Mary L. Dudziak: How War Disappeared from American Campaign Rhetoric

Roundup: Historians' Take

Mary L. Dudziak is the Asa Griggs Candler professor of law at the Emory University School of Law. She is the author of War · Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences.

The 2012 election has certainly not felt like a contest carried out in a nation at war. Though 68,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and the 2,000th American was recently killed in the decade-long conflict, President Barack Obama has largely relegated his promises of winding down the war to an afterthought in his stump speech. His rival, Mitt Romney, barely mentions the war at all. The U.S military pulled out of Iraq at the end of 2011, but that has gotten far less play in the campaign than the killing of Osama bin Laden. And neither candidate discusses how or when the open-ended U.S. war on terror might finally come to an end.

Americans traditionally vote with their pocketbooks, but the extent to which war has been relegated to the political backburner is still striking. It's possible that, in an era when war is carried out by a dwindling percentage of Americans -- increasingly by remote control -- in an undefined territory and without a clear end, Americans have simply accepted a permanent state of low-level war. Obama likes to talk about how he wants to do "nation-building at home, but perhaps the very idea of a peacetime presidency is a thing in the past....

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