America: Addicted to War, Afraid of Peace

June 11, 2015 Topic: Security Region: United States Tags: WarDefenseAmerica

America: Addicted to War, Afraid of Peace

After decades of being at war, the United States has come to the point where it can’t live without it. 


Though these two vastly different accounts of Vietnam should not dictate foreign-policy prescriptions, they can offer insights into why we feel pressure to be constantly at war. Those who assert that we must use military force to protect supposed national-security interests in the name of fear might, in reality, be too frightened to reject war. Nonmilitary solutions to international problems take courage. So does peace.

All this will require a more thoughtful reconsideration of the alternatives to war. What does peace mean for us in the twenty-first century? How would peace, depending on how we define such a term, be better than a state of persistent conflict? By what standards do we engage in military action abroad? Does peace require us to challenge our sense of American exceptionalism, to reexamine our assumptions as we attempt to export American ideals abroad? Such questions will no doubt require us all to critically engage with strategies other than those of war. And while we might never eliminate our fears, we would be well served by contemplating the implications of peace, rather than war, becoming a larger part of our national identity.


After more than a decade of war, the time has come for us to move beyond our state of national insecurity. Paranoia does not equal preparedness. The current National Security Strategy contends that we must “resist the over-reach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear.” For our reality to match our rhetoric, however, we need to stop seeing ourselves as so fragile. We need to stop conforming to the relentless militarization afflicting our national mental health. And, above all, we need to stop being so afraid.


Gregory A. Daddis is a U.S. Army colonel and a professor of history at the United States Military Academy.

Image: Flickr/United States Marine Corps Official Page