Michael BrenesDec 3, 2020
For Might and Right
Cold War Defense Spending and the Remaking of American Democracy
University of Massachusetts Press 2020
Donald Trump campaigned on a great many things in 2016, but one of the issues he used to criticize Democrats was their role in supporting sequestration and cuts to the military budget. While partisan rhetoric about the country being unsafe or the military being underfunded plays well, it obscures an important reality about the relative size of U.S. military funding. The United State spends more than the next ten leading countries combined. The Democratic Party, while often criticized as soft on defense, generally supports high military spending. This seems to contradict many statements made by politicians, and it also confounds expectations about where one might expect the Democrats’ priorities to lay. How did it get to be this way, with Democrats and Republicans supporting high military spending?
Michael Brenes’ For Might and Right: Cold War Defense Spending and the Remaking of American Democracy explains this contradictory history. Brenes argues that after the beginning of the Cold War, defense spending became an important part of the federal social safety net, winning over adherents from both parties who sought guaranteed employment. This blurred lines between Republicans and Democrats, instead creating a “Cold War Coalition” that was propped up by anticommunists and liberals. While occasionally challenged by progressives and the left or by libertarian-minded conservatives, this coalition has persisted to the present and explains why bipartisan support for the military-industrial complex remains so strong.
Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.