Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Conscientious Objection and the ACA

I don't often post items directly related to current politics on my blog - those I save for Facebook friends, and occasional items on Twitter. Although I've not blogged much as I got deeper into writing my dissertation, my intent is for this place to remain related primarily to historical and academic interests. Today I'm breaking that rule because Annalee Flower Horne has a great post about the Hobby Lobby/Affordable Care Act case currently before the Supreme Court of the United States as it relates to actual Conscientious Objection. Rather than focusing on whether a corporation has enough personhood to have religious views, Annalee focuses on the concept of Objection. Take some time to go read it, it is definitely worth the effort.

This very peripherally relates to my dissertation, which includes a focus on morality and combat during the Vietnam War. One of the key figures in the media chapter - which I'm revising again over the next two days - is James Henry, a medic who happened to witness multiple atrocities. Unlike most other soldiers in Vietnam who witnessed atrocities, Henry repeatedly tried to report the war crimes he saw. Having been warned to keep quiet about it for his own personal safety while still in country, he tried first to report murders and rapes by members of his unit to a Staff Judge Advocate and an agent of the Criminal Investigation Division on his return to the United States. The lawyer told him to wait until his enlistment was up because the Army had so much power to make himself miserable. The CID man got aggressive with Henry asking him what he was trying to pull?

Wisely taking the advice of the SJA, Henry waited until he was out of the service and wrote to his Congressman to report the atrocities he saw in Vietnam while under the command of Captain Donald Reh. After being ignored, he did an interview with Scanlan's Magazine, gave a press conference at the Los Angeles Press Club, and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He holds the distinction of being the only veteran to testify at the Winter Soldier Investigations in January 1971 to have his claims substantiated by the Army. That happened not because the other members of VVAW were liars (a few were), but because he chose to seek justice on both the individual and institutional levels. Unlike the others, Henry gave CID names, dates, and locations for the atrocities he witnessed.

Why am I bringing him into this discussion? In addition to being the only soldier at WSI to have his claims of war crimes verified by the Army, he also happened to be the only soldier to earn a status as a conscientious objector without providing a religious justification. He eventually agreed to enlist as a combat medic to avoid prosecution by the local U.S. Attorney. While in Vietnam he earned a Bronze Star for working hard to save his comrades while under fire. Despite being described as a "mild hippie" by his platoon commander, the other members of his platoon recall that from the beginning he moved like a veteran in field, especially under fire.

Like the examples Annalee provides, James Henry was Conscientious Objector who still did everything required of him to fulfill the obligations of citizenship. Think about it - he showed that you can maintain your moral and ethical beliefs, but that you have to sacrifice to do so. Otherwise, they aren't worth very much.

Monday, March 17, 2014

On Writing Conclusions

The three most challenging  parts of writing my dissertation have definitely been the My Lai chapter (revised five times now), the Introduction, and starting on the Conclusion. I've discussed the problems with the My Lai chapter at length already, but before today I only mentioned the challenges of writing an introduction and conclusion on Twitter and Facebook. The intro was unexpectedly difficult because I assumed that in most respects it was really just another round of revisions of my prospectus. That turned out to be wrong due to the new direction my evidence forced my to take with my analysis, so while I was able to repurpose significant portions of the prospectus, I ended up doing a lot of new writing, and revisiting the historiography on My Lai and atrocities in Vietnam.

Conclusions are different animals. Like everyone else, I've written a short conclusions to papers, conference presentations, and journal articles, but since is my first book-length project, I've been unsure about how to approach this important element in the dissertation. After the long slog through graduate school, I know how important the introduction and conclusion are in helping readers understand what the whole point of the book is, but how to pull that off is another issue entirely. That meant a bit of quick research into how to write a conclusion - I know this applies to many graduate students, but by temperament I usually try to figure things out for myself before asking for help, and  enjoy doing research to solve problems.

My first stops were Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Jules Benjamin's A Student's Guide to History, and Mary Lynn Rampolla's A Pocket Guide to Writing in History. I have a long personal history with these three books - my first encounter with Turabian was as a junior in high school, while I got the others in graduate school to help out my own students. Predictably, Benjamin and Rampolla were no help. Indeed, Rampolla was counter-productive since she indicates that no new ideas, arguments or information should appear in a conclusion. While that's fine for an essay, based on the hundreds of academic works I've read at this point, it isn't accurate for books. Since I had already planned to use some very interesting sources that didn't work with the body of my dissertation, but speak to the overall theme that how soldiers understood the issue of atrocities in Vietnam was a complex and varied greatly based on their own background, goals, and experiences, Rampolla's advice almost started a bit of a panic attack.

