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                             Trent University
                         Department of History


HIST 4150 -- Triumph & Tragedy: United States Foreign Policy,

David Sheinin

Office – S101.9 LEC

Office Hours – By Appointment

Phone Number -- 748-1011 x7843

Course Description

During the Cold War, the United States emerged as a predominant world
power. In fact, no country had ever exercised so much influence
politically, culturally, economically, or militarily. US triumphalism was
expressed by, among others, the Columbia University sociologist Daniel
Bell who heralded “the end of history” – the United States as a model for
the modern republic in varied regards. But history did not come to an
end. US triumphalism gave way to crisis over tensions on race, gender,
and war among a range of problems. This course goes to the

contradictions that underlay triumphalism and crisis by stressing the
formulation and exercise of US foreign relations broadly conceived.

“Broadly conceived” means many things. For the purposes of student
essays and approaches to the course, it suggests two important points to
start. First, foreign relations will not be approached as the “view from
Washington.” That is to say, US foreign relations with Pakistan can
reasonably be approached from a perspective of Pakistani politics,
culture, and history. Second, I have no interest in disentangling foreign
relations from domestic historical processes in the United States or in
other nations. So, for example, a study of United States relations with
South Africa during the Cold War would reasonably include a
consideration of problems of race relations in the United States (in that
the latter informed the former).

In lectures and assigned readings there is a heavy (though not exclusive)
emphasis on Latin America (the instructor’s key area of expertise). This
in no way precludes students from developing essay and other interests
that look primarily to other areas of the globe.

Course Format

Three-hour Lecture/Seminar. In the first instance, this is a lecture
course. During the first two-hour bloc of the course the instructor will
generally lecture. The final hour of the course will be dedicated to a
conversation about and q-and-a on assigned readings.

Attendance is mandatory. Lectures will not duplicate assigned readings
but will draw on those texts. Lectures will not summarize political
change or race through information in the assigned readings. Lectures
will be interpretive and analytical. As a result, for lectures to make sense,
it’s essential for you to keep up with assigned readings.

The United States and Cold War histories are big. I understand students
may or may not have spent much time until now studying these pasts.
So, please see me as soon as you have questions about what interests
you. I can help you choose essay topics. And I can recommend readings
in your specific area of interest to supplement the assigned works. If you
don’t know what to write about, that’s ok – see me early! There won’t be
essay topic lists distributed.

Marks Breakdown

Test I – 10%
Essay I – 30%
Test II – 10%
Essay II – 40%
Test III – 10%

_____________Due/Test Dates

Test I – 20 October 2010
Essay I – 3 November 2010
Test II – 8 December 2010
Essay II – 2 March 2011
Test III – 30 March 2011

Essays are always due by Word (*.doc file) attachment on email – -- no later than 11:59 PM on the due date.

No late essays/assignments are accepted. Late essays are graded at 0.

Essay Parameters

During the first week of class, the instructor will speak at length on how
to conduct research for an essay; referencing; quotation use; how to
identify strong, current sources; the use of historical evidence; how to
write an introduction/conclusion; essay structure; paragraph structure;
transition sentences; and other aspects of how to write an essay. Please

For all essays, you’re responsible for citation guidelines at

Essay I -- will be 20-22 pages not including notes. It will be on any
topic in Cold War history. You will draw on at least 16 strong, current

Essay II -- will be 27-35 pages not including notes. It will be on any
topic in Cold War history. You will draw on at least 22 strong, current
secondary sources.

In addition it will draw substantively on one or more of these documents
collections, or an alternative collection of primary documents from the
Cold War period.

Nicaragua: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1978-1990 [microfiche collection:
Bata Library]

U.S. Department of State, Argentina and/or Chile Collections
Start Page:

Essay topics will not overlap. There is no list of essay topics in this
course. If you’re not certain what to write on, ask.

Some Important Points to Remember on How to Write an Essay


At early stages of research and organization, you may find it useful to
consult dictionaries, textbook surveys of US history, encyclopaedias,
Wikipedia, or a range of websites that you happen upon in your work.
But, when it comes time to write your essay you must find, refer to, and
cite original research-based published works. Please don’t cite
Wikipedia, textbooks, or other such sources in your notes.

Don’t just describe an event or series of events

Most excellent essays undertake to answer a research question or resolve
an hypothesis. As you begin to consider your essay topic, think about
questions you have (or questions you have seen resolved only partially).
How did art during the 1950s reflect the Cold War? In what ways did the
United States wish to present the War in Vietnam to other nations? Why
did the United Sates support dictatorship in Latin America?

