American wars since the late 1940s have been long and ambiguous, with no decisive victories. This course will look at the wars in Korea and Vietnam that changed American perceptions of its role in the world even as they modified the world’s balance of power. Early in our voyage, we will focus on Korea, examining the war’s causes, its impact on the struggle between communism and capitalism, and its long-term impact on the Korean peninsula. By the time we reach Ho Chi Minh City, we will be well into our study of the long, costly Vietnam War, or what the Vietnamese call “the American War.” While in Vietnam, we will compare the ways the Americans and Vietnamese interpreted the conflict.
Our goal will be twofold: to learn the “facts” of the wars, and to understand their broader meanings, as well as the issues that surrounded them. That means we will focus on becoming skillful interpreters, capable of articulating our thoughts clearly and effectively, both orally and in writing. The course will combine lectures and discussions. Requirements will include writing, discussion, and tests.
*Note: This class is delivered when lunch is served.
Field WorkCountry: Vietnam
Date: February 11, 2020
In order to learn about the way the Vietnamese understand their long war against first the French and then the Americans, we will visit sites that memorialize both the war and the country’s history: the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Independence (Reunification) Palace, and the War Remembrance Museum, after which we will spend time discussing what we have learned, possibly with a group of Vietnamese students.
1. Understand how what Westerners call the “Vietnam War” fits into the broader Vietnamese historical context
2. Gain an understanding of how the Vietnamese interpret the war
3. Think through the differences between American and Vietnamese interpretations of the war: who is “right,” what causes the differences, broader implications of the differences