by Roger Peace
Three new essays have been added to the U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide website: “Introduction: The Fifth Estate” by Roger Peace (http://peacehistory-usfp.org/intro); “The U.S. and World War II” by Jeremy Kuzmarov and Roger Peace (http://peacehistory-usfp.org/ww2); and “Africa and the War on Terror” by Elizabeth Schmidt (http://peacehistory-usfp.org/africa-wot). The website, now with 13 essays, is an open resource educational website, established in 2016 and sponsored by the Historians for Peace and Democracy and the Peace History Society.
How is history written? Why do historians differ in their interpretations? What are the main differences in writing the history of U.S. foreign relations? These are questions answered in “Introduction: The Fifth Estate.” The title conveys the idea that the history profession has a responsibility to the public to question official rationales, search out the truth, and present an accurate and honest accounting of the past – in the interest of democratic accountability.
The Second World War is popularly remembered as “the good war” in American history, an heroic struggle against fascist totalitarian states. Typically overlooked is the U.S. policy of appeasement toward fascism during the interwar years, a policy well-documented in U.S. governmental records. Also overlooked is the role of U.S.-based corporations in Nazi Germany, including General Motors, Ford, Standard Oil Company, IBM, and Chase Manhattan Bank. Though the war was necessary to stop the genocidal Nazi regime, the U.S. kept a tight lid on immigration of Jews from Europe during the interwar years. Other features of interest include the predominant role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany, the “race war” in the Pacific, the mass internment of Japanese American citizens and residents during the war, the shift in U.S. policy to mass civilian bombing, and the Truman administration’s decision to use atomic bombs. Seven out of eight top U.S. military commanders believed that the use of atomic bombs was unnecessary from a strategic-military vantage point.
“To understand the war on terror in Africa, it must be placed in historical context,” writes Elizabeth Schmidt, author of Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War: Sovereignty, Responsibility, and the War on Terror (2018), and Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (2013). Schmidt offers a cogent analysis of how U.S. leaders mislabeled disparate civil disturbances in African countries as “terrorism,” then emphasized military “solutions.” Rather than reduce terrorism, U.S. military actions strengthened autocratic regimes, exacerbated human rights abuses, and undermined the goals they purported to promote. Schmidt also dispels some common misconceptions about Islam, noting that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide condemn terrorism.
If interested in assisting in the website in research, writing, or outreach, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
– Roger Peace, website initiator and coordinator