Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2007 June 2

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June 2[edit]

Japan how?[edit]

Hi. I'm interested in a Paragraph-long description of how Japan went from a medieval society full of people with swords to a ultra-modernized technology powerhouse. Also why was it only Japan and not other places in the world that transformed so quickly.

I'm interested in how we still get homework requests. Check Japan specifically the section pertaining to its history. Come back if you're confused by anything you find. - AMP'd 00:15, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
This is not homework. How you can treat people so rudely is beyond me!--the OP
Swords went away with the introduction of dependable guns - just like the rest of the world. As for how they became a technological powerhouse, it all started on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri. If you don't have to fund a military, you can invest a lot of money in domestic growth. --Kainaw (talk) 00:15, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Try Meiji Restoration. ObiterDicta ( pleadingserrataappeals ) 00:43, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

The Meji Restoration does, indeed, mark the beginning of the steady ascent of Japan into the modern world; but the whole process of transforming an ancient feudal state into a modern industrial power was, in fact, quite lengthy, beginning with the opening of the country by Commodore Perry in the 1850s. At that point Japan had a choice: adhere to ancient practices and customs and risk becoming the colonial subject of foreign agencies, or begin a process of social, political and technological transformation. The Meji Restoration, as such, merely entailed a fundamental shift in priorities, though tradition and modernity, swords and guns, still went hand-in-hand, which does much to explain the path that the country later took in the 1930s. The rapid new phase of technological development after the Second World War was simply based upon past experience of investment and economic growth. Why Japan and not, say, Korea? The simple answer is that someone had to be first, and Japan had the sufficient social and political cohesion to make the leap at an early stage. But others have followed, and in fact have developed at a far quicker rate. Modern China and India arguably provide no greater example of this process. Clio the Muse 02:03, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Wasn't there actually a period of time when Japan went from having a rather well-established gun-possessing populous, to the Shogun banning guns for all but a very few? Japan actually went away from guns until the arrival of Commodore Perry? Corvus cornix 21:52, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, you are correct corvus.Czmtzc 16:59, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Liszt's Student[edit]

I met someone who claimed to have been taught piano in Shanghai by one of Liszt's students. Liszt died sometime in the late 1880s, and the person making the claim would be about 70 years old himself this year. I suppose this is possible. Does anyone on the desk have any information about any such teacher)s) and the likelihood of one being in Shanghai in the late 1930s and early 1940s? Bielle 01:01, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

It certainly seems possible. There was a fairly large German Jewish refugee community in Shanghai at that time, and it's possible that one of them would have been a student of Liszt, who according to our article anyway had many students. See Shanghai ghetto (though I don't think it's really accurate to call it a ghetto). A likely candidate seems to Wolfgang Fraenkel, who, according to this article (you're going to have to click the 'abstract' button under Cultural accommodation and exchange in the refugee experience: a German Jewish musician in Shanghai) taught Chinese students in Shanghai from 1939 and 1947. I have not been able to ascertain whether or not Fraenkel was a student of Liszt.--Pharos 02:32, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
By the way, if you write to Christian Utz he could probably tell you if Fraenkel (or some other refugee musician) had studied with Liszt.--Pharos 02:59, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
I have no information on piano teachers in Shaghai as such, Bielle, though I can tell you that in the 1920s and 1930s the city was one of the few places in the world that had an open-access policy for refugees, including Jews fleeing from persecution in Europe. There is a little information on this in the page on the History of Shanghai. So it is possible, I suppose, that this could have been one of Liszt's Jewish pupils. Clio the Muse 02:43, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Thanks all. I will check out the links. Even if I don't ever find the specific answer, I will know a lot more than before I asked the question. Bielle 03:25, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

I've had a keen interest in Liszt for too many years to reveal, and I'm still surprised that our article doesn't contain a long list of his students, at least the more notable ones. We mention 6 of them, but there were hundreds. (Note to self: Add to my To Do Liszt ... err, List). -- JackofOz 03:54, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Sometime in the last ten years I read an article about the death of a pianist who had been a student of a student of Liszt. Online I find [1] where someone wrote in 1997 a poem about her piano teacher, Mme. Katinka , who had been a student of Ernst von Dohnanyi, who had been a student of Liszt, "who was a student of Czerny, who was a student of Beethoven, who was a student of God." Edison 16:45, 2 June 2007 (UTC)


Is there an antedote about Rene Descartes, upon after spitting inside a house, and told to next time, spit on something worthless, spat into the host's face? If not, who was that philosopher?

