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Mark Safranski wrote: > I must confess though, that I am a bit puzzled by Mr. Serewicz's backtracking > - after all it was he who wrote that " What makes this even more discouraging > is that I often find, after going to the archives, that the authors have left > out or shaded the meaning of the material they cited ". Well, either it is > "often " - a frequent, common, occurrence- and thus an indictment of current > standards of scholarship or it is not. It cannot be both. I have no intention of backtracking on my point regarding the archives. However, I did and do want to clarify what I meant. I do not see clarifications as backtracking. That intent cannot be surmised from my post. My post was to clarify the misunderstanding created in part by Mr. Cardwell and Mr. Safranski When I make a point about a poor argument or poor evidence, I am not suggesting the field as a whole is wrong. I AM asking the field what I should do about. For an example of what I am referring to please see my post of 7 November 1998 CNN COMMENTARY: Episode 6 "Reds". In this post, I explored a minor point raised by Larry Berman in _Planning a Tragedy_ and I suggested that the interpretation he gave was innacurate because he did not follow up the point in the archives. I do not know why he failed to follow up the point. Perhaps he did not think it was important. Perhaps he was tired. Perhaps there was a glitch in his word processor. However, I would not begin to suggest that he made that point and failed to give the follow up information because of his political intentions. Moreover, running down ever last detail is not easy. The trade off between time and full and complete accuracy is often towards time. By that I do not mean that accuracy is thrown out the window. What I mean is that few people are given twenty years to write a book and to check every piece of evidence against every possible claim. Mistakes can and will be made. I am not in the business of discerning the reason why people make that mistake. That leads me to my second clarification. Mr. Safranski makes the following point. Most of my post > dealt with this topic in a general sense of the role of political activism in > historical writing and the use of footnotes, prompted by Mr. Serewicz's strong > critique of Professor Buzzanco's Bernath lecture - not whether the New Left > can be rebutted. I am not certain that I am alone on the list in regarding > Mr. Serewicz's original posting as being exceptionally critical of Professor > Buzzanco but I will accept his caveats at face value. My caveats regarding Mr. Buzzanco have only to deal with the question of intent and political activism. I did not set out to write my post because I thought he was using the evidence for political purposes. I sent in my post because I think his evidence does not back up his claim and therefor his claim was innacurate. My caveats relate to finding or discovering an author's political intent. I do not know what he intended. I do know what he wrote and my disagreement with his use of the Kennan quotation still stands. If I was interested in his intention, I would have mentioned his politics or his association with the New Left. I am not a diplomatic historian so these concerns are not even of interest to me outside the fact that they label "schools" or "sects". My third clarification relates to the word "often" In regard to the word "often", my use of the word was intended to avoid the impression that every time I check the record, the information is misinterpreted or left out material. In particular, I meant the word "often" in reference to my work on Dean Rusk and how he is treated in the literature. I could have made that point more clearly. I have not researched in all areas of diplomatic history, or United States foreign policy, or even Vietnam to suggest that there is a wide spread bias in the field on the use of archives. I can only report on what I know from reading archives as they relate to Dean Rusk and the material associated with him and the July 1965 troop decision. Thus, I should have qualified the use of the word "often" and my use of the "archives". My concern with referencing the archives is a more particular point. I cannot know how all scholars treat their fields. I know only those that relate to my limited subject of Dean Rusk and the July 1965 troop decision. I should point out that I have carried out limited archival work. In that regard, my general comments should not be seen as an indictment of the field, but rather a concern over how archives are used. One of the central characters in my dissertation is Dean Rusk. As a few people might know there are only three books written on Dean Rusk. I believe there is only one Ph.D. dissertation on him and two master's theses. In other words, he is understudied. I was amazed to find, not any more, books on the Vietnam War that have only two or three reference to him or some that never mention him at all. When I see a point about Dean Rusk, I quickly track it down because there is so little written about him beyond the usual stories or misperceptions. For example, the well known story about Dean Rusk and Kennedy's concerns over the delays in getting material from the State Department, where Kennedy asks for some information on a minor point and it takes a month before the information arrives. According to Dean Rusk, who makes a very persuasive argument and one that could be cross checked with some diligence, the story is wrong. He notes that the report was given to the White house promptly and then locked in a safe by a staffer who went on vacation that day. The information could, I think be checked against what the staffer said and if one was so inclined to find out the process by which material was logged into the White House. Did anyone check this story? Did anyone check the Rusk papers where one of his interviews with his son points out the discrepancy? No. The story is repeated in a book chapter where the author did not even cite Dean Rusk's _As I saw It_, let alone the Rusk Papers. I have to ask again, what is the point if I know the story is wrong. Does that really change anything? Does it matter that Rusk and the State Department had a bad reputation during the Kennedy years? As Rusk once said of Washington D.C. "It is a very wicked city." If and when I discover something relating to Rusk and an important question then I suppose it will matter. As for the rest, I suppose these smaller points would only matter if I was inclined to write a biography. This leads to my fourth clarification. I would like to point out that one should differentiate between my immediate criticism of Mr. Buzzanco's argument and the less immediate question of the literature. In regard to the former, I stand by my criticism of Mr. Buzzanco's argument. As I said, I think his claim and his evidence were weak. Why he chose that evidence is a different matter entirely. On the larger issue of the literature, I still have my question to be answered. Should I use this list simply to nit pick someone's research, especially if the work in question is not on this list? Or, should I simply stop to ask myself "What will be gained by pointing out what I see as the oversight?". If I point out something, within a footnote or a citation that changes the meaning slightly of a sub-argument, does that change anything of the overall argument? Is it simply that the researcher is imprecise, as we all are from time to time. Should I simply make a note to myself. Should we simply worry about the big picture and only worry about such details if and when they relate to the big picture? Finally, I have to ask some questions that have been bothering me since I read Mr. Buzzanco's lecture. Did anyone else read the Kennan quotation and check the material? Did everyone who read it in "Diplomatic History" and everyone who attended the lecture accept it at face value? Is this quotation so well known in the field that it is accepted at face value? Am I the only one who checked the footnote? I am almost tempted to ask "Does any of this matter beyond this list?" Lawrence Serewicz