Wartime as a Concept in History

Lecture Description

When is wartime? On the surface, it is a period of time in which a society is at war. But we now live in what President Obama has called “an age without surrender ceremonies.” It is no longer easy to distinguish between wartime and peacetime. This lecture argues that wartime is not as discrete a time period as we like to think. Instead, the United States has been engaged in some form of ongoing overseas armed conflict for over a century. Meanwhile policy makers and the American public continue to view wars as exceptional events that eventually give way to normal peace times. This has two consequences. First, because war is thought to be exceptional, “wartime” remains a shorthand argument justifying extreme actions like torture and detention without trial. Second, ongoing warfare is enabled by the inattention of the American people. More disconnected than ever from the wars their nation is fighting, public disengagement leaves us without political restraints on the exercise of American war powers.

CATEGORIES

International Relations Military

ALL TOPICS & TITLES: Go back to all topics and titles.


More Distinguished Lectureship Program Resources