Selling War to America

From the Spanish American War to the Global War on Terror

by Eugene Secunda, Terence P. Moran


Analyzes the American government's successes and failures in winning domestic support for the foreign wars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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August 2007


Pages 240
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Military History/Home Front
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Battles are won in combat. Wars are won by winning the hearts and minds of the people. Selling War to America provides a thought-provoking look at the propaganda efforts the U.S. government has exerted to that end. It begins with an examination of the government's campaign to instigate a war with Spain and ends with a review of the methods being used to encourage support for the War Against Terrorism. The book analyzes each of these wars within the context of the techniques used to generate public support, also examining the results of propaganda efforts, both before and after each conflict. From these historical analyses, noting both the blunders and the triumphs of the past century, the authors offer the keys to successfully persuading the American public to support wars that must be fought.

Lies were told and truths withheld because government and military leaders did not trust the American people to make appropriate decisions concerning our national security. The attacks of September 11, 2001, on The World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon have summoned the American people to a war on terrorism. The U.S. government is now trying to mobilize American public opinion to support this war. But this is just the most recent example of how our government has sought to enlist broad public support for the wars it has waged. The job of informing and persuading America to support its war efforts has become increasingly more challenging as media technologies, like instant global coverage of television news and the Internet, reach into every American home.

Series Description

Praeger Security International

As the world gets "smaller" through technology and globalization, the security risks we face grow and multiply.

International security in the 21st century is not a topic that can be adequately addressed in nightly news soundbites or online articles intended to be relevant for 24 hours or less. Comprehending these complex issues requires insight from foreign policy specialists, diplomats, military officials, peace scholars, historians, and security experts—participants and observers on all sides of each conflict. This series provides the tools for understanding security issues in our uncertain, unstable world.

Written by subject experts and well-known researchers, the books in the Praeger Security International series give readers access to carefully considered and highly informed viewpoints on the critical security issues that threaten to destabilize our world. With titles authored by diplomats, first responders, economists, journalists, civil servants, military leaders and combatants, legal experts, psychologists, and other knowledgeable specialists, these books offer in-depth reflections, thorough analysis, and international perspectives that are unavailable in mass media. These titles represent an invaluable resource for students and researchers as well as anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of the complex issues that affect our lives and future.


  • Provides reliable, comprehensive information on all matters relating to security that is ideal for students, teachers, researchers, and professionals
  • Offers insightful commentaries written by a diverse group of scholars and experts who provide interdisciplinary treatments of newsworthy events and important historical occurrences


"Authors Secunda and Moran investigate how the US goes to war--from the Spanish-American War to the war on terror--with the thesis that several administrations used propaganda to sell war to the American public. In the case of wars declared by Congress, administrations were often aided by third parties and fortuitous events: the sinking of the Maine, and a jingoistic Hearst-Pulitzer press's call for war with Spain; in WWI, U-boat attacks, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the British invention of bogus atrocities to arouse the public; in WWII, isolationist America's response to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The authors find that undeclared wars were often prompted by presidential actions: Korea was a UN police action; Vietnam was fought to halt the spread communism; the Gulf War ostensibly was fought to restore an insubstantial Arab democracy (Kuwait) and retaliate for atrocities (staged and promoted by a public relations firm). The authors devote major attention to the Iraq War, instigated by doubtful CIA intelligence and phantom weapons of mass destruction in a nation not proven to be a sponsor of terror. The authors argue that Bush and Cheney sold the war by exploiting post-9/11 fears. A provocative book. Recommended. General readers, all undergraduate students, graduate students, and research faculty."Choice


"Winston Churchill said that for war to be waged, it must be done behind a bodyguard of lies. Selling War to America provides a detailed look at the way this premise has been adhered to by American leaders for more than a century. Today, with our nation mired in a war that was spawned by a remarkably cynical campaign of toxic salesmanship, this book is of particular importance."—Stuart Ewen, Distinguished Professor, Ph.D. Programs in History and Sociology, The CUNY Graduate Center, Department of Film & Media Studies, Hunter College, CUNY

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