Step #1: Briefing.  Read (or reread) the appropriate section of our textbook for background on your assigned crisis or turning point.
   
Step #2: Research.  For each turning point, I’ve selected several web pages that provide a deeper understanding of the relevant issues to be considered.  Note that some of these contain present day opinions, informed by a much-broader and more detailed knowledge of all the events then and since.  In other words, no American leader at that time may have been privy to what you are about to learn.  Another difference is that our sensibilities have changed since these events unfolded.  Most importantly, the Cold War is over and America “won;” try not to let the historical error of "presentism" color your judgments.  Find your assigned topic below.  Using the links provided, further study the background of your assigned turning point, the relevant conflicts and issues surrounding it, and the possible solutions.  Take notes on what arguments can be made for each choice.  Remember that you’ll need to anticipate the arguments of your opponents.
   
Step #3: Develop your “Talking Points.”  Working with team members when appropriate, write up your arguments.  Develop a specific response to the question, “What should the U.S. do at this juncture?”  Be clear and concise.  (Remember that your audience is your classmates who will not know everything that you know.)  They will be asking you questions for clarification.  Your colleagues will be making statements and asking questions that point up the problem(s) with your approach.  Be prepared to respond in all cases. 
   
Step #4: Analyze and develop a critique of the alternatives What problems are there with the other approaches?  List the problems in a persuasive manner (but stick to the facts). For example, what unknowns make these other approaches less desirable, less feasible, and presumably less successful?  Write these up.  What other questions should be answered before possibly deciding on each alternative?  Record these as well.  Organize all of these questions and criticisms by issue.  This form of organization will make it easy to expose the problems inherent in other options. 
   
Step #5: The Simulation On the day of your turning point simulation, you’ll be part of a panel addressing the President of the United States.  Depending on the turning point, your panel may be composed of Congressional leaders, Cabinet members, and/or other presidential advisors.  The President and his other advisors may question or criticize your proposal.  Be prepared to respond using your notes (but not directly reading from them).  It’s also critical that you know and understand all of the options available to the United States at this moment in history.  Have your notes ready (and those of your team where applicable).  The President or his assistant will present the problem.  Each of you will present your ideas and, in turn, question and criticize those of your colleagues. At the end of each simulation, the class will vote for the option that was most convincingly presented and defended.
   
Step #6: Your decision.  After each simulation you’ll write up a 2 page “Memo to the President” arguing your personal opinion as to which option you prefer and why.   You may choose an option different from that which you argued for in class. 
   
Step #7: Follow up.  You’ll turn in the following for scoring purposes.

1.        Talking points
2.       Critiques of other options.
3.       Notes on the Options.
4.       Memo to the President. 
5.       Self-Evaluation (form provided).
 

The Turning Points

A.    Harry S Truman, 1945: Should the U.S. emphasize its superiority in atomic weaponry on the one hand, or the control of atomic weaponry?  Alternate question: Should we share atomic bomb technology with the Soviet Union?  The U.S. and the Soviet Union were uneasy allies during the Second World War.  What would there relationship be after the war?  The answer to this question hinged partly on the United States’ decision regarding atomic weaponry.  Should we monopolize this awesome power as a deterrent against future threats, but risk a potential nuclear arms race?  Or should we share it with the world – including the Soviets – and destroy our small stockpile to prevent further uses of this destructive force?   In short, should the U.S. pursue the former: a unilateral approach of nuclear monopoly; or an internationalist approach of banning “the bomb?” 

bullet Background Issues:  Truman Library 
bullet Overview: Early talk of international control of the atom: The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History--First Steps Toward International Control
bullet The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History--Search for a Policy on International Control
bullet The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History--Negotiating International Control
bullet "You and the Atomic Bomb" by George Orwell
bullet Early attempts to control the atom: an overview
bullet Acheson-Lilienthal Report
bullet The Baruch Plan
bullet Soviet Misinterpretation of Baruch Plan
bullet

The Nation's view: "Post-Atomic National Defense" (1945)

bullet The Interim Committee Log
bullet "After Hiroshima:  Sharing the Bomb" - Foreign Affairs (1996)
bullet The Dual Mind of President Truman
bullet Truman's Address to Wisconsin Democrats, 1948
bullet Rethinking Cold War History by John Lewis Gaddis

