Mary L. Dudziak is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory University, where she also directs the Project on War and Security in Law, Culture, and Society. She is vice president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. In 2015 she was the Kluge Chair in American Law and Government at the Library of Congress. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study, among others. Dudziak is the author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (2012), Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey (2008), and Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (2nd edition, 2012). She has also edited September 11 in History: A Watershed Moment? (2003) and coedited Legal Borderlands: Law and the Construction of American Borders (2006). She is writing about war, war powers, and political accountability in twentieth-century U.S. history.
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.