Friday, December 23, 2011

Bacevich on the Legacy of the Iraq War

In a discussion of whether the U.S. war in Iraq has been worth the cost, Andrew Bacevich writes:
The disastrous legacy of the Iraq War extends beyond treasure squandered and lives lost or shattered. Central to that legacy has been Washington's decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft. With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is U.S.
More from Bacevich is here. The Council of Foreign Relations' Roundtable "Was the Iraq War Worth It," is here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"On the Frontlines: Gender, War, and the Post-Conflict Process"

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Dina Francesca Haynes, and Naomi Cahn: On the Frontlines: Gender, War, and Post-Conflict Process just published by Oxford University Press. According to Bond, the book
is remarkably compelling and likely to have a significant impact on the way that scholars and activists working in post-conflict societies conceive of their fundamental mission. Several key themes provide a conceptual anchor throughout the book. These include: (1) the notion of gender centrality as a more effective and compelling alternative to gender mainstreaming; (2) the relevant international norms and the extent to which they have been successful in addressing the gendered aspects of post-conflict processes; (3) the importance of consulting with local populations, and with women in particular, before advancing any post-conflict agenda; and (4) the inadequacy of focusing disproportionately on civil and political rights, whether through accountability mechanisms, rule of law initiatives, or other avenues, to the exclusion of socio-economic rights and needs. The authors deftly weave these themes throughout the book in a way that guides the reader through a complex and persuasive analysis.
Of particular interest, is
the authors' resistance to gender essentialism. Women's victim-status has dominated the post-conflict literature in ways that often reinforce gender essentialism. In some ways, this is understandable given the gendered nature of sexual harms suffered by women in areas of armed conflict. The analysis, however, must extend beyond victim-status to engage questions of women's participation in conflict and their involvement in the recovery effort. The authors' approach reinforces the complexity of women's experiences before, during, and after conflict.
The rest of Bond's post is here.  More on the book is here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Available for Order at a Discount in the UK

UK readers (and others) can order War Time at a 25% discount from the Book Depository.  They advertise free shipping worldwide, however they show an April release date, and the book should be available from US vendors in February.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"A Permanent State of Remote War"

William J. Astore, retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), has a post today on the remoteness of American wars from the American people:
America’s wars are remote.  They’re remote from us geographically, remote from us emotionally (unless you’re serving in the military or have a close relative or friend who serves), and remote from our major media outlets, which have given us no compelling narrative about them, except that they’re being fought by “America’s heroes” against foreign terrorists and evil-doers.  They’re even being fought, in significant part, by remote control—by robotic drones “piloted” by ground-based operators from a secret network of bases located hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the danger of the battlefield.

Their remoteness, which breeds detachment if not complacency at home, is no accident.  Indeed, it’s a product of the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were wars of choice, not wars of necessity.  It’s a product of the fact that we’ve chosen to create a “warrior” or “war fighter” caste in this country, which we send with few concerns and fewer qualms to prosecute Washington’s foreign wars of choice.
Astore goes on to argue that  wars of choice have led to "a state of permanent remote war" that "has weakened our military, drained our treasury, and eroded our rights and freedoms."

The engagement of the people with a nation's wars has been central to ideas about warfare.  War theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote of the people as both an engine and a restraint on warfare.  Clausewitz's "wonderful trinity," describes the nature of war as "composed of the original violence of its elements, hatred and animosity, which may be looked upon as blind instinct; of the play of probabilities and chance, which make it a free activity of the soul; and of the subordinate nature of a political instrument, by which it belongs purely to the reason."  The trinity is often reduced to those Clausewitz thought to embody these elements:  the people, the military, and the government.

The emotional element of war, centered in the people, can help motivate a nation to warfare.  But the people can also rein in warfare.  When the costs of war are too great, the people are thought to lose their will to fight, hampering the nation's ability to pursue war.

But what happens if the people are never in engaged in a war in the first place? This where Astore's point is so important.  The remoteness of the American people from American wars, he argues, enables the nation's wars of choice.  The absence of the people -- the embodiment of the emotional element Clausewitz thought was a central feature of warfare -- means that the people do not tire of the costs of war.  The people's remoteness and isolation from war undermines their traditional role as a restraint.

