Syllabus: Senior Seminar--"The U.S. Presidency and the Vietnam War" PSC 6900-100, Spring of 2004

Professor David M. Barrett, 262 St. Augustine Center. Phone: 610-519-4128.  E-mail:

Please feel free to telephone, email me, or stop by my office any time, whether or not it conforms to my official office hours. Unless Iím unusually busy, Iíll talk to you then. Iím on campus almost every weekday, mid-morning to early evening. Sometimes you can reach me Sunday evenings, too.

Seminar overview: One purpose of this seminar is to explore the reasons why the United States involved itself deeply in Vietnamese affairs from roughly 1950 to 1975. My goal is that you become knowledgeable about policymaking in Washington, D.C., especially by presidents, during the long Vietnam era of American history. Of interest, of course, will be the years from 1945 to 1975, but especially those during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations, when U.S. involvement in Vietnam grew considerably. Another purpose of the seminar is to draw on political science and history to better understand the role and powers of the presidency, as well as other institutions, in American government and politics. From the political science discipline, I will familiarize you with some major theories that attempt to explain presidential performance.

Please turn off cell phones and pagers upon entering the classroom. If it should ever be the case (which should be very rare) that you plan to leave class early, please inform me before that class meeting begins.

Required reading:

--David L. Anderson (ed.), Shadow on the White House: Presidents and the Vietnam War, 1945-1975.

--David L. Anderson, Trapped by Success: The Eisenhower Administration and Vietnam, 1953-1961.

Francis X. Winters, The Year of the Hare: America in Vietnam, January 25, 1963-February 15, 1964.

--David M. Barrett, Uncertain Warriors: Lyndon Johnson and His Vietnam Advisers.

--James Kirschke, Not Going Home Alone.

--A few brief articles may also be assigned.

Grading: Your course grade will be determined by your participation (25%), your oral presentation on an assigned topic (10%), your quiz average (25%), and your research paper (40%).

There will be brief weekly quizzes covering the assigned readings for that seminar meeting.

Note the importance of participation in class discussions. (In order to get an "A" for participation, you should plan to attend and speak up at every meeting. No one who misses more than two seminar meetings will receive a passing grade for participation.)

I solicit your views on these very controversial presidents and "their" war. There is never a penalty for disagreeing with me, the authors, or anyone else!

I will distribute a separate memo regarding the student presentations and the research papers.

Schedule of seminar meetings, assigned readings, etc.:

January 13--Introduction to the course.

20--R[eadings]: Anderson, Shadow, ch. 1 (Anderson), 2 (McMahon); Anderson, Trapped, ch. 1.

27--R: Anderson, Trapped, ch. 2-4.

February 3--R: Anderson, Trapped, ch. 5-7. Presentations.

10--R: Anderson, Trapped, ch. 8-9; Anderson, Shadow, ch. 4 (Hess). Presentations.

17--R: Winters, Hare, Prologue, ch. 1-5. Presentations.

24--R: Winters, Hare, ch. 6-10. Presentations.

[Spring Break]

March 9--R: Winters, Hare, ch. 12, 14; Barrett, Uncertain, ch. 1, 2. Presentations.

16--R: Barrett, Uncertain, ch. 3-5, and Afterword. Presentations.

23--R: Anderson, Shadow, ch. 6 (Taylor), ch. 7 (Small), and ch. 8 (Kimball). Presentations.

30--R: Anderson, Shadow, ch. 9 (Anderson); Kirschke, Not Going Home Alone, Introduction, ch 1-2. Presentations.

April 6--R: Kirschke, ch. 3, 4 (through p. 122). Presentations.

13--R: Kirschke, ch. 4, p. 123 through p. 200 of ch. 5. Presentations.

20--R: Kirschke, p. 201 through end of book. Presentations. [Last class! Tuesday April 27 follows a Friday class day schedule at Villanova.]



Grade Appendix

Numerical grade/Letter grade

95-100 A 

90-94 A-

88-89 B+

84-87 B

81-83 B-

78-80 C+

75-77 C

73-74 C-

72 D+

70-71 D

Below 70 F