Spring 2003

by Bob Peterson

This is an article that could be read by skilled readers or could provide a framework to teach about the history of U.S. military interventions around the world.

Some issues to consider:

  • What claims has the United States government made about why it has used military force outside of its own borders?

  • How do these claims compare with the results of U.S. intervention?

  • What kind of relationships between nations has the United States sought to achieve through use of military might? Who benefited from U.S. intervention?

  • Who did not benefit from U.S. intervention?

  • What resistance has the U.S. government encountered, both at home and abroad, to its use of the military?

  • How do textbooks explain the use of the U.S. military in other people's countries? Which interventions are included? Which are omitted? Whose voices are heard in the accounts?

Divide students into small groups and have each research one of the interventions mentioned in this article - e.g., the invasion of Mexico in 1846 (see "Students as Textbook Detectives," in Rethinking Our Classrooms, Volume 1, p. 158.); the wars against Cuba and the Philippines, begun in 1898; occupations of Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic in the early 20th century; etc. Ask students to consider some of the above questions as they research a particular intervention. Have each group write a dialogue poem between different "players." For example, the group researching the U.S. war with Mexico in 1846-48 might pair the perspectives of a U.S. antiwar protester in Boston with President Polk; a U.S. soldier with a Mexican soldier; a U.S. soldier and a U.S. officer, etc.

For a list of interventions, see
and http://www.zmag.org/CrisesCurEvts/interventions.htm

According to the article, "there are clear patterns that can be discerned from studying the history of U.S. interventions." Have representatives of each small group circulate throughout the classroom on a "pattern hunt," trying to see what commonalities they can find from intervention to intervention.

Ask students to compare the behavior of organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization with U.S. military interventions. For example, how are structural adjustment programs similar to and/or different from the outcomes of U.S. military interventions in the countries with which students are familiar? What is the relationship between military interventions and globalization?

Spring 2003

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Lesson Plans and Teaching Ideas

Suggested Readings for Teachers and Students

Background Documents and Related Materials

Maps and Geography Activities

Resources for Teachers

Links About the War

Teacher Groups Against the War

Teacher Resolutions Against the War