is limited and causal, and that it is also important for us to trouble the ways we perceive, define, and apply the theory. William Appleman Williams argues that Liberal Democracy has been a means of imposing a gentler form of empire that has served to contain class and race tensions at home and allowed for imperial expansion abroad.
Issue: Did a “New South” Emerge Following Reconstruction?
YES: Ronald D. Eller, from “A Magnificent Field for Capitalists,” University of Tennessee Press (1982)
NO: James Tice Moore, from “Redeemers Reconsidered: Change and Continuity in the Democratic South, 1870–1900,” Journal of Southern History (1978)
Ronald D. Eller describes the post-Reconstruction entrepreneurial spirit that altered the traditional rural economy of the Mountain South through the introduction of the railroad and the development of coal, iron, and lumber industries in Appalachia. James Tice Moore challenges the view that the white, Democratic political elite that ruled the post-Reconstruction South abandoned antebellum rural traditions in favor of business and commerce and concludes that these agriculturally oriented “Redeemers” actually represented a continuity of leadership from the Old South to the New South.
Issue: Should We Understand Modern U.S. Imperial Power as Primarily Emerging from Its Financial Diplomacy following the World Wars?
YES: Michael Hudson, from “Introduction to Super Imperialism,” Pluto Press (2003)
NO: James Monroe, from “Transcript of Monroe Doctrine (1823),” OurDocuments.gov (1823); Carl Schurz, from “Platform of the American Anti-Imperialist League,” The Policy of Imperialism (1899); John Hobson, from “The Economic Bases of Imperialism,” Imperialism: A Study (1902)
Michael Hudson suggests that the imperial watershed moment is when United States used their position as world creditor to establish the economic conditions that would evolve lead to future economic mechanisms such as the IMF and World Bank, which would plunge certain countries into a debt crisis to maintain US economic and imperial dominance worldwide. James Monroe writes that the United States would oppose European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. Carl Schurz argues that the United States was becoming an imperial nation, committing criminal aggression by annexing the Philippines. John Hobson provides us with the reasons for and state of imperialism around the world. He discusses the economic basis for imperial expansion suggesting it is driven by the search for new markets and investment opportunities overseas. He names how the United States was entering this imperial quest in relations to other world powers at the turn of the century. The authors provide examples of historical shifts in imperial policy prior to the World Wars.
Unit 2: Reform, War, and Depression
Issue: Did the Progressives Succeed?
YES: Ronald J. Pestritto and William J. Atto, from “Progressive Party Platform of 1912,” Progressive Party National Convention (1912); Woodrow Wilson, from “The New Freedom,” Doubleday (1913)
NO: Richard M. Abrams, from “The Failure of Progressivism,” Little, Brown and Company (1971)
Ronald J. Pestritto and William J. Atto provide significant evidence from the Progressive Party Platform of 1912 and Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 campaign addresses demonstrating the impact of progressivism’s influence of policy and practice throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. Professor of history Richard Abrams maintains that progressivism was a failure because it tried to impose a uniform set of values upon a culturally diverse people and never seriously confronted the inequalities that still exist in American society.
Issue: Was Woodrow Wilson Responsible for the Failure of the United States to Join the League of Nations?
YES: Thomas A. Bailey, from “Woodrow Wilson Wouldn’t Yield,” Appleton-Century-Crofts (1969)
NO: William G. Carleton, from “A New Look at Woodrow Wilson,” The Virginia Quarterly Review (1962)
Thomas A. Bailey argues that a physically infirm Woodrow Wilson was unable to make the necessary compromises with the U. S. Senate to join the League of Nations and convince America that the United States should play a major role in world affairs. The late William G. Carleton believed that Woodrow Wilson understood better than any of his contem¬poraries the role that the United States would play in world affairs.
Issue: Is Media Propaganda Helpful in Supporting United States Democracy?
YES: Edward Bernays, from “Speak Up for Democracy,” Current History (1940)
NO: Noam Chomsky, from “Democracy and the Media,” Pluto Press (1989)
Edward Bernays believes that the media propaganda plays a vital role in developing the opinions, habits, tastes, and ideas within a democratic society. He suggests that this conscious and intelligent manipulation is vital because it helps to establish a basic framework by which citizens can understand the world, thereby avoiding chaos. Noam Chomsky rejects the idea that this type of propaganda is helpful, instead suggesting that it and other media mechanisms limit the exchange of democratic ideas by furthering the interests of those in power and business elites.
