August 26, 2013
State of War (University Press of Kansas)
The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945–2011
Paul A. C. Koistinen
320 pages, 6 x 9
Modern War Studies
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1874-3, $39.95
In his farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned us of the dangers of a military-industrial complex (MIC). In Paul Koistinen’s sobering new book, that warning appears to have been both prophetic and largely ignored.
As the final volume in his magisterial study of the political economy of American warfare, State of War describes the bipolar world that developed from the rivalry between the U.S. and USSR, showing how seventy years of defense spending have bred a monster that has sunk its claws into the very fabric of American life. Koistinen underscores how during the second half of the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first, the United States for the first time in its history began to maintain large military structures during peacetime. Many factors led to that result: the American economy stood practically alone in a war-ravaged world; the federal government, especially executive authority, was at the pinnacle of its powers; the military accumulated unprecedented influence over national security; and weaponry became much more sophisticated following World War II.
Koistinen describes how the rise of the MIC was preceded by a gradual process of institutional adaptation and then supported and reinforced by the willing participation of Big Science and its industrial partners, the broader academic world, and a proliferation of think tanks. He also evaluates the effects of ongoing defense budgets within the context of the nation’s economy since the 1950s. Over time, the MIC effectively blocked efforts to reduce expenditures, control the arms race, improve relations with adversaries, or adopt more enlightened policies toward the developing world—all the while manipulating the public on behalf of national security to sustain the warfare state. Now twenty years after the Soviet Union’s demise, defense budgets are higher than at any time during the Cold War.
As Koistinen observes, more than six decades of militaristic mobilization for stabilizing a turbulent world have firmly entrenched the state of war as a state of mind for our nation. Collectively, his five-volume opus provides an unparalleled analysis of the economics of America’s wars from the colonial period to the present, illuminating its impact upon the nation’s military campaigns, foreign policy, and domestic life.
“Koistinen’s multi-volume study of the political economy of American warfare represents a singular scholarly achievement. His capstone volume manifests the qualities that have defined the project throughout: comprehensive coverage based on massive research yielding judicious and persuasive conclusions. The word may be overused but it fits here: awesome.”—Andrew J. Bacevich, author ofWashington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War
“Makes a powerful case that American mobilization for war and defense has long gravely ‘multiplied America’s dysfunctions’ so that even ‘the military itself ends up being victimized.’ What Eisenhower feared about the military-industrial complex has been, Koistinen shows, all too grimly realized.”—Michael Sherry, author of In the Shadow of War: The United States since the 1930s
PAUL A. C. KOISTINEN is Emeritus Professor of History, California State University, Northridge. His previous volumes on the political economy of American warfare are Beating Ploughshares into Swords, 1606–1865; Mobilizing for Modern War, 1865–1919; Planning War, Pursuing Peace, 1920–1939; and Arsenal of World War II, 1940–1945.