By Kevin Cliffe
The Blame Game
On a breezy morning on October 27th, Truman, Molotov, and Stalin traveled through time to make an appearance at ASB where they played “the blame game,” discussing who bears most of the blame for initiating the Cold War. Actually, it was Mr. Hennessy’s 12th grade IB History students who were given the task of embodying these historical characters, among others, and engaging in heated debate. Who then is to blame for the conflict that so nearly ended life as we know it? The doomsday clock (A metaphor used to display how close to nuclear doom the world was) was moved to one minute until midnight. The Cuban Missile Crisis, which resulted from this conflict, had U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert S, McNamara, wondering “if he would live to see another Saturday night”. The question of how the Cold War got started is of pivotal importance not only because this conflict could have very likely resulted in nuclear holocaust but also because the outcomes of this conflict continue to shape our world.
This Cold War summit culminated the study of the origins of the Cold War for these students who march on with their studies. Mr. Hennessy’s students conducted an original debate on who began the Cold War. Mr. Hennessy comments that “historians continue to argue about the Cold War of the 20th Century. They still argue over: Which system, capitalism or communism, is better prepared to serve the collective needs of humanity? Which leaders were honest and working toward peace, and which ones were disingenuous and plotting oppression? And most importantly of all, in the final analysis, which superpower´s actions were responsible for starting the Cold War.” There have been many debates regarding the origins of the Cold War. Orthodox historians, who were the first Western historians to write about the Cold War, largely blamed the Soviets. Revisionist historians who argue that U.S. President Truman’s policies initiated the conflict or that American ideologies were responsible. The post-revisionist historians like John Lewis Gaddis argued that both the Soviets and the Americans share responsibility. Gaddis’s recent biography of Kennan speaks to the importance of the origins of the Cold War. The Cold War included conflicts by proxy in Vietnam, the Korean War (which resulted in the ongoing situation in the Korean Peninsula), as well as conflicts in the Middle East.
The layout of the debate was quite simple, Democratic Capitalists Vs. The Communist Dictators; however, there was a nice little twist to it…the actual world leaders were present for the debate! The students in the class had to embody these historical actors and decide who bears the blame for starting the Cold War. The costumes and performances were stellar. The debate itself raged on with passion as the Capitalists argued that the Russians had started the Cold War due to their handling of the Eastern Bloc after WW2. Whilst the Communists fired back, saying that the US began the conflict because of the use of the Atomic Bomb in Japan (on August 6th 1945 on Hiroshima and on the 9th Nagasaki). The Soviets were supposed to join the war against Japan on August 8th and felt that the use of the atomic bomb was meant to keep them out of Japan and to display American military strength. It was an astounding debate, filled with action, or shall I say, accents, well reasoned arguments substantiated with evidence. Mr. Hennessy and his class presented a very interesting, engaging, and informative debate.