5.4 – U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century

There are no required readings for today’s class. In the first section, we will discuss U.S. foreign policy in the early 21st century. In the second section, we will discuss some of the main themes in American politics and economic issues in the early twenty first century, with particular attention to the parallels and differences between the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. We will also prepare for the final exam.

Optional articles on U.S. foreign policy:

History.com, “The 9/11 Attacks”

Jonathan Yardley, “The 9/11 Hijackers”

Charles Krauthammer, “The War on Terror has been a success” (2011)

David C. Gombert, “The Iraq War: Bush’s Biggest Blunder”

Susan Page, “Grim Assessment of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” (2014)

Carter Malkasian, “Book Review: ‘Why we Lost’” (2015) (another review)

Robert Kagan, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire” (2014)

Elbridge Colby, “Have We Reached Peak America?” (2014)

Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Consequences of U.S. Decline” (2013)

Dave Lindorff, “The American Empire is in Decline” (2014)

Tom Switzer, “Superpowers Don’t Retire, but Robert Kagan should” (2014)

Ely Ratner, “How the United States can Counter Russia and China” (2014)

Alfred McCoy, “The Decline and Fall of the American Empire,” CBS News, (December 2010)

Howard French, “China’s Dangerous Game” (2014)

Iwan Morgan, “Is the U.S. in Relative Decline? Sadly, the Answer is Yes,” History News Network, (February 2012)

Ely Ratner and Thomas Wright, “America’s Not in Decline — It’s On the Rise,”Washington Post, (October 2013)

Rob Asghar, “America in Decline? That’s Still Just a Myth,” Forbes, (July 2013)



5.2 – Clinton & the 1990s/the Information Age

Readings for the 1990s

FTR 5.2.2017 readings

Learn N.C., “The United States in the 1990s”

Kurt Anderson, “The Best Decade Ever? The 1990s, obviously”

Be able to identify examples of popular music artists, athletes, and actors from the 1990s.

Discussion questions

Why did Bill Clinton win the presidency in 1992?

What were the aims of the Republican party in the 1990s, as shown in the ‘Contract with America’?

What were some of the major social and cultural issues that Americans disagreed over in the 1990s?

What was the general state of the U.S. economy during the 1990s?

What were some of the ways that “globalization” influenced the U.S. economy and culture during the 1990s?

Should Bill Clinton be seen as a more liberal, or conservative, president? Which of his policies and statements led some observers to describe him as a ‘centrist’ president?

How important was U.S. foreign policy to most Americans in the 1990s?

Who were some of the major musicians, actors, and athletes of the 1990s?


Readings for the Information Age

Wikipedia, the Digital Revolution

Stephanie Buck, “40 years of cell-phone history”

Adam Sneed, “In 1995, 5th Graders Predicted Today’s Internet in a PSA”

Discussion questions

What are some of the major advances in computer and communications technology that have reshaped American life since the 1980s?

In your view, what are some of the positive influences that social media and the increasing ability to be instantaneously in contact with other people from seemingly anywhere have had on American life? What are some of the negative influences?

What role has the increasing use of technology in the classroom had on your education? What positive, or negative, impacts have you noticed?

How do you think technology will influence education, especially college education, in the future?

4.25 – Reagan & the 1980s


FTR readings for April 25

Miller Center, Ronald Reagan and U.S. Foreign Policy

James Hershberg, “Just Who Did Smash Communism?”

History.com, The 1980s

Joshua Green, “Reagan’s Liberal Legacy”


Discussion questions

Why did many Americans find Reagan to be a particularly appealing leader, especially in comparison to Jimmy Carter?

What were some of the major elements of Reagan‘s foreign policy rhetoric and actions?

How did Reagan’s foreign policy differ from the foreign policies pursued by the United States in the 1970s?

What role did Reagan play in ending the Cold War?

What were some of Reagan‘s most important beliefs and policies concerning economic issues?

What were some of the economic consequences of Reagan‘s policies?

What was the attitude of Reagan and his supporters towards the proper size and influence of Federal government? How effective was Reagan in implementing policies that followed through on those attitudes?

Who were some of the major figures in popular culture in the 1980s?

4.18 – LBJ & the Great Society/1970s & Malaise

In the first section of today’s class, I will discuss LBJ and the Great Society before we move on to covering the 1970s.


J. Stein, The 1970s

History.com, The Watergate Scandal


Wikipedia, The Election of 1976

U.S. History.org, “The Me Decade”

Discussion questions

What were some of the major characteristics of American culture in the 1970s?

What was the Watergate scandal? What is its significance for American history?

What were other reasons that many Americans were disillusioned with their government in the 1970s?

How did U.S. foreign policy change in response to the end of the Vietnam War?

Why did many Americans see Jimmy Carter as an appealing candidate in 1976?

How prosperous was the American economy during the 1970s?

What is your view of the general level of success of Jimmy Carter’s presidency?

Conduct additional research if necessary to answer these questions.

