Notions

Topics

The Iron Curtain– A political, military, and ideological barrier erected by the Soviet Union after World War II to seal off itself and it’s dependent eastern and central European allies from open contact with the West and other noncommunist areas. It was popularised by Winston Churchill in 1946 in his speech. The blockade loosened after Stalin’s death 1953, but in 1961 the Berlin wall harshened it again. The Soviets even jammed the west’s radio waves. The curtain was largely destroyed in 1990 when the soviet union broke up. The function of the curtain was to act as a buffer between the Soviets and the west since they feared another invasion like operation Barbarossa by the Nazis. The formation of the Berlin wall heightened west’s fears of Soviet aggression so they formed a defensive military alliance called nato, with the basis that an attack on one of the allied countries would mean an attack on all of them. The Soviets retaliated with the Warsaw pact, also a military alliance.

The Truman Doctrine, policy of containment, arms race– With the Truman Doctrine, President Harry S. Truman established that the United States would provide political, military and economic assistance to all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian forces. The Truman Doctrine effectively reoriented US foreign policy, away from its usual stance of withdrawal from regional conflicts not directly involving the United States, to one of possible intervention in far away conflicts. It started when in 1947 Britain announced that they will not support military or economic aid to Greece in its fight against communism. Truman urged Congress to send aid to Greece and also turkey because they were also fighting communism. Other factors also played a role in enforcing the doctrine like the soviets rejecting the Baruch plan for international control over nuclear energy and weapons in June 1946 and Soviet attempts to pressure the Iranian Government into granting them oil concessions.

McCarthy era– Senator Joseph McCarthy was a senator who, with the House Committee on Un-American Activities led a witch hunt for communist sympathizers during the cold war. McCarthy took advantage of the nation’s wave of fanatic terror against communism, and emerged on February 9, 1950, claiming he had a list of 205 people in the State Department who were known members of the American Communist Party. The American public went crazy with the thought of communists living within the United States and roared for the investigation of the underground agitators. McCarthy was considered one of the least qualified and corrupt politicians in history. He basically went on a manhunt and the accused had 2 choices. Either to give out other names as Russian spies to go free or to stay silent and deny, which would mean losing friends and jobs. The witch hunt accused many prominent figures such as Oppenheimer and Einstein. The era came to an end when McCarthy went too far by investigating the military, at which point the president, Eisenhower understood that he must be stopped. The army fired back with critical accusations about abusing congressional privileges. The public soon turned on McCarthy along with critics and the media. the nation grew to realize that McCarthy was “evil and unmatched in malice.” He lost his position as chairman on the operations of the Senate and all his power in the media. He died 3 years later because of drinking. This era was allowed to happen because of the fear of communism.

Korean War– The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953. The Korean War was actually called a police action by the United States since the war was not officially declared by Congress. In 1949 the Chinese communists won their civil war against the Chinese nationalists. They began to support armed communist conflicts near their borders as they considered the United States and all of its allies to be a threat to their security and political views. After World War II, North Korea was under Soviet rule and South Korea was under the rule of the US. Tensions grew between the two territories. On the 25th of June, 1950, North Korea, with Chinese help, invaded South Korea. Initially, the attack was powerful enough to drive back the unprepared forces of South Korea. In time, though, the US was able to repel the North Korean forces by employing air, naval and amphibian counter-attacks. Along with UN forces, the US marched onto North Korean territory where they were met with an army organized by China. The US forces were then pushed back onto South Korean territory. The US, however, was able to, once again, gain some more ground and fought its way to the 38th parallel. Here a front line was established. The two sides fought and were not able to gain any advantage over each other. An armistice was negotiated over and a demilitarized zone was established. This demilitarized zone serves as a border region for the two nations of North Korea and South Korea to this day.

Role of J. F.  Kennedy– Elected in 1960 as the 35th president of the United States, 43-year-old John F. Kennedy became one of the youngest U.S. presidents, as well as the first Roman Catholic. He was born into one of America’s wealthiest families and parlayed an elite education and a reputation as a military hero into a successful run for Congress in 1946 and for the Senate in 1952. As president, Kennedy confronted mounting Cold War tensions in Cuba, Vietnam and elsewhere. He also led a renewed drive for public service and eventually provided federal support for the growing civil rights movement. His assassination on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, sent shockwaves around the world and turned the all-too-human Kennedy into a larger-than-life heroic figure. To this day, historians continue to rank him among the best-loved presidents in American history.

