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Plan II Honors

Mark Atwood Lawrence

Ph.D., 1999, Yale University

Associate Professor
Mark Atwood Lawrence



Vietnam War, U.S. policy toward Third World nationalism during the 1960s, and nuclear history


Mark Atwood Lawrence is Associate Professor of History and Senior Fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin. He received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1988 and his doctorate from Yale in 1999. After teaching as a lecturer in history at Yale, he joined the History Department at UT Austin in 2000. Since then, he has published two books, Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005) and The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (Oxford University Press, 2008).  

Lawrence is also co-editor of The First Indochina War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis (Harvard University Press, 2007), a collection of essays about the 1946-1954 conflict. He is now at work on a study of U.S. policymaking toward the developing world in the 1960s and early 1970s.


T C 357 • Key Debates Hist Us Frgn Rel-W

43590 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm CRD 007B

TC 357
Key Debates in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations
Unique #43590
Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30-4:45 p.m.
CRD 007B

Mark A. Lawrence
Office:  GAR 3.204, 475-9304
Office Hours: Tuesday, 2-3 p.m.; Thursday, 11-12:30;
and by appointment

This course has three goals.  First, it aims to familiarize students with some of the most contentious and enduring debates in the history of U.S. foreign relations.  The class cannot, of course, survey the entire flow of the American past.  Rather, we will focus on particular episodes that have generated intense controversy and are, in various ways, representative of disputes surrounding other events.  

Second, the course aims to push students to think like historians.  Students will be encouraged to view the discipline of history not so much as an endeavor to uncover objective “truth” as an endless argument influenced by the concerns of the present.  We will spend a good deal of time critiquing scholarly works that present conflicting interpretations of contentious historical events.  For each of our case studies, we will ask why different authors have come to different conclusions.  For some of the cases, we will also read primary sources that will enable students to make their own judgments about disputed topics.  All of this work will, it is hoped, make students more sophisticated readers and researchers and help them frame their own research projects in the future.  

Third, the course is designed to help students hone their skills in writing argumentative essays – skills with enormous value not only inside the academy but also in law, journalism, business, and other career fields.  Each student will be required to write four papers of different styles and lengths, one of which will be revised based on comments from the instructor.  

1.    attendance and active participation in class, including two brief presentations (20%)
2.    paper of 1,200-1,500 words on the Spanish-American War (15%)
3.    paper of 1,200-1,500 words on the A-bomb (15%)
4.    paper of 3,000-4,000 words on Vietnam, with rewrite (40%)
5.    op-ed of roughly 800 words on the “war on terror” (10%)

Required texts
Kristin Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood:  How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (1998)
Stephen Kotkin, Armageddon Averted:  The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 (2001)
Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War:  The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (2000)
Louis A. Pérez Jr., The War of 1898:  The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (1998)
J. Samuel Walker, “Prompt and Utter Destruction”:  Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan (revised ed., 2004)
Photocopy packet

Other important notes
•    All of the required books are available for purchase at the University Coop.  The photocopy reader is available at Jenn’s Copy & Binding at 2200 Guadalupe Street.
•    The instructor may occasionally hand out additional photocopies for use during class.  These should be treated as required reading.
•    This syllabus and all materials presented in class are copyrighted by Dr. Mark A. Lawrence.  No materials may be directly or indirectly published, posted to the internet, or rewritten for publication or distribution in any medium.  Neither these materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.  
•    Students should be fully aware of university rules regarding academic dishonesty.  The instructor assumes full compliance throughout the semester and will strictly observe all university procedures in cases of violations.
•    The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities.  For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259 or 471-6441.

