In This Review

In the Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930s
In the Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930s
By Michael S. Sherry
Yale University Press, 1995, 595 pp

The author of this imaginative study calls the years since 1941 in American history "the age of militarization." Sherry, a professor at Northwestern, means by militarization "the process by which war and national security became consuming anxieties and provided the memories, models, and metaphors that shaped broad areas of national life." The author's contention that militarization owed as much, if not more, to domestic impulses as external threats is dubious, and his thoroughgoing skepticism about the necessity of containment is overdone. What makes the book interesting and insightful is his demonstration of how thoroughly military metaphors have infected the succession of domestic "wars"--on economic depression, subversives, poverty, drugs, violence, gender, et al. and ad nauseam--Americans have waged among themselves over the past half-century. A few such wars might be forgiven; the multitude, to paraphrase Burke, strikes one with terror. That this was the language of the totalitarians provides, one should think, an excellent reason for not adopting it ourselves.