Wars and Peace

The Future Americans Envisioned, 1861-1991
Mayers, David
Date published: 
August 1998

Wars and Peace is a history of the way that a range of Americans have tried to conceptualize peace during five national security crises: The Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Cold War. Award-winning author David Mayers examines the intellectual foundations of U.S. foreign policy since 1861 and analyzes the way that Americans, across the political spectrum, have in times of conflict conceptualized the era that would follow hostilities. Mayers looks at this history in terms of a current problem: How should the United States fashion its policy in the post-Cold War world? What is striking about previous attempts to create postwar orders, Mayers reveals, is that they failed in the test to fulfill the hopes of their authors. Yet the cumulative impact of these ideas has been to shape collective imagination in America. Mayers argues that earnest attempts at innovation notwithstanding, U.S. purpose remains unchanged and like that of every nation: to survive, to prosper if possible. As applicable to this day and to this study as to his own, W.E.B. Du Bois published these lines in 1935: 'Nations reel and stagger on their way; they make hideous mistakes; they commit frightful wrongs; they do great and beautiful things.' In this volume Mayers gives voice to a range of people who have acted on the political scene - the powerful but also the marginalized, the vanquished, the dissenting - to show how Americans of all persuasions have flavoured the national discourse.