Schedule of topics and assignments

January 19        Introduction to the Course

Case Study I:  The Spanish-American War

January 21        The Problem of Imperial America:  The “Orthodox” View
READING:  Ernest May, Imperial Democracy:  The Emergence of America as a Great Power, chapters 1, 17, 18 (packet)

January 26        The “Revisionist” View
READING:  Walter LaFeber, The American Search for Opportunity, 1865-1913, chapters 2, 6, 7 (packet)

January 28        Writing Workshop:  Argument and Organization
READING:  Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood, introduction-chapter 4

February 2        The “Cultural Turn”:  Gender
            READING:  Hoganson, chapter 5-conclusion

February 4        The “Cultural Turn”:  Race
    READING:  Pérez, The War of 1898

Case study II:  The Atomic Bomb

February 9        Film:  “The Day After Trinity”
    ASSIGNMENT DUE:  You have now read several works purporting to explain why the United States went to war against Spain in 1898.  On the basis of this reading, how would you explain the U.S. decision?  Write an essay of 1,200-1,500 words stating your position on the matter.  Draw on the readings as you see fit, using footnotes as necessary.

February 11        The A-Bomb:  Orthodoxy and Revisionism
READING:  Henry L. Stimson, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” Harpers Monthly, February 1947; Joseph Grew’s letter to Stimson, February 1947;  Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy:  Hiroshima and Potsdam, excerpt; Barton J. Bernstein, “A Post-War Myth:  500,000 U.S. Lives Saved” (packet)

February 16        Assessing the Evidence
            READING:  Documents 1-19 (packet)

February 18        Writing Workshop
            READING:  Walker, Prompt & Utter Destruction, preface-ch. 4

February 23        Toward a Post-Revisionist Synthesis
            READING:  Walker, chapters 5-7

February 25        Writing about the Bomb (Guest visit by Professor Michael Stoff)
            ASSIGNMENT:  Work on paper due March 2

Case Study III:  The Vietnam War

March 2        Lecture:  Debating U.S. Intervention in Vietnam
ASSIGNMENT DUE:  Imagine that it is July 25, 1945, and you are ether the U.S. Secretary of War or Secretary of State.  (Make clear which role you are assuming.)  Write a memorandum of 1,200-1,500 words advising the president what to do with the A-bomb.  Do your best to confine yourself to information you could reasonably have known at the time and to offer an opinion that would have been regarded as reasonable.  Remember that the president is a busy person and needs a succinct, well-argued memo that presents its case forcefully.

March 4        Structure and Continency
            READING:  Logevall, Choosing War, preface-chapter 2

March 9    Designing Research Projects
            READING:  Logevall, chapters 3-5

March 11        Film:  “LBJ Goes to War”
            READING:  Logevall, chapters 6-8

March 23        Visit to the LBJ Library (meet in Library lobby at 3:20)
            READING:  Logevall, chapters 9-10

March 25        No Class
READING:  Logevall, chapters 11-12
ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research

March 30        No Class
            ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research
April 1            No Class
            ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research

April 6            Writing Workshop    
            ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research

April 8            Presentations of Research Results
ASSIGNMENT:  continue research and writing; half of class gives presentations

April 13        Presentations of Research Results
ASSIGNMENT:  continue research and writing; half of class gives presentations

Case Study IV:  The End of the Cold War

April 15        Lecture:  Explaining the End of the Cold War
ASSIGNMENT DUE:  Research papers on U.S. intervention in Vietnam

April 20        Reagan and Gorbachev
READING:  Mevin Leffler, “For the Soul of Mankind,” chapter 5 (packet)

April 22        Writing Workshop
READING:  Stephen Kotkin, Armageddon Averted, introduction-chapter 1

April 27        The Disintegration of the Soviet Union
            READING:  Kotkin, chapters 2-5
            ASSIGNMENT DUE:  Revised papers on Vietnam War

April 29        In-Class Debate on the End of the Cold War
            READING:  Kotkin, chapters 6-7

Case Study V:  Debating the War on Terror

May 4             Debating Recent American Diplomacy
            READING:  Op-ed collection TBA

May 6            Debating Recent American Diplomacy (continued)
ASSIGNMENT:  Write a brief (approximately 800 words) op-ed of the sort you might find in the New York Times taking a position on the conduct of U.S. foreign policy in the Bush/Obama years.  You are free to choose any issue or line of argument you like, but be sure to keep a tight focus on a specific issue or set of events.  The reading material for the May 4 class will help orient you about the range of possible issues and the writing style usually featured in editorial writing.



