In this magisterial book, a prize-winning historian shows how war has defined modern America. Michael Sherry argues that America's intense preoccupation with war emerged on the eve of World War II, marking a turning point as important as the Revolution, the end of the frontier, and other watersheds in American history. In the fifty years since the war, says Sherry, militarization has reshaped every facet of American life: its politics, economics, culture, social relations, and place in the world.
Sherry (The Rise of American Air Power) argues here that beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. entered into a process of ``militarization.'' WWII and the Cold War reinforced American impulses to develop both an effective state and a prosperous, powerful nation. War and national security became consuming anxieties, providing metaphors and models that shaped major areas of civil life and public policy. The U.S. has not relished conflict, nor has it been dominated by military institutions. War itself remained a shadow for most Americans, even between 1941 and 1945. Yet Americans have waged ``war'' on poverty, drugs, AIDS and a host of other ``enemies'' with more energy than consequence. Similarly, U.S. foreign policy from the 1940s to the present has often been capricious and contingent, responding to perceived emergencies rather than concrete national interests. Militarization has been costly: however, disengaging from it is proving a complex process in a world where conflict remains a norm. A highly detailed argument of interest primarily to historians. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)