The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Anti-Militarist Tradition / Edition 2

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Overview

Presenting a new perspective on the influence of the military complex on U.S. society, this account follows the rise and decline of the antimilitarist tradition—rooted in fear of dictatorship—that has been an important part of the American heritage from colonial times until the 1950s and even today. In addition to providing a documented historical survey of notable issues and landmarks that have affected the role of the civilian and the military until the mid-1950s, the volume also offers ample background for an understanding of the complicated problem of militarism in the last century, including principles and dynamics that are relevant in the 21st century. Bringing to light new materials and making use of archives and papers that ground the analysis in actual events, this compelling examination will excite controversy among pacifists, militarists, and anyone interested in history, U.S. military policy, and trends in current events.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The author develops the story of antimilitarism concretely, not only in terms of periodic wars, but also in terms of peacetime debates over military appropriations, the size and nature of the armed forces, and the role of the military in civilian affairs. He traces the preference for civil supremacy to England, shows how it was reinforced by colonial experience, and how it became part of the fundamental law of the land. So far so good. But from the time of the War of 1812, as Professor Ekirch sees it, the advocates of militarism had a downhill run, through the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the three wars of the twentieth century. In our day the line between the civilian and the military has been completely obliterated; militarism is everywhere, in government, industry, education, even in scientific research. We now have a garrison state with the entire population either directly or indirectly enrolled in some military capacity. To Professor Ekirch this heralds the end of our free society, for he agrees with David Starr Jordan that ‘as militarism grows democracy must die.’ . . . Even those who disagree with Professor Ekirch will commend him for calling attention to the problem of civilian-military relations, and for reminding us that this juncture of our history of the democratic implications of our antimilitarist tradition.” —Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
“Ekirch seems to step off from certain immovable assumptions about what is good in human existence and about the incompatibility of that good with what he calls ‘militarism’ and ‘militarists.’ This good, when spoken of in one word, seems to be ‘liberal.’ . . . Professor Ekirch’s The Civilian and the Military records—with voluminous documentation—the history of antimilitarism (opposition to preparedness of any sort) in our country. He and his sources tolerate the Revolutionary War as marginally acceptable since it got us started as a nation, and particularly since it was fought in a more ‘liberal’ way with hundreds of thousands of short-timers, rather than with professionals. . . . All other uses of armed force after the Revolution, and programs to provide therefore, are questionable in his eyes and the opposition thereto (but not the case for) is carefully recorded in this book. But The Civilian and the Military is a useful book, if only that it reminds us that this tradition of antimilitarism is an important factor in our past and still conditions some areas of public opinion today. . . . Revisionist historians interpreting the history of the World War II period should read and heed this book. It contributes to an understanding of why we probably could not have reaped a better harvest from our victory even if our leadership had had the vision of these historians’ 20-20 hindsight. . . . Professor Ekirch, who teaches at American University, seems to accept that the traditional fear of a military takeover, Cromwell style, no longer exists, but he points with alarm to the dangers of present-day ‘militarism’ (i.e., what others call preparedness, readiness, and so forth) to our society and institutions. This pointing is not to be lightly disregarded. Certainly $40-billion national security budgets, 7 million civilians who have been conditioned overseas in uniforms, an officer corps ranking in size with the major professions, some industries materially dependent on the security effort, increasing numbers of influential retired personnel—these things and dozens of others deserve the most careful study.” —Public Administration Review
“In 1798, Benjamin Rush suggested that over the portals of the War Department there be painted the caption: ‘An office for butchering the human species.’ In 1956, the characteristic public image of a large armed force is of an instrument for maintaining peace by its deterrent effect on potential aggressors. Thus has the American anti-militarist tradition succumbed to hot and cold war influences in the view of Professor Ekirch. His book is an excellent, thorough chronological account of American opinion, pro- and anti-, regarding the place of military organization and military ideas. He describes a constant struggle to avoid militarism in the United States from colonial times to the present. He concludes that we are closer to an acceptance of militarism now than ever before. Particularly good are the chapters on liberal capitulation to war policies in 1917, on the inter-war struggles to eliminate compulsory military training from the campuses, and on the tendencies toward militarism inherent in the cold war. . . . [A]s a case study of changing public images and the propaganda efforts involved, The Civilian and the Military is a valuable contribution on a topic of much current interest.” —The Public Opinion Quarterly

"An excellent, thorough chronological account of American opinion, pro- and anti-, regarding the place of military organization and military ideas . . . as a valuable contribution on a topic of much current interest." —Public Opinion Quarterly

"This is a well-written history of the anti-military tradition in the United States. It is a useful corrective to current tendencies in American political and historical scholarship: for instance, it is well to be reminded that military fervor played an important part in Andrew Jackson’s popular support and that, however commendable and timely was Theodore Roosevelt’s interest in world affairs, one of its motive forces was a romantic passion for things martial. Professor Ekirch has chronicled American attitudes about military institutions from pre-Revolutionary times—with an ‘Anglo-American heritage’; of anti-militarism—to the Eisenhower Administration. With few exceptions, whatever he has included in his chronicle he has presented dispassionately. And he has done enough digging to make his work valuable for general scholarly reference. His book is a significant addition to the growing literature on American military affairs. . . The author has done some thoughtful and careful work.” —The American Political Science Review

“This book deals with the plowshare, rather than the sword....He finds the origin of [the antimilitarist tradition] in our Anglo-American heritage and traces its effect from our colonial days to the present.” —Military Affairs

