Special Topics in Politics: Vietnam
Fall I, 2004
Tuesdays, 5:30 – 9:50; 8/24 – 10/12
Room 23, Mackay Hall
Professor Ron Brecke
Office, Room 20A Mackay Hall
Campus Box #38
Office Hours: One half-hour before class, after class as
needed; M, 10-11; T, 10-11:30; W, 12-1: R, 10-11:30; F, 10-11.
The mission of Park University, an entrepreneurial
institution of learning, is to provide access to academic excellence, which will
prepare learners to think critically, communicate effectively and engage in
lifelong learning while serving a global community.
Park University will be a renowned international leader
in providing innovative educational opportunities for learners within the global
This course is a special topics
course, It is an attempt to provide information about Vietnam, the Vietnam war,
and the role of the United States in it. This will not simply be a chronology
of events during the Vietnam War. This course will contain elements of such a
chronology, but it will also go far beyond it.
This course will endeavor to give answers to
some vexing questions surrounding Vietnam. We will try to gain an understanding
of: the history of Vietnam; the forces which drew America into conflict there;
the assumptions we made about fighting the war and the consequences of those
assumptions; the forces in Vietnam, the world and at home which led to the
American withdrawal; and finally, the aftermath of the war in Indochina as well
as in American foreign policy and domestic politics. The course will help the
student draw conclusions about the constitutionality of such armed conflict
For those who put forth more than a nominal
effort in this course, the rewards can be much greater than a mere grade. Those
students who develop their critical thinking abilities, understand a major
influence upon recent American history, and perhaps, decide to become active
citizens in support of the conclusions they reach from participating in this
Attend classes regularly. Each absence will lower your cumulative
grade for the course by 5%. There are no excused absences. If you are
missing a lot of classes due to health, consider dropping the course, or taking
an incomplete for the course. The administration of Park has directed me to
notify them of any student who misses two consecutive weeks during the course.
Students are responsible for all material covered in class while they are
Be prepared for class. Read the assignment, think about what you have
read and be prepared to discuss what you think. 50% of your final grade will be
determined by your in-class participation in discussions and small-group
There will be two brief papers due for this course (see separate
handout). No emailed assignments will be accepted.
No assignment will be accepted after 9:50 p.m. on September 14, 2004 for
the first paper. No assignments will be accepted after 9:50 p.m. on October 12,
2004 for the second paper.. Assignments not handed in by these times will be
recorded as a zero.
Cheating or plagiarism will result in an “F” for the course and a
recommendation to the Dean that you be dismissed from Park College.
If you have any questions or problems, come and see me, call me or email
No portable telephones or pagers are allowed on in class except for
security or emergency medical personnel.
Any student with special needs or who has a disability in the classroom
environment should see me immediately after the first class.
Course grades are determined on the following bases:
90 – 100 = A Discussion paper
80 – 89 = B Discussion paper
70 – 79 = C
60 – 69 = D
Karnow, Vietnam, 2nd or 3rd edition
Ely, War and Responsibility
There are two brief papers due in
this course. These papers must be typewritten (double-spaced). The minimum is
three pages, and the maximum is five pages. Little research is needed to
complete these papers. However, if you use outside sources, be sure and give
For every five errors in spelling, punctuation
or grammar, 3 points will be deducted from your paper grade.
Brief paper number 1 Due, 9:50 p.m.
on Tuesday, September 14, 2004.
If you had been on a college campus in the late
1960s or early 1970s, do you think you would have been an anti-war protester or
a pro-war supporter? Why????
Brief paper number 2 Due, 9:50 p.m.
on Thursday October 12, 2004.
Would you have given pardons to those who
evaded the draft in the US? Why or why not? Would you have given pardons to
those involved in the My Lai incident? Why or why not?
CALENDAR: please note that to accommodate
guest speakers, some adjustments may have to be made.
Intro to course
The Domino Theory
Karnow, Preface & Ch.s 1, Ch. 2
Video: Roots of War
Vietnam as a place
Karnow, Ch.s 3, 4, 5
Video: The First Vietnam War
Video: America’s Mandarin
LBJ Goes to War
Karnow, Ch.s 6, 7, 8
Video: LBJ Goes to War
Video: America Takes Charge
Karnow: Ch. 9, 10, 11
Video: America’s Enemy
FIRST BRIEF PAPER IS DUE IN CLASS NO LATER THAN 9:50
Karnow: Ch.s 12, 13
Video: Vietnamizing the War
Video: My Lai
Karnow Ch.s 14, 15
Video: Peace is at Hand
Video: End of the Tunnel
Ely: Ch.s 1-3
Ely: Ch.s 4 - 6
QUESTIONS For ELY DISCUSSION
1. Why did the founders believe the power to declare war
should be granted to Congress and not to the Executive?
2. Who, and under what Constitutional grant, has the power
to make war once war has been declared?
3. What can be done, by the Executive, when a sudden threat
to our national security occurs and there is not time for Congress to convene
and declare war?
4. The actual practice of the Executive has not met the
requirements of the Constitution many times in our history. Does this mean, in
effect, that the Executive does not have to have Congressional approval to go to
Chapter 2 - Vietnam: the (Troubled) Constitutionality of
the War They Told Us About
1. Who has the power to approve treaties in the United
2. Can such approved treaties have an impact on our
domestic law even though such changes to domestic law have not been approved via
the normal legislative process?
3. What did the SEATO treaty require of its signatories?
4. Did the SEATO treaty mean that the normal process for
declaring war was circumvented?
5. What are the key phrases of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution?
6. Do you think that in the minds of most members of
Congress, they believed they were authorizing the President to use armed forces
7.What reasons do some give that the Gulf of Tonkin
Resolution was invalid? Are these reasons persuasive? Why or why not?
8. Do appropriations of money for hostilities and the
extension of draft calls for military personnel by Congress indicate Congress
has authorized a war?
9. Was the American incursion into Cambodia in 1970
10. Congress, by repealing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in
1971, effectively withdrew authority for continued operations in Indochina.
True or False?
11. What reasons are behind the author’s assertions that
the bombing in Cambodia was illegal between April 1, 1973 and July 1, 1973?
1. Was “Desert Storm” authorized constitutionally?
2. Why does the author believe that the War Powers
Resolution of 1973 is likely to be ignored by presidents in the future?
3. What was the decision in Dellums v. Bush?
4. Why are future suits brought under the War Powers
Resolution of 1973 likely to fail?
Chapter 4 - The (Unenforceable) Unconstitutionality of
the “Secret War” in Laos, 1962-1969
1. What were the Geneva Agreements of July 23, 1962?
2. Why were American military advisers and CIA operatives
3. What arguments were made to support America’s secret war
in Laos? What are the counter-arguments?
Chapter 5 - The (Enforceable) Unconstitutionality of the
Secret Bombing of Cambodia, 1969-1970
1. How was the secrecy of the bombing in Cambodia set up?
2. The author argues impeachment would have been an
appropriate action resulting from the secret bombing in Cambodia. Why?
Chapter 6 - “Covert” Wars Today
1. Covert wars are, today, legal under what conditions?