Re-thinking History

"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today." Malcolm X "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." Henry David Thoreau

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A Scorpio, born on Halloween. Need I say more?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

On the Dissertation Grind

Hello Everyone~

I am on the grind with my dissertation research and writing! If you have any information on the colonization movement from Mississippi, I would love to talk with you.

Pictures from the most recent research trip to Natchez, MS will be posted soon!

Have a blessed and prosperous New Year! Stay on your grind!


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan

Gerald Ford (1974-1976)

  • Gerald Ford became president, following the resignation of Nixon in 1974 and continued the policy of détente with China and Russia. Ford visited China and entered into the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union.
  • Ford met with Brezhnev in 1974 and agreed to support S.A.L.T. II. Ford ordered the final withdrawal of American troops in Vietnam, in “Operation Freedom Wind.” However, Ford still employed covert operations, as the president approved secrete supplies of money and weapons to UNITA and the FNLA in Angloa.
  • Ford granted Nixon a full pardon and Congress passed the Election Campaign Act of 1974 to guard against the abuses revealed in the Watergate investigations. Special investigating committees in Congress discovered a host of illegal FBI and CIA activities stretching back to the 1950s, including harassment of political dissenters and plots to assassinate Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders.
  • In the 1976 race, Ford carried a number of burdens, such as a weak economy and a serious threat mounted from the Republican right.
  • Howard Zinn, The Twentieth Century, (2003), argued that in 1974-75, the resignation of Nixon, the succession of Ford and the exposure of bad deeds, such as the bombing of Cambodia were designed to regain the badly damaged confidence of the American people.
  • Grame Mount, 895 Days that Changed the World: The presidency of Gerald Ford. (2006) argued that the record of Ford’s foreign policy had mixed results. Ford found the right balance to negotiate democracy without offending Portuguese nationalists, yet failed in attempts at reconciliation with Cuba. Ford took advantage of the death of Franco and negotiated a new bilateral U.S.-Spanish treaty. However, Mount calls Ford’s support of a military government in Argentina and Kissinger’s knowledge of Operation Condor as deplorable.

Jimmy Carter

  • Elected in 1976, Jimmy Carter stressed the notion of human rights in foreign policy. However, while criticizing repressive governments of Chili and South Africa, Carter did not condemn the repressive governments in the Philippines or South Korea.
  • Foreign policy successes of the Carter administration included the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977, and the signing of the Camp David Accords by Egypt and Israel one year later. However, Carter also had problems with his foreign policy as Soviet-U.S. relations cooled with the invasion of Afghanistan, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the refusal to boycott South Africa for its apartheid policies.
  • Carter’s decision for a military buildup came in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan whose Communist government was threatened by Muslim opposition. Carter claimed that Soviet actions posed the greatest threat to peace since WWII and announced the “Carter Doctrine,” which threatened to use of any means necessary to prevent an outside force from gaining control of the Persian Gulf.
  • Carter’s foreign policy suffered its worse humiliation over Iran in 1979, with the overthrow of the Shah and hostage situation for 444 days in Tehran. On November 4, 1979 a crowd broke into the U.S. Embassy and seized more than 60 Americans, demanding that the shah be returned to Iran for trial. Carter sent a small military operation into Iran in April 1980, but the rescue mission failed and the hostages remained prisoners until January 1981. The disastrous rescue mission fed American’s feelings of impotence, and increased support for a more militaristic foreign policy.
  • Carter vowed to help the poor, the aged, improve education and to provide jobs. When these aims conflicted, especially with inflation threatening economic stability, Carter’s commitment to reform took second place.
  • Carter’s outside status helped him win the presidency, but left him with no strong ties to part insiders. Liberal objectives made little headway under Carter: his legislation to ensure the solvency of Social Security increased employer and employee contributions, increasing the tax burden of lower-and-middle income individuals. Corporations and wealthy individuals gained from new legislation, including a cut in the capital gains tax, loans to ensure the survival of the Chrysler Corporation and the deregulation of the airlines, banking, trucking and railroad industries.
  • As fuel shortages and sky-rocketing prices led to stagflation and threatened the entire economy, Carter proposed a comprehensive program to conserve energy and established the Department of Energy. The National Energy Act of 1979 penalized gas-guzzling cars and provided incentives for conservation and alternate fuels. The 1979 Iranian revolution created the most severe energy crisis, however, Carter’s measures failed to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
  • The Carter administration sponsored 1980 legislation to create a so-called Superfund of $1.6 billion to clean up hazardous wastes left by the chemical industry.
  • Human rights formed the cornerstone of Carter’s approach to reversing the policies of his predecessors, yet glaring inconsistencies appeared in Carter’s human rights policy. Carter sped up negotiations over control of the Panama Canal and led discussion between Anwar Sadat (Egypt) and the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for 13 days at Camp David in Maryland, securing the Camp David Accords which were signed at the White House in March 1979.
  • Robert A. Strong, Working in the World: Jimmy Carter and the Making of American Foreign Policy, (2000) argued that Carter engaged in “personal diplomacy,” with his foreign policy and was relentless in his quest for human rights in the Soviet Union, Central America and with the Shah of Iran. Strong noted that Carter’s gift for “a consensus”, created a balance within his own administration between Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.
  • Ali M. Ansari, Confronting Iran, (2006) argued that the close relationship between the Shah and the U.S. started with Nixon. The impressions of the majority of Iranians caught up in the revolutionary fervor were shaped by the experiences of the 1953 coup. Ansari stated that Carter’s human rights within his foreign policy did not apply to Iran and precipitated the crisis by allowing the Shah to receive medical treatment in the U.S.

