This work offers an unprecedented single-volume overview of a timely subject, how a democracy wages war and how in turn war making affects democracy.
With American involvement in Iraq in the forefront of national news coverage and in the minds of many citizens, questions concerning America's involvement in past conflicts have once again arisen. This is the story of how the United States has gone to war and how the evolution of the nation's war-making apparatus has mirrored the nation's rise to global power. It focuses on the president's role as commander-in-chief vis-a-vis Congress from George Washington to George W. Bush. Conflicts range from the War of 1812 to the Mexican and Civil Wars, the two World Wars, conflicts in Southeast Asia, and recent wars in the Middle East. Topics include Congress's role in various wars, the evolution of the War Department to the Department of Defense, as well as developments in weapons, tactics, and strategy.
Wars have played an integral role in America's transformation from a continental power into a world force. Over time, America's war making has favored and continues to favor the expansion of the President's role at the expense of the Congress. America's future will be determined in large part by the way in which the nation chooses and engages in military pursuits. Questions about how and when we go to war have never been so vital or relevant. This thought-provoking one volume overview serves as a quick introduction to these important issues.
Preface The Whiskey Rebellion Mr. Madison's War The War With Mexico The Civil War The Spanish-American War The Great War The Second World War Korea Vietnam The Cold War New War, Old Cost The Fifth Horseman Afterword Further Reading
Reviews "In a little more than 150 pages, Vandiver traces the history of US wars since the nation's founding. Author of numerous well-regarded works ranging from biographies of John J. Pershing and Stonewall Jackson to several studies of the Civil War and the Vietnam War (Shadows of Vietnam, CH, Oct'97, 35-1118), Vandiver was one of the nation's most prominent military historians. In this, his last book, he provides a sprightly account of how the US--ostensibly, a peaceful nation--has repeatedly gotten itself into numerous wars, both big and little. Vandiver believes that over the years, Congress has steadily given away its constitutional war-making powers to the executive branch, which Vandiver considers a great mistake for a democratic nation. The tension between the legislative and executive branches over how far the military arm should extend has repeated itself on numerous occasions since the days of James K. Polk and the Mexican War. Vandiver's slim volume makes no pretense at superseding Russell Weigley's magisterial The American Way of War (1973), but he is blunt with his concerns about the current president and US involvement in Iraq, and the Orwellian scrutiny that Americans now receive from their government. Recommended. All levels/libraries."—Choice
"Vandiver explores the complex issues that surround America's involvement in declared and undeclared wars, noting that the trend is for Congress to abandon its powers of declaring war while presidents assume more power as Commanders-in-Chief. He describes how this tendency began as far back as the Whiskey Rebellion, with some notable exceptions, and continued through the War of 1812 (Mr. Madison's War), the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and even into the two world wars and Korea. He feels the trend expanded in Vietnam and the various military events of the cold war, and fears the various conflicts in the Middle East, the relative preparedness of the US, and the continuing expansion of executive power to be an explosive combination."—Reference & Research Book News
"In the post-September 11 world, in which the war on terror likely will continue for decades, Frank E. Vandiver's succinct analysis of how the United States decides to go to war is timely and thought-provoking....[t]his text will be of most interest to general readers in American foreign policy. Nevertheless, scholars also will benefit from considering the fundamental questions that this crisply written study poses about American decisions to go to war."—Political Science Quarterly
Endorsements "Frank Vandiver writes with authority and verve about a vital topic. How America Goes to War should be required reading for anyone remotely concerned with public policy."—Emory M. Thomas, Regents Professor of History Emeritus, University of Georgia
"A master historian's work, insightful, evocative and a pleasure to read. The Vandiver touch is evident on every page. Students of American military history will find much to ponder in this book."—John T. Hubbell, Director Emeritus, Kent State University Press