Past Events

2009-2010

9/24/09 A Special Relationship? The Anglo-American Alliance during World War II.

Dr. Mark Stoler, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Vermont, is working on a co-authored history of the Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff during World War II and is the new editor of the George C. Marshall Papers.

Dr. Stoler spoke on the complications uncertainty of the Anglo-American “special relationship” at the start of, and throughout the War. It was based on the need to face a common threat, but the balance of power between the two countries created some difficult diplomatic situations. A common language aided in communication but the two countries desperately needed each other, and they forged an unprecedented bond and worked through their differences to wage war against the Nazis.

10/29/09 Trade Wars and The Great Depression – What Happened In The 1930’s and Can It Happen Again?”

Dr. Douglas Irwin is the Robert E. Maxwell Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Free Trade Under Fire ( 2009), The Genesis of the GATT (2008, co-authored with Petros Mavroidis and Alan Sykes), Against the Tide: An Intellectual History of Free Trade ( 1996), and many articles on trade policy in books and professional journals. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and has also served on the staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

11/05/09 To Surge or Not to Surge: The U.S. Security Dilemma in Afghanistan & Eurasia

Glen Howard, President of The Jamestown Foundation, a research and analysis organization that focuses on conflict and instability in Eurasia based in Washington, D.C. Mr. Howard has served as a consultant to the U.S. government and private energy companies, and directs the research and analysis of one of Washington’s foremost research organizations on conflict and instability.

Mr. Howard said that the United States was at a major cross road in the deployment and utility of American military power. With a raging Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and a nuclear armed Pakistan battling a raging Taliban insurgency at home the array of challenges and threats emanating from the Hindu Kush create a vortex of threats and logistical challenges that were sapping the energy and attention of U.S. policy makers. North of the Hindu Kush a resurgent Russia is bent on expanding its influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia and throughout the post-Soviet space. Supply lines through the volatile Khyber Pass are in danger as new options and plans are weighed by U.S. policymakers that force the Pentagon to examine new routes for bringing supplies to Afghanistan through Russia and the South Caucasus. Each is fraught with risk as Russia seeks to monopolize energy and transport corridors to Europe. Winning the war in Afghanistan is no longer a question about South or Central Asia; it concerns the complicated geography of several contiguous states in the land-locked confines of Central Asia. Supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a question about roads, rivals, and access to the heart of Eurasia in which the Caucasus, Pakistan, and Russia play an important role in determining whether the U.S. wins or fails in Afghanistan.

2/18/10 The Myth of Anti-Americanism: Foreigners and Foreign Policy

Dr. Max Paul Friedman is Associate Professor of History at American University, specializing in U.S. foreign relations. His book, Nazis and Good Neighbors: The United States Campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II (Cambridge University Press, 2003) won the Herbert Hoover Prize in U.S. History and the A.B. Thomas Prize in Latin American Studies. His most recent article is “Simulacrobama: The Mediated Election of 2008,” published in the Journal of American Studies in August 2009.

What is “anti-American” abroad differs vastly from the same label domestically. “Anti-American” sentiments, when expressed by non-Americans, are viewed as an attack on our founding beliefs. Lacking a shared heritage, Americans tend to rely on our cultural consciousness as “one nation” to bond together. But the same phrase is used domestically to label one who disagrees with current domestic trends or government policy. In the United States the phrase has been used by many since our founding, and often by those on both sides of an issue. Throughout world history, governments who label their own citizens “anti-“ have been totalitarian regimes who attempt to marginalize and discredit those who stand up against them.

3/10/10 Boomtown Baghdad: Iraq and the Global Market

Adam Choppin,

4/21/10 Dr. Peter Mansoor, The Iraq War: Opportunities Missed, Lessons Learned

5/6/10 The Peaceful Revolution as a Media Revolution in GDR Compared to the Bloody Revolution in Romania

Dr. Rudiger Steinmetz is professor of Media Studies and Media Culture at the Institute of Communications of the University of Leipzig, Germany. He is a member of the publishing advisory board of the Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television and publisher of the series “Media Studien/Media Studies”of the Leipzig University Press.

