Colloquium Series Spearheads CENFAD Revival
The 2004-05 academic year witnessed a dramatic expansion of the history department at Temple University. With the arrival of an unprecedented number of new faculty and graduate students, the strong existing core of CENFAD associates could have conducted its business as usual and still have benefited from the tremendous influx of new talent. The environment in the department was one of such excitement, however, that everyone – “rookies and “veterans” alike – concluded that the time was right to launch a series of new initiatives. You will read about many below, but the first lies before you: Strategic Visions, long the bearer of CENFAD-related news, has undergone a dramatic overhaul.
With the assistance of Professors Gregory J.W. Urwin, Regina Gramer, and Richard Immerman, the CENFAD graduate students have undertaken the responsibility of writing, editing, and producing the content of CENFAD’s newsletter. In this first section, “Features,” we intend to publish scholarly papers, lectures, and any other relevant material from faculty and graduate students that may otherwise have lacked a forum. Following the Features, CENFAD faculty and graduate students provide insights into the Center’s new research initiatives. The next section presents CENFAD graduate life in a new light: current and former students give personal perspectives on their work and the ways CENFAD shaped their careers. In the small (for now) book review section, CENFAD graduate students have the opportunity to air their thoughts on new works in their particular fields. Accompanying this is a select bibliography of recently published works that deal with issues of force and diplomacy writ large.
Finally, the last section provides news and updates on CENFAD’s military history program that will be familiar to longtime readers of Strategic Visions.
Our ambitions and the realities of time and space inevitably collide, though, and the reader will notice that much of our content must be relegated to cyberspace. For many pieces, the print edition only offers a peak into content; for full articles and more images, we invite the reader to visit CENFAD’s revamped website at www.temple.edu/cenfad.
Leading the way in CENFAD’s resurgence during this academic year has been the colloquium series launched this spring semester. Beginning with the premise that the Center needed an organized forum for interaction among faculty, students, and the Temple community, CENFAD prepared an impressive schedule of events, ranging from informal book talks to presentations by distinguished historians and authors.
The following was (and is) the colloquium schedule for the spring 2005 semester. Note the remaining events:
A quick glance at the schedule shows that much of the colloquium has dealt with recent American foreign policy and the ways that the current administration successfully or unsuccessfully practices both force and diplomacy—and does or does not coordinate the two. On February 1, CENFAD Director Professor Richard Immerman inaugurated the CENFAD colloquium series with a lecture on “George Bush and the Vulcans: The Empire Strikes Back.” Professor Immerman, who has written widely on American Cold War policy from Eisenhower through Vietnam, turned his attention to contemporary history and the intellectual foundations of the current administration’s contentious foreign policies. In the wake of the invasion of Iraq and the ensuing occupation, historians of American foreign relations applied their expertise to the apparent radical shift in American foreign policy. In an article in Foreign Affairs in early 2005, John Lewis Gaddis argues that Bush’s response to 9/11, which Gaddis equates with Franklin Roosevelt’s response to Pearl Harbor, has aimed to reestablish American security “in a suddenly more dangerous world.” Melvyn Leffler, in a Foreign Policy article from late 2004, asserts that, in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the US has established an overly ambitious agenda that departs significantly from the Bush administration’s initial realist strategy. Immerman’s address directly confronted both of these claims.
Immerman claimed that both Gaddis and Leffler overlook the sources of the Bush doctrine: the faction of lesser-known intellectuals dubbed the “Vulcans” that assembled during the transition and that still surround the Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz triumvirate. The Vulcan critique of American foreign policy, taking shape in the Clinton years of “globalization,” targeted the very heart of US Cold War policy – containment. The world was too dangerous, the Vulcans believed, to attempt to coexist with a threat like the Soviet Union. If the communist threat demanded an American garrison state, then no such effort was too costly to ensure American security and the protection of the American way of life. That way of life, an exceptional way of life, was exactly what the Vulcans saw threatened. The world was a dangerous place; the Vulcans, turning John Quincy Adams on his head, argued that the US had to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
Thus when Gaddis and Leffler claim that 9/11 changed the way all Americans perceive the world, they misrepresent the very people that shaped foreign policy in the wake of that tragedy. The terrorist attacks only confirmed the worldview that this group of intellectuals had been shaping since the end of the Cold War. The attack on American soil presented the Vulcans with an opportunity that Americans abandoned in 1919 and 1945: the chance to establish Henry Luce’s American Century. The terrorist attacks may have taken the Vulcans immediately by surprise, but they were well prepared to respond by targeting the monsters that they judged detrimental to the fulfillment of Henry Luce’s vision. The instability created by the insurgency in Iraq has placed the Vulcans in an awkward position: with Iran and North Korea now touting the very weapons that Saddam Hussein allegedly had, how does the US respond? Professor Immerman’s presentation established a stimulating and collegial environment that carried through the semester. With such an eminent lineup of events, CENFAD has much to live up to for the fall 2005 semester. We look forward to continuing this new tradition, and we encourage new faces to join the discussion.