Andrew Bacevich’s latest offering, BREACH OF TRUST, is going to make a lot of people squirm – if people read it, that is. Because in this book he tells us flat out that an all-volunteer army in a democratic society simply does not work, and that the present system is “broken.” It is bankrupting our country, and not just financially, but morally. He tells us that Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the longest and most expensive wars in U.S. history, have evoked little more than “an attitude of cordial indifference” on the part of a shallow and selfish populace more concerned with the latest doings of the Kardashians, professional superstar athletes or other vapid and overpaid millionaire celebrities, reflecting “a culture that is moored to nothing more than irreverent whimsy and jeering ridicule.”
Bacevich cites General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, who spoke about having “skin in the game,” meaning that when a country goes to war every town and city should be at risk. McChrystal went on to say the unthinkable: “I think we’d be better if we actually went to a draft these days … for the nation it would be a better course.”
Horrors! That dreaded “D” word finally uttered aloud. Well, I’d say it’s about damn time. And Bacevich agrees, noting that in his many speaking engagements over the past ten years “I can count on one hand the number of occasions when someone did NOT pose a question about the draft, invariably offered as a suggestion for how to curb Washington’s appetite for intervention abroad and establish some semblance of political accountability.”
The comments expressed in this interview exactly reflect my views–recommended!
Bill Moyers Interviews Andrew Bacevich
Thursday 2 June 2011
by: Bill Moyers, The New Press
Our finest warriors are often our most reluctant warmongers. They have seen firsthand the toll war exacts. They know better than anyone that force can be like a lobster trap that closes with each stage of descent, making escape impossible. So it was when the liberal consensus lured America into Vietnam during the ’60s, and again after 9/11, when neoconservatives clamored for the invasion of Iraq. With the notorious ferocity of the noncombatant, the neocons banged their tin drums and brayed for blood, as long as it was not their own that would be spilled.
One old warrior looked on sadly, his understanding of combat’s reality tempered by twenty-three years in uniform, including service in Vietnam. A graduate of West Point, Andrew Bacevich retired from the military to become a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, a public thinker who has been able to find an audience across the political spectrum, from The Nation to The American Conservative magazines. In several acclaimed books, including The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, and his bestselling The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, Bacevich speaks truth to power, no matter who’s in power, which may be why he reaches both the left and the right.
Bob Woodward and all the president’s men (2010 edition) by Andrew J. Bacevich
Phi Beta Iota: Both of the above appear at the same link. While worth a full read to appreciate the self-serving devotion of Bob Woodward and the ongoing duplicity of the Pentagon and hypocrisy of the White House, there is nothing here that Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal and many others–including Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, have not been saying for decades. Col Bacevich’s book is a short continuation of the same theme, what Chuck Spinney has been calling since the 1980’s “Versailles on the Potomac.” Missing from the Washington-based drama is the far deeper story being examined outside the beltway, to wit, “Is Washington in enemy hands?”
In American politics, deficits have suddenly become all the rage. Throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, the federal government hemorrhaged red ink, with no one paying much attention. Upon the election of Barack Obama, however, the rules abruptly changed. As if overnight, Republicans in Congress discovered that theirs is the party of fiscal conservatism. From out of nowhere came the Tea Party movement, providing at least a pretty good imitation of people who are “mad as hell” about a government unable to manage its own affairs and careening toward bankruptcy. Although the administration’s spending plans add more than a trillion dollars each year to the national debt, President Obama himself has allowed that this might not be such a good thing—for long. In Washington the sky grows dark with deficit hawks.
But the deficits that plague the United States extend well beyond the realm of fiscal policy. At least as important is a deficit in self-awareness that makes it difficult for policymakers to learn from and avoid repeating past mistakes. Continue reading…
Bojan Pancevski in Skopje, Sunday Times [UK], 28 Mar 2010
SAUDI ARABIA is pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into Islamist groups in the Balkans, some of which spread hatred of the West and recruit fighters for jihad in Afghanistan.
According to officials in Macedonia, Islamic fundamentalism threatens to destabilise the Balkans. Strict Wahhabi and Salafi factions funded by Saudi organisations are clashing with traditionally moderate local Muslim communities.
Fundamentalists have financed the construction of scores of mosques and community centres as well as handing some followers up to £225 a month. They are expected not only to grow beards but also to persuade their wives to wear the niqab, or face veil, a custom virtually unknown in the liberal Islamic tradition of the Balkans.
