This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen

bop-topsecretFrom Cold War cover-ups to ‘mansplaining’ IR theory, here are the week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

There has been a lot of Cold War news this week, and surprisingly most of it isn’t about Russia and Ukraine. First, Gregory A. Daddis, in his new book Westmoreland’s War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam, suggests that we stop playing the blame-game when it comes to Vietnam. Is he right?

The National Security Archive has reported that the CIA’s cover-up of the 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster has just received some added judicial backing:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday joined the CIA’s cover-up of its Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 by ruling that a 30-year-old volume of the CIA’s draft “official history” could be withheld from the public under the “deliberative process” privilege, even though four of the five volumes have previously been released with no harm either to national security or any government deliberation.

“The D.C. Circuit’s decision throws a burqa over the bureaucracy,” said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive (, the plaintiff in the case. “Presidents only get 12 years after they leave office to withhold their deliberations,” commented Blanton, “and the Federal Reserve Board releases its verbatim transcripts after five years. But here the D.C. Circuit has given the CIA’s historical office immortality for its drafts, because, as the CIA argues, those drafts might ‘confuse the public.'”

“Applied to the contents of the National Archives of the United States, this decision would withdraw from the shelves more than half of what’s there,” Blanton concluded… [Continue Reading]

Laura Sjoberg has some points of issue with Harvard IR Professor Stephen Walt – and it has to do with ‘mansplaining’ international relations:

Following the tradition of Saturday Night Live’s Father SarducciSteve Walt turned the“Five Minute University” from the 1970s into a lesson for the undergraduate class of 2014 on Foreign Policy yesterday, providing a five-minute lesson as a substitute for a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. Walt’s lesson included five key concepts: anarchy, balance of power, comparative advantage, misperception/miscalculation, and social constructivism. While Walt acknowledges there is much more to know about the discipline (including deterrence and coercion, institutions, selection effects, democratic peace theory, and international finance), he suggests those might be “graduate level” and that “all you really need to know about the discipline” can be found his five-minute, five-concept lesson.

I’d like to introduce Steve and his audience to a (sixth) concept that comes from outside of International Relations but applies to it: ‘mansplaining.’ A term introduced by Rebecca Solnit in 2008, the idea has gained traction both in popular circles and in academic ones. Though many different ‘definitions’ of ‘mansplaining’ exist, a picture of Steve’s post could be in the dictionary next to mine: it is a short, humorous ‘explanation’ of the discipline of IR, from one of its male/masculine/(masculinist) elite aimed at its feminized/feminine/(female?) margins: new trainees and potential trainees… [Continue Reading]

And finally, if you are looking for something to watch, how about a 30 minute BBC lecture with the late A. J. P. Taylor on the origins of the Second World War?

Please leave us a comment if you have any other suggestions.

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