Turabian was more helpful, likely because her audience is different. Benjamin and Rampolla are oriented toward helping undergraduates figure out how to write and do research for history courses, not write theses or dissertations. Luckily, Turabian provides a process for writing a conclusion that was familiar once I saw it laid out, though the initial suggestion sounded a bit snarky:
If you have no better plan, build your conclusion around the elements of your introduction, in reverse order.
Having said that she provides some useful advice in two basic points:
  1. Restate your claim more fully, and with more specificity than in the introduction.
  2. Point out new significance, practical applications, or new research.
I'm not sure my research has practical applications since the All Volunteer Force is increasingly less representative of the rest of American society than the conscript and draft-motivated armies of the 20th century. Similarly, while the Army noted that there was no consistent official way for soldiers to report atrocities without going through their immediate change of command as late as 1973 (and I'm not sure that it ever implemented that), the on-going debate about taking the process of investigating and court-martialing soldiers for sexual assault away from the chain of command. In some respects these are related issues. How could soldiers be expected to report atrocities through the chain of command when the officers above them often engaged in or ignored atrocities? Similarly, how can the DoD expect victims of sexual assault to report the crimes to the person who committed or enabled those assaults?

There is a lot of room for further research in the area of how American soldiers understood and reacted to atrocities in Vietnam. As Nick Turse put it in Kill Anything that Moves, this entire subject has taken on the status of forbidden or forgotten knowledge since the fall of Saigon in 1975. Beyond that, I'm only dealing with U.S. Army troops who witnessed or reported atrocities. There's remaining work to be done with other branches of services, especially the Marine Corps.  There's also the issue of soldiers who didn't witness atrocities - how did they understand the issue? Since Army chaplains played important roles in two of my chapters, there's also more work to be done to understand their position within the Army, how soldiers viewed them, and how that played into reporting of atrocities.

This still leaves out the issue of additional material. Luckily, a member of my committee provided good direction on that. He argued that as long as the new items fit in a way that accentuated the main argument of the dissertation, then there was no reason not to add it into the conclusion. However, if the materials were more in the nature of interesting anecdotes that don't really add anything, save the stuff for another project. That's something I can manage, and I think the items (mostly from oral histories) will lend themselves well to the overall conclusion.

The next order of business: write the dang conclusion, and start what I hope is the final round of pre-defense revisions.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Alabama Law Review Symposium on New York Times vs. Sullivan


The Alabama Law Review will host a symposium to mark the 50th anniversary of New York Times vs. Sullivan on February 28 and would like to invite students and faculty to attend.

New York Times vs. Sullivan is one of the most important cases in the history of First Amendment jurisprudence. Famously described by a noted First Amendment scholar at the time as “an occasion for dancing in the streets,” the decision in New York Times vs. Sullivan constitutionalized the law of libel, recognizing a dramatic breadth of freedom to criticize public officials for their conduct; in so doing, it had a significant impact on both freedom of speech and freedom of the press, one that has been debated ever since.

As a historical matter, moreover, the case was intimately connected to the history of the civil rights movement, particularly within the state of Alabama.

Symposium speakers include some of the nation’s foremost experts on both the history and law concerning New York Times vs. Sullivan.

They include Professor David A. Anderson, University of Texas School of Law; Judge U.W. Clemon, Northern District of Alabama; Professor RonNell Andersen Jones, BYU Law School; Judge Robert Sack, Second Circuit Court of Appeals; Professor Chris Schmidt, ITT Chicago-Kent College of Law; Professor Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School; and Professor Sonya West, The University of Georgia School of Law.

We will need to have a headcount by February 21 for planning purposes. Please let me know if you have any interest in attending or inviting your students. Attached you will find a schedule of the day’s events, and you may also share this link for registration:http://www.law.ua.edu/register


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

100 Years to WWI: Sarajevo to Versailles


“100 Years to WWI: Sarajevo to Versailles”  is a brand new four week summer program recreating the path of the First World War by traveling through Vienna,  Berlin, Brussels, Lille, Reims, and ending in Paris.  Through visits to four battlefields and 25 plus museums and historical sites, participants in the program will get a glimpse of the lasting repercussions and begin to understand the magnitude of the events that transpired 100 years ago. Participants will also have the once in a lifetime opportunity to be there as Europe commemorates these historical events.

