War, the American State, and Politics since 1898

By Munger, Michael C. | Independent Review, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

War, the American State, and Politics since 1898


Munger, Michael C., Independent Review


War, the American State, and Politics since 1898

Edited by By Robert P. Saldin

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Pp. xii, 258. $90.00 hardback.

In his book The Rise and Decline of Nations (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982), Mancur Olson wrote: "The evidence that has already been presented is sufficient to provoke some readers to ask rhetorically what the policy implications of the argument might be and to answer that a country ought to seek a revolution, or even provoke a war in which it would be defeated. Of course, this policy recommendation makes no more (or less) sense that the suggestion that one ought to welcome pestilence as a cure for overpopulation" (p. 87). Most of Olson's book has to do with war, the consequences of war, and the consequences of the absence of war. He tried to capture the confusion we have about war in a way that made analysis easier and conclusions attainable.

Is war good? War is clearly not always good. So, is war bad? The question is complex because war has both domestic and international political objectives. The 1997 movie Wag the Dogis a fictional treatment of the domestic consequences of war. An excerpt of dialogue captures some of these consequences:

STANLEY MOTSS: I'm in show business, why come to me?

CONRAD "CONNIE" BREAN: War is show business, that's why we're here ....

STANLEY MOTSS: The president will be a hero. He brought peace.

CONRAD "CONNIE" BREAN: But there was never a war.

STANLEY MOTSS: All the greater accomplishment.

Fiction is sometimes perceptive. Only six years after Wag the Dog appeared in cinemas, the United States attacked Iraq. As U.S. soldiers bombarded Baghdad, American citizens canonized the president, elevating his approval ratings to more than 80 percent. The economy expanded rapidly, and unemployment fell from a high of 6 percent in 2003 to a low of 4.6 percent in 2006. We have seen war, and it is good.

Or was it? Even if geopolitical objectives justified the war, the economic costs and benefits might be difficult to measure. As Robert Higgs has argued ("Wartime Prosperity? A Reassessment of the U.S. Economy in the 1940s," Journal of Economic History 52 [March 1992]: 41-60), we have two very good reasons to doubt claims about wartime "prosperity." The first is that even though diverting our young adult population into military service is in fact a waste of resources, this diversion will show up as a misleading reduction in the measured unemployment rate.

The second reason to doubt the "prosperity" of war pertains to what is being produced. If a crime wave made us buy better locks and alarm systems, the increased "production" of these goods would only preserve, not improve, anyone's material status. War is essentially an even bigger crime wave. Each tank displaces one thousand refrigerators or fifteen hundred iPads. Military production adds nothing consumers can use and adds nothing to the true capital stock of the nation. A proper accounting of gross domestic product would classify military outputs as intermediate goods--at best necessary to protect us and what we already have--not as final goods, which can be consumed immediately or can help us produce more consumer goods in the future.

In his new book War, the American State, and Politics since 1898, Robert E Saldin examines the major international conflicts in which the United States was involved from the Spanish-American War through the end of the Vietnam War. He ends with a brief discussion of the war on terror, but his main emphasis is on the domestic consequences of U.S. foreign policy from 1898 through 1975. Saldin's premise is a sound one: analysts tend to ignore or give short shrift to war's domestic causes and consequences. Wars are not fought solely for balance-of-power or grand-strategy reasons, nor are they fought solely for domestic Wag the Dog reasons. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

War, the American State, and Politics since 1898
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.