The anecdote has been ascribed to Aristippus and to Diogenes of Sinope, according to Diogenes Laertius.
Here are the quotes from Diogenes Laertius, as translated by Charles Duke Yonge:
(Aristippus) On one occasion, when Simus, the steward of Dionysius, was showing him a magnificent house, paved with marble (but Simus was a Phrygian, and a great toper), he hawked up a quantity of saliva and spit in his face; and when Simus was indignant at this, he said, "I could not find a more suitable place to spit in." [2]
(Diogenes of Sinope) Once, when a man had conducted him into a magnificent house, and had told him that he must not spit, after hawking a little, he spit in his face, saying that he could not find a worse place. But some tell this story of Aristippus. [3]
Then again, there's also this anecdote regarding Aristippus, Dionysisus, and spittle:
Once when Dionysius spit at him, he put up with it; and when some one found fault with him, he said, "Men endure being wetted by the sea in order to catch a tench, and shall not I endure to be sprinkled with wine to catch a sturgeon?" [4]
---Sluzzelin talk 07:35, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

What do they know of empire?[edit]

Hi I was wondering to what degree the overseas Empire impacted on the consciousness of the British public in the nineteenth century? Was it an important factor in the lives of ordinary people? Did they see it through Kipling's eyes, or was the picture quite different? Three questions for the price of one. I hope I've not overdone it! Cheers Martinben 07:22, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

For some upper middle-class families, the impact would have been profound, as there were many opportunities in the civil service, military, trade and land ownership/production in those holdings. For most people, though, I'd say the most significant impact would have been the increasing availability of products such as sugar, bananas, cotton, spices, tobacco, rice etc that changed what people ate and what they wore. The British Empire article also says that by 1870, Britain was producing 30% of the global industrial output, so the ease of availability of raw materials from the colonies had a concomitant effect on the economy and employment in the manufacturing sector. The Empire was no doubt romanticised in the minds of many, providing the background for adventure stories such as those found in the Boy's Own Paper and novels of the time (King Solomon's Mines and Kipling, for eg). Natgoo 11:04, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

The simple answer is far less than is imagined; far less than those in the school of Edward Said would have us believe. Indeed, for the best part of the nineteenth century it hardly impacted at all. The patriotic concept of Empire was a relatively late creation, really only emerging when a sense of crisis set in the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War. In high culture it hardly features at all, and no major novel of the day has an imperial theme. In architecture the 'Imperial style', if such an expression can even be used, effectively disappears after the time of George IV, as Britain adopted the same Greco-Roman fashion preferred throughout the western world, non-imperial societies included. Even in boys' fiction the subject of Empire is almost completely avoided before the advent of G. A. Henty. R. M. Ballantyne's 1858 novel Coral Island is 'exotic', rather than imperial, as indeed are the works of Rider Haggard. The stories and poems of Rudyard Kipling were a relatively late addition to the literary canon, and his enthusiasm for Empire is in large measure explained by the fact that he was born in India. The general indifference in Britain itself was a source of frustration to some, including the historian J. R. Seeley, who complained that the Empire seemed to have been acquired "in a fit of absent-mindedness."

