Making the Forever War: Marilyn Young on the Culture and Politics of American Militarism (University of Massachusetts Press, 2021) is a timely collection of articles and essays by Marilyn B Young, edited by Mark P. Bradley and Mary L. Dudziak. In this interview, Mark Bradley joined me to discuss Marilyn Young's life and legacy, the impetus for assembling the book, and the relevance of her work in the present moment.
The late historian Marilyn B. Young, a preeminent voice on the history of U.S. military conflict, spent her career reassessing the nature of American global power, its influence on domestic culture and politics, and the consequences felt by those on the receiving end of U.S. military force. At the center of her inquiries was a seeming paradox: How can the United States stay continually at war, yet Americans pay so little attention to this militarism? Making the Forever War brings Young's articles and essays on American war together for the first time, including never before published works. Moving from the first years of the Cold War to Korea, Vietnam, and more recent "forever" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Young reveals the ways in which war became ever-present, yet more covert and abstract, particularly as aerial bombings and faceless drone strikes have attained greater strategic value. For Young, U.S. empire persisted because of, not despite, the inattention of most Americans. The collection concludes with an afterword by prominent military historian Andrew Bacevich.
Marilyn B Young (1937-2017) was a renowned historian of American foreign relations and a longtime professor of history at New York University. Her landmark book The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 remains a defining work in the field.
Mark P Bradley (interviewee and co-editor of Making the Forever War) is Bernadotte E Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor of International History and the College at the University of Chicago and author of The World Reimagined: Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century.
Mary L Dudziak (co-editor of Making the Forever War) is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory University and author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences.
Catriona Gold is a PhD candidate in Geography at University College London, researching security, subjectivity and mobility in the 20-21st century United States. Her current work concerns the US Passport Office; she has previously published on US Africa Command and the 2013-16 Ebola epidemic. She can be reached by email or on Twitter.