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Tutor profile: Justin D.

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Justin D.
Former high school English, History, and Social and Development Studies teacher
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Questions

Subject: World History

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Question:

Describe the historical circumstances leading up to the Cambodian Genocide.

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Justin D.
Answer:

As with most European nations during the Second World War, the French Republic’s hold on her colonies were significantly challenged. Japan’s quest to build a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” and her cries for an “Asia for Asians”, were not soon forgotten after Japan’s defeat. On the contrary, World War Two demonstrated to many colonized peoples that the Europeans were not, in fact, a superior and more “civilized” people – European blood could be spilled just like Asian blood or African blood. It was in this context in the early 1950s when Cambodia’s nominal King, Sihanouk, began pressing for independence from the French Colonial Empire. In 1953, Sihanouk’s hope for an independent Cambodia was realized. With the old colonial powers of Europe fading into irrelevancy, a new world order began to emerge: the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics arose as the world’s two superpowers, and soon set about carving the globe into spheres of influences. Sihanouk pursued an unsuccessful policy of neutrality – termed “Third Way” – in the midst of the Cold War. However, this centrist stance ended up isolating Cambodia on the global stage, and alienated many leftist and right-leaning factions within the country. Consequently, politics in Cambodia during the 1960s was highly polarized. Opposition to Sihanouk amongst the left and middle class gradually grew. Eventually, leftist Paris-educated leaders, such as Saloth Sar (who would later become Pol Pot), led an insurgency campaign against the government under the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) – also known as the Khmer Rouge. The 1966 election resulted in the political pendulum swinging right, with General Lon Nol forming a new right-wing government. Following his rise to power, Lon Nol unleashed a wave of political persecution against the left, resulting in many leftists being driven out of mainstream politics and seeking protection with the Khmer Rouge. As Sihanouk continued his policy of neutrality in the Cold War, the United States began to consider him as a possible North Vietnamese sympathizer. Fearing what this might mean, the United States began a bombing campaign in Cambodia, resulting in a massive destabilization of the country. The enraged rural population fed the communist insurgency and, in 1970, Lon Nol led a coup d’état against Sihanouk and assumed emergency powers. Lon Nol’s government assumed a pro-western, anti-communist stance, leading to Chinese military aid to the Khmer Rouge. Lon Nol proved to be an unpopular leader – especially among the rural population – due to his overthrow of the King and practice of election rigging. The Khmer Rouge grew in power and support amongst the rural group, especially after a brief incursion of American troops into Cambodia. In 1973, as the North Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began to pursue its own ideological path and policies, many of which were far different from North Vietnamese communism. Pol Pot and a fanatical contingent within the Party seized control and purged the Khmer Rouge of all moderate elements, including individuals trained and mentored by North Vietnam. Pol Pot and the CPK abandoned moderate socialist policies and began persecuting ethnic Vietnamese. In 1975, the Party launched an offensive against Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Lon Nol resigned and left the country as his government collapsed in chaos. The imminent fall of the city was recognized by the United States, who evacuated their personnel without warning. After the fall of Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge forcibly emptied the city and drove the population into the countryside, with many being killed in the process. The Civil War in Cambodia was over, and Pol Pot stood at the precipice of the new Democratic Kampuchea, whose hallmark would be the infamous Cambodian Genocide. The Cambodian Genocide (1975-1979) was motivated by an interpretation of Maoist communism which idealized a self-sufficient rural society, Pol Pot’s yearning to return Cambodia to a halcyon state it had existed in during antiquity, and eliminate perceived enemies of his revolution.

Subject: US History

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Question:

What factors have shaped US foreign policy between 1776 and 1945?

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Justin D.
Answer:

