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How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires, and the American Way of War [Hardcover]

Dominic Tierney
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 4, 2010
Americans love war. We've never run from a fight. Our triumphs from the American Revolution to World War II define who we are as a nation and a people.

Americans hate war. Our leaders rush us into conflicts without knowing the facts or understanding the consequences. Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan define who we are as a nation and a people.

How We Fight explores the extraordinary doublemindedness with which Americans approach war, and reveals the opposing mindsets that have governed our responses throughout history: the "crusade" tradition-our grand quests to defend democratic values and overthrow tyrants; and the "quagmire" tradition-our resistance to the work of nation-building and its inevitable cost in dollars and American lives.

How can one nation be so split? Studying conflicts from the Civil War to the present, Dominic Tierney has created a secret history of American foreign policy and a frank and insightful look at how Americans respond to the ultimate challenge. And he shows how success is possible. His innovative model for tackling the challenges of modern war can mean longstanding victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, by rediscovering a lost American warrior tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Comparing public opinion about America’s wars from the Civil War to the continuing Iraqi and Afghan conflicts, Tierney synthesizes similarities into a perspective on the American way of war. He posits that socially deep-seated beliefs in liberalism and religion summon Americans to war, but that the catharsis of overthrowing enemies sets Americans up for disillusionment when foes reject the self-evident blessings of liberal democracy. Tierney’s first example of the crusading/nation-building pattern is not Vietnam but the war that inspired “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Its righteously militant lyrics exemplify the ideals and wrath that motivated the North; its popular adaptation in subsequent wars is one detail of crusading continuity among many that Tierney finds. Ditto Reconstruction: it’s the template of American nation building in that unrealistic aspirations to transform the South collapsed in public weariness with the effort. To break the crusading/nation-building cycle, Tierney advises a return to the limited-war attitudes of the Founders. Writing in colloquial style, this college professor accessibly frames questions arising from Iraq and Afghanistan about why victories have often been followed by occupations. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

Praise for HOW WE FIGHT:

"Lucid and entertaining...A provocative analysis of why Americans love some wars and hate others."—Kirkus Reviews

"A great theme, beautifully written and compellingly organized, it's a fitting update to Russell Weigley's classic [The American Way of War] and an important contribution to a national debate over the war in Afghanistan which is only gathering steam."—Ambassador James Dobbins, former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, and currently Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND

"Writing in colloquial style, this college professor accessibly frames questions arising from Iraq and Afghanistan about why victories have often been followed by occupations."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"Dominic Tierney's How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires, and the American Way of War is an unusual achievement. It is a provocative scholarly book about the U.S. approach to war that was written for a broad non-academic audience...no one can dispute that his ambitious undertaking generates much-needed debate on a timely topic. That his writing is fluid and accessible makes it more likely that he will reach both scholarly and policy audiences."—James H. Lebovic, George Washington University

"Tierney's is a welcome voice in the trade press literature on American wars. He captures the essence of America's history of warfare and presents it in a digestible, yet sophisticated and historically rich way...interesting, engaging, compelling, and even entertaining to a broader audience."—Jon Western, Mt. Holyoke College

"How We Fight is an important contribution in itself and for the thinking it prompts in others."—Bruce W. Jentleson, Duke University

"[Tierney's] work here will be a useful addition to the literature of culture and war..."—Library Journal

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (November 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316045152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316045155
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,673,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at Americans at war October 17, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The wars in our history seem unique, but as Tierney shows, they are all woven together. Time and again we go charging off on crusades for liberty and vengeance, literally singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. And then we inevitably get disillusioned once the despot is overthrown and we have to stabilize a conquered land. The Civil War and Reconstruction, or Iraq--it's basically the same story.

This book offers a fresh perspective on war. It's a book for the open-minded rather than the fiercely ideological. It's not obviously pro-war or anti-war or conservative or liberal. But it does have a powerful core argument: Americans loving fighting for regime change and hate nation-building, and this gets us into trouble. The twist at the end is that we can solve this problem by learning from the founding fathers.

There are some great stories. The ones that stuck in my mind are that the descendents of Adolf Hitler live in Long Island and made a pact not to have children to end the Hitler bloodline, eight times as many U.S. military personnel became pregnant during the Gulf War as died in the war, and in the 1960s episodes of Star Trek reflected changing opinions of Vietnam.

The writing is lucid and crisp. And there are wonderful turns of phrase. For example, when describing a segregated cemetery in Louisiana, Tierney writes: "in death the races are equal but separate."

This book is highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesnt quite connect the wars but a good read March 1, 2011
Format:Hardcover
The book not only tries to find the common ground between all the wars United States has fought since the Civil War but most importantly read the psyche of the people and its leaders while the war goes on. The author bottles down to three most important traditions The Crusading tradition (just before the build up to war), The Quagmire Tradition (After regime change) and last but not the least The Founding Tradition (the founding fathers view of war) and tries to connect all the wars to these traditions. The author argues that America loves the idea of going to war if it only involves use of all the necessary force to change a regime and hate the idea involving armed forces helping the won country reconstruct or reorganize before a new elected government can stand on its feet. While the author had found right notes with identifying various traditions of war not all the wars necessarily fit into these three paradigms, I found some of them were more stuffed to fit rather than of right kind. The book tries to follow a balanced approach neither supporting nor condemning war, for most part it does appear to slightly incline towards former but never glorifying it. The book however has a very lucid flow, great references and gives an abridged U.S history lesson concluding that America lives in a different world now and should use a balanced approach of using the above mentioned traditions while most importantly acknowledging the basic fact that both Crusading and Quagmire traditions are always connected and America will succeed only when it can relate those two. Still a good read and could be recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Ipy
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Crusades and Quagmires, sometimes in the same war. That really says it all. This is a hard hitting and incisive analysis of how America fights and how the public accepts war. Stretching back to the Civil War, it shows how quickly our country can swing from extreme to extreme. It sheds insight on our most recent wars through a detailed examination of our past. Recommend for history or poli sci enthusiasts.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Was in great conditition! Was a present for my husband who is into Military History, he was excited and liked it
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