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The Politics of Distant War

May 22, 2015


“What’s missing is the American people, who pay for the war in its consequences,” said Mary L. Dudziak, a leading U.S. historian to a packed auditorium of students, faculty and the public gathered at University of Washington’s Kane Hall 220 on May 21.

The Jackson School of International Studies and Center for Global Studies sponsored Dudziak’s talk on “The Politics of Distant War: 1917, 1941 and 1964” as part of its U.S. in the World Speaker Series, which launched this year.

Dudziak emphasized that most Americans are insulated from the consequences of war, as wars are fought at a distance and military service is not a requirement of citizenship. “Distance is not only geographical, but there is a cultural distance in the U.S.,” she noted.

She spoke about the role of U.S. government censors in curating war through control of media, such as the contrast of photographs of American soldiers as heroic and meaningful versus the maimed or dismembered bodies of the foreign enemy.

Dudziak underscored efforts of photographers and political figures who challenged censorship during wartime, and explored wartime declarations, the role of U.S. elections during a war, and the manipulation of the public to support war.

Questions from the audience ranged from the role of distance in post-war issues, such as U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, taxation for war, and the role of race in war, among others.

In fall 2015, Dudziak will be the Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance at the Library of Congress. She received her J.D. and Ph.D. from Yale University.

About the U.S. in the World speaker series

The U.S. in the World speaker series examines the origins, trajectory, and consequences of U.S. global power and offers insights on these processes from the outside in and the inside out. It brings renowned scholars from a variety of disciplines to the University of Washington to speak to academic and public audiences about their areas of research. Speakers address a variety of topics, including the United States’ global military presence; responses to U.S. hard & soft power overseas; the place of religion in U.S. foreign relations; and the varied engagement of the U.S. with international legal and governance regimes. These lectures will help students and interested audiences appreciate the complexities facing the United States as it proceeds through the twenty-first century.