The Vietnam War: A Concise International History  

Assuming the Burdern: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam

Assuming the Burdern: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam

Mark Atwood Lawrence

Assuming the Burdern: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam
Spring 2007
University of California Press

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Edited Books

America in the World: A History in Documents from the War with Spain to the War on Terror

America in the World: A History in Documents from the War with Spain to the War on Terror

Mark Atwood Lawrence, Jeffrey A. Engel & Andrew Preston

America in the World: A History in Documents from the War with Spain to the War on Terror
Princeton University Press


The Vietnam War: An International History in Documents

Beyond the Cold War: Lyndon Johnson and the New Global Challenges of the 1960s

Major Problems in American History Since 1945

Major Problems in American History Since 1945

Mark Atwood Lawrence, Natasha Zaretsky, Robert Griffith, and Paula Baker

Major Problems in American History Since 1945


Beyond the Eagle’s Shadow: New Histories of Latin America’s Cold War

Beyond the Eagle’s Shadow: New Histories of Latin America’s Cold War

Mark Atwood Lawrence, Virginia Garrard Burnett and Julio Moreno

Beyond the Eagle’s Shadow: New Histories of Latin America’s Cold War
University of New Mexico


Nation-States and the Global Environment: New Approaches to International Environmental History

The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis

The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis

Mark Atwood Lawrence, Fredrik Logevall

The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis
Harvard University Press


The New York Times Twentieth Century in Review: The Vietnam War

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Books under Contract

Broken Promise: American Politics and the U.S. Relationship with the Third World

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Articles & Essay

Major Articles and Chapters

*“Policymaking and the Uses of the Vietnam War,” in The Power of the Past: History and Statecraft, ed. Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2015).

*“Explaining the Rise to Global Power: U.S. Policy toward Asia and Africa since 1941,” in America in the World: The Historiography of U.S. Foreign Relations since 1941, 2nd edition, ed. Frank Costigliola and Michael J. Hogan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014): 236-259.

*“The Rise and Fall of Non-Alignment,” in The Cold War in the Third World, ed. Robert J. McMahon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013): 139-155.

“Setting the Pattern: The Truman Administration and Southeast Asia,” in A Companion to Harry S. Truman, ed. Daniel S. Margolies (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012): 532-551.

“LBJ and the New Global Challenges,” in A Companion to Lyndon Baines Johnson, ed. Mitchell B. Lerner (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012): 450-465.

“Latin America and the Quest for Stability,” in A Companion to Richard M. Nixon, ed. Melvin Small (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011): 460-477.

“Against the Globalizing Grain: The United States and the Developing World from Kennedy to Kissinger,” in Africa, Empire, and Globalization: Essays in Honor of A.G. Hopkins, ed. Toyin Falola and Emily Brownell (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2011): 555-568.

*“Too Late or Too Soon? Debating the Withdrawal from Vietnam in the Age of Iraq,” invited contribution for Diplomatic History, vol. 34, no. 3 (June 2010): 589-600.

“Caricature for Caricature? The Vietnamese Context in Triumph Forsaken,” in Triumph Revisited: Historians Battle for the Vietnam War, ed. Andrew Wiest and Michael J. Doidge (London: Routledge, 2010): 171-181.

*“Containing Globalism: The United States and the Developing World in the 1970s,” in The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective, ed. Niall Ferguson, Charles S. Maier, Erez Manela, and Daniel J. Sargent (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010): 205-219.

*“Recasting Vietnam: The Bao Dai Solution and the Outbreak of the Cold War in Southeast Asia,” in Connecting Histories: Decolonization and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, ed. Christopher E. Goscha and Christian Ostermann (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2009): 15-38.

*“History from Below: The United States and Latin America in the Nixon Years,” in Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations, 1969-1977, ed. Fredrik Logevall and Andrew Preston (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008): 269-288.

*“ Explaining the Early Decisions: The United States and the French War, 1945-1954,” in Making Sense of the Vietnam Wars: Local, National, and Transnational Perspectives, ed. Mark Philip Bradley and Marilyn B. Young (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008): 23-44.

