EWRT2 RESEARCH PAPER: Critical Thinking about the Viet Nam Conflict


Minimum 2000 words with at least six references (WIKIPEDIA is not normally acceptable as a reference--it is more myth than fact on the topic of Viet Nam) including at least one reference from the Internet and one reference from the Apocalypse, Unit 5, Logic. Posting, hard copy, web page, or email acceptable. If you include pictures and appendices, hard copy or web page may be your medium of choice. The medium is not important; the quality of the research and the argument will decide the grade. Early on in the quarter you should decide on a topic that interests you, and your choice of topic will drive your selection of optional books and movies during the quarter.
The joy of research comes from restriction, narrowing down to a very small topic, and researching deeply and imaginatively into it, and thinking deeply about it. You then organize an argument and document it, following the principles of Units 3, 4, 5, & 6 of the Apocalypse.
I encourage you to peer edit another paper, and have your own paper peer edited, according to the principles in Unit 9. For those of you who live in the area, we have a wonderful collection of 3000 books (and magazines and 1000 videotapes) on the Viet Nam Conflict in the DeCillis Collection, 2nd floor of the Learning Center. Mr. DeCillis is also available to assist you in finding references; his email is decillis_collection@hotmail.com

Find a topic, do some research, narrow that topic from your evidence, research more narrowly and then organize an argument. Also see the research topics on the Vietnam Conflict Research Portal found on the Internet at: http://www.deanza.edu/faculty/swensson/ewrt2vn.html.

Dates of the Viet Nam Conflict are at: http://www.deanza.edu/faculty/swensson/vnhist.html

The Course Research Page is at: http://www.deanza.edu/faculty/swensson/ewrt2vn.html

Another GREAT Research Page is at http://www.cc.gatech.edu/fac/Thomas.Pilsch/Vietnam.html

The TALE OF KIEU Webpage is at: http://www.deanza.edu/faculty/swensson/kieu.html

General Topics:

A. Find one argument in Martin Luther King's seminal antiwar sermon "A Time to Break Silence," and argue the reliability (See Unit 5 for this definition-an argument is reliable when we are sufficiently convinced of its truth to believe it or act upon it.) of that argument. Examples might be MLK's claim that Ho Chi Minh's land reform was benevolent, that the US set up "concentration camps," or that the poor bore a disproportionate share of the burden of the war. Some Vietnamese students have used their grandparents as sources on land reform-think imaginatively. For the sermon see: http://www.deanza.edu/faculty/swensson/king.html.
B. Analyze a major work, again using outside references in addition to that work. Examples of major, outside works, are included in the Supplemental Reading List for the course, such as:

  • Neil Sheehan's A BRIGHT SHINING LIE
  • Phil Caputo's A RUMOR OF WAR
  • Loren Baritz' BACKFIRE
  • Prochnau's ONCE UPON A DISTANT WAR (The media in VN)

C. Do an analysis of ONE of the ten links (see the Overview Power Point Presentation on the Vietnam Conflict ) to Viet Nam enumerated in Loren Baritz' BACKFIRE. Or, using those reasons why we did what we did and Baritz' tripartite scheme that says the US goes to war because of its (1) mythology, (2) its reliance on technology, and (3) its bureaucracy, attempt to answer a question already raised by a student in this course: "When should the US go to War?" Or starting with Baritz' notions about technology, examine the function of the helicopter in DISPATCHES-make connections between and among. QUAGMIRE may well be a source in ANY paper for this course, or KIEU, or H&E or C&M or PA.
D. Argue a contribution of a cultural group to the Viet Nam Conflict. Examples might include Women in Viet Nam, Hispanics in Viet Nam, African-Americans in Viet Nam, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Koreans, or Native Americans. It will, of course, be necessary to RESTRICT within this topic say to Nurses, the PHILCAGV (Philippine Civic Action Group, Vietnam), or the Lone Mountain Apaches.
E. Examine the role of the Media in Viet Nam. There are hundreds of available sources on this topic, but some which come immediately to mind are ONCE UPON A DISTANT WAR, QUAGMIRE, DISPATCHES, THE GREEN BERETS, Malcolm Brown's RED SOCKS AND MUDY BOOTS; there are many books that address this topic in the DeCillis Research Book Collection.

F. A comparison argument (or contrast, but not both) between a limited aspect of the Viet Nam Conflict and our Conflict in Afghanistan.
G. Select any limited topic of interest to you about the Viet Nam Conflict and submit (via email) a written outline of your argument. I will be glad to help you with sources; that process can start as soon as you begin to think about a topic. Email me @ ewrit2@gmail.com

One example of Process

One morning I was reading a detailed chronology of the early years of American involvement in a book published in 1965. There I read that on 15 November, 1963, "a US military spokesman in Saigon reports that 1000 servicemen will be withdrawn from Viet-Nam, beginning December 3" (Raskin and Fall 393). I had always thought that this decision was Top Secret and contained within National Security Memorandum 263, and would have been declassified after the off year election. Recall that Diem was assassinated on 1 November, Kennedy on 22 November. Kennedy, who was a Democrat, was in Texas campaigning and his decision to withdraw troops was classified so that he would not be accused of being soft on Communism. An examination of this critical period and decision would make an interesting research paper. Oliver Stone made a movie with his hypothesis (JFK). What is yours? Well, you would have to do some initial research. I would start with books on JFK's involvement in Viet Nam. I would also go to the WEB. Note how small my area of focus is. There is great JOY in doing narrow research. It is how we generate new knowledge.
One quarter I had a student who did a research paper on what contributed to the American massacre at My Lai. She did original research, much of it by email, with historians, writers, Viet Nam Veterans, and others. Much of the research was open to the class, on the listserv. In her final paper she disagreed with a major author who had sent her his thoughts on why My Lai had happened. It was a splendid paper. Yours will be too-if you find a small topic that creates passion. I will certainly take papers on the antiwar movement in the US, or Japan; I will even take papers on 'Hanoi Jane' Fonda. In the last two quarters, one student published a Biography of Andrew Pham in WIKIPEDIA--it is good for some things, and another student is publishing a monograph written by a Viet Nam scholar who is no longer with us. Both students used these papers to attempt to get admitted to top schools.
And if you have a relative who served in the Vietnam Conflict (or lived in Vietnam during "The American War") see me about doing a first person interview.



NOTE: you must incorporate the works from the course into your papers, as discussed above. And ALL of your research MUST be documented in accordance with the principles of good documentation discussed in Unit 6. Any student who passes off the work of others as her/his own will receive an F on the paper. I have failed students in the past for this reason. I put your web work into search engines. I encourage you to work with each other, even though you are writing separate papers. In your Works Cited (See Unit 6) include a statement regarding with whom you worked and for how long.

Do NOT even cause me to question your work. Stay Honest!!! -- JKS
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