[UCP Books]: The American Warfare State: The Domestic Politics of Military Spending

“When Eisenhower first warned of the dangers posed by the warfare state, too few Americans paid attention. Now, in this carefully argued and entirely persuasive monograph, Thorpe explains how that state operates and why it persists. In updating Ike’s warning, she performs a great service. Perhaps this time we’ll heed it.”
Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

The American Warfare State

The Domestic Politics of Military Spending

Rebecca U. Thorpe


Publication date: May 15, 2014 Paper $25.00 • £17.50
UK publication date: May 26, 2014 ISBN-13: 978-0-226-12407-0


“[Our country] will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” One hundred and fifty years after George Washington warned of the dangers posed by an extensive warfare state, America faced the ascent of Nazi Germany and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, followed by the rise of the Soviet Empire. Yet, after each specific threat receded, Congress continued to support large defense budgets—despite little rationale to maintain military readiness and growing national debt.

With The American Warfare State, Thorpe argues that the unprecedented size of the American military budget since World War II resulted from new political interests created by the war that the framers of the Constitution did not anticipate. As the scale and scope of the war gave rise to large military industries in rural and semirural communities, Congress members representing these communities gained powerful political incentives to press for ongoing military expenditures regardless of actual threat. In turn, these members face weak resistance because the costs of war are now borne overwhelmingly by a minority of soldiers who volunteer to fight, future generations of taxpayers, and foreign populations in whose lands wars often take place.


Rebecca U. Thorpe is assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington. She is available for interviews.


Please contact Melinda Kennedy at mkennedy1@press.uchicago.edu or (773) 702-2945 for more information.



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