Warrior Nation

The Chronicle Review ~ Michael Nelson

“Endless War” is how The New York Times headlined its review of the Boston University historian Andrew J. Bacevich’s new book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. It’s a headline that will work just as well if the Times decides to review Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War by Richard E. Rubenstein, a professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University. In fact, either Bacevich or Rubenstein could accurately have chosen “Endless War” as his own book’s title.

The occasion for both books, as well as for the City University of New York journalism and political-science professor Peter Beinart’s recent The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, is the start of the 10th year of continuous (and at least seemingly endless) war by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, and—factoring in what the Times estimates is “roughly a dozen” secret military campaigns against terrorist groups based in other countries—around the world . Add those to the list of previous wars and military operations during the past 30 years: Nicaragua, Grenada, Libya, Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo… TO READ MORE CLICK HERE

Andrew Bacevich: American Power and Military Policy
Watch excerpts from correspondent Kim Lawton’s August 5, 2010 interview with Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired US Army colonel, and author, most recently, of “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War” (Henry Holt). They spoke at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC.

12 Responses to Warrior Nation

  1. T. Shaw says:

    Thank the Lord! Obama immediately ended the two WARS: post haste in January 2009.

    Are you aware of the Bacevich motives for hating America, in general, and the US Army, in particular?

  2. Phillip says:

    His son was killed in Iraq. Is this what you are referring to?

  3. David Jones says:

    I would encourage folks to focus on the content of the main article from The Chronicle. Dr. Bacevich’s thought is only a small part of the overall article.

    In defense of Dr. Bacevich though I will say this. Dr. Bacevich is a West Point graduate, a decorated war veteran and retired field grade Army officer. He neither hates America nor the U.S. Army.


    In the PBS interview he seems to me to be very articulate and his thoughts to be both rational and reasonable.

    To my understanding his views have remained consistent, both before and after his son’s being KIA in Iraq. To be sure Bacevich is not a Neo-conservative, but that’s a major plus in my gradebook.

  4. T. Shaw says:

    Not at all.

    My son returned from an infantry deployment in Afghanistan. I know what it is to worry each day that a car may pull up and Army officers come out . . . It was far worse for his mother.

    I pray for his son and my son and for all the wonderful men and women that are defending our country and our way of life.

    The Bacevich negativism predates that ultimate sacrifice.

  5. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Bacevich came up last year on a thread and commenter Art Deco provided this background information:

    “Dr. Bacevich first came to public attention in 1988 when he compiled (with the aid of three other Army officers) a report on American policy in El Salvador (made public) that was notably pessimistic in its assessments of effects and outcomes. The trouble was, the social democratic and social christian auxilliaries of the FMLN had in the latter part of 1987 begun reconstructing their domestic organizations in that country. Reuben Zamora was pretty explicit at that time that the mentality of the Salvadorean reds was completely altered. Serious negotiations between the FMLN and the Salvadorean government commenced in 1989 and a peace agreement was completed in 1992. Bacevich was not merely in error; before his report was complete events were occurring which suggested he had misread important aspects of the situation.

    He was subsequently mustered out of the military when decision he made about the disabling of safety alarms in the cavalry unit he commanded led to a ghastly industrial accident which claimed the lives of several soldiers.

    I think Mr. McClarey’s characterization of Dr. Bacevich’s social views is inaccurate. He might be mistaken as a conservative due to the loci where he was publishing during the years running from 1993 through 2003 (National Review, First Things, &c.). However, I think you will find that nearly all of his verbiage consisted of personal memoir or was a transposition for a general audience of his professional and academic writings, which are not readily characterized with conventional political terminology. I do not think Mr. McClarey or myself would find in any of his writings a defense of anything we might value. He is an idiosyncratic character who has a beef with his former employer.”

    More information on Bacevich can be found in this thread.


  6. T. Shaw says:


    I think bacevich is so negative because he feels a need to fit in with aging hippies, weathermen bomb throwers, and VC sympathizers that populate university faculties.

    And, I know how his illustrious career went up in smoke.

  7. Art Deco says:

    Perhaps this constitutes ‘confirmation bias’, but I could not help noticing some time back this juicy tidbit from Dr. Bacevich:

    Why the hell we’re extending bases into Latin America is beyond me. Rumsfeld just announced that he has appointed an admiral as the head of U.S. Southern Command. Now this has almost always been an Army billet, once or twice a Marine billet, never a Navy one. I got an email today from someone who suggested that this was another example of Rumsfeld’s “boldness.” My response was: Well, if he was bold, he’d simply shut down the Southern Command. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful way to communicate that U.S.-Latin American relations had matured to the point where they no longer revolved around security concerns? Wouldn’t it be interesting for Washington to signal that there is one region of the world that does not require U.S. military supervision; that we really don’t need to have some four-star general parading around from country to country in the manner of some proconsul supervising his quarter of the American Empire?

    The Armed Forces do publish personnel statistics. The sum total of U.S. military personnel billeted in Latin America and the Caribbean is 2,000. There were 10x that number 60 years ago. Not quite half at this time are at Guantanamo Bay, which has been a possession of the United States since 1902. There is not a single country in Latin America where there resides more than 200 American troops. The most salient activity of the Southern Command is…drug interdiction.

  8. Zach says:

    Thanks for pointing out this book. I’m going to check it out. I’d rather learn about Bacevich’s arguments than dismiss him from the outset because of supposed motives.

    Plus, I am inclined to agree with the contention that America is addicted to war. Because, well, it seems that we are.

  9. Art Deco says:

    I’d rather learn about Bacevich’s arguments than dismiss him from the outset because of supposed motives.

    I am not dismissing his motives. I am pointing out that he is not what he is cracked up to be.

    Plus, I am inclined to agree with the contention that America is addicted to war. Because, well, it seems that we are.

    OK, educate me. Please explain what you mean by ‘addiction’? Why is it you would identify the internal dynamics of political competition as the source of the Korean War or the War in Afghanistan?

  10. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Because, well, it seems that we are.”

    I rather thought that it was the Nazis, Imperial Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam, Saddam Hussein and bin Laden who decided to utilize war to achieve their policy ends.

  11. j. christian says:

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people conflate Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ll grant you your dissent on the former intervention on the grounds of just war doctrine, but damned if I’ll forget 9/11, the terrorists who plotted it, and the tinpot regime that enabled it. Maybe you can present me with your brilliant law enforcement-cum-diplomacy solution that would’ve delivered arrest warrants on the doorstep of the Taliban and brought an end to state-sponsored jihadist terrorism, but I’m not holding my breath.

    There has only been one time in my life (I’m under 40) where I’ve been willing to pick up a rifle and fight, and that was after 9/11. If Afgahistan is not a “just war,” then I’m a cucumber.

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