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

  • Foreign policy took center stage during the second presidential term of Ronald Reagan, as he reversed Carter’s policy of diplomacy with Cuban communists, supported the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which encouraged foreign investments at the expense of indigenous businesses.
  • Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, and asked scientists to develop a means of rendering nuclear weapons obsolete. In March 1983, Reagan created SDI, or dubbed “Star Wars” by his critics in an effort to combat state sponsored terrorism, a new element that emerged during the last decade of the Cold War.
  • Reagan sent U.S. forces into Grenada in 1983, applied pressure to encourage Chilean leader Pinochet to reform and took a strong stance against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Reagan’s support and economic aid to the “Freedom Fighters,” led to the passage of the Boland amendment, which prohibited the U.S. from funding the military overthrow of the Nicaraguan government.
  • In response, Reagan asked the NSC to find other solutions to help fund the Contras, a decision that led Iran-Contra scandal in 1986. Congress strongly and repeatedly instructed the president to stop aid to the Contras, but Reagan ignored their requests, ruining the Nicaraguan economy, and undermining the support for the Sandinista government. The scandal centered on the U.S. efforts to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of seven American hostages in Lebanon, funneling the proceeds from the arms sales through Swiss bank accounts to the Contras in Nicaragua. In November 1986, the Reagan administration faced serious charges: bargaining with terrorists and defying Congress’s ban on military aid to the Contras. An independent prosecutor’s report found no evidence that Reagan had broken the law, but concluded that both Reagan and V.P. George Bush and known about the diversion of funds to the Contras and had “knowingly participated or at least acquiesced” in covering up the scandal.
  • In addition, the administration aided Afghan rebels’ war against the Soviet backed government, armed revel forces against Angola’s Soviet-supported government and sided with South Africa’s brutal suppression of black anti-apartheid protesters.
  • In El Salvador, the United States sent money and military advisers to prop up an authoritarian government despite the fact that it had committed murderous human rights violations.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev became the new leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, and his reform measures, perestroika (economic) and glasnost (opening up) and his meetings with Reagan and later George W. Bush, contributed to the end of the Cold War.
  • Reagan’s support came from religious conservatives, who constituted a relatively new phenomenon in politics know as the “New Right.” However, the Reagan administration opposed both the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed ratification in 1982 and a woman’s right to abortion.
  • Feminists began to focus more on women’s economic and family problems and found some common ground with Reagan administration: the Child Support Enforcement Amendments and the Retirement Equity Act of 1984. Reagan’s major achievements lay in areas such as anticommunism, reducing taxes and government restraints on free enterprise.
  • Reagan’s first domestic objective was a massive tax cut and relied on a new theory called supply-side-economics, which held that cutting taxes would actually increase revenue. In the summer of 1981, Congress passed the Economic Recovery Act, the largest tax reduction in U.S. history, cutting personal tax rates on the lowest incomes from 14 to 11 percent and on the highest incomes 70 to 50 percent.
  • Reagan loosed laws protecting employee health and safety and weakened labor unions. He blamed environmental laws for the sluggish economy and targeted them for deregulation but popular support for environmental protection blocked full realization of his goals.
  • Deregulation of the banking industry created a crisis in the savings and loan industry: the S&L crisis deepened the federal budget deficit, which grew during the 1980s. The administration cut funds for food stamps, job training, aid to low income students, health service and other welfare programs. The economic upswing in 1983 and Reagan’s own popularity and a landslide 59 percent of the vote in the 1984 election.
  • The 1989 collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the Berlin Wall further eased Cold War tensions.
  • William M. LeoGrande, Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992, (1998) argued that the Reagan administration evaded congressional oversight committees, lied to Congress about human rights violations in Central America. Reagan cleverly adopted diplomatic overtures prior to Congressional votes, but disregarded them once he received Congressional approval. Reagan’s rejection of diplomatic policy led the administration to lose all control of the diplomatic process.
  • Frances Fitzgerald, in ,Way Out There in the Blue: Star Wars and the End of the Cold War, (2000) argued that as a gifted salesman, Reagan recognized the appeal of missile defense to citizens frightened by mutual assured destruction. Secretary of State George Shultz regarded SDI as an effective tool in bargaining with Russia, while Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger perceived SDI as a way of dominating testy allies and the Soviets.
  • John Lewis Gaddis, in The Cold War: A New History, (2005) noted that Gorbachev promised that there would be no bloodshed with the 1989 revolution and welcomed the U.S. as a European power, something no Soviet leader had explicitly done before.
  • Melvyn P. Leffler, For the Soul of Mankind, (2007) suggested that both Reagan and Gorbachev desired to build a human relationship, to transcend the ideological divide without abandoning their individual principles. However, as Leffler argued, Gorbachev ended the Cold War, as his thinking shifted most fundamentally. Leffler stated that the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the acceptance of free-market ideas, democratic political reforms, and Gorbachev’s decision to retract Soviet power to prewar borders signaled the end of the Cold War.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