Once you have a strong question or set of questions, you might proceed
to develop a set of arguments to demonstrate an answer (or answer)
based on a presentation of historical evidence. Don’t just describe an
event or series of events. Pose a question then resolve to answer that
question by making use of your sources. But, when you write the essay
introduction, avoid phrasing the problem in the form of a question.

You don’t need a bibliography

In your search for sources, as you pick and choose, as you develop a
limited mastery of your topic, you would normally consider many more
books and/or articles. This might mean a quick look at the index of a
book on the library shelf, or a consideration of the abstract at the

beginning of an article. A bibliography would not include works you
consider, but do not draw on in your essay. A bibliography does not
function to tell your reader about all the books and articles you may have
glanced at (but did not draw on) in defining the sources you would
eventually use for Essay I.

A bibliography should consist only of books and articles (and perhaps
other materials) on which you have drawn to write your essay. At the
same time, all the works on which you draw to write an essay should
appear in your notes. This means that notes and bibliography must
necessarily repeat the same information. As a result, you don’t need a
bibliography. You do need notes.

A reference note has several functions

A reference note has several functions. It makes no difference whether
you use footnotes or endnotes – whatever you prefer. Please do not use
other referencing formats (such as parenthetic references), even though
they are explained in the Turabian website listed above. As you are
writing, you may find that you have material that you wish to include in
the essay, and that adds to your argument, but that interrupts the flow of
your narrative or is otherwise disruptive. That material might reasonably
be included in a note. Alternatively, you may wish to make a
historiographical point; you may find, for example, that two or more
authors have presented conflicting or alternative interpretations of
evidence of an event or an issue. Should you adopt one line or an
argument in your essay, you might like to use a note (rather than break
the flow of your narrative) to make your reader aware of alternative
viewpoints in the historical literature.

The most important role of a reference note is to provide research
citations for your writing. Any idea or information introduced into your
essay that is not your own must have a reference note.

Because you will probably make reference to the ideas and information of
other authors in most (maybe all) essay paragraphs, most (maybe all)
paragraphs will require a reference note. Notes should reasonably
appear on every page. You might consider a “catch-all” note at the end
of each long paragraph in which you cite the 2 or 3 (or more) sources that
you have referred to in the paragraph.

Your essay title will intrigue your reader

Don’t phrase your title as a question. Adopt a title that suggests or hints
at the essay theme – intrigue your reader. Gabriela Soto Laveaga’s Jungle
laboratories: Mexican peasants, national projects, and the making of the
Pill is a wonderful title. It grabs a potential reader’s attention and leads
them immediately to a key objective of the study – tying science to larger
questions of Cold War colonialism, power, and nation.

This is not a murder mystery – the introduction tells the story

Work hard on your introduction. In one or two introductory paragraphs,
you should make crystal clear to your reader what problems you intend to
resolve, the historical context for the analysis, and the kind of evidence
and examples you will use. By page 2 or 3 of the essay, the reader
should have a strong understanding of your theme, your argument, and
what you plan to show. Avoid first person singular introductions (“I plan
to show...”). Develop a statement that will explain these objectives in less
personal language.

What is a paragraph?

Often, a poorly constructed paragraph reflects larger problems of
structure in an essay. A paragraph is more than two or three sentences
cobbled together and indented at the start and finish. It might make
sense to consult a handbook of English on how to write a paragraph. A
first paragraph sentence introduces the reader to the ideas to be
discussed below. Sentences should follow the paragraph opening in

ordered steps. The final sentence should recap or otherwise end the
paragraph in a way that leads the reader into the next paragraph. So, a
paragraph of two lines isn’t really a paragraph. Paragraphs should build
on one another, leading the reader through the essay in a structured
manner that introduces evidence effectively.


Make certain that your analysis is based on a careful and sustained
introduction of historical evidence from an array of sources. Don’t let
your essay lapse into unsubstantiated assertions. Don’t romanticize a
topic, no matter how passionately you feel about it. It may be plain to
you, for example, that the US decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan
in 1945 constituted a war crime on the part of President Harry S. Truman.
But if you adopt that argument you must do more than state it
passionately – you must show, in a carefully constructed argument that
draws on international law that a war crime was committed. Be precise in
your evidence and language usages.

The conclusion matters

Don’t leave your conclusion until the last minute. A strong conclusion is
essential to a well-argued essay. A conclusion may review or summarize
your main arguments. But it should do more. You can use a conclusion
to push your argument forward chronologically, or to expand it
geographically. You might consider ramifications to your findings that go
beyond the analytical parameters of your essay analytically or
conceptually. Be creative here.

