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August 15, 2008

New Tomdispatch + Andrew Bacevich On Bill Moyers

Andrew Bacevich will be on Bill Moyers tonight for the entire hour. Below are a few minutes of the program, plus part II of Bacevich's new piece in Tomdispatch. Part I is here. Both are excerpted from Bacevich's new book The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism.


Is Perpetual War Our Future?
Learning the Wrong Lessons from the Bush Era
By Andrew Bacevich

To appreciate the full extent of the military crisis into which the United States has been plunged requires understanding what the Iraq War and, to a lesser extent, the Afghan War have to teach. These two conflicts, along with the attacks of September 11, 2001, will form the centerpiece of George W. Bush's legacy. Their lessons ought to constitute the basis of a new, more realistic military policy.

In some respects, the effort to divine those lessons is well under way, spurred by critics of President Bush's policies on the left and the right as well as by reform-minded members of the officer corps. Broadly speaking, this effort has thus far yielded three distinct conclusions. Whether taken singly or together, they invert the post-Cold War military illusions that provided the foundation for the president's Global War on Terror. In exchange for these received illusions, they propound new ones, which are equally misguided. Thus far, that is, the lessons drawn from America's post-9/11 military experience are the wrong ones.

According to the first lesson, the armed services -- and above all the Army -- need to recognize that the challenges posed by Iraq and Afghanistan define not only the military's present but also its future, the "next war," as enthusiasts like to say. Rooting out insurgents, nation-building, training and advising "host nation" forces, population security and control, winning hearts and minds -- these promise to be ongoing priorities, preoccupying U.S. troops for decades to come, all across the Islamic world.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at August 15, 2008 05:58 PM

Excellent dicussion of the situation by Prof. Bacevich. I especially like the part about conscription bringing the childern of political elite and the well-to-do to "once again bear their fair share of the load". One can almost invision row upon row of Corporal Cheneys, Private Rockefellers marching onward to the cadences shouted by Sargent Limbaughs.
The clincher, "reigning in the imperial presidents" puts the load on OUR shoulders---the ball in OUR court. Who wants to bet a C-note for charity on that one?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 16, 2008 01:11 AM

With all possible respect to Jon and Tom and Mike and everyone else, I must say the most amazing thing to me about this series is that anybody finds it worth reading.

The war in Iraq and -- to an fully equal extent -- the war in Afghanistan are predicated on one lie after another. We know this; we've been documenting it every day for years; and by now most of us are tired of talking about it ... but understanding it and acknowledging it and remembering it is the sine qua non -- and Bracevich doesn't go near it. How can we learn any lessons if we avoid the basic truths?

Starting a war based on a stack of deliberate and transparent lies, the way these two wars were started, is a crime of the highest order.

When such a crime is committed, it is the duty of the military to refuse their clearly illegal orders. It is the duty of Congress to remove the criminal president from office. And it is the duty of the people to stop everything -- work, school, shopping, all business as usual -- for as long as necessary, until that happens.

The lessons to be learned from the aftermath of 9/11 start with "we were too easily fooled" and "we have no business attacking people who never did us any harm" and "it is the duty of every patriotic American to question his government, and to resist it when it goes wrong" ...

All the rest is talking points ... like:

"Far from producing a stampede of eager recruits keen to don a uniform, the events of 9/11 reaffirmed a widespread popular preference for hiring someone else's kid to chase terrorists, spread democracy, and ensure access to the world's energy reserves."

and so on. Does he still think the war in Iraq is about "spreading democracy"? Does anyone?

In fact, 9/11 did produce a stampede; a stampede of angry ignorant belligerent fools who bought every single lie, and swallowed them all whole. But that stampede has gradually subsided as the nation has begun to realize how deeply it has been betrayed.

Bracevich can keep his talking points.

Shame on America.

Posted by: Winter at August 16, 2008 04:19 AM

"American way of life is not negotiable" so we go and bomb a country to stone age, drop cluster bombs and depleted uranium to cause havoc, get our young kids killed and thousands lose their limbs and their minds, drop bombs on wedding parties and create refugees and IDPs ( resulting in prostitution ), all the while people going about their business of 'going to malls', going to Disney World ( if they CAN afford it!! ) because GWB says so!!!!
The link below makes me agree with Winter.
Shame on our country and those who run it.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2008 10:48 AM

Bacevich is a relatively decent guy, or as decent as a west point graduate can get, but I'm with Winter for most of the post, if for different reasons.

I remember reading parts of Bacevich/Cohen (the neocon golden boy) compendium on Kosovo (War Over Kosovo). Analysis? A book written with a specific agenda to be used in training the country's next generation of foreign policy elites. They fed at the trough.

