How We Fight


How We Fight

Crusades, Quagmires, and the American Way of War

Dominic Tierney

352 pages
7 photographs, 8 illustrations


November 2012


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Americans love war. We’ve never run from a fight. Our triumphs from the American Revolution to World War II define who we are as a nation and a people. Americans hate war. Our leaders rush us into conflicts without knowing the facts or understanding the consequences. Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan define who we are as a nation and a people.

How We Fight explores the extraordinary double-mindedness with which Americans approach war and articulates the opposing perspectives that have governed our responses throughout history: the “crusade” tradition, or our love of grand quests to defend democratic values and overthrow tyrants; and the “quagmire” tradition, or our resistance to the work of nation-building and its inevitable cost in dollars and American lives.

How can one nation be so split? Studying conflicts from the Civil War to the present, Dominic Tierney uncovers the secret history of American foreign policy and provides a frank and insightful look at how Americans respond to the ultimate challenge. And he shows how U.S. military ventures can succeed. His innovative model for tackling the challenges of modern war suggests the possibility of enduring victory in Afghanistan and elsewhere by rediscovering a lost American warrior tradition.

Author Bio

Dominic Tierney is an associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and an official correspondent at the Atlantic. He is the author of Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics and FDR and the Spanish Civil War: Neutrality and Commitment in the Struggle That Divided America.


“Lucid and entertaining. . . . A provocative analysis of why Americans love some wars and hate others.”—Kirkus Reviews


“Writing in colloquial style, this college professor accessibly frames questions arising from Iraq and Afghanistan about why victories have often been followed by occupations.”—Booklist


“[Tierney’s] work here will be a useful addition to the literature of culture and war.”—Library Journal


“Highly recommended.”—Choice

“Tierney’s is a welcome voice in the trade press literature on American wars. He captures the essence of America’s history of warfare and presents it in a digestible, yet sophisticated and historically rich way. . . . Interesting, engaging, compelling, and even entertaining to a broader audience.”—Jon Western, Mt. Holyoke College

Table of Contents

Chapter 1  Introduction
Chapter 2  For Liberty and Vengeance: The Crusade Tradition
Chapter 3  Through a Glass, Darkly: The Quagmire Tradition
Chapter 4  Birth of a Nation
Chapter 5  Heel of Achilles
Chapter 6  To End All War
Chapter 7  When the Saints Go Marching In
Chapter 8  Black Gold and Black Hawks
Chapter 9  The Bush Warriors
Chapter 10  The Founding Tradition

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