Still In the Shadow of War? Reflections on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of a Classic

Endorsed by the Society for Military History

Saturday, April 4, 2020, 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: General/Survey; Military; Politics


The year 2020 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Michael Sherry’s In the Shadow of War: The United States since the 1930s. This panel brings together scholars of war and American society to discuss how the lessons of In the Shadow of War might be applied to the contemporary United States—and how the book might be expanded to encompass the twenty-five years since its publication. We will use Sherry’s book to explore how war and visions of war continue to exert a tenacious grip on American politics, culture, and society.

Session Participants

Chair: William Schultz, Princeton University
William Schultz is a historian of the modern United States, with a focus on the intersection of politics and religion. His book project, "Garden of the Gods: Piety, Patriotism, and Corporate Power in Colorado Springs," examines how the city of Colorado Springs was remade into the capital city of American evangelical Christianity. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of History at Princeton University; prior to that, he served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy.

Panelist: Michael J. Allen, Northwestern University
Michael J. Allen is Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University who specializes in the history, memory, and social politics of American empire in the twentieth-century. His first book Until The Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War (UNC Press, 2009) treated the legacies of US defeat in the Vietnam War through a close study of the POW/MIA movement and its place in US politics and diplomacy. He is currently writing a book titled New Politics: The Imperial Presidency, The Pragmatic Left, and The Paradox of Democratic Power, 1941-1992 which argues that growing skepticism toward presidential power among leading liberals during and after the Vietnam War transformed the Democratic Party and realigned US party politics in ways that diminished the prospects for left-liberal reform. The book offers the first in-depth study of the ways in which foreign policy debates sparked by US involvement in Vietnam and the broader Cold War altered the logic and structure of US politics put in place during the Second World War. As such, it is heavily engaged with and indebted to In The Shadow of War. Allen earned his PhD at Northwestern under Michael Sherry's direction in 2003 after graduating college from the University of Chicago. His proposed roundtable remarks will focus on American exceptionalism in In The Shadow Of War, arguing that the work alerts us to the unusual, even exceptional ways in which war defined American life after 1941 in ways that distinguished the United States from most of the world, and will consider the value and possible problems with that interpretative approach.

Panelist: Beth Bailey, University of Kansas
Beth Bailey is Foundation Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas, where she directs the Center for Military, War, and Society Studies. Her military history publications include Understanding the US Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which she co-edited with Richard Immerman, Beyond Pearl Harbor: A Pacific History (forthcoming, co-edited with David Farber), and America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force. She is currently writing about how the U.S. Army, as an institution, tried to manage what army leaders often called the “problem of race” during the Vietnam era. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the American Council of Learned Societies, and she has been a visiting scholar in Australia, Indonesia, France, and Japan. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the Society of Military History and is a member of the Society of American Historians.

Panelist: Dirk Bönker, Duke University
Dirk Bönker is an Associate Professor of History at Duke University. His work focuses on histories of militarism, warfare, and empire in the United States and Germany during the long twentieth century. He is the author of Militarism in a Global Age: Naval Ambitions in Germany and the United States before World War I, which was published in 2012 with Cornell University Press. He is currently writing a book on U.S. public debates about an American ‘militarism,’ from the Gilded Age to the early twenty-first-century.

Panelist: Catherine Lutz, Brown University
Catherine Lutz is the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University. Her research has variously focused on war, gender, photography, and emotions, as well as the US car system. Her books, Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century, An Empire of Bases, Breaking Ranks, and Reading National Geographic examine the US military, empire and cultural history. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation, and numerous book awards. She is past president of the American Ethnological Society.

Panelist: Aaron O'Connell, University of Texas at Austin
Aaron O'Connell joined the faculty of UT Austin from Washington D.C., where he served in the Obama Administration as Director for Defense Policy & Strategy on the National Security Council. Prior to working in the White House, Dr. O’Connell taught military history at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he was named the Admiral Jay Johnson Professor in Leadership in Ethics in 2015. In addition to his academic career, Dr. O’Connell is also a Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, and in that capacity, he has served as a Special Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a Special Advisor to the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and a Special Assistant to General David Petraeus in Afghanistan. Dr. O’Connell holds a B.A. from Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut, an M.A. in American Literature from Indiana University, an M.A. in American Studies from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in American History from Yale University in 2009. When not reading or writing, he spends far too much time practicing the guitar.

Scholarly Interests
Dr. O’Connell’s scholarly interests span four inter-related fields: 20th century military history, U.S. foreign affairs, cultural history, and American politics. His scholarly publications focus on understanding the effects of U.S. military influence and infrastructure inside and outside the United States. His public history pieces mostly concern how the U.S. military affects contemporary domestic and political culture. He teaches courses in military history, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. military culture, and the U.S.’s role in the world since 1898.

Publications and Appearances
Dr. O’Connell is the author of Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps, which explores how the Marine Corps rose from relative unpopularity to become the most prestigious armed service in the United States. He is also the editor of Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, which is a critical account of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since 2001. He has also authored a number of articles and book chapters on military affairs and U.S. military culture. He has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and PBS’s NewsHour Weekend and his commentary has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Slate, The Daily Beast, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Commentator: Michael Stephen Sherry, Northwestern University
Michael Sherry is the Richard W. Leopold Professor of History at Northwestern University, where he has taught since 1976. His scholarship and teaching have challenged the persistent distinction between the foreign and the domestic in US historiography, doing so by focusing on war--how Americans imagined it, waged it, and hurt themselves and others through it. His books are Preparing for the Next War: American Plans for Postwar Defense, 1941-45 (1977); The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (1987), which won the Bancroft Prize; In the Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930s (1995); and Gay Artists in Modern American Culture: An Imagined Conspiracy (2007). Another book, Go Directly to Jail: The Punitive Turn in American Life, is nearing completion. His degrees in history came from Washington University (BA 1967) and Yale University (PhD 1975).