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HISTORY 285E: Counterinsurgency and Torture: Algeria, Vietnam, and Iraq

This course covers the post-WWII history of counterinsurgency, a type of warfare in which a powerful, state-backed military is pitted against guerrilla fighters, or insurgents. In the context of decolonization (the dissolution of European overseas empires) and the United States' growing role on the world stage, we will examine four counterinsurgency campaigns: the French in Indochina (1946-1954) and Algeria (1954-1962); and the Americans in Vietnam (1964-1973) and Iraq (2003-2011). Using a combination of secondary and primary sources, including declassified government documents, maps, photography, film, music, news broadcasts, and recorded tapes of presidential phone calls, we will ask four overarching questions: 1) How did military planners and politicians learn from prior counterinsurgencies, and what are the strengths and pitfalls of an approach to warfare that applies historical "lessons learned" to contemporary problems? 2) Are torture and violence against civilians the results of more »
This course covers the post-WWII history of counterinsurgency, a type of warfare in which a powerful, state-backed military is pitted against guerrilla fighters, or insurgents. In the context of decolonization (the dissolution of European overseas empires) and the United States' growing role on the world stage, we will examine four counterinsurgency campaigns: the French in Indochina (1946-1954) and Algeria (1954-1962); and the Americans in Vietnam (1964-1973) and Iraq (2003-2011). Using a combination of secondary and primary sources, including declassified government documents, maps, photography, film, music, news broadcasts, and recorded tapes of presidential phone calls, we will ask four overarching questions: 1) How did military planners and politicians learn from prior counterinsurgencies, and what are the strengths and pitfalls of an approach to warfare that applies historical "lessons learned" to contemporary problems? 2) Are torture and violence against civilians the results of mishandled counterinsurgency, or are they inherent to the doctrine? 3) Why have counterinsurgency strategies persisted despite long-term failures and public criticism? 4) How does historical thinking allow us to participate more effectively in debates about counterinsurgency and torture in America today? Throughout, we will explore how counterinsurgency and torture have traveled across space and time, intertwining historical trajectories in Southeast Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Terms: Win | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-SI
Instructors: Gruskin, R. (PI)
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