Forced to Be Free: Americans as Occupiers and Nation Builders (Gen Ed 1017)



Histories, Societies, Individuals icon with text

Andrew Gordon and Erez Manela

The history of the United States in the 20th and 21st century world is marked by a number of significant military occupations of foreign lands, all of them framed as nation-building projects carried out with the intent of delivering democracy. These episodes include (but are not limited to) the Philippines in the early 20th century, Japan and Germany in the years after World War II, Vietnam in the 1960s, and Iraq and Afghanistan most recently. This course will examine the contradiction at the core of the enterprise of nation-building through occupation: that of enforcing freedom. You will read both primary and secondary sources related to these military and political occupations as you explore, with a comparative perspective, what sort of project Americans sought to enact through occupation. As you consider the implications of forced liberation and the exportation of an American ideal of self-determination, special attention will be paid to the occupier’s collaborations and confrontations with local elites. You will also examine the conditions and responses of the occupied peoples and the impact of those responses upon the United States.