War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences

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Overview


On the surface, "wartime" 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," where it is no longer easy to distinguish between times of war and times of peace.

In this inventive meditation on war, time, and the law, Mary Dudziak argues that wartime is not as discrete a time period as we like to think. Instead, America 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; and 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dudziak (Exporting American Dreams) riffs on the meaning of wartime and its legal implications in this brief cultural history. She examines the meaning of wartime in American history and notes that “an essential aspect of wartime is that it is temporary.” Because war is seen as provisional, Americans have been willing to accept “exceptional policies” that enhance presidential power and erode civil liberties—a view generally endorsed by the courts. What if, Dudziak asks, “American war spills beyond tidy time boundaries” and wartime becomes “normal time”? The executive branch, she contends, has defined the war on terror along the lines of the cold war, as an ideological conflict with no boundaries. Dudziak laments that the courts generally have continued to treat wartime as temporary even though its meaning has changed. Wartime, she concludes, has “become a policy, rather than a state of existence” and need not cause us to suspend our principles. Closely argued and clearly written, this is a scholarly work with popular appeal. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

"[Mary Dudziak's] essential argument is persuasive and her contribution is significant. She helps explain why national security continues to have such influence on American politics, why the US continues to field such a large military establishment, and why this country exercises such influence and engages in such frequent interventions in world politics." --Journal of American History

"Thoughtful, compelling, and concise." --H-War

"Closely argued and clearly written, this is a scholarly work with popular appeal." -- Publishers Weekly

"For over a decade since 9/11, U.S. forces have been waging war. Yet is the nation itself 'at war'? In this timely and provocative book, Mary Dudziak shows why this question has become so difficult to answer-and warns of the dangers inherent in our failure to do so." --Andrew J . Bacevich , author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

"War Time turns our notions of both 'war' and 'time' upside down. This thought-provoking book forces us to realize that war is not an exception to 'normal' peacetime, but rather that wartime has become the norm. The implications of perpetual wartime are profound, for law, politics, and daily life. Mary Dudziak has again brought her keen cultural, historical and legal insights to bear on a subject of critical importance."--Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota

"Taking law as her focal point but ranging much more widely, Mary Dudziak's provocative meditation on what we mean in speaking of a 'time' of war invites readers to reflect on how we think about war itself. It should change our understanding of what-and when-war 'is' for Americans."--Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"War Time is one of those rare books that can entirely reorient how one thinks about the world. By showing the reader what Americans have meant-and have come to mean-by 'wartime,' Mary Dudziak shows us assumptions about war and peace that govern political and legal thought without anyone noticing. This is an intellectual tour de force, and beautifully written to boot."--H. Jefferson Powell , George Washington Law School

"[T]his is a book well worth reading." --New York Journal of Books

"A slim and engaging volume, wonderfully written and carefully wrought, War Time is a fascinating meditation on the perils of clinging to a myth of national identity that increasingly bears only a glancing resemblance to modern life." --H-Diplo

"Mary Dudziak's new book, War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences, is a crucial document. Her smooth foray into legal and political history reveals that in not just the past decade but the past century, wartime has become a more or less permanent feature of the American experience, though we fail to recognize it . . . Dudziak assembles an intellectual Rubik's Cube, playing with ideas of time, law, killing and politics, and arranging them into a pattern that all but eliminates the distinctions we long assumed to have existed between war and peace." --The Nation

"Humanists will regard much Dudziak's text as an anecdotally rich and sprightly written reestablishment of the threshold claim that culture and society affect temporal categories and experience . . . For humans, at least, individual and collective experience is not that of the clock ticking equivalent seconds but the packaging of meaning through temporal definition. 'Wartime,' Dudziak can therefore add, is not an objective fact about history but a fashion of assigning significance with its own cultural style and political implications. Dudziak reveals and exploits this truth beautifully." --Lawfare.com

"Drawing thoughtfully from the literature of legal studies, political science, history and sociology, Dudziak crafts a fascinating and nuanced narrative tracing the progressive expansion of U.S. national security interests and the complex ramifications."
--Washington Post

"This is an intriguing little book . . . a thoughtful and original take on the concept of war."
--Foreign Affairs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199775231
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/7/2012
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary L. Dudziak is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, Emory Law School. Her books include Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey and Cold War Civil Rights.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction
1. What Time is It?
2. When Was World War II?
3. What Kind of War Was the Cold War?
4. What is a War on Terror?
Conclusion

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    It suggest an end to the War Time Continuum: The United Nation


    It suggest an end to the War Time Continuum:

    The United Nation needs to place a Peace Time Clock in its entrance with the names of nations that would end their nuclear arsenal & ballistic missiles when every nation has signed its social contract for Peace on Earth & Good Will to All. When every nation has signed the Peace Contract the U.N. would be allowed to dismantle their war armory.

    View our Website & Video that would support this movement towards prosperity & peace.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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