Native British lack of enthusiasm for the project of Empire is, in large measure, explained by the educational system of the day, which placed no importance whatsoever on international affairs and contemporary politics. In 1902, when a Member of Parliament asked a class of school leavers who among them had heard of the Indian Mutiny, only one boy raised his hand. It is also important to realise that British schools, unlike those in the United States, placed almost no value on the importance of patriotism. Indeed, the British political elite tended to view any enthusiasm of this kind with a high degree of suspicion, because of its association, via the French Revolution, with republicanism and democracy. British people belonged to specific social classes, and classes had duties, not rights. The upper classes were taught to rule, at both home and abroad; the lower classes were taught to obey; and the middle-classes were taught how to create wealth. Empire was merely a distraction. In 1893, Lord Kimberly, himself former Colonial Secretary, when asked if children should not be given some lessons in imperial patriotism, said that they would be better off "given practical lessons in the geography of their own localities rather than being shown maps [of the Empire] they are not well versed in, and which do not convey much to their minds."

One also has to consider the nature of the British Empire itself to understand why it played so small part in the consciousness of the nation. The 'Imperial Red' maps-which did not start to appear until the 1880s-are actually quite deceptive, suggesting something centralised and unified, like the ancient Roman or the modern Russian Empires. The British Empire, in contrast, was possibly the most decentralised in history, in that a good part was administered by local elites, which meant that it could be maintained at the minimum of cost, and with the minimum of personnel. In other words, no national effort was required to sustain it. The small class of Imperial Civil Servants was proud of their exclusivity: it was their Empire, not 'the peoples'.

These attitudes began to change somewhat by the beginning of the twentieth century, at the time of the Second Boer War and after, when the Empire came under threat from rival powers and home-grown nationalism. It was only at this time that the imperial propaganda movement got underway. But apart from brief bursts of enthusiasm, the general response remained muted. In 1911 an executive of the Victoria League remarked of a lecture given at the Workers Educational Association that the "audience gave the impression of suspicion, of hostility to the subject and of considerable indiference to the conditions prevailing in the colonies."

Yes, the Empire was there, yes it had important economic and political consequences; but the deeper sense it was like an iceberg-virtually invisible until the very last moment. Clio the Muse 23:43, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Clio, my Clio: a little touch of genius in the night! Martinben 12:08, 3 June 2007 (UTC)


Hello I was wondering what the current laws around the world are regarding animals that pursue sex or otherwise rape humans. Is the animal put the sleep? Compensation? Owner penalty? etc. Also, what about if someone enjoys it, but they don't force it? Like, a woman gets on all fours, and a dog comes from behind and has sex with her. Is that illegal in most jurisdictions?--0rrAvenger 07:57, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Take a look at Zoosexuality and the law. Natgoo 10:40, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

That's an excellent question... not! An icky parellel case might be: what if a child goes around forcing adults to have sex with him/her? What penalties would the child face? Both children and animals are usually considered unable by law to give consent for such activitity, so I think the adult/human would be considered culpable, no matter which party purportedly iniatiated the contact. Can you provide a source--perhaps a news article--documenting a beast having its way with a human in the manner you describe?--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back 17:27, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Doubt that this has ever come up. The normal reaction of animals to humans is to avoid or eat. The sexual cues would be totally different. The zoosexuality article is about humans forcing themselves on animals, not vice versa. Clarityfiend 18:21, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Tell that to every damned leg-humping dog. Edison 22:06, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
In my experience, male dogs attempt to mount people only when those people have been in contact with female dogs, particularly female dogs in heat. Marco polo 13:40, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
I've heard anecdotal reports of dolphins being sexually attracted to and even forcing themselves on humans. The only decent reference I could find was an article entitled "A review of swimming with wild cetaceans with a specific focus on the Southern Hemisphere" in Marine Mammals: Fisheries, Tourism and Management Issues. Here's a PDF file [5]. --Joelmills 22:33, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Inquiring minds want to know how many indecent references you found. —Tamfang 19:37, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

Girmityas in Fiji[edit]

Dear reference desk I need to find out where will I be able to access information relating to the personal names of each passenger on the various ships which travelled from India to Fiji carrying indentured labourers...I have found the list of the ships and the number of passengers...I would like some help in finding the exact names of the passengers...does anyone know where I will be able to find this info... Thank you very much

