Marilyn Young’s Lecture on “Limited War, Unlimited”

Marilyn B. Young, Professor of History at New York University, gave a lecture during the National History Center’s 2009 Decolonization Seminar. The lecture was jointly sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress and webcasted.

Professor Young during her lecture at the Library of Congress
Professor Young during her lecture at the Library of Congress

Professor Young discussed how the history of the Cold War in the United States is the history of how, while never abandoning World War II as the platonic ideal of war, post-war administrations were able to use military force in a limited, instrumental way. For this to be possible they had to create a public tolerance for war as normal rather than aberrational, so normal that after a while only those who were actively engaged in fighting it—and their families—noticed a war was being fought at all. War, as Joe Haldeman’s dystopian novel, The Forever War, predicted, would be “forever.” Professor Young’s lecture explored the many ways in which the “forever war” was manifested, first in Asia, and subsequently in the Middle East.

Marilyn Young received her PhD from Harvard University in 1963. She taught at the University of Michigan before coming to New York University in 1980 where she is a full professor in the Department of History. Professor Young teaches courses on the history of U.S. foreign policy, the politics and culture of post-war United States. Her publications include Rhetoric of Empire: American China Policy, 1895–1901; Transforming Russia and China: Revolutionary Struggle in the 20th Century (with William Rosenberg); and The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990.

You can view the lecture here.

Professor Young co-edited with Mark Bradley the National History Center’s volume Making Sense of the Vietnam War, the first in the Reintrepreting History series published by the Oxford University Press.  The volume is available for purchase.

This is part of a series of lectures on decolonization, with Philippa Levine giving one on women and decolonization.