  • Please refer to the class handouts for additional assistance.
  • According to Eric Foner, Richard Nixon capped a remarkable political comeback by winning the Republican nomination. He campaigned as the champion of the "silent majority," -ordinary Americans who believed that change had gone too far-and called for a renewed commitment to "law and order." Nixon won the presidency by a very narrow margin and moved toward the political center on many issues. Nixon was mostly interested in foreign policy, and he had no desire to battle Congress, still under Democratic control on domestic issues.
  • Just as Eisenhower had helped to institutionalize the New Deal, Nixon accepted and even expanded many elements of the Great Society. Conservatives applauded Nixon's "New Federalism", which offered federal "block grants" to the states to spend as they saw fit, rather than for specific purposes. Nixon created new agencies, such as the Environmental Protection agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board. However, Nixon abolished the Office of Economic Opportunity, which had coordinated Johnson's War on Poverty. Nixon did sign congressional measures that expanded the food stamp program and indexed Social Security benefits to inflation-meaning that they would rise automatically as the cost of living increased. The Endangered Species Act prohibited spending federal funds on any project that might extinguish an animal species.
  • Perhaps Nixon's most startling imitative was his proposal for a Family Assistance Plan that would replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children by having the federal government guarantee a minimum income for all Americans. Universally known as "welfare," AFDC provided assistance, often quite limited, to poor families who met all eligibility requirements.
  • The liberal policies of the Nixon administration reflected a number of forces, including the Democrats’ control of Congress and Nixon’s desire to preserve support from moderates from his party and achieve Republican ascendancy by attracting some traditional Democrats. Nixon also acted contrary to his rhetoric against a growing federal bureaucracy by expanding controls over the economy when economic crises and energy shortages induced him to increase the federal government’s power in the marketplace.
  • In the fall of 1973, the United States faced its first energy crisis when Arab nations, furious at the nation’s support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War, cut off oil shipments to the United States. Nixon authorized temporary emergency measures allocating petroleum and establishing a national fifty-five-mile-per-hour speed limit to save gasoline. Soaring energy prices worsened already severe economic problems, including high rates of inflation and unemployment. The president’s response to these economic problems diverged from conventional Republican doctrine. His policies treated the economy only superficially, however, and by the mid- 1970s, the nation faced the most severe economic crisis since the depression of the 1930s. More successfully, Nixon expanded the government’s regulatory role with a host of environmental protection measures.
The Burger Court
  • Nixon’s 1968 campaign had exploited antipathy to black protest and new civil rights policies in order to woo white Southerners and northern workers away from the Democratic Party, yet his administration had to answer to the courts and Congress.
  • Nixon was reluctant to use federal power to compel integration, but the Supreme Court overruled efforts by the Justice Department to delay Court-ordered desegregation and compelled the administration to enforce the law.
  • The Nixon administration also began to implement affirmative action, requiring contractors and unions to employ more minority workers on federally funded construction projects and awarding more government contracts and loans to minority businesses.
  • While women as well as minority groups benefited from the implementation of affirmative action and the strengthened EEOC, several measures of the Nixon administration specifically attacked sex discrimination. President Nixon gave more public support for justice for Native Americans than for any other protest group.