Avoid the passive voice

The passive voice – “state terror in Latin America was accepted by
Americans” – is ambiguous. It leaves the reader asking “who accepted
state terror and why?” Converting to the active voice often forces a writer
to think through an argument with greater care. As a result the

information is more complete and the analysis sharper (“a range of policy
makers and political officials, including the Secretary of State, sanctioned
state terror in the months leading up to the 1973 coup d’état in Chile”).

Get the job done

If you undertake in your introduction to show that US banking practises in
the 1970s were a key cause of dictatorial regimes in Africa, Asia, and
Latin America, you must demonstrate this argument. Don’t change your
mind half way through writing without entering substantial changes in
the introduction and in relevant paragraphs. You can change your mind
as you think and as you write. But if your analysis changes, and if it
becomes clear to you that US banking practises were not a cause but,
perhaps, a context you must rewrite the essay to reflect the change. Let
the evidence guide your analysis. Adopting and discarding models and
hypotheses will often lead to strong historical research and analysis.
Don’t be alarmed if the evidence does not sustain your initial hypothesis!
Be prepared to let the historical evidence shape your thoughts and
arguments as you write.


Tests will be pose one broad question intended to press students to draw
on analytical and evidential material from both the lectures and the
assigned weekly readings. They will take place in the first 60 minutes of
class time.

Academic Integrity
Academic dishonesty, which includes plagiarism and cheating, is an
extremely serious academic offence and carries penalties varying from a
0 grade on an assignment to expulsion from the University. Definitions,
penalties, and procedures for dealing with plagiarism and cheating are
set out in Trent University’s Academic Integrity Policy. You have a

responsibility to educate yourself - unfamiliarity with the policy is
not an excuse. You are strongly encouraged to visit Trent’s Academic
Integrity website to learn more -

Be a pal… Don’t plagiarize. Familiarize yourself with the rules. They are
part of professional writing. When a student plagiarizes, the result is
always messy. It’s a hole from which it’s best not to have to dig oneself
out; if in doubt, ask me. Don’t risk it.

Access to Instruction
It is Trent University’s intent to create an inclusive learning
environment. If a student has a disability and/or health consideration
and feels that he/she may need accommodations to succeed in this
course, the student should contact the Disability Services Office (BL Suite
109, 748-1281, as soon as possible.
Complete text can be found under Access to Instruction in the Academic

Weekly Schedule

All readings except one – that assigned for purchase -- are available as
electronic resources through Topcat. If you are unable or unwilling to
read books electronically, please make arrangements quickly to order
what you need from an on-line book seller.

Book for Purchase

Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford
University Press, 2003)

Important Note – All page numbers listed below are the numbers listed
on each page of each book indicated.

Week I – 15 September -- What was the Cold War?

Week II – 22 September -- How to Write an Essay

         This lecture is a crucial overview on research, analysis, and writing
skills and strategies.

Reading: McMahon, The Cold War, to 77.

Explain conflicting American and Soviet visions of post-World War II

What does the author mean on p. 33 where he writes, “the sphere of
influence, or `empire’, that the United States forged in postwar Europe
stands as a product of its fears more than its ambitions”?

How did civil war in China become linked to the Cold War?

What were the key Cold War flashpoints in the poor southern hemisphere
before 1965?

Week III – 29 September – Origins of the Cold War I

Reading: Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire, to 108.

What are the connections between colonialism and domestic social policy
in the United States?

On p. 26 the author writes that “struggles over reproduction and
sexuality provide a powerful lens onto the ideologies and passions that
animated the exercise of colonial power.” Explain.

How do race and gender shape U.S. imperialism?

Week IV – 4 October – Guest Lecture: Raanan Rein, “Latin American

Reading: McMahon, The Cold War, 78-168

In what ways were 1958-1962 years of “maximum danger”?

How was the Cold War fought in what McMahon calls the Third World?

What was superpower détente?

Did the Cold War end?

What do you think of McMahon’s analysis?

Week V – 13 October – Origins of the Cold War II

Reading: Briggs, Reproducing Empire, 109 to end.

On p. 117, the author writes, “Third World underdevelopment was caused
by having the wrong sort of family.” Explain.

How was Puerto Rico imagined by other Americans? How did this shape
US imperialism?

What did arguments on overpopulation and development conceal about
US imperialism?

How did the Broadway Musical West Side Story confirm imperial
assumptions about Puerto Rico?

What are subaltern studies?

Week VI – 20 October – Test I

Week VII – 27 October – Reading Week

Week VIII – 3 November – Essay I due

Week IX – 10 November – Cold War America

Reading: Melvyn Leffler, A Preponderance of Power, to 219

On p.9, Leffler writes that “in 1949 and 1950, new developments
reinforced older fears.” Explain.

What was the spiralling cycle of mistrust (p.99)?

How do “needs, fears, and interests” (p.52) intersect in the building of US
foreign policy?