Broadly speaking, American foreign policy between 1776 and 1945 were shaped by: 1.) ideological variations of “American exceptionalism,” in how Americans viewed their nation’s role in the world; and 2.) geopolitical concerns of the day. Following the American War for Independence, the new Republic had the difficult task of discovering for itself its role in the brave new world created by the Revolution. Best embodied in Washington’s Farewell Address, President Washington warned the American people to avoid political entanglements abroad but to focus on commerce, national development, and remaining a moral people. In this early period, the United States was regarded as a precious experiment in self-government, one requiring constant care and nurturing, lest the Union fail. An example of this ideology being translated into action was when the Articles of Confederation were abolished and replaced by the Constitution, upon the weaknesses of the articles being identified. Indeed, the years after the Revolution were filled with considerable soul-searching. Even with the adoption of the Constitution, differing factions (which became political parties) arose with differing views of the Federal Government’s role. The Federalists and Republicans debated with one another not just the role of the government, but also the role of the United States on the international stage. When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, the Federalists and Republicans debated whether to support the British or French (Washington wisely adopted a neutral middle course). If the ideology of this period had to be summarized in a short phrase, it could simply be called “American Sovereignty.” The people of the United States viewed themselves as a new, sovereign power deserving of respect from the Old World. Arguably, this was a sense of insecurity. Despite having Jay’s Treaty, tensions remained high between the United States and (the recently renamed) United Kingdom. British forces continued to occupy forts in the Old Northwest, thereby threatening the United States, already in a fragile situation in its delicate, new experiment of self-government. This, along with other issues (such as the impressment of sailors) led to the outbreak of the War of 1812. Despite the conflict ending in a return to the status quo – though the British agreed to evacuate the forts – the war confirmed for the American people the right of the United States to exist as an independent power: not only had the British been defeated in the Revolution, but they had failed to subjugate the Union in this second conflict. Geopolitically, Florida was also another threat to the United States; Spain occupied the territory with direct access to Georgia, thereby threatening the Union’s South. The nascent concept of “Manifest Destiny” was encapsulated in the Adam-Onis Treaty, when the United States annexed territory outside of the land acquired from the Treaty of Paris for the first time. As early as Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, the United States raced to build a nation “from sea to shining sea.” Initially, Jefferson sought to purchase New Orleans due to its strategic importance; the Mississippi River was the key geopolitical interest of this stage. Napoleon, wanting to rid himself of Louisiana so he could raise funds for his ambitions in Europe, offered to sell all of the territory to the United States. Jefferson, a strict Constitutionalist, jumped at the opportunity – overnight, the size of the United States was doubled. America’s confidence was growing, enough so that President Monroe felt bold enough to declare the Western Hemisphere as “off limits” to European imperial-colonial adventurism. The growth of confidence meant “Manifest Destiny” supplanted mere “American Sovereignty” as the guiding ideology in this new chapter. Ideologically, America’s destiny was to rule a glorious Republic from the Atlantic to the Pacific; in geopolitical vocabulary, America was to have access to the riches of Asia and have the benefit of direct access to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, a rare advantage over European rivals. The most evident episode in this chapter was the Mexican-American War. For some time, the United States and Mexico debated over the border of Texas, the latter refusing to even acknowledge Texas’s ascension into the Union. President James K. Polk took advantage of tensions to instigate a war between the two states. Surely enough, the United States swiftly defeated Mexico and found itself occupying Mexico City. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded half of Mexico’s land to the Union. California, a territory the Americans had been watching for years due to its strategic positioning in relation to Pacific trade, now found itself flying the American flag. In the span of approximately fifty years, the United States grew from a nation east of the Mississippi to an empire ruling from “sea to shining sea.” Manifest Destiny was destiny achieved. Though the United States had become an imperial republic, the issue of slavery proved to overbearing. Years of compromise, the “gag rule,” and attempts to deal with slavery came crashing down in 1861 at the outbreak of the Civil War. Further empire had to wait – the survival of the Union was at stake. In other words, the ideology and geopolitical imperatives of this period were, in a term, “Survival.” President Lincoln focuses all his efforts on the Nation’s survival, no matter the cost: he enacted a blockade of the South, suspended habeas corpus in certain states, and threatened war with any European power that recognized the Confederacy. Enshrined in the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln articulated that the delicate and precious experiment in self-government was at stake. Though Lincoln did not live to see it, the American Experiment did persist. In fact, the American Experiment did not just persist, it became Manifest Destiny on steroids. With slavery abolished, American leaders found that the greatest obstacle to their claim to moral superiority was gone. The Northern States possessed massive industrial capabilities thanks to the war, and like Italy and Germany in the 1860-70, the United States had just completed a war of national unification. The ideology of this period, until the First World War, was a synthesis of colonial-commercial-imperialism, supported by the traditional “White Man’s Burden.” Fueled by the Second Industrial Revolution and the Second Imperialism of the late nineteenth century, America was driven by the desire to access Asia’s markets, as well as the world’s markets at large, and thus the United States grew more assertive in this chapter. The United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire, witnessed the rise of powerful industrialists (Carnegie, Rockefeller, etc.) and annexed Hawaii. Most evident of America’s desire to join the race for empire was the Spanish-American War. Like Polk before him, McKinley took advantage of the deaths of American military personnel in enigmatic situations as an excuse for war. And at the conclusion of this conflict, the United States found itself in possession of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. With the conquest of the Philippines, the United States found itself truly amongst the world’s great powers (in addition to the fact it had become the world’s largest economy). With these reasons to be confident, the United States proposed the Open Door Policy to prevent the colonization of China. America was in a position to issue a policy proposal and be considered seriously by the other great powers. In addition to all these, the United States embraced the construction of a magnificent fleet in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. During the First World War, arguably a conflict culminating the effects of the Second Imperialism, the United States became torn between a limited isolationist position as well as the desire to “make the world safe for democracy.” Still regarding America a confident, great power, Wilson undertook military expeditions to both Haiti and Santo Domingo. And though he did not seek to involve the United States in World War I – he had campaigned against intervention in the war – Wilson took precautions for American security: a naval buildup was undertaken and the Selective Service Act was passed. War did come, and it ended quickly. Wilson created a new guiding ideology for American Foreign policy (“Wilsonianism”). Articulated in the Fourteen Points, the tenets of this ideology included: self-determination, open seas, free trade, a League of Nations, and a ban on secret treaties. In other words, Wilson was an idealist. Though he failed to gain the support of his countrymen in defense of his idea, Wilsonianism proved to be an enduring ideology. During the interwar period, the United States demonstrated some desire to fulfill a role in world leadership (albeit a limited one): under American leadership, the “Diplomacy of the Dollar” helped reduce the economic burden on Germany vis-à-vis the Dawes and Young plans. Naval conferences were held in Washington, D.C. to discuss armaments reduction. The United States mediated the Locarno Conference, settling the boundary between Germany and France. With France’s help, the United States and nations around the world signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, outlawing war. Geopolitically, it seemed that the Nation’s interest was simply to maintain global stability. Nonetheless, when the Great Depression arrived, the United States withdrew from world leadership. Franklin D. Roosevelt turned his back on global issues to focus on home through the New Deal. Across the world, totalitarian states rose in response to the Depression. Most famous of these were Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the military junta in charge of Japan. Still, elements of Wilsonian Internationalism lingered: Roosevelt gave speeches on international cooperation, condemned Nazi race policies at a conference of the Americas, issued the Atlantic Charter with Churchill, and asked the League of Nations to meet to discuss Japan’s aggression. More evident, however, was the rise of geopolitics as a direct tenet of the ideological disposition supporting American foreign policy. As relations between Japan, Italy, and Germany grew closer, Roosevelt feared the threat of Germany and Japan turning the resources of Europe and Asia against the United States. Thus, America once again building up its navy and supported Britain through the cash-and-carry agreement. Once again the United States found itself at war. Roosevelt was unwilling to allow America to cede leadership after the war as it had done during the First World War; he fully expected the United States to be the world’s most powerful nation at the conclusion of the war. The ideology guiding him was the Atlantic Charter, embodying the values of Wilsonianism. Geopolitically, Roosevelt was motivated to completely destroy the Axis Powers and to establish a post-war order with the United States, United Kingdom, China, and the Soviet Union acting as the world’s “four policemen.” The Allied Powers demanded an unconditional surrender from the Axis, and under American leadership, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and United Nations were founded. With the end of the war, the United States found itself the world’s hegemon, with half of the world’s economic production, the atomic bomb, and newly-founded international institutions at its disposal. Most importantly, the American people accepted themselves as the world’s hegemon. These ideologies – “American sovereignty,” Manifest Destiny, “Survival,” commercial-colonial-imperialism, “Making the World Safe for Democracy,” Wilsonianism, Wilsonianism and Geopolitics, and the Atlantic Charter – are all variations of American Exceptionalism. Since the birth of the Country, Americans have viewed themselves as a unique people, a unique experiment amongst all the world’s people in the radical idea that the people could govern themselves. In different stages as articulated in this response, this ideology sometimes looked inward and outward. It shaped and was shaped by geopolitical realities of the day – Civil War, uncertain times of neutrality, imperialist expansion, and two World Wars. Ideology and geopolitics seem to be in an endless waltz; when both turn in the dance, it is difficult to discern who made the first move. Likewise, it is difficult to tell whether ideology influences geopolitics first, or vice versa. I suspect this will be a dance that will go on for a long time.

