US diplomatic history

Select one of the following three U.S. foreign policy decisions/events for which substantial declassified, formerly secret documents on internal policy-making are available: the Cuban Missile Crisis (Oct. 1962); the escalation of military involvement in Vietnam (Spring-Summer 1965); Richard Nixon’s trip to China and discussions with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in February 1972. Based on your choice, you may read (in addition to the already assigned materials) one of the following books (all roughly comparable in length) to familiarize yourself with the background material:

(1) Michael Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War;

(2) Mark Atwood Lawrence, The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (available on Electronic Reserves on Blackboard) and Mitchell B. Lerner, ed., A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), Part IV: Vietnam, pp. 319-84 (available on-line via Gelman Library);

(3) Margaret Macmillan, Nixon in China: The Week that Changed the World (available online at https://archive.org/details/nixoninchinaweek0000macm/page/328/mode/2up

The declassified documents can be found in the relevant volumes of the series published by the U.S. State Department entitled Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), available in Gelman Library and on-line at the State Department website (http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments); or go more directly by typing “FRUS” in a search engine such as Google. (For the Cuban Missile Crisis, go to FRUS, 1961-1963, Vol XI: Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath; for Vietnam, go to FRUS, 1964-1968, Vol. II: Vietnam, Jan.-June 1965 and/or FRUS, 1964-1968, Vol. III: Vietnam, July-Dec. 1965; and for Nixon’s trip, go to FRUS, 1969-1976, Vol. XVII: China, 1969-1972.)

For the event selected, compare one or more interesting aspects of the story as told by the declassified documents in FRUS with the version presented to the public in: a) The New York Times or The Washington Post (available on-line through the Historical NY Times or Historical Washington Post on the GWU Libraries Databases). The paper should discuss what the comparison suggests or implies about how U.S. foreign policy is made at top levels and how it is presented to the general public. What might explain any discrepancies between secret discussions or decisions and public statements? How well informed was the public (i.e., attentive newspaper readers) on what actually was going on?

Generally, the strongest papers: contain an introduction that has a clear thesis statement; demonstrate knowledge of the required secondary literature by providing a background section that contextualizes the events discussed, focus on one or two events and provide a detailed comparison of the sources, which supports the argument articulated in the thesis statement

Papers should be approximately 8-10 pages long, double-spaced, and include specific citations (footnotes or endnotes) to documents and other sources, both public at the time of the event as well as those subsequently released, as well as to relevant secondary accounts where an interpretation is referred to or relied upon. Please note that citations to documents should include both a full description of the document itself (author, title, date, addressee, etc.) and its location in the publication in which you found it.

 

For example: Memorandum of Conversation [Memcon], Subject: “Transition,” 9 August 1974, 10:47 – 11:10 a.m. in Kristine L. Ahlberg and Alexander Wieland, eds., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XXXVIII, Part 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973-1976 [Hereafter FRUS Vol. XXXVIII, Part 1] (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2012), Document 38, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve15p2/d62 Accessed 12 April 2020.

 

For subsequent citations from the same volume: Memcon, Subject: “US-Soviet Relations; Middle East, Emigration; Nuclear War,” Helsinki, 30 July 1975, 9:30 a.m., in FRUS Vol. XXXVIII, Part 1, Document 61, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v38p1/d61 Accessed 21 August 2020.

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