Starting with material on p.99, what might the US have done differently in
its early approach to the Soviet Union and the Cold War?

Why was the Turkish Straits Affair significant?

How did the United States understand the threat in Italy?

Week X – 17 November – Soviet-American Confrontation

Reading: Melvyn Leffler, A Preponderance of Power, 220 to end

Does Leffler regard Soviet intervention as defensive or aggressive?

The title makes clear that this book is about “power.” How does Leffler
understand that term in Soviet-American relations and the threat of
nuclear war?

What was NSC 68? Its significance?

What was NATO designed to accomplish?

Week XI – 24 November – The National Security State I

Reading: David Schmitz, The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships,
to 111

What sort of dictatorships did the US support and why?

What was the significance of NSC 5719?

How did the US approach crisis in Indonesia and Greece?

Why does Schmitz title chapter 3 “Madmen”?

Week XII – 1 December – The National Security State II

Reading: David Schmitz, The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships,
111 to end

What was the Church Committee and what did it accomplish?

Was there morality in US foreign policies?

How did human rights emerge as a key tenet of US foreign relations?

What was the Reagan Doctrine?

Week XIII – 8 December – Test II

Week XIV – 13 January – The Guatemalan Experiment I

Reading: Steve Streeter, Managing the Counterrevolution, to the end of
ch. 5

What prompted the 1954 coup in Guatemala? What was the US role?

What is the relevance of this case to Leffler’s arguments?

How did US policy and actions contribute to violence in Guatemala?

What were the varied components of US action in favour of repressive
politics in Guatemala?

Week XV – 20 January – The Guatemalan Experiment II

Reading: Steve Streeter, Managing the Counterrevolution, ch. 6 to end

What does the author mean by “parallel government”?

How did US policy support private investment and undermine

What was the M-13 rebellion?

Week XVI – 27 January – The Cold War in Southeast Asia I

Reading: Kenton Clymer, The United States and Cambodia, 1969-2000,
to 112

Compare Clymer’s assessments of Nixon and Kissinger to those of

How did American leaders understand Cambodia in light of the Vietnam

What forms did US intervention take?

In what ways did Congress and the Executive branch interact over

Week XVII – 2 February – The Cold War in Southeast Asia II

Reading: Kenton Clymer, The United States and Cambodia, 1969-2000,
113 to end

Compare Clymer’s assessments of Carter to those of Schmitz.

Why did the US support the Khmer Rouge?

Was the role of the UN in rebuilding Cambodia a post-Cold War success?

Week XVIII – 9 February – Descent to Dictatorship in Chile and Argentina

Reading: Marchak, God’s Assassins, to 105

How do problems discussed previously in this course shape the evolution
of Argentine society?

What conditions lead to the militarization of Argentine society?

What is the basis for the 1966 coup?

On p.91, the author speaks of the advent of disorder and anarchy in
Argentina. How did this come about?

Week XIX – 16 February – Descent to Dictatorship in Chile and Argentina II

Reading: Marchak, God’s Assassins, 109 to end

What was the Triple A? How is it relevant to what we’ve seen in
Guatemala and elsewhere in the course (Leffler’s arguments, for

p. 121 – What did the military learn in Tucumán? What is the relevance to
larger course themes?

Was the United States responsible for Argentina’s slide into violence?

Week XX – 23 February – Reading Week

Week XXI – 2 March – Essay II due

Week XXII – 9 March – The ending of the Cold War I

Reading: Gilbert Joseph, In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter
with the Cold War, PART I (2 chapters)

What does Gilbert Joseph believe we should know about Latin America
and the Cold War?

What does Joseph find in common among Latin America, Africa, and
Southeast Asia during the early years of the Cold War?

How does Blanton understand the recovery of Cold War memories?

What roles did the Truth Commissions play?

Week XXIII – 16 March – The ending of the Cold War II

Reading: Gilbert Joseph, In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter
with the Cold War , PART II (3 chapters)

What role did the Missile Crisis and the Cuban Revolution play in the Cold
War (Spenser)?

How does the Cuban case tie into Africa in a Cold War context (Gleijeses)?

Armony writes that the Argentine “crusade in Central America was a final
step in the creation of formal and informal transnational zones of
collaboration and contact (p. 136).” Explain.

Week XXIV – 23 March – After the Cold War I

Reading: Alexis McCrossen, Land of Necessity: consumer culture in the
United States-Mexico Borderlands, 48-79

Week XXV – 30 March – Test III

Week XXVI – 5 April – After the Cold War II

Reading: Alexis McCrossen, Land of Necessity: consumer culture in the
United States-Mexico Borderlands, 298-322