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HISTORY is CENTRAL Summer 2006. The Cold War. ( and the Cold War in Connecticut). Duck and Cover (1951). Roadmap. Foreign Relations & Cold War & Historians Leffler’s book NSC-68 Connecticut Vietnam. Foreign Relations. Orthodox Revisionist “Cultural Turn”.

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The cold war

HISTORY is CENTRAL Summer 2006

The Cold War

( and the Cold War in Connecticut)


  • Foreign Relations & Cold War & Historians

  • Leffler’s book

  • NSC-68

  • Connecticut

  • Vietnam

Foreign relations
Foreign Relations

  • Orthodox

  • Revisionist

  • “Cultural Turn”

Cold war historiography
Cold War Historiography

  • Traditionalists

  • New Left (Revisionists)

  • Post-Revisionists

    • John Lewis Gaddis

Reagan as ultimate hero
Reagan as ultimate hero

  • Argument of John Lewis Gaddis and in “memory” of conservatives

    • Strong rhetoric, but practical

    • R. saw opportunity and seized it

    • R. pursued policy of strength

Flaws in the gaddis argument and much popular perception
Flaws in the Gaddis argument and much popular perception

  • Fails to see full picture of 1980s U.S., USSR, Eastern Europe, and World

  • Fails to see power of containment over the long haul


Ideological competition and geostrategic threat made American officials aware of vulnerability of domestic political and economic institutions.

Anti-Communism provided a simple framework to view the world (78, 119-20)

Many groups used the Cold War to fight internal battles (25, 59-60, 79-80)

Many policymakers feared that if the USSR took advantage of power vacuums, it could only be defeated by making the US a garrison state. (30, 47-48, 57, 61-62, 96, 126)

Vietnam historiography
Vietnam Historiography

  • Extraordinary passions and influence of war

  • Several key issues:

    • Origins: necessary or a terrible mistake?

    • Outcome: why unable to preserve South Vietnam? Unwinnable?

    • Meaning and lessons: what are they?

Two main camps
Two main camps

  • Critical - Vietnam a bad war - the “Standard Interpretation”

  • Legitimate endeavor that could have been won

The standard interpretation
The “Standard Interpretation”

  • Critics dominated the early literature

    • Reversal of other war histories

  • Journalists and former officials start

    • The Bitter Heritage 1967 - Arthur Schlesinger Jr. - “quagmire”

  • “Quagmire” challenged by Pentagon Papers revelations

    • Presidents knew their actions might fail

The cold war

Revisionist challenge
Revisionist Challenge

  • (Argue vehemently against anyone who says “trying to rewrite history”)

  • Started to appear at end of 1970s

  • Part of growing conservative rise and fueled by postwar conditions in Vietnam

The cold war

The cold war

  • Revisionists also seek to argue that war was winnable grounds:

    • U.S. Grant Sharp Strategy for Defeat: Vietnam in Retrospect 1978

  • But, two opposing views of how it could have been won

    • More conventional

    • More counter-insurgency

    • (each position claims the actual war was fought in the opposite manner)

Recent scholarship
Recent Scholarship grounds:

  • Standard interpretation still holds for most historians

  • Herring’s book

  • What is being written now:

    • Broader in scope: Congress, other nations’ views

    • Archives from China and former USSR

    • Vietnamese side