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In chapter 16 of A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn accuses the US of...

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turtlenecks | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 19, 2011 at 12:07 PM via web

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In chapter 16 of A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn accuses the US of fighting a people's war but not truly adhering to the values it stated as a reason for going to war. Evaluate Zinn's argument

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 19, 2011 at 12:23 PM (Answer #1)

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As with most parts of Zinn's book, I think there is an element of truth in Chapter 16, but that it caricatures US actions and ignores the ways in which those actions really did adhere to the values held by the US.

For example, Zinn argues that the US was, in WWII, run by a racist elite for its own economic interests.  It is, of course, true that there was a significant racist element in US society and in US actions.  However, it is hard to argue that US actions were driven largely by racist and/or economic motives.  If that were the case, why did the US act so benevolently towards Germany and Japan after the war?  If that were the case, why did the US give the Philippines its independence?

There is much to criticize about US actions and I would never argue that the US lived up to all of its ideals in this war.  At the same time, however, I think that it is just as skewed to argue as Zinn does that there was no moral difference between the US on the one hand and the Nazis and the Japanese imperialists on the other.

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