Starting a war based on a stack of deliberate and transparent lies, the way these two wars were started, is a crime of the highest order.

But I'm not with Winter on this one. Kosovo was a war based on a stack of deliberate and transparent lies as well, and even more obvious to anyone not enamored by the concept of American righteousness used as a geopolitical tool.

Presidents in search of a legacy are a dangerous thing to the Republic.

Bacevich's son was killed in Iraq last year, so I can understand his wanting to bring the pain to the rest of the country's elites, but it's just not feasible given technology and cost. We don't need a draft of that many people under arms (such that the children of elites could experience the stupidity inherent in a military life), and if ALL the children are not needed, I'd place the children of the elites at the top of the "do not participate" pile -- because their background makes them more "useful" as policy developers, not policy bullet-stoppers.

What would I do if I was omnipotent? At the next war, I'd empty out the Ivies -- Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc (and a dozen other top tier private schools), and I mean EVERYONE including the women, and send them to military training and then to the battlefield as marine and army enlisted personnel. Close the schools down for the duration of the conflict, and reopen them when the conflict ends.

I'd leave state schools and colleges alone.

I think that would give the motherfuckers pause.

Posted by: Labiche at August 16, 2008 10:57 AM

I saw the Bacevich interview with Moyer last night and it is well worth checking out.

Posted by: cemmcs at August 16, 2008 11:20 AM

it was a good talk, and bacevich seems like he'd be an excellent professor. while i'm broadly symapathetic with winter's points, bacevich did say that violent islam is not an existential threat. yes we may know that, but the rightwing liars predicate everything on that very point, so kudos to bacevich for denying it.

Posted by: petey at August 16, 2008 07:07 PM

Labiche is on the right track. Frankly, we know the answer. Smedly Butler already gave it. Let EVERY act by the military on foreign soil that kills a non-American result in an immediate de jure declaration of war. This cannot be stopped; it is automatic.

Then have this declaration result in the following:

• Immediate draft of 50% of the top 1% of income earners. No deferrals are available. It takes little to peel potatoes.

• An after-taxes war tax settling on the rich and on all business profits.

It would mean an immediate end to warfare as we know it.

So let's not say that a draft, etc., won't work. Let's just be clear: in order for it to work we would have to slaughter the Big Lie that class doesn't matter. And naught but the most virtuous of Moyers' guests can ever put "class" and "legislation" in the same sentence. Aristocracies will even sacrifice their own children for class, so long as they don't have to confront their choices. There is no idol, no brass Baal, that has gorged itself on more blood than a human aristocracy.

The Class War is on. Those fucking assholes are winning.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 17, 2008 11:49 AM

Bacevich, with his talk about the Imperial Presidency, just doesn't understand the depth of the problem, that money lies at the root of the militaristic evil. The US Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as the Executive, are all a part of a financially-based conspiracy to promote militarism and war. We call the President "The Decider," but really he's just reading a TelePrompter. It's a lot of fun to blame Bush and call him names, but the decisions concerning corporate welfare and foreign adventures are made way above his pay grade, by the corporatists and bankers who control our economic lives and, for the cannon fodder, our physical lives.

The Congress, particularly, are the key enablers of the "military crisis." Their continuing quest for the "free money" that flows from the US Treasury through the Pentagon and into their districts is their major activity, their drug of choice, and it's orchestrated by their chief financial supporters. Then they have to demonstrate that they're Strong On Defense, so wars get a wink and a nod.

I've tried, unsuccessfully, in the past, to communicate this concept to Bacevich. He just doesn't get it. He refuses to accept, as Smedley Butler said, that war is a racket, the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. It's the American Way -- money talks and BS walks, every time.

George W. Bush didn't invent American militarism and imperialism. It's gone on since the beginning, from when the first European visitors to America discovered that money could be made from the exploitation and killing of others. So any talk about lessons learned from the Bush Era is just that, talk, until the real evil is recognized and addressed.

Posted by: Don Bacon at August 17, 2008 12:05 PM

He's a remarkable case -- someone who's become an anti-militarist, anti-imperialist, but without any apparent grasp of what drives our imperial foreign policy and massive military spending.

Bacevich's lack of grounding in politics isn't that surprising, given his background. What I don't understand is what started him down the road he's on now.

Posted by: Nell at August 17, 2008 04:44 PM


Only rarely does someone surface with qualifications as well as insights and a delivery that stimulate thinking. Even more rarely does an individual stimulate the very personal mental articulation of self observation.

Bacevich deserves as broad an audience as can be exposed to his thoughtful analysis.

Posted by: PacificGatePost at August 19, 2008 11:13 AM