History 249                           U.S. Foreign Policy

Fall 1999                               Richard H. Immerman


Mid-Term Study Guide


In reality, what follows below is more than a study guide. As I explained at the semester's start, one of these exercises in thoughtful and painstaking analysis will appear--verbatim-- on the mid-term. I heartily recommend that you study them all, nevertheless; I pride myself on my inscrutability, and the selection will be mine. Moreover, before you begin feverishly to pore over your notes and thumb through the books, read each  question several times. Determine what fundamental issues each addresses, and what your thesis--or hypothesis--is. Never forget that historians do not simply tell a story. We interpret and argue. Thus organize your essay appropriately. Your introduction should explicitly state your interpretation, point of view, thesis, or whatever you want to call your argument. Then in the narrative, or body of the essay, use supporting evidence to prove what you have in the introduction indicated you intend to prove. By the time you reach the end, consequently, you should not even need a conclusion. If you feel one is required, or worse, fear that you have not proven your case, or worse still, have contradicted yourself, start the process all over. Assume the role of an attorney preparing for a devastating cross-examination.


Not to rain on your parade, but I must remind you that your essays will not constitute the totality of your effort. I will expect you to identify and explain the historical significance of six out of eight names or terms. Your responses should be succinct and to the point,* but they will take some time. Plan on a minute or two for each--no more.



1.  Why is the controversy over the "Second Front," fundamentally an issue of military strategy, so central to the diplomatic history of the Second World War and considered by many a primary cause of the Cold War? Be sure that your essay provides a succinct summary of the Allies' respective positions on the Second Front, briefly traces the diplomatic and military way stations leading to Operation Overlord, and analyzes the consequences of the Anglo-American decision not to attempt a cross-channel invasion until June 1944.


*Sample response to an i.d. question:

Kellogg-Briand Pact: An agreement signed by all the major powers of the world in 1928 to outlaw war. Proposed initially by the French foreign minister in an attempt to arrange a mutual security treaty with the U.S., Secretary of State Kellogg suggested that the pact be broadened to include the entire international community. Without provisions for enforcement, the pact proved ineffective and provided an object lesson for future statesman why not to rely on paper treaties and moral suasion.

2. Gar Alperovitz argues that geopolitical, not military, considerations drove Truman's decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In his view, even though policymakers knew the Japanese were on the verge of surrender, they proceeded with the bombing in the hope that America's monopoly of this new and destructive technology could be exploited as a diplomatic lever to compel Soviet compliance with Washington's interpretation of the Yalta agreements. Do you agree with this argument?  Why or why not?  Keep in mind that this theory of "atomic diplomacy" envelops several distinct albeit related dimensions, and you should consider and address all of them. In this regard, be sure to include your assessment of Alperovitz's argument that there was an intimate relationship between the bombing of Hiroshima and the origins of the Cold War. I strongly urge you to read carefully the Novikov, Kennan, and Roberts telegrams--as well as the texts and your lecture notes--in assessing this relationship. 


3. Why did the FDR administration, at a time when the U.S. had agreed to a “Europe First” strategy, pursue a hard-line (e.g., freeze assets, uncompromising negotiations, etc.) policy toward the Japanese. In the final analysis, were these hard-line policies responsible for provoking the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as Hosoya Chihiso argues? Or do you agree with Akira Iriye’s argument that the “blame” lies primarily with the aggressive attitude of Japan’s military leaders who preferred to prosecute a poorly conceived and patently unwinnable war rather than submit to the Americans’ pressure? In providing your opinion, be certain to make explicit what you consider were  the chief objectives of both the United States and, consequently, the extent to which you believe these objectives were sufficiently compatible that compromise was a realistic possibility.


4. "Looking back," Melvyn Leffler writes in his essay on post‑war American policy, "we can see that these policies were partly wise, partly prudent, and partly foolish." Faced with the reality of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and the prospective growth of Soviet power through Eurasia, Leffler finds that it is the prudence of the policy makers that seems most striking. What do you think? Given the circumstances, what else could have been done to avert the Cold War? Consider what was possible as well as what was wise, what was prudent, and what was foolish about the policies. Cite examples from the lectures and readings for your analysis.


5. John Braeman writes in his essay on American foreign policy in the 1920s that "In the context of 1921-1933 . . . American policies were neither naive nor unwise. Perhaps at no time in its history -- before or since-- has the United States been more secure." Using the Schulziinger text, the lectures, and the other essays/documents in the Paterson/Merrill volume, evaluate this statement. Were policy-makers too idealistic? Does Braeman expect too little of the statesmen of the time? Back up your analysis with evidence.