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Professor Gaddis'
"Letterman List"
of Diplomatic History Issues


Editor's note:
On November 11 of this year, John Lewis Gaddis, Distinguished Professor of History at Ohio University, posted on H-Net Diplomatic History On-Line his version of a "Letterman" list: the top ten Cold War diplomatic issues that should in his view be discussed, but which were not receiving the attention they deserved. He considered the catalog of items as a quick effort to survey certain unresolved questions among diplomatic and international historians of the Cold War era.

The appearance of Professor Gaddis's formulation evoked a flood of suggestions and comments on the H-Diplo net in subsequent days. With his permission, we 'reprint' his issues list below. Further, we invite discussion, expressions of opinion, or observations from American Diplomacy readers, many of whom have considerable practical experience in administering policy during the Cold War.

Try your hand at your own Top Ten List, or let us have your comments on the points made in Dr. Gaddis's survey. To register your remarks immediately, simply click here, or at the end of each question, or else send e-mail separately to the editor at: hmattox@email.unc.edu.


And now, the Gaddis TOP TEN:

  1. What if Alperovitz is right -- then what? What would be the larger implications? Would this make the United States more inhumane in its approach to war and/or diplomacy than other 20th Century great powers have been? If so, what would be the basis for such a judgment? If not, then what's the point?

    [Comment?]

  2. Are there questions in history that -- for whatever reason -- should neither be asked nor answered? Bruce Cumings, for example, has insisted that "who started the Korean War?" is such a question; and the issue recently surfaced in a different way -- "should the question be answered?" -- in a debate between Alan Sokal and the editors of SOCIAL TEXT regarding Sokal's spoof on post-modernism (see the November 11th NEW YORKER). Should we just stay away from certain controversies, and if so how do we know which ones?

    [Comment?]

  3. How do we know that future generations are going to share our assessment of what's important in history? Tony Smith, for example, has argued that in the long run historians will consider the democratizations of Germany and Japan, not anything that happened in Soviet-American relations, as the most important events of the second half of the 20th century. Are there tricks we can use to try to anticipate 21st century revisionists, or do we just have to fly blind?

    [Comment?]

  4. Whatever happened to the old C. Wright Mills argument that a narrow elite runs American foreign policy? Doesn't corporatism broaden out responsibility to the point that one can't continue to claim elitism is a problem?

    [Comment?]

  5. Whatever happened to the old Kennan- Lippmann- Morgenthau argument that democracies weren't equipped to survive in a cold, cruel, and realist world? How does this look now in the light of the end of the Cold War?

    [Comment?]

  6. If, as the new sources are strongly suggesting, ideology really was important in shaping the behavior of Marxist-Leninist states; and if, as the Cold War's outcome equally strongly suggests, Marxism-Leninism was an egregiously flawed method of interpreting reality; then doesn't this make Stalin, Khrushchev, and Mao romantics rather than realists?

    [Comment?]

  7. Norman Naimark's discussion of the rape issue in his new book, THE RUSSIANS IN GERMANY, provides a wholly convincing argument for the centrality of gender in shaping geopolitics. Are there other such instances?

    [Comment?]

  8. The current issue of DIPLOMATIC HISTORY features a series of articles on African-Americans and U. S. foreign relations. To what extent do these make the case for giving greater attention to issues of race in writing diplomatic history?

    [Comment?]

  9. A recent issue of ECONOMIST, in reviewing Sam Huntington's new book, had an excellent discussion of the methodological difficulties involved in using "culture" as an analytical framework. Implications, if any, for our field?

    [Comment?]

  10. How, indeed, does one balance the demands of openness as against those of civility in a discussion forum like this one? Does an editor or moderator simply run whatever comes in without regard to length, coherence, or flaming? If not, what should the rules be?

    [Comment?]

    --John Gaddis


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