The four week program, begins on June 8th in Vienna, Austria, and ends on July 3rd in Paris, France. The program fee of $6,848 includes tuition, accommodation for 25 nights, 25 breakfasts, unlimited local transportation in each city, transportation between cities, entry to 25+ museums and historical sites as well as the four guided battlefield tours and welcome/farewell dinners. The program will offer six semester credits in History, Art History, Government and Global Affairs. We will also be seeking credits in Economics and German. Undergraduate and graduate students with at least a 2.25 GPA are eligible to apply. The application deadline is March 7th.

Professor Marion Deshmukh,  the Robert T Hawkes Professor of History at George Mason, will be leading the program. Dr. Deshmukh teaches courses in History and  Art History with a focus on Europe, specifically Austria and Germany. Please click on her name to learn more about the specific courses she teaches and her numerous publications.

More info at: WWI Summer 2014. Online application: apply.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Revising My Lai

For the folks who follow my twitter feed, it's no secret that I'm finding writing my dissertation a far greater challenge than I imagined. This experience puts me in awe of the two most prolific historians I know - Howard Jones and James Olson. That they can crank out high-quality scholarship at a quick pace while shouldering a normal teaching load is simply amazing. Since this is my second career, it won't be near as long as theirs, so I can't pretend to reach their output. In fact, I'm hoping to achieve just ten or fifteen percent of their book totals - two or three books will be enough for me, and I don't dare hope to write anything nearly as popular as Amistad.

Writing is now a chore. Getting the initial ideas on paper was not the hard part. The problem is definitely revising this mess into something coherent in which the evidence I have fits a logical argument that adds something to our understanding of the Vietnam War, veterans, and the domestic struggle over how we fought the war. When I step back from the actual writing and revision, it is clear that the problem is largely that I had one conception of what my dissertation would be about, but have had to change directions two or three times. My initial focus was on the atrocities themselves and the menalite of the soldiers who committed them. That changed after reading Nick Turse's dissertation, which is now the book Kill Anything that Moves. There was little need for me to add another three hundred or so pages on top of his 1,000 page tome.

Still fascinated with Vietnam and with the topic of atrocities, I next turned to the soldiers who did not commit atrocities. This made a lot of sense given that Turse gives the impression that the soldiers who didn't commit atrocities were a tiny minority. He didn't actually write that, but the tone of his dissertation (I haven't yet had time to read his book) and his very broad definition of atrocity makes it feel that way. It turns out that the evidence just doesn't support the idea that most soldiers in Vietnam committed atrocities. Indeed, at My Lai less than twenty members of Charlie Company raped or killed noncombatants (that number leaves out the men who shot livestock, burned huts, or destroyed wells). That leaves a much broader group of people who passively or actively avoided participating in atrocities, the ones who saw things and never reported them, and even the folks who variously intervened, protested, or reported the war crimes they saw.

I'm sure that everyone reading this (few though you are) can see a huge problem for figuring out why these non-participants did not commit atrocities. How do you prove a negative? What evidence is there for what they were thinking? How do you find any evidence that exists? It took me six months of fruitless writing to figure out that it's almost impossible because most of it is not preserved in archives in a way that is easy to ferret out. That's especially true when you look at the evidence I've gathered: oral histories, courts-martial documents, CID investigations, letters, newspaper articles, congressional (and other) testimony. Most of the evidence I have relates more to why the people who got caught up in some events didn't join in, why they reported it, why they wrote to members of Congress, why they contacted the media, and why they joined the antiwar movement, and who those things relate to atrocities. How do you develop an analytical framework for that, and what does it have to do with My Lai?

