Saturday, March 3, 2012

Michael H. Hunt & Steven I. Levine

Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine are the authors of a new book, Arc of Empire: America's Wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam.

From their Q & A at the University of North Carolina Press website:

Q: How, as co-authors, did you come upon Arc of Empire's thesis that America's four wars in Asia were actually phases in a sustained U.S. bid for regional dominance?

A: As academic workhorses each of us has been around the track quite a few times. From our teaching and writing over several decades, we got to know the terrain of East Asia pretty well, including its wars. Steve was up on World War II, the Chinese civil war, and Korea; Michael had a longstanding interest in Korea and Vietnam as well how the Philippines war foreshadowed Vietnam. We first co-authored an essay on Asian revolutions and U.S. Cold War policy that was published in 1990 and subsequently reprinted in anthologies. As friends as well as colleagues, we began to discuss pooling our knowledge and finally decided to test our ideas in courses we would teach together at UNC. We started with a small graduate seminar and then offered an undergraduate course twice. Our students really helped us sharpen our perspective and refine our ideas.

Q: In your introduction, you acknowledge that the use of the term empire has long evoked anxiety among Americans debating their role in the world. Why do you choose to give prominence to what might be considered a loaded term?

A: Because it fits our cases. We're not trying to be provocative just to goad our readers. What bothered us was the semantic confusion that has surrounded "empire." Wading into the historical literature convinced us that empire is a perfectly good term if it's used in a clear, grounded way. Once we had a historically based definition, we analyzed U.S. involvement in Asia and concluded that the definition nicely fits the case. There's really no reason to treat it as a taboo when applied to our own country. Moreover, using it invites illuminating comparisons between the United States and other countries with the experience of empire.

Q: How have your students responded to the idea that the four wars considered--in the Philippines, against Japan, in Korea, and in Vietnam--were not separate and unconnected?

A: Most students think...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue