Above: The height of Cold War satire. Slim Pickens as USAF Major ‘King’ Kong rides the bomb in Dr Strangelove.
A recent article in the Daily Mail, plus a subsequent Twitter conversation, has provoked me to address this blog posts to journalists everywhere. This is not some academic lecturing from his lofty ivory tower (it’s actually made of brick, and my office is only on the first floor), rather a plea for a little bit of historical thinking.
Daily Mail journalist Matt Hunter examines on a tense standoff between the air forces of the United States and the Soviet Union in October, 1986. Hunter notes that “The incident above the Barents Sea, near Soviet waters, took place between a US Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and a MiG-31, the premier Soviet interceptor aircraft, at the height of the Cold War 30 years ago.”
Above: The most dangerous man in America?
In a move that – while shocking – should not have been entirely unexpected, Donald Trump recently made a veiled call for the assassination of Hilary Clinton, should she be elected. In a campaign characterised by wild statements and manifestly un-presidential public behaviour, this is quite something.
Reactions have varied from the (rightly) appalled to the supportive (warning, that last link is to tinfoil hat central, Breibart). Most observers would conclude that even cryptically calling for the elected leader of the nation to be assassinated over the issue of Supreme Court selections is a step way, way too far. I make no bones about it: I believe Trump is a dangerous, ill-informed individual who – if elected – could do untold harm at home and abroad (although on the last point, I would direct you to this informative piece by the University of Reading’s Mara Oliva).
I was, however, curious if this was something that had happened before. Thanks to the wonders of our networked age, I was able to call upon the fantastic expertise of a bunch of great historians.
With the US Republican Party convention looming, and – barring some last minute apocalypse – with Donald Trump certain to be the party’s candidate for the presidential election, our latest American History Too! podcast focuses on the last fifty years of Republicanism in America.
Mark and I were delighted to be joined by the University of Oxford’s Paddy Andelic for this first of two special episodes on America’s political parties. Paddy will be back on our upcoming episode looking at the Democratic Party over the last fifty years.
In this episode, however, we consider the evolution of the modern Republican Party from the candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964, through the victories and humiliation of Richard Nixon, the new ‘morning in America’ under Ronald Reagan, ‘compassionate conservatism’ under George W Bush, to ‘making America great again’ with Donald Trump.
It’s a fascinating discussion, so please do listen and feel free to give us feedback.
Above: Donald Trump, noted non-proliferation theorist and proponent of sane foreign policy positions.
With debate about the Iranian nuclear deal still raging and everyone and their dog expressing an opinion (no matter how ill-informed, reactionary, or just plain stupid it might be), my new undergraduate course is alarmingly well-timed.
This year, I’m offering a new 4MA (fourth year honours, full year) course entitled The United States and the Problem of Nuclear Proliferation, 1945-2015 (hereafter USPNP). An outgrowth of my research interests and doctoral work, USPNP is my first attempt at a year-long course for the undergraduates in their final year. The class is relatively small (12-15 students) and there will have an intense focus on discussing and debating primary, secondary, and theoretical materials.
The hectic nature of the end of semester means that this penultimate post about the nuclear Cold War course has been more than a little bit delayed. Apologies for that.
Our final class examined the end of the Cold War and the influence of nuclear arms (and related issues) on the conclusion of nearly five decades of confrontation. Did ‘the atom’ have any influence? In the big scheme of things, did the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – as an example of arms control – actually do anything to help? I argued (and many students agreed) that the end of the Cold War is in fact even more complicated than the beginning of the Cold War. Disentangling the various threads (no pun intended) is one of the challenges of studying this period.
Just the other day, I sent my students (and hello to any of you reading this!) the syllabus for this semester in American History 2 (the second year undergraduate survey course that I’m a teaching assistant/tutor on.) Now that we have covered the broad sweep of American history from the Colonial period to the end of Reconstruction, it’s time to move into the twentieth century.
One thing I am very keen on is giving students the chance to take classes that appeal to them, as long as they fit within the overall course. So at the end of last semester, I offered some choices in what classes to take. Populism was quite roundly rejected in favour of a more detailed study of Progressivism. Which is something of a shame, as I had just managed to pick up a bargain priced second hand copy of The Populist Vision by Charles Postel! Both tutorial groups were almost universal in their desire to have a class each on the early Cold War abroad and the early Cold War at home, as opposed to the somewhat challenging task of rolling the two into one. Classes on Nixon and Reagan were also universally popular.