John Locke[edit]

In whay way have John Locke's ideas been used and interpreted over time? Secret seven 14:42, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

His book Some Thoughts Concerning Education was widely considered throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as a definitive work on learning, along with Emile: Or, On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau - many people tried creating schools based on his thoughts, generally with success, and many children's stories were written with his teachings in mind (including Sesame Street!). Indeed, throughout the 18th century, children even of very rich families were deliberately given cold or damp clothing, becuase "bodies will endure anything that from the beginning they are accustomed to". However, his famous concept of tabula rasa, once very popular has been partially discredited by the discovery of genetics: a person's IQ is determined largely by their genes, and so not everyone is born as an equal "blank tablet". Laïka 15:15, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

I think the best critique I have ever read of John Locke was that written by Mary Astell, the very first English feminist and a Tory, who attacked his Whiggish political philosophy because it deposed monarchical tyranny while leaving husbandly tyranny in place-"If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?" Clio the Muse 00:09, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

English Civil War[edit]

How and why have historians perspectives on the English Civil War changed since the Second World War? Secret seven 15:03, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Each age has a tendency to recast the past in its own image, and this is never more true than in regard to the English Civil War. For many years before the Second World War the accepted fashion was to read all the issues by this great defining moment in terms of the development of the English constitution. The Great Rebellion, as it was usually called, was just another marker on the road to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, where all of the outstanding issues were addressed and resolved. But the period after the War saw the triumph of a new mode of interpretation, which might in the loosest sense be referred to as 'historical materialism.' This was the approach that united those from quite different political backgrounds, from R. H. Tawney, on the one hand, to Christopher Hill, on the other. It was a time of change and upheaval, a time when the old historical models no longer seemed to serve. In the place of people, their motives and their actions, came great abstract forces, like shifts in economic power, the rise of the gentry, the decline of the aristocracy and so on. The 'English Revolution' was reshaped to fit with the same patterns of interpretation used for the the French in 1789 and the Russian in 1917. When C. V. Wedgewood tried to challenge this new consensus, with a return to older forms of narrative history, she was widely criticised by the academic establishment, one reviewer saying that "her refusal to analyse makes it impossible to see below the surface of mere events."
This tendency to undevalue narrative was also a consequence of the growing influence of the French Annales School, most represented by historians like Marc Bloch and Ferdinand Braudel. This whole style of analysis drowned detail in great and sweeping floods of historical interpretation. It was fashionable, it was compelling-and it was banal. Bit by bit historians appeared who challenged all of the questionable generalisations that emerged from the Materialist and the Annales schools. Douglas Brunton and Donald Pennington's work on the Long Parliament, for example, showed that the political divisions that emerged during the Civil wars had little to do with either social class or economic interests. The notion that the English Revolution somehow represented a victory for historically 'progressive forces' was further undermined by the detailed work of David Underwood in Pride's Purge, and Blair Worden in The Rump Parliament. Laurence Stone, to take one further example, showed in The Crisis of the Aristocracy that the titled nobility were not the 'feudal class' the Materialist model supposed; and more recently John Adamson's The Noble Revolt:the Overthrow of Charles I highlights the importance of rebel aristocrats in bringing down absolute government.
In large measure the cumbersome ideological baggage of the past has now been discarded in favour of a return to 'real history', history as it actually happened, understood in terms of the motives and actions of those who took part, rather than a history that demands that people walk on and off stage in accordance the role they have been alloted in the bigger drama. It might even be said to be the posthumous rehabilitation of S. R. Gardiner, the greatest historian who has ever worked in this field, in my estimation at least. Clio the Muse 01:12, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
Stone is one of my personal heroes, and Trevor-Roper is not a person I like, and Hill has shown himself capable of terrible hastiness (The Experience of Defeat), but Marxist history did a great deal for the history of the Civil War. The analysis of the economic status of the kingdom informed and protected against many of the naive stories that had been told, and primary sources are rarely aware of the things that caused the causes they recall. Historiography, like literary theory, seems to be in a state of constant correction (I won't say "dialectic," because that presumes that there is a better that will go to perfect some day). Each generation corrects the methods and conclusions of the generation before, but always with excess, always with the vehemence of antithesis rather than reason. (Well, that sounds grand, doesn't it? Never mind.) Geogre 12:48, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