"One upon a time, Republican presidents worried about deficit spending and were reluctant to be talked into unnecessary defense expenditures by lobbyists inflating threats. Large peacetime military establishments were considered risks to American democracy and security. President Dwight Eisenhower shared these concerns sufficiently to warn in his valedictory address about the ‘unwarranted influence’ of ‘the military-industrial; complex’—warning that reflected his background in industrial mobilization and his experience in office. . . . A companion piece from the same period is a reprint of Ekirch’s 1956 book The Civilian and the Military. Scholarly in its research and scope, the book also celebrates that antimilitaristic tradition, with its hostility to standing armies and conscription, warmongering by ‘merchants of death,’ distorted budgetary priorities, and the subversion of individual freedom in the name of national security.” —Foreign Affairs

"Extensive research in contemporary sources went into the preparation of this volume. From colonial times to the present, proposals to train the militia more effectively, to enlarge the standing army, or to build naval vessels are treated as examples of expanding militarism. ” —The Journal of Politics

“This book deals with the plowshare, rather than the sword. The sub-title, A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, accurately describes its contents. The author defines the antimilitarist as one who accepts wars and armies as a sometimes necessary evil, but regards a large military establishment and conscript armies, even when needed, as a threat to the preservation of civil institutions of government. He finds the origin of this feeling in our Anglo-American heritage and traces its effect from our colonial days to the present. By quoting from a variety of published sources he documents the influence of this tradition in keeping our military establishment small until we were actually at war. He finds that some of our wars, notably the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, were unpopular with many Americans because of our antimilitarist tradition. Much resistance to the Union and Confederate governments during the Civil War was motivated, he believes, by the force of this tradition. Similarly, he shows that our antimilitarist traditions have been responsible for the rapid demobilization of our military establishments at the close of each of our wars. The concluding chapter of the book describes the current state of our antimilitarist tradition. The author states that the events since World War II gave the American people ‘little hope of any sudden return to real peacetime modes of living,’ and that this has modified the antimilitarist traditions of the American people.” —Journal of the American Military Institute

"Mr. Ekirch, professor of history at the American University and author of other works on different phases of the intellectual history of the United States, has contributed a careful survey of antimilitaristic thinking throughout American history. . . . He is content to summarize the record of antimilitarism, which he is careful to distinguish from absolute pacifism. . . . Professor Ekirch writes as an uncompromising antimilitarist, although he grants that the typical one ‘has opposed expansion overseas on intervention in world affairs’. The story he tells shows clearly enough that Jefferson and others who have been of the author’s general persuasion when out of power have changed their minds when charged with the responsibilities of office and forced to deal with the facts of international political life. . . . [H]e has generally written with fully professional competence. He has undertaken to summarize the record of American antimilitaristic thnking and he has produced a readable and useful digest.” —The American Historical Review

“The growing power and importance of the military office and personnel over all aspects of national life in recent years has been a cause of alarm to many thoughtful citizens. Mr Ekirch, professor of history at American University, has been concerned for a decade or more with this problem. . . . Now we have a book-length history of the antimilitarist tradition in the United States from colonial times until the present. This tradition, with its emphasis upon the civilian as against the military authority, is viewed as an important factor in shaping American history and a vitally essential element of our freedom and democracy. It is, in the author’s opinion, gravely imperiled. Notable issues and landmarks in the struggle for civilian supremacy and in opposition to militarism are discussed; debates about the role of the militia and the size of the standing army, the level of army and navy appropriations, the establishment of R.O.T.C. units, and the adoption of compulsory conscription are placed in their historical setting; pertinent legislation and much private and public discussion support the story. Emerging from the account is the view that the American tradition of antimilitarism has suffered gradual decline from revolutionary times and markedly so since 1900. . . . The pages of his book reflect the convictions of the author: an avowed antimilitarist who naturally finds little solace in recent developments; a student of history who would share with Dean Louis Smith the conviction that a redress in the balance between civilian and military authority should be urgently sought after; a pessimist who looks with nostalgia to the early days of the republic and who might well hold Jefferson as his hero; an intellectual historian whose writings should give pause to those who blindly believe in the idea of progress; a realist. For he concludes his book with these sentences apropos of the future facing the United States at mid-century: ‘The new style perpetual mobilization for war made all the more imperative the return of that general world peace which alone could restore any vestige of normal civil life. Only in such an atmosphere could the American tradition of antimilitarism, peace, and democracy flourish and continue to be a vital, living force for the future.’ The truly challenging question, but beyond the scope of the book as set by the author, is what can be done to achieve this general world peace without which there seems little hope of escape from the trend toward the garrison state.” —Journal of American History

“This nation was born with a universal conviction that standing armies, however necessary, are ‘ever dangerous to the liberties of the people.’ It has reached a point at which it is maintaining colossal standing armed forces, peacetime conscription, a huge intervention of strategic factors into the civilian economy and policy, and other stigmata of the garrison state. Mr Ekirch has written a history of this striking transformation. With patience he has recovered and recorded the military programs, the debates, the enactments, which have steadily expanded the military factor in our affairs—his book is, indeed, useful as a history of American military policy. Together with this he has searched out the names and words of innumerable people, great and small, individually or in groups, who have opposed this process for one reason or another—pacifists, liberals, opposition politicians, anti-imperialists, money-savers, socialists, Quakers, draft-dodgers and many more. The resultant study is of value; it is almost painfully erudite, and illuminates a number of obscure corners in our military-political history. . . . The history has much of real usefulness and interest.” —Political Science Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598130355
  • Publisher: Independent Institute, The
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Edition description: Second Edition, Second edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 380
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. was a professor emeritus of history at the State University of New York–Albany, a Guggenheim fellow, and the author of dozens of articles and 10 books, including The Decline of American Liberalism. He also served as vice chair of the Conference on Peace Research in History, later renamed the Peace History Society.

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