  • When Earl Warren retired as chief justice in 1969, Nixon appointed Warren Burger, a federal court-of-appeals judge to succeed him. An outspoken critic of the "judicial activism" of the Warren Court, Burger was expected to lead the justices in a conservative direction.
  • In 1971, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, which arose in North Caroline, the justices unanimously approved a lower court's plan that required extensive transportation of students to achieve school integration. The decision led to hundreds of cases in which judges throughout the country ordered the use of busing as a tool to achieve integration. The issue of busing was controversial, as white parents enrolled their children in private academies, as in the fight that took place in Boston during the 1970s, when the Irish-American community of South Boston demonstrated vociferously and sometimes violently against a busing plan decreed by a local judge.
  • In San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriquez, a 5-4 Court majority ruled that the Constitution did not require equality of school funding. Mexican-American schools in Texas stood far below that of white school.
  • 1968 My Lai massacre/ Oil discovered in Alaska
  • 1969 Warren Burger appointed Chief Justice
  • 1970 United States invades Cambodia/ Ohio National Guard kills four students at Kent State
  • 1971 United States goes off gold standard/Pentagon Papers published
  • 1972 Nixon travels to the People's Republic of China/SALT is signed/Congress approved Title IX/Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment for ratification/Equal Credit Opportunity Act
  • 1973 War Powers Act/Paris Peace agreement ends war in Vietnam/OPEN embargo placed on oil to the United States/CIA-aided Chilean coup
  • 1974 Nixon resigns in Watergate scandal
  • 1975 Saigon falls to North Vietnamese communists
Foreign Policy
The administration of Richard Nixon, (1969-1974) announced a new “Doctrine,” which asked other nations to take more responsibility for fighting communism. Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor for Nixon, introduced the concept of détente, a French term meaning the easing of tensions. The Nixon Doctrine modified the Truman Doctrine, and led to a gradual withdrawal from Vietnam. However, as the Paris peace talks stalled in 1969, Nixon secretly ordered an escalation in the bombing of communist positions in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1970. In May 1972, President Nixon
visited Moscow, and the two leaders signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), marking the beginning of the "detente" era. According to Eric Foner, conservatives viewed Nixon's policy as dangerously "soft" on communism. Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor and secretary of state, continued their predecessor's policy of attempting to undermine governments deemed dangerous to American strategic or economic interests. Attacks on Israel escalated with the creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964, which murdered several Israeli athletes in 1972 Olympics and attacked Israel in October a year later. Beginning in 1972, Nixon ordered an escalation in the bombing of communist positions in Vietnam. In 1973, the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in Moscow, which stated that each country could only have two ABM deployment areas.
  • Robert S. Litwak, Détente and the Nixon Doctrine: American Foreign Policy and the Pursuit of Stability, 1969-1976, (1984), argued that Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger developed a strategy for withdrawing from war in Vietnam honorably without damaging the United States credibility. Litwak noted that agreements reached with the Soviet Union were essential to this strategy, and until Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the strategy of détente worked.
  • Richard C. Thornton, The Nixon-Kissinger Years: Reshaping America’s Foreign Policy, (1989) argued that Kissinger shaped Nixon’s foreign policy as he controlled the withdrawal from Vietnam. Thornton stated that Kissinger took advantage of Watergate and gained complete control of foreign policy as Nixon focuses were elsewhere.
