Memorial Day Reveille

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We here at ToM hope that your Memorial Day weekend has gone swimmingly.   Over the years, our writers have explored various aspects of foreign policy and military history, from the American Civil War and the idea of "total war" to the impact of the all-volunteer military and the efficacy of intervention in Iran and Syria. In honor of the holiday, we've gathered our most relevant pieces below. Was the American Civil War the First Total War? Alex Sayf Cummings (ASC) asks the question and surfs through the historiography to find the answer. Crayons, Fraternities, and Military Historians: The Perception and State of American Military History Georgia State University's John Southard traverses … [Read more...]

Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform: Best of AHA 2014, Part 3

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Over the past couple of decades, categorizations like “military history” have undergone numerous permutations. Georgia State’s John Southard ruminated on the state of the field for ToM in 2012 and ToM devotes an entire page to the subject. (There’s even something for the Civil War buffs. ToM has even posted some original research in the area of the military and postwar suburbanization.)  Historians like Roger Lotchin, Ann Markusen, Carol Lynn McKibben, and Andrew Myers have offered new insights into the ways military installations in the South and California have interacted politically, economically, and socially with local cities, towns, and suburbs in which they are located or abut. The … [Read more...]

The Motor City at War: Mobilization, Wartime Housing, and Reshaping Metropolitan Detroit

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“New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie,” commented former Punk rock queen Patti Smith in recent weeks. “New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."  Today, Detroit usually receives attention for all the wrong reasons: industrial decline, corrupt mayoral administrations, and racial tension to name only a few issues assailing the city.  Add the seemingly ubiquitous spread of ruin porn – photography that tends to capture Detroit as if it were nothing but municipal ruin and squatters – and Detroit’s main attraction seems to be, at the moment, its desperation. Desperate New York of the … [Read more...]

How Do We Know an Intervention Has Succeeded?

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We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans. – President Obama Back in late August of 2012, President Obama uttered words these in an impromptu press conference. At the time, it represented the most concrete and coherent statement of policy regarding the conflict in Syria. With the latest revelation that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on a small scale, calls for … [Read more...]

We’re All the Same Except that We’re Not: A Primer on Multiculturalism

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“We are extremely skeptical about ‘multicultural’ education in settings with few or no blacks,” Charles Moskos and John Butler wrote in 1996. “Indeed, without a substantial black presence, such education can detract from blacks’ opportunity by becoming a vehicle for other ‘oppressed’ groups – women, Hispanics, Asian Americans, gays and lesbians, and so on.”[1]  For the two sociologists, blacks endured the longest and most pernicious forms of discrimination, both de jure and de facto, which immigrant groups largely avoided. Moskos and Butler even blamed the rise of multiculturalism for undermining affirmative action programs for African Americans, arguing that once multicultural rhetoric … [Read more...]

Syriana: Responsibility to Protect or Someone Else’s Problem?

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If you’ve ever taken an International Relations Theory course then it’s likely that you’ve encountered the ubiquitous naysayer or two of IR Theory. “Why does this even matter in the study of foreign policy?” “Who cares what the Athenians told the Melians (FYI: 'The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must')?” “Leaders don’t think about this stuff when formulating foreign policy!” Now, the last accusation may in fact be true. Sure, foreign policy elites are not necessarily thumbing through volumes of Morgenthau, Grotius, Kant, Wendt, and/or Waltz when deciding what to do about North Korea. But, these authors and the IR theories they construct provide useful analytical … [Read more...]

The Suburb and the Sword: Wartime Housing, Integration, and Suburbanization in Alexandria, VA, 1942-1968

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For much of the post-WWII period, the tendency to describe housing as the provision of the private sector and as an inherent example of the value of free, unregulated markets  has proven pervasive. Writers like David Freund have compellingly deconstructed such arguments noting that in reality state and federal governments intervened into housing regularly.  “Postwar development politics helped convince a generation of whites that homeownership and neighborhood control rose above issues of class or party affiliation or even personal preference,” reflects Freund. Indeed in an era of “metropolitan fragmentation, restrictive zoning, and federal credit policy” that resegregated communities by … [Read more...]

Double Victory: From WWII to the AVF, African Americans and the U.S. Military

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In a recent exchange between right wing town crier Bill O’Reilly and former Secretary of State and Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, Powell appeared irritated at O’Reilly’s insinuation that the former Secretary voted for Obama for racial reasons. “So you basically said to yourself I’m still going to support the guy even though his economic policies haven’t worked for African Americans and pretty much anyone else,” the host argued.   Though some have described Powell’s response as hostile or angry, to this viewer he seemed the same eternally calm presence he’s appeared to be since embedding himself in the national conscience in the early 1990s. “Why do you only see me as an … [Read more...]

Tropics of Meta’s Best of 2012

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It has been a big year for us at ToM, as we rebooted and redesigned the site back in March and welcomed many new contributors.  (Hi, Jude, Lauren, Maryann, Nick, Adam, John, Jonathyne, & co.)  We were also lucky to see several of our pieces circulated more broadly in the online world, such as Alex’s look at the politics of Atlanta’s Beltline, Ryan’s analysis of sexuality in the films of Wes Anderson, and our roundtable discussion of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.  Meanwhile, the manic, occasionally psychotic antics of the US election cycle prompted both mild laceration from our friend Clement, who covered the presidential conventions and debates, as well as the periodic spike in interest in … [Read more...]

Was the American Civil War the First “Total War”?

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“War is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact.” With words like these General William Tecumseh Sherman helped secure himself and the American Civil War a place in the pantheon of modern conflicts. Few have become more closely associated with the notion of “total war,” and thanks to the horrors of twentieth century battle he has become an icon of modernity. Works on the topic are suffused with a sense of regret and dread, often coming on the heels of deadly conflicts. In The Destructive War, Charles Royster touched on the gloomy anticipation that pervades these histories with a 1934 quotation by James Truslow Adams: “What the horrors of the next war are to be, no one dares … [Read more...]

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