So here's what I came up with: dates and methods of reporting are important, as is how those things relate to when My Lai became public. Despite the common perception, the U.S. media largely avoided reporting about American atrocities in My Lai until after it became public in November 1969. The exceptions are few, but vivid - Morley Safer reporting the burning of Cam Ne in 1965 and the Green Beret case that became public right before My Lai did. There's a four-year gap between those events. The big change was the high number of American casualties and the change in American reporting of the war after the Tet Offensive in February and March of 1968. It turns out how soldiers and veterans reported atrocities (if they did) relates to that pattern. Before November 1969 (and definitely before February 1968) soldiers who reported atrocities generally did so within the normal chain of command. After that, their reporting of atrocities seems to follow their levels of disenchantment. Guys who still believed in the war or the military hierarchy, reported war crimes through the chain of command. Those who didn't want the Army damaged by their reports, but didn't believe in their chain of command sought out Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor, or Chaiman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff William Westmorland. If they were a little more disenchanted they contacted their members of Congress. Soldiers and veterans who still believed in the American system, but not the Army or the government tended to report war crimes to the media. The really disenchanted soldiers, who had lost faith in the whole system and wanted to mobilize the public joined the antiwar movement - they joined VVAW or worked with CCI.

It all hinges around a kind of triad of issues - Tet, My Lai, and Vietnamization. That's what I'm trying to fix this My Lai chapter to deal with, and keep getting stuck on providing interesting, but unnecessary details about the massacre itself. I think I may just have to scrap what I have a rewrite it from scratch because the editing process just isn't producing results.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Quick and Dirty American Revolution Book List

I recently received a question on twitter about quality non-fiction on the American Revolution. Sadly, I only have about five or six works on the subject on my shelves. That pretty amazing, but I do have some good lists of material largely culled from sample PhD comps lists. The first half of U.S. History is not one of my fields (Modern U.S., Modern Europe, Military and Naval, and Asia), but it's important to have more than a passing familiarity when you teach as an adjunct. So here goes the list. Hopefully it will be helpful. If readers have other complementary suggestions, they are welcome (and will go on the list). There are a large number of great books that are not included here, but probably should be.



Colonial and General



  • Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition
  • Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom:  The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia 
  • Allen Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves:  The Development of Southern Cultures in Chesapeake, 1680-1800
  • Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black:  American Attitudes toward the Negro,1550-1812
  • Gary Nash, Red, White, and Black:  The Peoples of Early America
  • David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment:  Popular Religious Belief in Early New England
  • Philip Greven, The Protestant Temperament:  Patterns of Child-Rearing, Religious Experience, and Self in Early America
  • Edmund Morgan, Visible Saints
  • David Hackett Fisher, Albion’s Seed
  • George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards
  • Alfred Crosby, Columbian Exchange
  • Perry Miller, Errand in the Wilderness
  • Joyce Chaplin, Subject Matter
  • Susan Parrish, American Curiosity
  • Daniel Richter, Facing East from Indian Country
  • William Cronon, Changes in the Land:  Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England
  • James Axtell, Beyond 1492
  • Stephen Foster, The Long Argument
  • Michael Winship, Seers of God
  • Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith:  Christianizing the American People
  • Christine Heyrman, Southern Cross
  • Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives
  • David Hall, Worlds of Wonder
  • Jill Lepore, The Name of War
  • Jennifer Morgan, Laboring Women
  • Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone
  • Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom:  The Ordeal of Colonial
  • Philip Morgan, Slave Counterpoint   
  • Jeffrey Young, Domesticating Slavery
  • Kathleen Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, Anxious Patriarchs
  • Richard Godbeer, Sexual Revolution in Early America
  • John Sweet, Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North


Revolution

  • Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution           
  • Bernard Bailyn,  The Origins of American Politics
  • Henry F. May, The Enlightenment in America
  • Gary Nash, The Urban Crucible
  • Bernard Bailyn, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson
  • Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution
  • Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War:  The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783
  • Merrill Jensen, The Founding of the Nation 
  • Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum:  The Intellectual Origins of the
  • Constitution
  • Christopher Brown, Moral Capital: The Foundations of British Abolitionism
  • Jack Rakove, Original Meanings
  • Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic
  • Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic
  • Caroline Winterer, The Mirror of Antiquity
  • Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash
  • David Waldstreicher, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes
  • John Lauritz Larson, Internal Improvement
  • Bruce Dain, A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the Early Republic.
  • Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution
  • Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity 
  • David Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters
  • Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic:  Political Economy in Jeffersonian America 
  • George R. Taylor, The Transportation Revolution
  • Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution
More Colonial North American Books are here: http://home.uchicago.edu/~jacevedo/colonialAmericareadinglist.html

