David Vine ’93 Speaks on the History of the United States at War

We often think of wars in terms of dates. The American Revolution ended 1781. The Civil War ended in 1865. The European theater of World War II ended in 1945.

Or did they?

On October 7, David Vine ’93 participated in a virtual version of the Conversation with Friends series, which is designed to help Sidwell Friends community members engage with one another on a topic or area of interest and to create space for intimate, meaningful conversations. In this installment of the series, Enid Logan ’90, Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, interviewed Vine about his new book, The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State, which came out in October.

In the book, Vine examines how the US has been at war—declared or undeclared—in almost every year since the beginning of its history.

“In many ways, writing this book was a project in reeducating myself about the United States, about US history, about the US history of war,” Vine told the assembled group. Part of that history, he says, is still celebrated—sometimes in subtle ways we don’t even notice.

“We are in a city called the District of Columbia. Why is it called the District of Columbia?” Vine asked. “Why is there this celebration of Columbus, a conqueror who set off a process of conquest and genocidal destruction?”

With the exception of the Civil War, many Americans think of wars being fought abroad. That’s a mistake, according to Vine—one he himself made.

“The degree to which the violence of the wars between the US and Native American peoples, the degree of violence and the genocidal nature of that violence … it shocked and saddened me that I was not more aware of that and not more aware on a daily basis that the land we are sitting on is occupied territory.”

Despite the dark nature of the book, Vine still sees potential for change.

“To paraphrase Eisenhower, our money has been stolen from us when it’s been plowed into the military machine and taken from ensuring that everyone has proper health care, people have proper schooling, infrastructure, et cetera,” he said. “But I think that a positive vision is necessary—a country revolving around caring and healing and taking care of human beings.”

A recording of this Conversation with Friends is available here. There will be a follow up conversation with Vine and Logan on Wednesday, November 11 at 8 p.m. Register here; after registering you will receive a confirmation email about joining the open discussion.

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