4.13 – Feminism


FTR Readings 4.13.2017

L. Maren Wood, The Women’s Movement

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (excerpt)

(Optional: Ashley Fetters, ‘4 Big Problems with the Feminine Mystique’)

PBS, Roe vs. Wade

History.com, Title IX

Discussion questions

In your view, how should one define feminism?

What were some of the economic factors that contributed to the rise of feminism in the 1960s?

What is N.O.W.?

Who were some of the major figures in the feminist movement? What were some of their major writings?

What were some of the feminist movement’s major goals, and what strategies did they use to pursue those goals?

What is the E.R.A.?

How did the feminist movement change over the course of the 1960s and early 1970s?

What were some of the major criticisms made of the feminist movements by conservatives?

4.11 – The 1960s, Vietnam War, & Counter-Culture

The Vietnam War

Selected statements of U.S. presidents on Vietnam
George Kennan criticizes the war in Vietnam, 12.12.1965
Senator Fulbright’s “Arrogance of Power” speech, 1966
The United States Leaves Vietnam

Discussion questions concerning the Vietnam War

Conduct additional research if you wish to find additional information to answer the questions.

Why did the United States go to war to defend the government of South Vietnam?

What did supporters of the war effort argue? What did opponents of the war effort argue?

What reasons did Americans in the mid-1960s have to be confident that the United States could defeat its enemies in Vietnam?

What reasons did communists in Vietnam in the mid-1960s have to be confident that they could defeat the Americans and their Vietnamese allies?

What impact did the war have on American society?

Why did American public opinion ultimately turn against the American war effort and support the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Vietnam?

The Counter-Culture

Photographs by Lisa Law, 1965-1971

History.com, 1968 Democratic Convention (watch the video here)

Patrick Jones, Review of America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s

Discussion questions for the Counter-Culture

Conduct additional research if you wish to find additional information to answer the questions.

What was ‘the counter-culture?’

Who was attracted to the lifestyle(s) promoted by the counter-culture?

What was the Students for a Democratic Society?

What were the origins of the counter-culture? In what ways was the counter-culture a reaction to the 1950s and early 1960s?

How did people involved in the counter-culture use music and fashion to express their personal identity and political beliefs?

How did the New Left evolve over the course of the 1960s?

How did the Vietnam War influence the counter-culture?

Research assignment


Find one song that, in your view, captures an important aspect of the counter-culture’s values. Provide a link  to the song in a comment to this post. Be prepared to explain the song’s significance and meaning in class discussion. (1% of final grade)

4.6 – Civil Rights Movements


Wikipedia, Civil Rights movement timeline

April 6 FTR readings

National Education Association, Untold No More: Latino Civil Rights Movement 1902-2009

Discussion questions:

Who were some of the major leaders of the African American Civil Rights movement, and what were some of the major events and legislative accomplishments that defined its rise?

What were some of the major reasons for the success of the movement for greater rights for African Americans?

Do you think that histories of the Civil Rights movement focus too much on leaders and slight the contributions of less famous figures? Or do you think the focus on leaders is the best way of understanding why the movement for greater rights for African Americans was able to succeed?

What groups opposed the Civil Rights movement, and what strategies did they use?

What role did technology play in the success of the Civil Rights movement?

What were some of the major differences of opinion within the Civil Rights movement?



Double V Campaign








3.30 – The 1950s & Consumerism


For the Record readings

PBS, The Rise of American Consumerism

Conduct additional research as necessary to answer the discussion questions.

Discussion questions

What were some of the most significant aspects of American cultural and economic life during the 1950s?

How did the rise of Suburbia influence American life?

What was life like for many American women in the 1950s?

What were some of the most popular movies, actors/actresses, and musicians of the 1950s?

What were some of the major challenges to conservatism, stability, and conformity during the 1950s?

What major scientific and technological advances influenced American life during the 1950s?

Conduct additional research as necessary to answer the discussion questions.










Berry 7






3.28 – Cold War


U.S. History, Containment and the Marshall Plan

The Creation of NATO

Marshall Plan

Berlin Airlift

The Red Scare

Discussion questions

According to President Truman and many other Americans, what threat did the Soviet Union and communism as a whole pose to the United States?

What were some of the major steps the United States took to contain the expansion of the Soviet Union and its communist allies in the late 1940s and early 1950s?

How did those changes represent a departure from U.S. foreign policies prior to WorldWar II? How did memories of the League of Nations and international politics in the 1930s shape post-World War II U.S. foreign policies?








3.21 – Second World War, Part II


Richard Overy, “How the Allies Won”

History.com, D-Day and the Atomic bombings and War on the Eastern Front and Battle of Okinawa

U.S. Holocaust Museum, Liberating the Death Camps

Matthew Magda, Review of FDR and the Creation of the U.N.

Bretton Woods

Review readings from 3/8 as well.

Discussion questions

Why did the Allies win the war?

What contributions did the United States make to Allied victory?

To what extent was World War II ‘the good war‘?

If you had been in President Truman’s position, would you have used atomic weapons against Japan?

What aims did the United States have for reshaping global politics and the international economy after World War II? How did memories of the Great Depression and the consequences of isolationism in the 1930s shape those aims?






Le drapeau de la victoire


Manhattan Project-Voices