Colonial and American Revolution Military History

  • Hagan, Kenneth. This People's Navy. (1990)
  • Anderson, Fred. A People's Army. (1984)
  • Higginbotham, Don. The War for American Independence. (1971)
  • Mackesy, Piers. The War for America, 1775-1783. (1964)
  • Alan Taylor, American Colonies
  • Robert Middlekauf, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789
  • Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters:  The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800
  • Richard White, The Middle Ground:  Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region 1650-1815
  • Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense, A Military History of the United States
  • Anderson, Fred. The Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2000.
  • Bidwell, Shelford and Dominick Graham, Firepower: The British Army Weapons and Theories of War, 1904-1945. New York: Pen and Sword, 2005.
  • Bodle, Wayne. The Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.
  • Brumwell, Stephen. Redcoats: The British Soldier and the War in the Americas, 1755-1763. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Carp, E. Wayne. To Starve the Army at Pleasure: Continental Army Administration and American Political Culture, 1775-1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
  • Chet, Guy. Conquering the American Wilderness: The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2003.
  • Cobb, Richard. The People's Armies: the Armées Révolutionnaires, Instrument of the Terror in the Departments, April 1793 to Floreal Year II. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.
  • Corvisier, André. Armies and Societies in Europe, 1494-1789. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.
  • Cox, Caroline. A Proper Sense of Honor: Service and Sacrifice in George Washington's Army. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
  • Cress, Lawrence. Citizens in Arms: The Army and the Militia in American Society to the War of 1812. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982.
  • Cunliffe, Marcus. Soldiers and Civilians: The Martial Spirit in America 1775-1865. Rev. ed. New York: Free Press, 1974.
  • Grenier, John. The First Way of War: American War Making on the Frontier, 1607-1814. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Higginbotham, Don. War and Society in Revolutionary America: The Wider Dimensions of Conflict. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.
  • Knouff, Gregory T. The Soldiers’ Revolution: Pennsylvanians in Arms and the Forging of Early American Identity. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.
  • Lee, Wayne E. Crowds and Soldiers in Revolutionary North Carolina: The Culture of Violence in Riot and War. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.
  • Martin, James Kirby and Mark Edward Lender. A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763-1789. Arlington Heights, IL: H. Davidson, 1982.
  • Mayer, Holly. Belonging to the Army: Camp Followers and Community during the American Revolution. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003.
  • McDonnell, Michael A. The Politics of War: Race, Class, and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
  • Melvoin, Richard I. New England Outpost: War and Society in Colonial Deerfield. New York: Norton, 1989.
  • Neimeyer, Charles. America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army. New York: New York University Press, 1997.
  • Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750- 1800. New York: Cornell University Press, 1996.
  • Piecuch, Jim. Three Peoples, One King: Loyalists, Indians, and Slaves in the Revolutionary South, 1775-1782. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008.
  • Resch, John and Walter Sargent, eds. War & Society in the American Revolution: Mobilization and Home Fronts. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007.
  • Rosswurm, Steven. Arms, Country, and Class: The Philadelphia Militia and "Lower Sort" During the American Revolution, 1775-1783. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987.
  • Silver, Peter. Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America. New York: Norton, 2008.
  • Ward, Matthew C. Breaking the Backcountry: Seven Years’ War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754- 1765. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.
  • Zelner, Kyle F. A Rabble in Arms: Massachusetts Towns and Militiamen during King Philip's War. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Summersell Center for the Study of the South Events

Monday, January 27, at 6 pm, Richard Bell, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, will deliver a lecture on his work about free blacks kidnapped into slavery, entitled "On the Road to the Dismal Gulf: Free Blacks' Journey into Slavery." The lecture will be held in Lloyd Hall room 38. Particularly if you're teaching a relevant upper-level course, please bribe your students accordingly. A flyer for the event is attached.


Monday, February 17, Jennifer Jensen Wallach, Associate Professor at the University of North Texas and a foodways scholar, will be presenting, "'Clean, fresh beef':  Black Progressive Food Reformers and the Case Study of the Tuskegee Institute." We will host this event in the Summersell Room in the evening, and as with the event with Natalie Ring from this past spring, it will be a lecture accompanied by dinner and conversation, so I will be sending around a request for RSVPs in a few weeks to be sure I'll have enough food for everyone.