We love to fight, but we hate to clean up. This was the message derived from keynote speaker Dominic Tierney in his lecture on American thought on war surrounding his new book “How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires and The American Way of War.” Tierney, a political science professor at Swarthmore College, described our addiction to regime change yet our disgust of nation building conflict.
Looking back at our “great wars” such as the Civil War, and World War 2, Tierney pointed out that, though multiples more people died, and there were many more civilian deaths, the United States found huge support for the troops. He contrasted this to our “dark wars” in countries such as Vietnam, Korea and the Philippines that led to massive public rejection and disgust. Why? Because, all of the ”dark wars” consisted of the United States attempt to implement democracy or, in other words, attempting to build nations. Tierney argued that Americans need a defined enemy and a clear plan, which becomes increasingly difficult when the enemy is the diplomatic target.
Tierney also pointed out an anomaly that only occurs with American allegiance. As the only religious, and idealized country in the world, we rest our liberal values on democracy, limited government, and capitalism. These values, we are willing to fight and die for. This starkly contrasts countries such as Canada, Japan, Switzerland and many others who do not see themselves as polarizer’s. These countries have much more pride in nation building as they send their armies into countries as “peacekeepers” rather than combat forces.
After Tierney’s speech, graduate student, Chana Solomon- Schwartz posed questions as to what the book signifies in modern warfare. “It is a really important read,” she said afterwards. “There is so much debate about what went right and what went wrong in world conflicts, and this book adds a critical element to the debate.”
The book, “How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires and The American Way of War” is in stores now.