HIST409 United States: WWII to the Present ( Eisenhower Era and the Emergence of America’s Consumer Culture)

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Choose ONE of this week’s FIVE questions and respond to all parts of your chosen question

1. The Post WW2 “Economic Boom” (1945-1958): In our assigned reading this week, James Patterson outlines EIGHT reasons for America’s post-WW2 economic boom (see pp. 64-81; with subsequent support developed in chapters 9 and 11). A-D. Identify and explain what you consider to be the four most important reasons for America’s economic expansion and prosperity between 1945 and 1958. Justify your selections using facts provided in the textbook and researched via supplementary academic sources. E. In light of this investigation; summarize why Patterson decided to title his book Grand Expectations.

2. Eisenhower’s “Hidden Hand” Presidency (1953-1960): In our assigned reading this week, James Patterson notes (p. 265) that political scientist Fred Greenstein wrote an influential book entitled Hidden-Hand Presidency (first published in 1982) that describes Ike’s leadership style as subtle and deserving more credit than assumed by many contemporary scholars. Explore this assessment by detailing at least one (EACH) of the following incidents/decisions that show Eisenhower’s “behind-the-scenes” approach to resolving a key issue with A) an administration staffer or federal agency; B) dealing with a contentious domestic political issue; and C) dealing with one or more potentially volatile foreign policy decisions/actions. D. Overall, do you find Ike’s presidential leadership style to have been effective, or not? Justify your assessment.

3. The New Look / Massive Retaliation: (1953-1960): A. Define the Eisenhower’s Cold-War strategy called the “New Look.” B. To what extent was this a departure from the Truman approach, especially following adoption of NSC-68 in 1950? C. Did it deliver, as touted at the time: “more bang for the buck” (as cited by Patterson, p. 288)? D. How did the New Look strategy deny American military forces a full-spectrum capability for “flexible” response (as argued by a number of senior military officers and the Democratic opposition)? E. All things considered, in your informed opinion, was “Massive Retaliation” an effective strategy; or not; and why?

4. The CIA’s Ascendency (1953-1960): Given the data and case studies cited by Patterson’s Grand Expectations, summarize the CIA’s role A. in Iran (1951-53); B. Guatemala (1954); C. Managing classified U-2 aircraft surveillance fights over the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and into 1960. D-E. From your research (in the text and via supplemental sources), assess at least one positive and one negative legacy of the CIA’s actions during the Eisenhower administration. F. Speculate: Why did the CIA emerge as a major player in promoting American foreign-policy objectives during the Eisenhower administration? [Hint: consider your response to this sub-question in light of strengths and weaknesses of Ike’s “New Look” strategy.]

5. The Impact of Television and America’s “Mass Consumer Culture” (1945-1960): A-C. Research and comment on three ways that television influenced America’s “mass consumer culture” in the 1950s. D-F. Despite America’s unprecedented rise in prosperity during these years (see Patterson, pp. 312-13): outline at least three “negative” elements that critics ascribed to America’s “consumer culture” in the 1950s. G. In terms of total impact, did these critiques detract from the majority of Americans’ positive outlook as of the late 1950s? If so, how? If not, why not?

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