Andrew Bacevich

Specter of Infinite War

Medeia_and_Talus

From “Stories of Gods and Heroes” (1920) by Thomas Bulfinch with color illustrations drawn by Sybil Tawse. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I am among the apparent majority of American voters opposed to Donald Trump’s election and re-election. The majority wasn’t big enough in 2016 and may be too small in 2020 to overcome the negative effects of indirect election, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and foreign interference. As a citizen of a decidedly red state, I register my vote in full knowledge that it will not count in the final tally, since the presidential candidate with the most popular votes in Indiana, even if just a plurality, receives all eleven of the state’s electoral votes. Winner-takes-all rather than proportional allocation is the case in 48 of the 50 states, red or blue, big or small. It allows a candidate who loses the popular vote to win the office. If the electoral college was supposed to prevent the selection of a manifestly unqualified candidate, recent experience suggests that choosing the winner directly by popular vote might serve the country as well or even better. (more…)

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Our Undemocratic War Machine

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Names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. (Credit: David Bjorgen)

A richer democratic culture should make the US less warlike, less inclined to endless imperial warfare. That is a basic premise of critiques of US war culture advanced here in Hunt the Devil.

A corollary to this premise is that America’s insufficiently democratic polity is overly susceptible to militarism.

A focus on the nation’s democratic health is especially relevant because, as Andrew Bacevich observes, “We are, or at least claim to be, a democratic republic in which all power ultimately derives from the people.”

Bacevich speaks as a retired US Army Colonel, Professor Emeritus in History at Boston University, and discerning commentator on US foreign policy when he says the American military system has failed in its purpose to defend the country and to bring about peace.  “Peace,” he observes, “has essentially vanished as a U.S. policy objective.”  (more…)

Deciphering American Empire: #1

Statue-Augustus

“Augustus of Prima Porta” by unknown artist, circa 1st century. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:2 Holy Bible NRSV)

To imagine life after empire is to presume the current condition of imperialism, US imperialism.

American empire. What does it mean? Is it true or false? Is it a mark of pride or a sign of shame?

Let’s start from the assumption that the American citizenry is generally inclined to deny the fact of US imperialism or at least to resist the legitimacy of the label. It just doesn’t fit well with the nation’s self image. It sounds like a false indictment in mythic America.

Whereas the idea of imperialism suggests militarism and warfare as a way of life, mythic America promotes peace, not war. It fights defensive wars, not wars of aggression. It is an exceptional nation, a model of virtue, a country devoted to freedom and democratic ideals, a people with a special calling. (more…)

Down the Rabbit Hole

"The White Rabbit," illustrated by John Tenniel, for "The Nursery Alice" by Lewis Carroll, 1890. (Credit: British Library / Wikimedia Commons)

“The White Rabbit,” illustrated by John Tenniel, for “The Nursery Alice” by Lewis Carroll, 1890. (Credit: British Library / Wikimedia Commons)

Who hasn’t found themselves tongue tied in a surcharged debate, especially when defending an unconventional opinion while everyone else postures on the side of conventional wisdom. There’s no room in the debate, nor is there sufficient time, to reframe the issue; the operative premises (presumed and expressed) work against your position; you are rushed and interrupted when you do try to speak up; and you are outnumbered. Only afterwards, when the debate is lost and long over, do you think of a brilliant reply.

It happens to the best of us. Maybe that is why so few of us care to express a dissenting opinion even though we are convinced that the war on terrorism is wrong headed.

War critic and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich recently took the hit and lived to report it. (more…)

Wisened Warriors

NEWPORT, R.I. (June 12, 2012) Andrew Bacevich, from Boston University, speaks during a panel discussion that was part of the 2012 Current Strategy Forum at the U.S. Naval War College. This year’s forum explores global trends and the implications they have on national policy and maritime forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich/Released)

NEWPORT, R.I. (June 12, 2012) Andrew Bacevich, from Boston University, speaks during a panel discussion that was part of the 2012 Current Strategy Forum at the U.S. Naval War College. This year’s forum explores global trends and the implications they have on national policy and maritime forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich/Released)

West Point graduate. Vietnam War veteran. Retired career officer. Military historian.   Father of a U.S. Army First Lieutenant killed in action in Iraq.

Andrew Bacevich believes that Americans overestimate the value of military force. Romantic images do not correspond to the actuality of war.

Bacevich has written insightfully about American Empire, The New American Militarism, and The Limits of Power. In Washington Rules, he critically examines the path that led the U.S. into a state of permanent war. In Breach of Trust, he argues that Americans have failed their soldiers and their country.

Bacevich’s young friend “M,” an aspiring academic, completed two tours in Iraq as an enlisted soldier, a rifleman. He is writing a doctoral dissertation on the subject of insurgencies. The U.S. war in Iraq is one of his case studies. (more…)

Fool’s Errand

"The Fool," Stratford-Upon-Avon, Great Britain (Credit:  Irene Ogrizek / Wikimedia Commons).

“The Fool,” Stratford-Upon-Avon, Great Britain (Credit: Irene Ogrizek / Wikimedia Commons).

Andrew Bacevich, historian of American militarism and empire, has declared the U.S. war against the Islamic State a fool’s errand. His argument is captured in the title of his Washington Post opinion piece, “Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war.”

The U.S. is involved in a decades-old enterprise to bring order and stability to the Middle East, which is both costly and counterproductive. “Regime change has produced power vacuums.” The Islamic State is the most recent iteration of “America’s never-ending Middle East misadventure.” We are “inadvertently sowing instability” and thus digging the hole we’re in even deeper.

Bacevich’s critique invokes the mythic force of the archetype. The fool’s errand, as an idiom of war, places the U.S. under the spell of a heroic quest. It is a grand undertaking that has no chance of success, a pointless task carried out against our better judgment.  (more…)