Issue: Were the First 100 Days of the New Deal Essentially Political Maneuvering?
YES: Gabriel Kolko, from “The New Deal Illusion,” CounterPunch (2012)
NO: Franklin D. Roosevelt, from “On the Purposes and Foundations of the Recovery Program, July 24, 1933,” Marist College (1933)
Gabriel Kolko asserts that instead of implementing a successful progressive New Deal agenda President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administrative cabinet of advisors closely aligned with conservative “big business” interests that took advantage of the economic crises during America’s twentieth century Great Depression to protect their financial and social power bases at the expense of the common person. To counter Gabriel Kolko’s critical analysis of the FDR’s New Deal motives, a primary document representing one of President Roosevelt’s many “fire side chats” is offered as evidence that FDR’s New Deal policies called upon all segments of the U.S. population to enter into a common commitment of sacrifice and service to address the economic and social crises of the day.
Issue: Was the World War II Era a Watershed for the Civil Rights Movement?
YES: James Nuechterlein, from “The Politics of Civil Rights: The FEPC, 1941–46,” Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives (1978)
NO: Harvard Sitkoff, from “African American Militancy in the World War II South: Another Perspective,” University Press of Mississippi (1997)
James Nuechterlein insists that the efforts to improve employment opportunities for African Americans during World War II, as exemplified by the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (1941–1946), marked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States and set the stage for broader civil rights successes in the 1950s and 1960s. Harvard Sitkoff challenges the “watershed” interpretation by pointing out that, after Pearl Harbor, militant African American protest against racial discrimination was limited by the constraints imposed on the nation at war, the dwindling resources for sustained confrontation, and the genuinely patriotic response by black Americans to dangers faced by the nation.
Unit 3: The Cold War and Beyond
Issue: Was President Truman Responsible for the Cold War?
YES: Walter LaFeber, from “America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945–2000,” McGraw-Hill (2002)
NO: John Lewis Gaddis, from “The Origins of the Cold War: 1945–1953,” McGraw-Hill (1990)
Walter LaFeber argues that the Truman administration exaggerated the Soviet threat after World War II because the United States had expansionist political and economic global needs. John Lewis Gaddis argues that the power vacuum that existed in Europe at the end of World War II exaggerated and made almost inevitable a clash between the democratic, capitalist United States and the totalitarian, communist USSR and that Joseph Stalin, unwilling to accept any diplomatic compromises, was primarily responsible for the Cold War.
Issue: Was Rock and Roll Responsible for Dismantling America’s Traditional Family, Sexual, and Racial Customs in the 1950s and 1960s?
YES: Jody Pennington, from “Don’t Knock the Rock: Race, Business, and Society in the Rise of Rock and Roll,” Aarhus University Press (1992)
NO: Bruce Harrah-Conforth, from “ Rock and Roll, Process, and Tradition,” Western Folklore (1990)
Jody Pennington believes that the emergence of rock and roll in the 1950s, along with new forms of consumerism, expressed “the inner conflict between conservative and rebellious forces for high school teenagers who wanted to rebel against their parents yet still grow up to be them.” Bruce Harrah-Conforth argues that youth departure from lifestyles of previous generations left a lack of rites of passage into adulthood. As a result, America’s youth sought community through the construction and manipulation of rock and roll allowing them to create their own rites of passage and mark the experiences of the generation. Rock and roll, therefore, was a new version of a time-honored experience through which American youth grappled with their place in the social world.
Issue: Did President John F. Kennedy Cause the Cuban Missile Crisis?
YES: Thomas G. Paterson, from “When Fear Ruled: Rethinking the Cuban Missile Crisis,” New England Journal of History (1995)
NO: Robert Weisbrot, from “Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missile Crisis of American Confidence,” Ivan R. Dee, Publisher (2001)
Professor Thomas G. Paterson believes that President Kennedy, even though he moderated the American response and compromised in the end, helped precipitate the Cuban missile crisis by his support for both the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and the continued attempts by the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. Historian Robert Weisbrot argues that the new sources uncovered in the past 20 years portray Kennedy as a president who had not only absorbed the values of his time as an anti-Communist cold warrior but who nevertheless acted as a rational leader and was conciliatory toward the Soviet Union in resolving the Cuban missile crisis.