I share your enthusiasim for Stone, Geogre, but less so for the Marxist school, which has done more to obscure the true causes of the Civil War by viewing the whole period through an ideological glass darkly. To take but one example, the Levellers and Diggers were not, contrary to Hill's assertion, harbingers of a democratic future, but millenarian vestiges of a Medieval past. In the crisis of 1640, moreover, politics and religion were in command, not economics. Even Carlyle's 'great man' thesis has better applications that the Marxist model of impersonal forces; for matters could not have developed as they did if Charles had not been such a disaster as a king. Clio the Muse 00:15, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
There is a baby to be rescued when jettisoning the bathwater of Marxist dogma. This is the attention to economic motivations. Too many historians who wrote before, say, 1930 all but ignored the real economic interests that motivated individuals and the economic motivations that classes of people shared. While economic motivations do not explain everything, nor should they be ignored. This is the valuable corrective that Marxist historians provided. It is good to reject their rigidity and bias, but it would be unfortunate to deny the explanatory power of economic motivations or economic class. While these may have less explanatory power for the English Civil War than Marxist historians claimed, it is impossible to really understand many historical processes without reference to economic matters. Marco polo 14:06, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
The distinguished Venetian gentleman has said it well. I have very bad feelings about Hill. Of all of them, he was the most rash, but without E. P. Thompson, we have such an impoverished field as to be a dustbowl. I cannot escape feeling that Winstanley is only Winstanley (and not Bartholomew Steer) because of the historical moment, and the historical moment is a constellation of needs and threats that have everything to do with economic formation. The force of genius can only be felt when time and place are right, and the fitness of the time and place have to do with the world's prosperity. The reason I cannot escape this is the virtue of the work of the Marxist historians. It's absolutely true that the "sacks of potatoes cause the Revolution" school is worthless, even as a corrective, but it's similarly true that great men are madmen (a la A Digression on Madness) if the rest of the world isn't ready for them.
Where such economic factors are clearer, and where they have triumphed in historical analysis, is the American Civil War. Was it about slavery? Because of slavery, the south's economy was dependent upon an immobile, unskilled workforce, and that had it addicted to a single crop. Therefore, the challenge to the high profits of that crop led to a feeling that sovereignty is at stake. So, even though no one, north or south, set out to fight to abolish slavery (even the abolitionists), the war was "about" slavery as the underlying economic condition that ruled all others.
Anyway, I'm no fan of Hill, but they can have my Making of the English Working Class when they pry it from my... Well, maybe before that, but not much more. Geogre 18:44, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, indeed, I will happily concede the value of the Making of the English Working Class, which I also consider to be a superb piece of scholarly analysis, though this is moving well away from the area under immediate consideration. I have to say, though, that I've always read Thompson in a very English radical tradition, in the fashion of, say, George Orwell, rather than as a horny-handed Marxist son of toil! And yes, Marco, I also agree that economic factors are important, but very rarely in any pre-eminent sense. Clio the Muse 22:18, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

What sculpture am I describing?[edit]

In the early part of this decade (perhaps 2000, 2001), I recall visiting the MoMA and coming across an enormous sculpture I would describe as follows: An enormous metallic boulder was suspended from the ceiling. Embedded into its surface were many toy cars, toy trains and maybe toy people; I dont remember; it looked like a weird asteroid, or perhaps it represented a giant magnet, attracting all sorts of junk. The whole thing was very violent, menacing and apocalyptic; it was over-the-top. It must have weighed several tons. I know I'm not describing it very well, but if anyone knows the name of this work or the name of the sculptor, I would appreciate your sharing it with me.--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back 17:01, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Oh, I remember seeing that at the MoMa myself. A quick google shows it is by Chris Burden and called "Medusa's Head": Medusa's Head. The photo on that webpage does not really capture the scale and "menacing" quality. Pfly 05:13, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
Bingo!! That is a freaky sculpture. Thanks for helping me find it.--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back 23:36, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Type of Government[edit]

What is that type of government called when a group of geniuses lead a society? I think they have to have a certain IQ to be put into office. It differs from democracy because anyone can be elected into office if they are popular with the people (who aren't exactly so smart all the time).

