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Category: War & Society

Military History and Business History

My research deals with war and society, while my editorial work addresses mainly consumption history. One might think these are two different worlds, but I’m coming to doubt the validity of such assumptions. Indeed, the subfields of military and business history have a lot of similarities. Most obviously, they are both interested in organizations, knowledge, experts, and elites—among other things. They are also both informed by a tension between the historian’s ethos to understand the past for its own sake and the practitioner’s desire to learn lessons from that past… Read more Military History and Business History

Military Studies in Liberal Arts Education

Samuel R. Williamson Jr and Russel Van Wyk make an interesting point on the last page of an undergraduate documentary history of the Great War’s causes. At the start of the new millennium, and after September 11, 2001, there is an urgent need for civilian understanding and control of the military forces of the state. Yet paradoxically, this need comes at a time when very few civilians in western society have had any direct experience in the military, either as members of the uniformed services or as students of strategic… Read more Military Studies in Liberal Arts Education

Outsourcing Revisited: Doonesbury at War

Checking out his email in the kitchen and talking to Reverend Sloan, B.D. says:

Man, does Ray seem down lately. He keeps asking if people at home still support the troops—as if most Americans actually had a personal stake. Emotionally, we outsourced this war—to a professional class that mainstream America has almost no contact with. Most people are completely baffled why anyone would serve. Ray has no idea how isolated he really is.

Zonker sits down and says, “Boy B.D., when you’re right, you’re right.” Boopsie, B.D.’s wife, agrees and asks, “Should we send Ray something to show we’re thinking of him. Zonker suggests a box of medals. “Don’t soldiers like medals?” Enthusiastic, Boopsie replies, “I know B.D. does. Good thought!”

Meanwhile, B.D. is covering his face with his left hand and looking down in disbelief, disgust, or despair, while the reverend tells him, “You can rest your case.”

Outsourcing Military Tasks

There has been much scrutiny in the press recently about the U.S. outsourcing military missions to private companies like Blackwater. P.W. Singer pointed out many problems with this trend in yesterday’s Washington Post. The most important from my point of view is the weak link between the American people and warmaking: Since the end of the Vietnam War, the United States has sought to ensure that there’s a link between the public and the costs of war, so that good decisions will be made and an ethos of responsibility fostered.… Read more Outsourcing Military Tasks

The Cold War Museum

The Cold War Museum does not yet have a permanent home, but you can visit it on the web. While I welcome this resource, I am disappointed that it focuses almost exclusively on the military side of this conflict. What about the Cold War’s broader impact on culture, politics, and the economy? I suppose the museum’s current focus cannot be helped, given its close relationship with the Cold War Veterans Association, with which it issues a quarterly electronic newsletter. This association seeks recognition for the service of Cold War veterans… Read more The Cold War Museum