  • Norman Friedman, The Fifty Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War. (2000) argued that the 1972 SALT agreements between the U.S. and the Soviets symbolized a new stage for Soviet-American relations. Friedman stated that Brezhnev preferred détente and found SALT extremely valuable, as the U.S. had to acknowledge the Soviet Union as equal.
  • Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, (2007) argued that détente was the natural outgrowth of containment, the development of Soviet nuclear parity with the West and the Chinese challenge to Russia national security. Dallek noted that détente opened Russia to Western influence and eroded communism’s hold on parts of the global community. Dallek stated that the Kissinger’s diplomacy in 1973-74 in addressing Israeli tensions with Egypt and Syria laid the foundation for the Camp David Accords in 1978. Dallek suggested that while détente did not end the Cold War, it did set in motion a process that came to fruition under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s.
Nixon and Vietnam
  • According to Eric Foner, when Nixon ran for president in 1968, he declared that he had a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War. On taking office, he announced a new policy, "Vietnamization." Under this plan, American troops would gradually be withdrawn while South Vietnamese soliders, backed by continued American bombing did more and more of the fighting. But Vietnamization neither limited the war nor ended the anti-war movement. Hoping to cut North Vietnamese supply lines, Nixon in 1970 ordered American troops into neutral Cambodia. The invasion did not achieve its military goals, but it destabilized the Cambodian government and set in motion a chain of events that eventually brought to power the Khmer Rouge. Before being ousted by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979, this local communist movement attempted to force virtually all Cambodians into rural communes and committed widespread massacres in that unfortunate country.
  • As the war escalated, protests again spread on college campuses. In the wake of the killing of four antiwar protesters at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard and two by police at Jackson State University in Mississippi, the student movement reached its high-mark. In the spring of 1970, more than 350 colleges and universities experienced strikes, and troops occupied 21 campuses. The protests at Kent State, a public university with a largely working-class student body, and Jackson State, a Black institution, demonstrated how antiwar sentiment had spread far beyond elite campuses like Berkeley and Columbia.
  • At the same time, troop moral in Vietnam decreased. The army predominantly composed of working class whites and persons of color. Eric Foner noted that unlike in previous war, Blacks complained not about exclusion from the army but about the high number of Black soldiers among the casualties. In 1965 and 1966 Blacks accounted for over 20 percent of American casualties, double their proportion in the army as a whole. After protests from Black leaders, President Johnson ordered the number of Black soldiers in combat units reduced. For the war as a while, Blacks made up 14 percent of deaths among enlisted men.
  • Public support for the war was rapidly waning. In 1969, the "New York Times" published details of the My Lai massacre of 1968, in which a company of American troops had killed some 350 South Vietnamese civilians. After the military investigation, one solider, Lt. William Calley, was found guilty of directing the atrocity. However, Nixon released him from prison in 1974. In 1971, the "Times" began publishing the "Pentagon Papers", a classified report prepared by the Department of Defense that traced American involvement in Vietnam back to WWII and revealed how successive presidents had misled the American people about it. In a landmark freedom-of-the-press decision, the Supreme Court rejected Nixon's request for an injunction to halt publication. In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Act, which was the most vigorous assertion of congressional control over foreign policy in the nation's history, as this act required the president to seek congressional approval for the commitment of American troops overseas.