I also think albert einstein supported this idea, or some other really smart person. 18:16, 2 June 2007 (UTC)Daniel

Geniocracy? I had to find this episode of the Simpsons to get there. Who said television is bad? --Wirbelwindヴィルヴェルヴィント (talk) 18:30, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
There are also Plato's ideas. A.Z. 18:33, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Putting people into office based on an IQ test would be interesting. Is there any office in the world into which people are put based only on their IQ? A.Z. 18:36, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
I would go with meritocracy. But the whole idea is flawed. IQ tests are dubious, and even if they weren't, intelligence doesn't equate to skill in governing. Clarityfiend 19:10, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
But what equates to skill in governing? No-one knows. Maybe it's best to let the intelligent people tell us what to do. Maybe a lot of intelligent people working together could lead a society.
Or, maybe, a high IQ could at least be used as a minimum requirement to become the leader of a society. A.Z. 19:13, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Einstein turned down the presidency of Israel. Most of the really intellectually intelligent people in history were smart enough to avoid public office, Napoleon excepted. There is already a neverending test for "governing intelligence". It's called politics. But you may be onto the world ready for Wikipediocracy? What sayeth the WP:CABAL? Clarityfiend 19:22, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
According to U.S. Presidents IQ hoax#Estimated IQ of George Bush, his IQ is believed to be between 120 and 130. Clarityfiend 19:34, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Why didn't Einstein accept the presidency? His article says that he wrote: "I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it." A.Z. 19:49, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Einstein himself said that science was his primary concern and he considered himself "not suited for the task [of being President]." The scholar Simon Gurevich suggests it was because Einstein was clever enough to know that "solving the problems which a politician has to face is much harder than even the most complex, seemingly insoluble, problems in physics." Rockpocket 21:29, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
OK. I'm not going to take into account the personal opinion of Simon Gurevich, since it doesn't seem to matter much. It seems that Einstein was an intelligent man that thought he could help the world more by concerning with science. Well, that is not an argument against making intelligence a criterion for becoming president. Obviously the idea of a government of only intelligent people doesn't mean that all intelligent people would have to be presidents. A.Z. 21:54, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Einstein was also quite old at the time and suffering from a variety of physical ailments. He died only a few years later and was not in good health at all at the time. That's my bet for why he was "ashamed." -- 23:58, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Technocracy is a standard definition to rule by experts. The problem is, of course, that experts are not always good rulers, for the reasons cited above and also because experts are quite often exceptionally dismissive of disagreeing opinions and exceptionally prone to overestimate their own knowledge. Einstein would not have supported a technocracy — while he, like many intellectuals of his time, could get especially frustrated with democracy and populism, he supported democratic socialism, which is not the same thing as technocracy (and not the same thing as Communism or authoritarian socialism, but the FBI couldn't tell the difference, of course). Note also that his WWI experiences in Germany no doubt thoroughly convinced him that experts can be idiots too. -- 23:58, 2 June 2007 (UTC)
Most public intellectuals in the US supported democratic socialism in the 1930's and 1940's, it seems, and many still do, in the US. I am currently reading American Prometheus, the biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and many, many, many people were victims of the FBI's "inability" to tell the difference between democratic socialism and Communism. So many were, in fact, that I do not believe that the FBI was unable at all. It seems likely to me that they knew darned well that these people were not "Communists" but simply counted on the American people being unable to tell the difference. It was hard right vs. left, not "Communist" vs. "Capitalist" (unless "capitalist" means "those with most money rule, and all moral constraints must be removed"). (The biography also does much to show the influence of Niels Bohr and his Kierkegaardian world view on this particular group of American scientists.) Geogre 02:14, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
Well, not to defend the FBI or anything, but the FBI believed that if you opened the door to anything that resembled socialism the Ruskies would barge on through, even if that wasn't the explicit goal of those who started to open it (and I do think that at the time most of those FBI guys really didn't know much of anything about political or social theory — socialism was socialism, as far as they were concerned, and frankly I'd wager that most people in the US today make the same association). Anything left-of-center was considered a "fellow traveler" under Hoover's watch. For the definitive look at the FBI's particular suspicions of Einstein — which were also rooted in the fact that Einstein was one of the most outspoken scientists on racial inequality, anti-lynching, etc. — see Fred Jerome's The Einstein File. The FBI assumed — rightly or wrongly, I'm never quite sure — that many of these fellows like Einstein were, at best, dupes, at worst, purposefully dangerous. -- 12:13, 3 June 2007 (UTC)


