War and Ideas
By John Mueller
Routledge – 2011 – 228 pages
This book collects the key essays, together with updating notes and commentary, of Professor John Mueller on war and the role of ideas and opinions.
Mueller has maintained that war (and peace) are, in essence, merely ideas, and that war has waned as the notion that 'peace' is a decidedly good idea has gained currency. The first part of the book extends this argument, noting that as ideas have spread, war is losing out not only in the developed world, but now in the developing one, and that even civil war is in marked decline. It also assesses and critiques theories arguing that this phenomenon is caused by the rising acceptance of democracy and/or capitalism.
The second part argues that the Cold War was at base a clash of ideas that were seen to be threatening, not of arms balances, domestic systems, geography, or international structure. It also maintains that there has been a considerable tendency to exaggerate security threats—currently, in particular, the one presented by international terrorism—and to see them in excessively military terms.
The third section deals with the role public opinion plays in foreign policy, and argues that many earlier conclusions about opinion during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, including especially ones concerning the importance of casualties in determining popular support for war, apply to more recent military ventures in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It also assesses the difficulties leaders and idea entrepreneurs often encounter when they try to manage or manipulate public opinion.
This book will be of much interest to students of international relations, security studies, foreign policy and international history.
'In this brief, punchy collection of essays, Mueller sets out his case in engrossing and direct style.' Kenneth Payne, International Affairs, Vol. 88, 1, 2012
'Over the years many of the most important ideas about the role of ideas have come from the pen of John Mueller. Now he has drawn them together in a most valuable collection, and those who remain unpersuaded will fruitfully be provoked.' Robert Jervis, Columbia University
‘A pioneer in the work on public opinion and war, Mueller has staked out intellectual leadership in thinking about the "obsolescence" of war. An excellent writer, Mueller’s pieces very clearly and effectively convey his arguments and conclusions. This book will be a valuable resource for instructors and students alike in courses ranging from general introductory IR, to courses on war, globalization or international law.’ Harvey Starr, University of South Carolina
'War and Ideas is a set of provocative theoretical essays and empirical analyses by one of the leading and most original thinkers in international relations inquiry. It is a book that will provoke debate and challenge conventional thinking; in doing so, it will advance our understanding of some of the most important issues of our time. Essential reading for scholars, journalists, and students.' John A. Vasquez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Preface: Marketing Mousetraps Part 1: War, Ideas, and Peace Introduction 1. The Obsolescence of Major War 2. Policing the Remnants of War 3. War Has Almost Ceased to Exist: An Assessment 4. Why Isn't There More Violence? Part 2: Threat Perception, Ideas, and Foreign Policy Introduction 5. What Was the Cold War About? Evidence from Its Ending 6. Simplicity and Spook: Terrorism and the Dynamics of Threat Exaggeration 7. Faulty Correlation, Foolish Consistency, and Fatal Consequence: Democracy, Peace, and Theory in the Middle East Part 3: Public Opinion, Foreign Policy, and War Introduction 8. American Foreign Policy and Public Opinion in a New Era: Eleven Propositions 9. The Iraq War and the Management of American Public Opinion
John Mueller is Professor of Political Science and holds the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies, Mershon Center, Ohio State University. He is author/editor of 13 books on politics and international security.