 

B.     Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953: Power struggle in Iran.  Dwight D. Eisenhower inherited the Cold War containment policy and continued to implement it.  In fact, Secretary of State Dulles took containment to a new, more aggressive level: “rollback.”  The Rollback policy asserted that the United States would not only contain Soviet aggression, but “roll it back” from its present boundaries.  In the early 1950s, Muhammad Mossadegh, the nationalist prime minister of Iran, began to resist the growing domination of Western corporations.  This was perceived as a threat to business interests.  In 1953, the CIA, along with Iran’s military leadership, developed plans for a coup to overthrow Mossadegh and replace him with Muhammad Reza Pahlavi a constitutional monarch who might be friendlier to Western corporations and other U.S. interests.  Should the United States implement this plan, intervening in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation? 

bullet Overview: A Short Account of the 1953 Coup
bullet Check out some of the links on this webpage to declassified documents: "'Zendebad, Shah!':  The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, August, 1953"
bullet Declassified C.I.A. summary of its planned coup
bullet New York Times articles from 2000 based on obtained CIA documents obtained before they were declassified
bullet A Democracy Now! interview with two experts on the coup.  Read the transcript, or listen or view the 32 minute interview


 

C.  John F. Kennedy, 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis.  In October 1962, U.S. reconnaissance photographs indicated that nuclear missile silos were being built in Cuba, a major threat to U.S. security.  President Kennedy sought to take swift action before these missiles were in place.  Here are his choices: 

Option A: Negotiate with the Soviets.  This is the safest course to take.  Given the nature of nuclear brinkmanship, we must tread carefully on this ground.  U.S. reactions might escalate tensions and unintentionally bring on World War III.  What is there to lose by taking the time to conduct talks?  The United States should take the high road   

Option B: Blockade the island of Cuba is clearly called for in the current missile crisis.  To do nothing would be foolhardy.  The Soviets put the missiles into Cuba secretly, and then lied to us in saying that they did not put missiles there.  Firm action must be taken against these aggressive Soviet policies.  Because naval blockades are considered an act of war, and could escalate to retaliatory Soviet naval action, we’ll call it a “quarantine,” suggesting the offensive threat of the Cuban missiles, and the defensive nature of this U.S. action.  Should he attempt to take out the missiles with a preemptive air strike or should the United States implement a unilateral blockade the island of Cuba 

Option C: Launch an air strike to take out the missiles under construction in Cuba.  The missiles under construction in Cuba are a direct threat to U.S. security.  They have sufficient range to take out any major city in the continental United States, and given Cuba’s proximity, a launch would provide precious little time for a retaliatory strike.  What’s more, the Soviet’s placement of missiles in Cuba is a violation of the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary.  We cannot do nothing in the face of such an obvious challenge to U.S. prestige. 

bullet The National Security Archive:  The Cuban Missile Crisis
bullet An Invasion of Cuba?:
     The Cuban Project
    
The Watson Institute for International Studies:  The Cuban Missile Crisis at 40
bullet Telegram from Soviet Ambassador to the USA Anatoly F. Dobrynin to the USSR MFA (1962)
bullet The American Position on Cuba
bullet EX-COMM meeting transcripts
bullet JFK speech to the United States (QuickTime file)
bullet United Nations Resolutions on the Cuban Missile Crisis
bullet Cuba's Response (10-23-1962)
bullet Robert Kennedy and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin meet (10-24-1962)
bullet More Soviet files

 

D. Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963 (Vietnam: pull out or engage?)

bullet Background: South East Asia Collective Defense Treaty, 1954
bullet Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin Address to the American People
bullet Johnson's Message to Congress, 1964
bullet Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, 1964
bullet Listen to Walter Cronkite’s Analysis, woven together with audiotape of Johnson and McNamara.  Click on “Hear Cronkite’s Full Analysis”
bullet The Gulf of Tonkin Incident 40 Years Later



E. 
Richard Milhous Nixon, 1972? (Soviet Union: détente?) 

bullet Why détente in the 1970s?
bullet Nixon and the Soviet Union
bullet Overview of Nixon and China
bullet George F. Kennan Weighs In
bullet Brinksmanship:  "Nixon's Nuclear Ploy"
bullet Skim through this Michael Beschloss article for specifics on détente