November 9, 1989 was the day the Berlin Wall came down, ending the cold war between the US and the USSR. Historical images were broadcast around the world as thousands of Germans from both sides chopped, hammered and tore it apart with their bare hands as many more danced and celebrated in the background. Television was there to record the fall of Communism in Germany. It had also prepared the people for those moments when a live broadcast by the President of East Germany at around six that evening announced that the wall would be opening at midnight - 15 minutes later West Germany broadcast that the wall was open and people streamed there. Media played a decisive role in that event. Then television in the newly reunited Germany took on the role of the “universal therapist” by their investigative reports on the topics previously banned by the state controlled broadcast, topics that allowed the people, both viewers and the media, to vent, address the guilt and seek some closure for the ills of the divided country. Change was coming to Romania at this time, too. President Nicholae Ceausescu, who was watching the events in Germany very closely, had his security forces on high alert for signs of revolution. On December 16, 1989 there were large protests over the government sponsored eviction of Lazlo Toekes, an ethnic Hungarian pastor who was accused of inciting an anti-government movement and hundreds were killed by government forces. Several days of riots followed, then on December 21, while giving a speech, Ceausescu was mobbed by the audience and had to flee the podium, all of which was shown on the national television. Four days later, during which he seemed to be unaware of the issues and denied there were any problems, economic or otherwise in Romania, he was arrested along with his wife, tried, and shot on December 25, 1989. His arrest was documented on film, to show the Romanian people proof it was a “fair trial” and even the aftermath of the execution was televised as proof of the truthfulness of the new government.

The involvement of the media in the two revolutions had parallels and differences, but in both cases played an important role in the events leading up to the historic moments.

5/13/10 The Genius of Earth Day

Dr. Adam Rome, associate professor history at Pennsylvania State University, is the author of The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism (Cambridge, 2001) which won the Organization of American Historian’s Frederick Jackson Turner Award, given to the best first book on any topic in American history.

Dr. Rome spoke on the origins of Earth Day in the United States. He called the first Earth Day “the most famous, little-known event” in American history as it was the catalyst for the Environmental Decade, the 1970’s. It was the brainchild of US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who modeled it after the “teach-ins” that were part of the anti-war movement of the 60’s. In 1969 there was a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California and Senator Nelson, who had been pushing environmental legislation in Congress to no avail, saw this as a ripe moment. He sought advice from Democratic advisor Fred Dutton, who advocated for a top-down organized event, with hand-picked universities hosting the events. Nelson rejected that advice and in September of 1969 announced that Earth Day would be held the following April 22. He tapped his resources for activists and organizers, not necessarily environmentalists, to get the ball rolling with schools and communities across the country. University students were especially passionate about the event, which often expanded into multi-day affairs to accommodate all of the planned activities. Cities and towns customized their celebrations to include local issues and it is estimated that more than 750,000 people participated in that first event. The grass roots environmental movement exploded after the first Earth Day and this power was the key to the environmental legislation that was passed in the 1970’s. Many of the core group of organizers went on to become lobbyists for the environmental movement. This year marked the 40th anniversary of that first Earth Day.

2010-2011

10/15/10 War and Stability in the 21st Century

Dr. Jeremy Black, professor of history at the University of Exeter, England. He has published more than 90 books, with a focus on British military history.

Dr Black spoke on the industrial approach to waging war, which the Western world has adopted, and believes that a country can fight better if they have better weapons.  Having better capabilities to fight has a distinct advantage.  In the late 20th Century the US Military had worked out the theoretical issues of handling a sub-nuclear war and in the 1991 Gulf War technology proved to be a huge advantage.  This caused a paradigm shift in the approach to modern war to one where weapons of modest cost, both in terms of people and money, were thought to be the future.  The US and Europe shared their technologies and attempted to avoid any gaps in knowledge to improve their shared security and reduce costs, human and monetary. However, technology cannot help with the insurgency problems encountered in the current Gulf War.  Resistance after “defeat” is something often encountered in recent conflicts.  Cultural interpretations of suffering and death make these insurgent actions difficult for the West to understand and handle. Assumptions about the relationship between “self” and society vary markedly in different cultures.  In the American Civil War approximately twenty percent of the Southern soldiers died – now our culture would not stand for those kinds of numbers.  The highest casualty count since 1970 has occurred during the Iran/Iraq War where the Middle Eastern culture has a high tolerance for and a tenacious cultural continuity to use any means possible to defeat those considered “outsiders”, even if it means those from neighboring countries who might share cultural similarities. It is more difficult to effectively use force against a culture that doesn’t see violence in the same way, as is evidenced in the current Gulf War.  The limited extent of the belief of the Iraqi people in a better future caused many of the instability problems there.  And that instability has been encouraged by the insurgent forces as that allows them to recruit and utilize the large number of displaced people to their advantage, to the point of civil warfare under the guise of military engagement with the “enemy”.  Civil warfare has become the prime use of military force in the world today, except among first world cultures.  While maintaining military advantage, the West should not get involved in local long-standing internal struggles. From 1995 through 2010 the US seemed to engage in many military actions without the idea of the liability of lasting consequences.  The reality of power is one should be “prudentialists”.  Though most won’t accept that fact, “prudence” is the most important factor of war in the future.