Subject: European History

TutorMe
Question:

After the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the European powers met to discuss the establishment of a post-war order that would eliminate the threat of war on the continent. The Balance of Powers system that arose prevented a major European conflict for approximately one hundred years, until World War I erupted in 1914. After World War I, the Allied Powers once again attempted to establish a world order that would prevent another catastrophic conflict. This attempt was notable in its failure to prevent World War Two. Based on these historical episodes, do you believe that warfare is an inevitable characteristic of being human? Is there meaning in attempts to establish systems and institutions to prevent war, even though these historical developments demonstrate, arguably, how ineffective such efforts are? Substantiate a response with historical evidence from Europe between 1815-1918.

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Justin D.
Answer:

Warfare is an inevitable component of being human. To be human means to struggle, and sometimes these struggles manifest in violent conflicts. Even after the establishment of the Concert of Europe system, warfare still occurred in the continent. For example, the Crimean War was waged between Russia, the Ottomans, France, and the United Kingdom. Wars and internal revolutions raged throughout the monarchies of Europe, most notable in the 1848 revolutions that broke out throughout Europe. Nations such as Italy and Germany were formed after nationalists waged wars to unite people with a common tongue, history, and culture under one flag. The nineteenth century was by no means a century of peace; though a pan-Europe war did not break out, it was because competition between the powers happened far-and-away in colonial territories, and monarchies were preoccupied with preserving their rule over their subjects, rather than over conquering one another. In the 20th century, by which time most of the world had been colonized, conflict returned home. And when the monarchy of Austria-Hungary was threatened, it acted to preserve itself. There is gratitude and hope to be owed to institutions that are established to maintain peace. While they might be ineffective in preventing conflicts between nation-states, they are helpful in mitigating the impacts of war. In the three decades leading up to World War One, a host of humanitarian organizations -- such as the International Red Cross -- were established. Although such organizations did not prevent the outbreak of war in 1914, during the First World War (and many wars after), groups like the Red Cross have done fantastic work to help refugees, prisoners of war, and civilians. Thus, though war is innate in the human condition, so too is compassion and decency, which enables the creation of groups to aid the most helpless in the most difficult circumstances.

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