Thursday, January 31, 2013

Historical Theory and Method: A Short Annotated Bibliography

Brown, Douglas E. When Past and Present Meet: A Companion to the Study of Christian Thought. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987.

In this deeply challenging book, Brown posits that the study of Christian thought can lead to a greater appreciation of Christianity as a historical religion. Such study also provides a basis for the critical appraisal of one’s own thought and practice, and can help the student to understand others better.  The book includes a good section on the principles of historical interpretation, and a meditation of sorts on how to handle the aftereffects of such study and how to use it.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past. Oxford: University Press, 2002.
What do historians do? How do they conceive of and go about their work? And what is the value of it? In this series of eight lectures, originally delivered at Oxford during the 2000-01 school year, Gaddis responds to these and other basic questions about the enterprise called history.  To make his discussion of theory easier to follow, he constantly uses illustrations, analogies, and quotations borrowed from the worlds of art, literature, and popular culture.  Even the book’s cover art, Caspar David Friedrich’s The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, sets up the first of many metaphors that Gaddis puts to work in order to communicate what he wants to say. This is an excellent short introduction to some of the most important questions that historians can ask themselves regarding what they do and why. My fuller review of Gaddis is at the following blog post:

Tosh, John. Historians on History. 2nd edition. Harlow, England: Pearson Educational Limited, 2009.

As the title suggests, this book is an anthology. Tosh allows us to listen in as various historians "reflect in public on the nature of their craft" (p. 1). Tosh begins by discussing "four longstanding and influential aspirations of historians." To get a handle on them, I've given these four aspirations the following titles:

1. History for Its Own Sake
2. History as a Map of Time
3. History as a Political Tool
4. History as Prophecy

Tosh regards this list as “the fourfold rationale for the study of history” (p. 9).  In addition to those, he also describes and provides examples of three major debates that have emerged within the ranks of historians over the last thirty years. These, as I see them, are as follows:

1. History About and/or By Subordinates 
2. Is this One of the Humanities, or Social Sciences?
3. History since the Rise of Postmodernism. 

According to Tosh, these are the live issues with which history is wrestling today. For my fuller discussion, see the two following posts:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A. C. Huff according to J. Porter Wilhite


"Abraham Conn Huff was born February 8, 1864, in Texas, where he lived most of his life. After some country schools, which he attended only about six weeks; at the age of sixteen, he attended in Brownwood, Texas, and was able to teach school for some time. He also was a singing school teacher in those days. He did a lot of mission work wherever it was needed, leading his own singing in many meetings. This work was because of the love of God, and the souls of mankind; because support was practically nothing. Brother Huff began preaching at the age of twenty (1884). This being 1965, he now has preached longer than any living gospel preacher--81 years and still preaching--and preached forty minutes on his birthday this year. This is amazing! He had four debates! He reared twelve children, four sons, each an elder or a preacher of the gospel. WONDERFUL! Preached 81 years."

In J. Porter Wilhite, The Trail Blazers: Heroes of the Faith (Shreveport, LA: Lambert Book House, 1965), 72.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A. C. Huff, preacher, Church of Christ, Altus, OK, Gospel Advocate obituary

Huff, A. C.

A. C. Huff was born February 8, 1864, in Halletsville, Texas, and departed this life December 8, 1967, at the age of 103 years and ten months.

Brother Huff preached the gospel of Christ eighty years, and was a faithful member of the church of Christ. He had been a member of the Del City congregation during the past few years.

He preached regularly for the church in McLean, Texas, four years, and preached for approximately six years in Montoya, N. M. Also, he preached for several months for the church in Penrose, Colo., thirty-three miles South West of Colorado Springs, Colorado. However, most of his preaching throughout the years was evangelistic preaching. Brother Huff engaged in several debates during his preaching career.

He is survived by four sons and four daughters in the immediate family. The sons are: Thomas B. Huff, Dallas, Texas; Otto A. Huff, Pea Ridge, Arkansas; Gus J. Huff, Henderson, Texas; Leslie G. Huff, Austin, Texas. The daughters are: Mrs. Peter Fullbright, McLean, Texas; Lena Burk, Midwest City, Oklahoma; Eunice Dennis, Midwest City, Oklahoma; Leola Horrell, Midwest City, Oklahoma. Also surviving are: forty grandchildren, 100 great grandchildren, and forty-two great great grandchildren.

A memorial service was held for Brother Huff in Del City, December 9, 1967. The writer preached the funeral sermon. A singing group from the Del City congregation sang some hymns of comfort.

At 3 P.M., Dec. 9, another memorial service was held in McLean, Texas by the writer and assisted there by Brother Smith the local preacher. The body was laid to rest in the McLean cemetery.

John R. Stewart.

Gospel Advocate, January 11, 1968, page 31.

According to an article about the Church of Christ in Altus, Oklahoma, by W. Claude Hall, in Firm Foundation (September 13, 1927), A. C. Huff was the first full-time preacher for the congregation. He began around 1907 "at a salary of $60.00 per month."

According to the find-a-grave website, his full name was Abraham Conn Huff.

