Category Archives: American Civ

Whose History

Only last year, without any expert input, the Texas Board of Education approved changes to history textbooks which included the rehabilitation of Joseph McCarthy (saying subsequent revelations had vindicated him), the minimization of Thomas Jefferson, and removal of references to the Enlightenment (TJ was likely a deist rather than a mainstream Christian, while many thinkers associated with the Enlightenment were devoted secularists and, in some cases, flat out atheists). The Board also stipulated that the phrase “the slave trade” would be replaced with the “triangular Atlantic trade.”
From a NYT article:

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Last Thoughts

This short article seems to resonate with some of the things Prof. Franks discussed in lecture today regarding the increasing porosity of borders in an age of globalization.

From the LA Times:

Drone aircraft will be used to nab illegal immigrants on California-Mexico border

December 7, 2009 | 7:33 am

Predator drones, the unmanned aircraft used by the U.S. military in the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones, will soon be employed to track illegal immigrants on the Mexico-California border.

The drone, which will be unveiled later today, will be operated out of the Antelope Valley by the military contractor General Atomics. The drones will fly above the border region with advancing electronic tracking equipment looking for illegal immigrants crossing into California.

According to the San Diego-based company, the drones will transmit information to U.S. authorities on human smuggles as well drug smuggling.

Such drones are already used on the border of Texas and Arizona.

Three things to note:

a) if in fact political boundaries are increasingly open to human migration or other demographic shifts, then there is clearly an effort on the part of nation-states to regulate those “flows.”

b) this particular effort uses military-grade hardware operated by a private company. Remember that one of the core tenets of neoliberal globalization (aka Empire) is the diminution of the public sector in favor of private “solutions.”

c. the mission of the drone surveillance includes not only “illegal” immigration– here described as “human trafficking,” which raises the specter of what in the 1910s was called “white slavery” (the traffic in young women, enslaved for nefarious purposes)– but drug interdiction. We could view this pairing of law enforcement mandates as a means of establishing an equivalence between them via reification– i.e. both dope and undocumented workers are a form of contraband.


d) the methods and technologies being used in foreign wars are now trickling into mainstream law enforcement in the US. If you recall the Pittsburgh demonstrations against the G8 earlier this year then you’ll no doubt remember that local police used a sonic weapon called an LRAD first deployed in Iraq. Now predator drones are cruising not only the US-Mex. international border, but between states such as Texas and Arizona. I think we can see this as a provisional confirmation of one of the remarks I made during last Wednesday’s lecture: that Empire disturbs the distinction between inside (domestic) and outside (foreign).

Final Exam Prompts

Here they are. If you have any questions about anything we’ve covered including the prompts for the final address them here so that everyone can benefit from your inquisitiveness.

AMS 1B / Fall 2009 Connelly, Franks, and Sansbury

Essay Questions for the Final Exam (in your Seminar Room)

One of the following three essay questions will be selected for the final exam, which will take place on Friday, December 11, 9:45 to 12noon, in our Seminar Rooms. The essay portion of the final will be worth 40% of the total exam grade.

Both the Beats and Weatherman (the Weather Underground Organization or WUO) criticized or attempted to revolutionize Cold War America. What is the form and substance of this criticism/attempted transformation of the social and cultural landscape of the United States? What were its results?

The struggle for democracy in America has pushed diverse Americans to claim membership in the People’s Club. Based on the readings and lectures, analyze this struggle for inclusion in the People’s Club. Have these struggles worked? Has the U.S. effectively become a democracy? In your analysis, focus on the post-World War II experiences of FIVE of the following overlapping groups: 1) African Americans, 2) Asian Pacific Americans, 3). Latino/as, 4) American Indians, 5) women, 6) gays and lesbians, 7) and the poor. Be sure to be specific enough to demonstrate you’ve done the reading and paid attention in class. Be sure to use the lectures, primary sources from Heath, and secondary sources such as Norton to back up your analysis.

Consider the post WWII women’s movement. 1) How does it compare with other “rights” movements? Other “liberation” movements? How do you explain the similarities and differences? 2) In what ways did the conflicts among women with different backgrounds and views hurt the movement? In what ways did they advance it? Draw on the lectures, the Norton textbook, and readings about post-war social movements for evidence. Be sure to use at least three of the following readings: Vicki Ruiz, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., selections from Sing a Battle Song, Audre Lorde, Combahee River Collective, and Gloria Anzaldúa.


Just a bit more on the Obama speech. Andrew Bacevich and Nir Rosen were on Democracy Now on Dec. 2. Bacevich, who self-identifies as a conservative and graduated from West Point in 1969, could with some justice be deemed a right wing anti-imperialist in the (small ‘r’) republican tradition while Rosen is a journalist who has spent extensive time in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The link is here, but let me emphasize the following remarks:

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama also praised the United States as a country that has not sought world domination or occupation.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades, a time that for all its problems has seen walls come down and markets opened, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress in advancing frontiers of human liberty. For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for, what we continue to fight for, is a better future for our children and grandchildren and we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama last night at West Point. Nir Rosen?

NIR ROSEN: Every empire has claimed it’s not an empire, it doesn’t want to occupy, it wants to help. Indeed, the American empire has done the same thing. The British in Iraq [in the early 20th century] were uttering the same things the Americans in Iraq were uttering in their occupation. Why do we have military bases all over the world if not an empire seeking to control much of the world? These days imperialism works in a different way. Maybe you don’t need direct physical control of every place, but you still have the physical force and the threat of violence. Indeed, I think we are actually a failure as an empire. We actually managed to make the Taliban look good. We took the most detested regime in the world, the Taliban, removed them in a matter of weeks and here seven or eight years later they’re more popular than ever. They’re stronger than ever.

AMY GOODMAN:Among who?

NIR ROSEN: Among the people in Pakistan and many Afghans, at least many Pashtuns. When I’ve been in Afghanistan you often hear non-Pashtuns expressing hostility to Americans. I have heard many Tajiks say, “Amreeka Dushman Islam”, “America is the enemy of Islam.” Nobody really wants the Americans there.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Professor Bacevich, your book is called “The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism”, responding to what Nir Rosen has said and President Obama’s last point about why we are in Afghanistan.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Yeah, I mean, I think the president’s sort of capsule description of modern U.S. history and our role in the world is extraordinarily important and the reason it is important is because that text could of been lifted out of a speech by Harry Truman, by John Kennedy, by Lyndon Johnson, by Richard Nixon, by Ronald Reagan, or by George W. Bush. This is the preferred narrative of American history, the way we prefer to see ourselves and, therefore, the narrative that we use to justify all that we do in the world. It is really telling and extraordinary that this president, whose background is quite different from all those other presidents that I just named, and who came to office promising to bring about change, it is extraordinary that he himself would embrace that narrative so uncritically. I think that is indicative of the extent to which whether there is going to be any change in Washington, it is simply going to be changes on the margins and that the Washington consensus, the status quo, is firmly in place.