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."
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.
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.