“Kennedy’s Cuban Dilemma: The United States and Castro after the Missile Crisis,” in John F. Kennedy and the “Thousand Days”: New Perspectives on the Foreign and Domestic Policies of the Kennedy Administration, ed. Manfred Berg and Andreas Etges (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2007): 153-174.

*“Forging the ‘Great Combination’: Britain and the Indochina Problem, 1945-1950,” in The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis, ed. Mark Atwood Lawrence and Fredrik Logevall (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007): 105-129.

*“Universal Claims, Local Uses: Reconceptualizing the Vietnam Conflict, 1945-1960,” in Global History: Interactions Between the Universal and the Local, ed. Anthony G. Hopkins (London: Macmillan, 2006): 229-256.

*“Mission Intolerable: Harrison Salisbury’s Trip to Hanoi and the Limits of Dissent Against the Vietnam War,” Pacific Historical Review, vol. 75, no. 3 (August 2006): 429- 459.

*“Exception to the Rule? The Johnson Administration and the Panama Canal,” in Looking Back at LBJ: White House Politics in a New Light, ed. Mitchell B. Lerner (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2005): 20-52.

“The Uses of Vietnam in the Age of Terrorism,” invited essay for International Journal, vol. 59, no. 4 (fall 2004): 919-928.

*“The Limits of Peace Making: India and the Vietnam War, 1962-1967,” The India Review, vol. 1, no. 3 (July 2002): 39-72. Article under same title appears as a chapter in The Search for Peace in Vietnam, ed. Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004): 231-259.

*“Transnational Coalition-Building and the Making of the Cold War in Indochina, 1947- 1950,” Diplomatic History, vol. 26, no. 3 (summer 2002): 453-480.

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Scholarly Reviews and Review Essays

Review of Michael Burleigh, Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965 (New York: Penguin, 2013), in Journal of American History, forthcoming.

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Book Reviews

Review of Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2015), The New York Times Book Review, forthcoming.

"Brief Burst of Liberalism Ushered in LBJ Victories," review of Julian E. Zelizer,The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society (New York: Penguin, 2015), Austin American-Statesman, August 30, 2015, E3.

“The General,” review of Debi and Irwin Unger, George Marshall: A Biography (New York: Harper Collins, 2014), The New York Times Book Review, November 30, 2014, 26.

“Land of Mystery,” review of Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea (New York: Norton, 2013, and Andrei Lankov, The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), in The New York Times Book Review, September 1, 2013, 20.

“The Heart of a Realist,” review of John Lukacs, ed., Through the History of the Cold War: The Correspondence of George F. Kennan and John Lukacs (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), in The New York Times Book Review, July 25, 2010, 22.

“No Good Guys,” review of Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (New York: Viking, 2010), in Austin American- Statesman, June 20, 2010, H5.

“Of Cold War and Peace,” review of Neil Sheehan, A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon (New York: Random House, 2009), in Austin American-Statesman, October 18, 2009, H5.

“Friends, Not Allies,” review of Nicholas Thompson, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2009), in The New York Times Book Review, September 13, 2009, 22.

“The Spuntik Effect,” review of Matthew Brzezinski, Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age (New York: Times Books, 2007), in The New York Times Book Review, December 2, 2007, 78.

“The Odd Couple,” review of Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (New York: Harper Collins, 2007), in The New York Times Book Review, May 13, 2007, 29.

“Russian Roulette,” review of Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, Khrushchev’s Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary (New York: Norton, 2006), in The New York Times Book Review, Dec. 17, 2006, 15.

“In His Own World,” review of Henry Kissinger, Does American Need a Foreign Policy? Towards a Diplomacy for the 21st Century (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), in Austin-American Statesman, June 10, 2001, H6.

“The Mystery that Was Ho Chi Minh,” review of William J. Duiker, Ho Chi Minh: A Life (New York: Times Books, 2000), in Austin American-Statesman, Nov. 26, 2000, K6.

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