I've just finished reading Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American, which details the American search for a 'Third Force' in the Indochina conflict of the early 1950s. I was wondering what the real reaction was to the French colonial war? Martinben 20:55, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Some Americans, such as the OSS representatives who had worked with the Vietnamese forces against the Japanese during the war, were not happy to see independence denied to the Indochinese in favor of a return to French colonialism. The American public took little note of the conflict, being more concerned with getting back to postwar peacetime life after the Korean conflict. The federal government seems to have backed the French, sending in the CIA to do bombing and supply runs. They (Truman, Eisenhower) were worried about the area falling to communism. Edison 22:05, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

American attitudes to the war in Indochina, Martinben, underwent quite dramatic changes over a fairly short space of time. During the Secind World War the administration of President Roosevelt had taken a strong anti-colonial line, and was united with Ho Chi Minh in not wishing to see the French return to the region. Ho was even convinced that the United States would support him in the Vietnamese struggle for independence. However, with the onset of the Cold War American priorities changed from anti-Colonialism to anti-Communism. Whether or not Ho was a Communist or nationalist was irrelevant, because as a 1949 State Department memo says "...all Stalinists in colonial areas are nationalists. With their nationalist aims achieved, their objective necessarily becomes subordination of state to Commie [sic] purposes." As a result, the United States tried to shore up French resistence in Indochina with money and aid. By the time of the defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 it was financing as much as 80% of the French war effort.

Washington, however, also preserved something of an alternative political strategy. Whereas the French saw the attempt to regain control in their old colony as part of a wider effort to recapture international prestige, the Americans were anxious for them to reach some kind of accommodation with local non-Communist nationalists, Graham Greene's fictitious third force, if you like. In response to American pressure the French came up with the Bao Dai solution, offering to give power to the former Emperor of Vietnam under French patronage. For France it was a political fig-leaf on a colonial war; for America it offered a path forward to a non-Communist Vietnam. It was an illusion, whatever way one cares to look at it. The contradiction was exposed by Walter Lippmann in April 1950, when he explained that the Bao Dai experiment could only work if the French promised real independence. But how could they be expected to maintain their effort in a colony that they had promised to give away? America was in an impossible situation: it could not allow an immedite French withdrawal for fear of a spread of Communism, and it could not sponsor a war against national independence. As Lippmann put it "we have as yet no adequate policy in south-east Asia." The absence of an adequate policy in the region was to continue long after the French were gone. Clio the Muse 02:15, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

The U.S devotion to democracy was shown to be lacking in 1956, when there was supposed to be general elections to select a unified government of Vietnam. Eisenhower's sources told him that Ho Chi Minh would win as surely as Washington won the Presidency in the first U.S. elections, so Eisenhower found reasons to refuse to hold elections, managing thereby to delay Ho's ascent to power for about 18 years at the cost of millions of lives. Edison 19:24, 3 June 2007 (UTC)