A photo of J.F. Kennedy from 1962
Image link:
http://time.com/4758284/jfk-legacy-introduction/

Bay of Pigs and the Cuba crisis– US paratroopers descended upon a region on the coastline of Cuba called the Bay of Pigs. They were there to interfere with Fidel Castro’s rise to power (because he was communist and was organizing an uprising) but the attack failed and the American soldiers were imprisoned in Cuban prisons. The USSR saw how Cuba was being harassed and to deter Cuba from further harassment they put missiles there (because Fidel Castro was communist-minded, which the USSR supported). The US opposed that since they considered missiles 90 miles away from US soil to be a slight safety hazard. So a (this is the closest the two sides ever got to have a direct conflict during the Cold War) negotiation was held between US and USSR and they agreed that all the missiles would be disassembled and returned to USSR and in return the US would get rid of their ballistic presence in Italy and Turkey (which the public didn’t know about, but was a threat to the USSR). The Bay of Pigs was largely lead by Minister McNamara. The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and was the moment when the two superpowers came closest to nuclear conflict. The Cuban Missile Crisis comes to an end. The Cuban Missile Crisis comes to a close as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agrees to remove Russian missiles from Cuba in exchange for a promise from the United States to respect Cuba’s territorial sovereignty.

Space Race– The Space Race was a 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US), for supremacy in spaceflight capability. It had its origins in the missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations that occurred following World War II, enabled by captured German rocket technology and personnel. The technological superiority required for such supremacy was seen as necessary for national security, and symbolic of ideological superiority. The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, unmanned space probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon. The competition began on August 2, 1955, when the Soviet Union responded to the US announcement four days earlier of intent to launch artificial satellites for the International Geophysical Year, by declaring they would also launch a satellite “in the near future”. The Soviet Union beat the US to this, with October 4, 1957, orbiting of Sputnik 1, and later beat the US to the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. The race peaked with July 20, 1969, US landing of the first humans on the Moon with Apollo 11. The USSR tried but failed manned lunar missions, and eventually canceled them and concentrated on Earth orbital space stations. A period of détente followed with the April 1972 agreement on a co-operative Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, resulting in the July 1975 rendezvous in Earth orbit of a US astronaut crew with a Soviet cosmonaut crew. The end of the Space Race is harder to pinpoint than its beginning, but it was over by the December 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, after which true spaceflight cooperation between the US and Russia began. The Space Race has left a legacy of Earth communications and weather satellites, and continuing human space presence on the International Space Station. It has also sparked increases in spending on education and research and development, which led to beneficial spin-off technologies.

Vietnam War (causes, outcome, and consequences)– At the time, Vietnam was a French colony. However, a communist rebellion started to emerge in the country and it repelled the French from Vietnam territory. The US, fearing communism’s rising control in the region, aids France’s effort to reclaim the region. However, the communist side is able to claim control over the conflict. A treaty between France and Vietnam is established: there is to be a northern (communist) region of Vietnam and a southern (western alignment) region of Vietnam. In 1964, missiles are fired at a US ship in the Gulf of Tonkin by Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson got Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which stated that military force could be used in Vietnam – initially only limited to bombings. At home, US citizens were mixed on the topic of the Vietnam war. Some believed that it did not make sense to be expanding US lives and fighting for a foreign cause. Eventually, the war was lost by the US The loss was obviously a detriment to the image of the US’s government, both at home and abroad. President Lyndon Johnson did not even rerun for president due to the controversy over the Vietnam War.

Richard Nixon and the Watergate Affair– Watergate was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. and President Richard Nixon’s administration’s attempted cover-up of its involvement. When the conspiracy was discovered and investigated by the US Congress, the Nixon administration’s resistance to its probes led to a constitutional crisis. The term Watergate has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. Those activities included such “dirty tricks” as bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious. Nixon and his close aides ordered harassment of activist groups and political figures, using the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The role of Henry Kissinger– An American diplomat and political scientist (national security advisor). Most of all, Henry Kissinger appeared throughout the global media as a genius, villain, and consummate manipulator who wielded power at the most important points in recent history. Henry Kissinger was Richard Nixon’s key foreign policy adviser. He was influential in negotiating the Paris Peace Accords which ended American involvement in the Vietnam War. Still to this day a very controversial figure in politics.