“The United States today finds itself threatened bhy three interlocking crises. The first of these crises is economic and cultural, the second, political, and the third military. All three share this characteristic: They are of our own making.” (p. 6)
+ Book is a call to arms for citizens to put our own house in order–lest we miss this point, the author places “Set thine house in order” on the first page (2 Kings, chapter 20 verse 1).
+ The author credits the left, in general, with advancing rights and liberties in the USA.
+ He points out how we have been drowning in red ink from 1975 (and in fairness to the right, I believe we can now recognize that Bill Clinton’s “surplus” was based on Wall Street fraud and fantasy, postponing our reconciliation with reality and the truth).
+ The author explores how the demise of the Soviet Union created a great deal of instability, including in particular in Central Asia but also elsewhere.
+ He explicitly identifies President Ronald Reagan’s “Tanker War” (the reflagging of Kuwaiti ships) as setting the stage for today, and points out that not only was Iraq rather than Iran behind most of the attacks, but this also created the American delusion that it could force the oil pipe to stay open.
+ He slams Clinton and Albright for various good reasons.
+ Great quotes:
– “Long accustomed to thinking of the United States as a superpower, Americans have yet to realize that they have forefeited command of their own destiny.” (p. 65)
– “Rather than confronting this reality head-on, American grand strategy since the era of Ronald Reagan, and especially through the era of George W. Bush, has been characterized by attempts to wish reality away. Policy makers have been engaged in a de facto Ponzi scheme intended to extend indefinitely the American line of credit.” (p. 66)
+ The author joins a wide range of others in condemning all Washington institutions: DYSFUNCTIONAL.
The author points out that the ideology of national security is the key CONTINUITY across BOTH the dysfunctional parties.
On page 85 he addresses the cult of secrecy and the manner in which virtually all of our governmental agencies (not just the spies and the White House) evade public accountability.
The author addresses how our politicians and our senior civil servants and flag officers (generals and admirals) have come to feel IMMUNIZED from public accountability.
I smile on page 91, when John F. Kennedy concludes on the basis of the Bay of Pigs that he was set up, and that CIA is not only incompetent, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff are either stupid or untrustworthy, or both.
He spends some time on the bureaucracy as the enemy of Presidents, and I would beg to differ. Our bureaucracy’s are quite valuable, but only if we respect their deep and broad knowledge.
On page 113 I am fascinated to see Nitze’s contribution described as a “model” in which the enemy is demonized, “options” are offered that manipulate the decision, a “code language” is used to sway the public, and panic is promoted to sweep away reasoned inquiry. Then he caps this by pointing out that Wolfowitz is the heir to Nitze.
The author begins drawing to a conclusion by pointing out that we have been distracted from the real lessons of the Iraq war, and this begins the very rich final portion of the book.
LESSON ONE: Ideology of national security poses an insurmountable obstacle to sound policy making
LESSON TWO: Americans can no longer afford to underwrite a government that does not work.
LESSON THREE: The Wise Men concept is moose manure. “To attend any longer to this elite would be madness. This is the third lesson that the Iraq War ought to drive homo. What today’s Wise Men have on offer represents the inverse of wisdom. Indeed, to judge by the reckless misjudgments that have characterized U.S. policy since 9/11, presidents would be better served if they relied on the common sense of randomly chosen citizens rather than consulting sophisticated insiders.” p 122-123.
He offers three illusions that took rote post Viet-Nam:
1) That we reinvented war in its aftermath (naturally, emphasizing extremely expensive stuff that does not always work)
2) That we could achieve “full spectrum warfare” while ignoring counterinsurgency and small wars and gendarme and so on.
3) Civilian and military leaders and staffs learned to make nice and work together. NOT SO.
Three more lessons that he caveats:
1) Civilians screwed up Iraq BUT our generals were mediocre and subservient
2) Commanders need more leeway BUT in fact they did not lack for authority, they lacked for ability (and I would add, integrity)
3) Need to repair the gap between the military and the public by reinstituting the universal draft BUT draft is not a good idea because it perpetuates the large one size fits all military
1) War is war and we cannot simplify it or second guess chaos and friction
2) Utility of the Armed Forces is finite
3) Preventive war is lunacy
4) We have lost the art of strategy
I strongly recommend this book for the War Colleges and for thinking adults who may be very concerned about who is giving advice to the two presidential candidates: “the Wise Men” and the young wanna-be “wise boys” who are trying so desperately to be adults but do not read much and have not spent much time in the real world.