History 249                                U.S. Foreign Policy

Fall 1999                                    Richard H. Immerman

 

 

     Final Examination Study Guide

 

 

Your final opportunity to dazzle me with your expertise, perspicacity, and erudition is rapidly approaching.  You must be growing anxious. You must be asking yourself, "What will Immerman ask? I need to know now so that I can sift through what remains from the reading assignments that I have not yet to complete and select the chapters--better yet, the paragraphs--I must read." Well, I hear you. Here they are.  Smile and look relieved.

 

A reminder: your essays must focus on the fundamental historical issues that inhere in the questions below provide support for  your conclusions (i.e., arguments) with robust evidence gleaned from  the  readings and lectures. Think about what response is necessary and sufficient for each question (what precisely am I asking you to think about and do), and organize your presentations and illustrations accordingly.  Strive for logic, consistency, and succinctness (avoid tangents), and anticipate counterarguments. Keep in mind that this time around you will be required to write two essays.  Other than that the examination's format will be identical to the mid-term.  I have confidence in all of you; I hope you share my outlook. Don't worry; be happy.

 

 

A. Historians are of two minds when inferring what influence the Cuban Missile Crisis would have exercised on John F. Kennedy's policies had he served a second term in office. One school of thought predicts that the Soviet-American near-collision would have restrained Kennedy in the years ahead, leading him, for example, to disengage America from Vietnam. Another school argues that the Cuban Missile Crisis would have accelerated Kennedy's rush into Vietnam because it bolstered his confidence and convinced him of the need to demonstrate U.S. resolve in areas where the danger of a direct Soviet-American confrontation were small.  What do you think? In your opinion, would the Cuban Missile Crisis have affected Kennedy's policy toward Vietnam? How? And more generally, what's your assessment of Kennedy's behavior during the Missile Crisis. In addition to other sources, the essays and documents in Paterson/Merrill provide much grist for your mill.

 


B.  A "revisionist" book on the 1950s concludes,  "The essence of Eisenhower's strength, and the basis for any claim to presidential greatness, lies in his admirable self-restraint. . . . Nearly all of Eisenhower's foreign policy achievements were negative. He ended the Korean War, he refused to intervene militarily in Indochina, he refrained from involving the United States in the Suez crisis, he avoided war with China over Quemoy and Matsu, he resisted the temptation to force a showdown over

Berlin. .  . . His moderation and prudence serve as an enduring model of self-restraint--one that his successors ignored to their eventual regret."  Would you conclude a book on Eisenhower's foreign policy similarly? Why or why not? Use concrete illustrations wherever possible. How would you rate Eisenhower's record compared to that of his successors: Kennedy,

Johnson, or and Nixon (choose one).

 

C.  An authority on U.S. history has written, "Henry Kissinger believed that, in creating a design for a world order, realism was more compassionate than romanticism. The great moralists, in his judgment, had been failures. Woodrow Wilson had proved ineffectual, and John Foster Dulles had turned foreign policy into a crusade that led straight into the Indochina quagmire. Kissinger did not make peace or justice the objective of his policy, nor was he particularly interested in 'making the world safe for democracy.' He merely wished to make the world safer and more stable." What advice would this authority provide President-elect Hillary Bush should she confront a crisis analogous to the recently passed crisis in Kosovo? Do you agree with this? Base your reasoning on a combination of your evaluation, as an authority, Kissinger's diagnoses and prescriptions, and on your understanding of "lessons of the past."

 

D. Using the United States policy toward Vietnam as a case study, identify what in your estimation were the driving force(s) behind U.S. foreign policy from 1945-1975 (e.g., ideology, economics, domestic politics, security, etc)?  Which factor(s) were/was most important, or would you assess several of them as equally consequential? Does one factor explain the entire course of U.S. foreign policy during these three decades; or did different factors predominate at different periods?  In addition to the lectures and general readings, you should draw liberally on Greene's Quiet American (whose position on the above is explicit).