Counterculture, Summer of Love and Woodstock– Counterculture is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. Rebellion against the establishment appeared in many forms in the United States during the 1960s. Caught up in the rising frustration circling around America’s increased involvement in Vietnam, the racial unrest in many urban areas, and the pressure to conform, a growing number of the younger generation rejected the American way of life. The resulting movement termed the counterculture, embraced an alternative lifestyle characterized by long hair, brightly colored clothes, communal living, free sex, and rampant drug use. Summer of Love is a phrase given to the summer of 1967 to try to describe the feeling of being in San Francisco that summer when the so-called “hippie movement” came to full fruition. Woodstock was a music festival held between August 15–18, 1969, which attracted an audience of more than 400,000.

The historical accuracy of the movie

“Full Metal Jacket” is a war film released in 1987 that aims to depict the lives of Marine Corps soldiers before and during the Vietnam war. The movie absolutely nails it but some might disagree with the sick humor and extreme happenings shown. You could also consider this work of art to be an anti-war movie. It has received many awards and great reviews from top critics. We mainly see the movie through the eyes of a soldier nicknamed “Joker” who later on becomes a war journalist and comes face-to-face with the horrors of war.

The movie achieved what it needed to. It showed the extreme measures met by the soldiers both in boot camp and war. But it also is a work of art as it was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Now while watching the movie you should take it with a pinch of salt. Of course, the main protagonists are fictional and so are some of the events such as the shooting of Sergeant Hartman and Pyle stealing a donut. Nevertheless, the hell depicted is quite accurate to what the soldiers went through both physically and mentally. Suicides of Vietnam veterans were not uncommon.

An astonishing amount of work was put into details and getting the perfect shot or scene. Which is clearly one of the reasons behind the success of the movie. The more I think about the movie the more accurate and realistic it seems. Although I do have a major problem with it. I personally can not understand the role of Pyle. Yes, he shows what the cruel training and betrayal does to a man, especially to a soldier. But, how and even more why could a person like him ever come and join the Marine Corps, as he clearly was unfit and mentally too unstable from the beginning on.

As already stated the movie has received great reviews for its historical accuracy. This does not mean that critics would not find it to be problematic in other ways. “The best that can be said of Full Metal Jacket is that there are traces of Stanley Kubrick in it. This, obviously, is also the worst that can be said of it.” (1) I personally really love this comment. Clearly, the script of the movie is the first and the last trouble. We could divide the movie into three parts and none of them really connect well with each other. Especially jumping from the boot camp killing to Vietnam. “[Kubrick’s] genius, and perhaps burden, is to see the insanity in us all and to make it seem so terrifyingly normal.” This person has brought out the insanity within the movie and how we find it to be normal. The training of the soldiers was indeed extreme and as stated insane but we still use these tactics today as they are very effective. Training someone to kill and only kill is both terrifying and normal.

References

(1) Blank Cartridge, Stanley Kauffmann, 2017. The New Republic, Available at:
https://newrepublic.com/article/133778/blank-cartridge

(2) Peter Travers, 2015. Rotten Tomatoes, Available at:
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/peter-travers/movies

A visual depiction and its relevance to the topic

The “Vietnam Meat Grinder” was a cartoon created by Mike Peters somewhere around the 1970s. In this cartoon, Nixon, recognizable for his peace signs, is being shredded by a meat grinder labeled “Vietnam”. The shredded pile on the right represents the remains of Lyndon Johnson who was consumed by the same meat grinder. Protests in the U.S. became highly visible within its culture and sometimes even resulted in violence such as the Kent State protest in which the Ohio National Guard opened fire on protesters and by so killing four civilians. Much as Vietnam overshadowed many of Lyndon Johnson’s domestic achievements, the same result threatened Nixon’s so-called legacy.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.