A related website indicates that his father, Thomas M. Huff, is buried at Manchaca, Texas, which is near Austin.

I took these photos in May 2013, a few months after the original post here. Michele and I stopped and had supper at the Red River Steakhouse before going out to the cemetery in McLean, TX. We were on our way to Edmond and Oklahoma City, where I was planning to do some research.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Military Role of Nuclear Weapons, by Robert S. McNamara

McNamara, Robert S., “The Military Role of Nuclear Weapons: Perceptions and Misperceptions,” Foreign Affairs 62 (Fall 1983): 59-80.

A couple years ago, while conducting some research on the Cold War, I got a little carried away and wound up writing a complete digest of this article. I'm posting it here for whatever it might be worth to others who are exploring the same subject. Just a bit by way of introduction: Robert S. McNamara served as the Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1968. Afterwards, he was President of the World Bank from 1968 until 1981. With an appetite for facts and figures, he excelled in policy analysis. He published this article in the midst of President Ronald Reagan’s first term in office.

As McNamara explains, then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander Haig had recently defended the option of an early first use of nuclear weapons in Western Europe against a Soviet attack that used conventional forces. He notes that at the same time, a number of vital questions were still in the process of being answered. These included, but were not limited to, “the deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles to Western Europe,” and “the production of the MX missile and the B-1 bomber” (60). Given that many military and political leaders had rightly expressed the horror and unprecedented destruction of a war involving nuclear weapons, McNamara proceeds by raising and responding to four questions.

The first question is, “What is NATO’s present nuclear strategy and how did it evolve?” McNamara says that early on, NATO “turned consciously to nuclear weapons as a substitute for the financial and manpower sacrifices which would have been necessary to mount an adequate conventional defense” (62). However, during his tenure as Secretary of State, an alternate policy was adopted: a policy of “flexible response,” which raised the nuclear threshold, effectively reducing the likelihood of using such weapons while depending more heavily on conventional forces (63). In effect, NATO confined the role of nuclear weapons as (a) a means of deterring a Soviet initiation of nuclear war and (b) a weapon of last resort (64). This trajectory matched up well with a changing Soviet posture that, by 1977, envisioned “a major protracted war between East and West in which nuclear weapons would not be used” (66). By 1982, Soviet Defense Minister Ustinov stated: “Only extraordinary circumstances—a direct nuclear aggression against the Soviet state or its allies—can compel us to resort to a retaliatory nuclear strike as a last means of self-defense” (66).

McNamara’s second question is, “Can NATO initiate the use of nuclear weapons, in response to a Soviet attack, with benefit to the Alliance?” Would it ever be reasonable for NATO to use its battlefield nuclear weapons in Western Europe? In response, McNamara makes the case that, by all accounts, even limited nuclear warfare conducted by NATO against an attack by the forces of the Warsaw Pact would not have the effect of defending Europe. Instead, such use would devastate Europe (67-70).

The third question reads, “Even if the ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons is not to NATO’s advantage, does not the threat of such use add to the deterrent and would not the removal of the threat increase the risk of war?” McNamara responds by pointing out that both American and Soviet executive leaders currently agreed that initiating a nuclear strike against the other was completely unacceptable. Any number of military leaders had also expressed this sentiment. When neither side has the intention—that is, if both sides are committed to never beginning a nuclear war—then the deterrent effect rendered by the presence of nuclear weapons begins to disappear. “One cannot build a credible deterrent on an incredible action” (73). However, says McNamara, the presence of battlefield and medium-range nuclear weapons in Western Europe does have at least one certain effect: it increases the likelihood of a nuclear incident that would could conceivably lead to absolute escalation. At the same time, the presence of such expensive and risky arsenals depletes funding which could otherwise be used to reinforce a conventional military presence (74-76).

McNamara then takes up his fourth question: “If it is not to NATO’s advantage to respond to a Soviet conventional attack by the use of nuclear weapons, can NATO’s conventional forces, within realistic political and financial constraints, be strengthened sufficiently to substitute for the nuclear threat as a deterrent to Soviet aggression?” He responds with a qualified, “Yes.” Such a transition is feasible mainly because of advances in the lethality, sophistication, and speed of newer conventional technologies. However, NATO-member nations would have to increase, only slightly, their contribution to the Alliance, and NATO forces would obviously have to implement the new strategy (77-79).

McNamara concludes by stating his most basic thesis: “that nuclear weapons serve no military purpose whatsoever. They are totally useless—except only to deter one’s opponent from using them” (79, emphasis his). He states that that had been his view in the early 1960s as well, and that he had recommended to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson “that they never initiate, under any circumstances, the use of nuclear weapons” (79).

In this article, McNamara declares to the current US political and military leadership that the thought of using battlefield nuclear weapons against a conventional aggression was unconscionable, and that the current proliferation of nuclear weapons was wrong-headed. It is safe to say that his experience and success in the dangerous 1960s lent considerable weight to his conclusions and recommendations.

This article reveals some of the contrast between the political and military situation of the early 1960s compared to the early 1980s.