Astore writes: 
As Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it recently to Time:  “Long term, if the military drifts away from its people in this country, that is a catastrophic outcome we as a country can't tolerate.”
One of the consequences of this development appears to be our current "permanent state of remote war."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Endorsements and Availability

Oxford University Press has posted blurbs for War Time:
"For over a decade since 9/11, U.S. forces have been waging war. Yet is the nation itself 'at war'? In this timely and provocative book, Mary Dudziak shows why this question has become so difficult to answer-and warns of the dangers inherent in our failure to do so." --Andrew J . Bacevich , author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

"War Time turns our notions of both 'war' and 'time' upside down. This thought-provoking book forces us to realize that war is not an exception to 'normal' peacetime, but rather that wartime has become the norm. The implications of perpetual wartime are profound, for law, politics, and daily life. Mary Dudziak has again brought her keen cultural, historical and legal insights to bear on a subject of critical importance."--Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota

"Taking law as her focal point but ranging much more widely, Mary Dudziak's provocative meditation on what we mean in speaking of a 'time' of war invites readers to reflect on how we think about war itself. It should change our understanding of what-and when-war 'is' for Americans."--Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"War Time is one of those rare books that can entirely reorient how one thinks about the world. By showing the reader what Americans have meant-and have come to mean-by 'wartime,' Mary Dudziak shows us assumptions about war and peace that govern political and legal thought without anyone noticing. This is an intellectual tour de force, and beautifully written to boot."--H. Jefferson Powell , George Washington Law School
The book will ship from OUP in January, and from other vendors in early February. Besides Amazon, it's listed at Powell's, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Roundtable: Pearl Harbor: 70 Years Later

The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations has posted an excellent Roundtable for the seventieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor:  
Japan’s surprise attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was a dramatic event that resulted in the destruction and decapitation of eighteen U.S. vessels and 188 planes, as well as the death of over 2,400 Americans. The experience was spectacular and horrifying. Yet the impact of the military operation far transcended the immediate damages it inflicted on the strategically valued harbor. Throughout the years afterwards, the “day of infamy” would yield far-reaching influence on politics, diplomacy, society, and culture in the United States, Japan, Hawai’i, and other parts of the world. is proud to present a roundtable on the Pearl Harbor attack as we approach its seventieth anniversary. We have asked four historians—Emily S. Rosenberg, Greg Robinson, John Gripentrog, and Yujin Yaguchi—to reflect on this fateful experience and address its broader significance. The contributors offer insight on a wide range of issues, concerning politics, diplomacy, memory, popular culture, racism, and education. We hope this forum will aid readers in grasping the complexity of this important event.
The entries are:

Emily Rosenberg,  Forgetting Pearl Harbor

Greg Robinson,  Pearl Harbor and Japanese Americans: Another Sort of Infamy

John Gripentrog, Pearl Harbor: The Road to Irreconcilable Worldviews

Yujin Yaguchi, Remembering Pearl Harbor in Hawai‘i: A Reflection on an Annual Workshop for U.S. and Japanese Secondary School Teachers

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kuzmarov on Militarized Policing

Jeremy Kuzmarov, University of Tulsa, has an interesting post on History News Network.
The images of militarized police units organized in platoon formation pepper spraying and beating peaceful demonstrators at UC Davis and at the Occupy encampments across the country have been disturbing to witness, though they provide a potent symbol of the times. While staffed with people from working-class backgrounds, the police in American society have long served as “protectors of privilege,” as Frank Donner put it in a 1990 book, upholding the power of the wealthy 1% by frequently crushing labor protest, spying on and harassing civil rights and antiwar activists, and enforcing the War on Drugs primarily in ghetto communities.
As much as racial profiling and brutality have been deeply rooted in the history of American police institutions, so has their militarization, owing in part to the influence of overseas police training programs.
Read the rest here.

Kuzmarov is the author of "The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs" (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009) and the forthcoming, "Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century" (Massachusetts).