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About this book

Jenel Virden outlines the causes, courses and consequences of the major wars of the Twentieth century in American history, examining how the US became involved; how the wars were fought; and the domestic consequences. Applying 'just war theory', foreign policy as well as civil liberty are discussed.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
War as a subject of study and research has held a fascination for scholars for hundreds of years. As a result one can find books, articles, pamphlets and websites on many different dimensions of war. Authors have addressed issues such as why nations go to war, how wars are fought, the personal experience of war, the impact of war and the evolution of warfare itself. Subsequent scholars have drawn upon the work of others as diverse as Thucydides, Clausewitz and Keegan in an effort to come to some conclusion about the nature of war, whether that be about tactics or strategy, causes or consequences. Some writers revel in the details of battles or the minutiae of gun calibres, while others look at grand schemes and epic encounters. This book addresses the history of America’s participation in the major wars of the twentieth century, looking at the factors that brought America into those wars, what contribution America made to fighting the wars and what happened on the United States home front as a consequence of being engaged in fighting a war. It also investigates the moral implications of those wars. It seeks to apply the wider ideas of the field of just war theory to the specifics of the United States’ involvement in the four major wars of the 1900s.
Jenel Virden

2. The First World War

Abstract
War dominated the close of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century for the United States. As had the European nations before it, the United States pushed for and acquired an empire in the late nineteenth century. Equally important, the United States continued to exert its influence on other nations in the western hemisphere. These two forces combined in 1898 when the United States went to war with Spain over an island just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The initial dispute in the Spanish-American War widened, however, from concerns over Spanish actions and dominance in Cuba to Spanish holdings in the Pacific. The war lasted less than four months but by the end of it the United States had acquired the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. By the conclusion of what Secretary of State John Hay called ‘a splendid little war’, the United States was mired in its imperialist agenda.
Jenel Virden

3. The Second World War

Abstract
The interwar period, from 1919 to 1939, was dominated, in both Europe and the United States, by issues related to the economy. In Europe the war had left most belligerents’ economies in ruins. Germany was especially hard hit with the call for reparations posing an added burden to its post-war recovery. The United States, however, had come through the war relatively unscathed to emerge in the post-war world as a major economic player. Consequently, many European governments turned to the United States to secure loans in order to rebuild. A complex web of loans, loan repayments and reparations helped to entwine the economies of Europe and America, which meant that any problems in one area could spread to another. Germany’s immediate post-war slump in the early 1920s led to years of hyperinflation and German citizens found that literally whole wheelbarrows full of Deutsch marks could go towards purchase of small, essential items.
Jenel Virden

4. The Korean War

Abstract
A mere five years separated the close of the Second World War and the start of the Korean War. However, the five years between the two conflicts were incredibly eventful. By 1950, the Cold War had become pervasive both at home and abroad. In foreign policy terms the United States had asserted itself as the only major bulwark against communist expansion. In 1947 the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan confirmed the US commitment to keeping Europe free from communism. Then the United States signed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreement in April 1949, the first military treaty since the American Revolution, confirming American willingness to go to war if necessary to protect democracy from communist challenges. The events of 1949, when the Chinese communists emerged victorious from their civil war and the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb, seemed to confirm to the United States that communism was expansive and aggressive. The Berlin Blockade of 1948–1949 further suggested that the Soviet Union was interested in increasing its influence in a direct challenge to democracy. By 1950 old friends and allies, China and the Soviet Union had become enemies and old enemies, Japan and Germany, were now valued allies. In five short years the world had changed dramatically.
Jenel Virden

5. The Vietnam War

Abstract
The exact dates of the interwar period between Korea and Vietnam are difficult to define since the United States was involved in Vietnam at different levels, at different times. Although the Vietnam War dominated American foreign policy and domestic affairs after 1964, before that time American interests abroad were wide ranging. For example, US foreign policy was still dominated by concern over the relationship with the Soviet Union. From 1953 to 1964, under both Eisenhower and Kennedy, the US government continued to wage a Cold War with the other major superpower. While Eisenhower was responsible for getting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) involved in far-flung regions such as Iran and Guatemala, his major focus was on the Soviet Union. The continuing arms race throughout the 1950s and specific incidents like the shooting down of an American U2 spy plane while over the Soviet Union in 1960, kept the White House focussed on the communist threat. This focus continued under Kennedy, after his election in 1960, with major encounters with the Soviets taking place at both Berlin and Cuba. The construction of the Berlin Wall and the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba in 1961 did little to enhance Kennedy’s reputation or to remove the tarnish from the Democratic Party that they were soft on communism.
Jenel Virden

6. Conclusions

Abstract
Since just war theory suggests that the side fighting against aggression is the just side, in the First World War the United States could argue that they were fighting on the side of justice. In fact, that is exactly what Wilson claimed in his declaration of war. When the Germans implemented their Schlieffen Plan, invading neutral Belgium, they committed an act of aggression. While other countries had mobilised they had not opened fire. The same could be said for the outbreak of the Second World War. In this case, aggression began long before the war. In 1931 Japan began its expansionist campaign in Manchuria and in 1935 Mussolini did the same in North Africa. In fact, Hitler was the last of the aggressors to begin his campaign of conquest when he entered Austria in 1938, although he claimed he was only re-uniting German peoples. None of these early acts of aggression brought a wider war although under just war theory they could, even maybe should, have. The League of Nations, however, was weak and offered no meaningful response even though leaders such as Hailie Selassie asked for assistance. At any stage countries willing to stand up to this aggression would have been able to claim that they were fighting a just war, but it was not until Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 that other countries attempted to stop further aggression by resort to declarations of war.
Jenel Virden

Epilogue

Abstract
Shortly after the twenty-first century began, on 11 September 2001, the ace of battle changed. The scope of the tragedy and number of victims of the 9/11 attacks made the rhetoric of ‘just’ war ring true from an early stage of the United States response. The terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, meant that America was at war. But this time the enemy was elusive, not confined to a single nation or coalition of forces, not restricted to one geographic locality and not fighting in any traditional sense of combat. The combined fatalities of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the failed attack and subsequent plane crash in Pennsylvania claimed the lives of over 3200 civilians from over 80 countries. Commandeering commercial aircraft, full of innocent civilians, and turning them into deadly missiles took the Second World War concept of kamikaze attacks to unexpected new levels of warfare and paled in comparison to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The sea change witnessed in this attack as opposed to the four major wars of the twentieth century was that it deliberately targeted civilians. This was not a war like other wars for the United States.
Jenel Virden
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