Issue: Did Southern White Christians Actively Support Efforts to Maintain Racial Segregation?
YES: Carolyn Renée Dupont, from “A Strange and Serious Christian Heresy: Massive Resistance and the Religious Defense of Segregation,” New York University Press (2013)
NO: David L. Chappell, from “Broken Churches, Broken Race: White Southern Religious Leadership and the Decline of White Supremacy,” University of North Carolina Press (2004)
Carolyn Renée Dupont argues that in the post-Brown years of the 1950s and 1960s, most white Mississippians, including Christian ministers and laypersons, zealously drew upon biblical texts, religious tracts, and sermons to craft a folk theology supporting massive resistance to racial segregation. David L. Chappell concludes that white southern religious leaders from the mainline Protestant denominations, preferring peace and social order, failed to provide sufficient support to enable segregationist politicians to mount a united front in defending the doctrine of white supremacy.
Issue: Did the Nixon–Kissinger “Peace with Honor” Strategy Fulfill the Conservative Commitment to Containment of Communism?
YES: Richard Nixon, from “Peace with Honor” and “14 Addresses to the Nation on Vietnam,” Richard Nixon (1973)
NO: Jeffrey Kimball, from “Debunking Nixon’s Myths of Vietnam,” The New England Journal of History (2000)
Richard Nixon believed his policy of Vietnamization and the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 would bring lasting peace in Vietnam, ultimately fulfilling his promise of containment and satisfying his “Peace with Honor” strategy. Jeffrey Kimball suggests the Nixon–Kissinger “Peace with Honor” promise remained unfulfilled at the conclusion of the Vietnam war due to misrepresentations of the truth used to salvage the reputations of the president and his conservative staff.
Issue: Has the Women’s Movement of the 1970s Failed to Liberate American Women?
YES: F. Carolyn Graglia, from “Domestic Tranquility: A Brief against Feminism,” Spence Publishing (1998)
NO: Jo Freeman, from “The Revolution for Women in Law and Public Policy,” McGraw-Hill Education (1995)
Writer and lecturer F. Carolyn Graglia argues that women should stay at home and practice the values of “true motherhood” because contemporary feminists have discredited marriage, devalued traditional homemaking, and encouraged sexual promiscuity. Jo Freeman claims that the feminist movement produced a revolution in law and public policy in the 1960s and 1970s that completed a drive to remove discriminatory laws regarding opportunities for women in the United States.
Issue: Do Economic Policies Associated with Reagan, Thatcher, and Friedman Promote Freedom in a Liberal Democracy?
YES: Milton Friedman, from “Capitalism and Freedom,” New Individualist Review (1981)
NO: Daniel Stedman Jones, from “The American Roots of Neoliberalism,” History News Network (2013)
Milton Friedman argues that liberalism, in its quest to combat authoritarian elements, has naturally aligned with markets, individualism, and freedom. He further claims that the so-called economic freedom (meaning privatization) is a way of maintaining the personal liberties of people against the government and tries to give historical examples attempting to illustrate this point. Daniel Stedman Jones critiques and tracks how privatization has come to be understood as neoliberalism, the economic ideology that has come to permeate all American political life. Jones argues that in understanding the history of neoliberal thought can help us better make sense of the complexity of the present economic situation.
Issue: Is the American Century Over?
YES: Andrew Bacevich, from “Farewell, the American Century,” The Nation (2009)
NO: Joseph S. Nye Jr., from “The American Century Will Continue but It Won’t Look the Same,” Politico (2015)
Andrew Bacevich argues that the American Century is over. He believes we need to see ourselves as we are now by casting aside the problematic mythology of the American Century. Joseph S. Nye Jr. believes the American Century will continue; however, he suggests that if the United States would like to maintain its leadership role, it must recognize that the role will look very different from what it was in the 20th century.
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