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The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195173383
ISBN-10: 0195173384
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Editorial Reviews


"A concise, sinewy book that looks at the emperor and concludes that indeed he has no clothes.... Bacevich makes the case calmly but with piercing clarity.... His judgments and his point of view are evenhanded and steady.... Acute and unsparing."--Andrew Day, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Bacevich is a graduate of West Point, a Vietnam veteran, and a conservative Catholic.... He has thus earned the right to a hearing even in circles typically immune to criticism. What he writes should give them pause.... His conclusion is clear. The United States is becoming not just a militarized state but a military society: a country where armed power is the measure of national greatness, and war, or planning for war, is the exemplary (and only) common project."--Tony Judt, The New York Review of Books

"Andrew Bacevich has become perhaps the leading critic of America's preoccupation with military power. As a former professional soldier, he writes with great understanding of the military as an institution and of the path its leaders have taken since Vietnam. Bacevich explains trenchantly how, over the past 30 years, America's political and intellectual elites have all contributed to this country's overemphasis on war, soldiers and military solutions." --James Mann, author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet

"Brilliant, abrasive, important.... The epitaph for a blindly ideological, overly militarized, and self-defeating imperialism. His bravely outspoken book will enlighten many and infuriate more than a few."--Richard J. Whalen, Across the Board

"Every thoughtful American should read this book.... He has a very important story to tell and tells it well.... Bacevich's main argument...is the most powerful and compelling part of his highly original analysis.... He concludes with a chapter on what to do, which is utterly sound if politically impossible."--Chalmers Johnson, San Diego Union-Tribune

"A valuable account of the paradoxical consequences of the U.S. effort to recover from Vietnam.... Bacevich--a Boston University professor, West Point alumnus and Vietnam veteran --demonstrates a fine grasp of past debates on military matters and an ability to relate them to today's events and personalities."--Lawrence Freedman, Washington Post Book World

"A provocative book.... Anyone with an interest in U.S. military, diplomatic, or political history, or in civil-military relations, or in current military policy should seriously consider Bacevich's argument and proposals, and the book should be required reading for all students at the nation's staff and war colleges."--Military History

"Intellectually serious. Writing very much as a Vietnam veteran, he worries that both major political parties have become too trigger-happy, too keen to dispatch troops abroad. Bacevich takes a dim view of Bush's rhetoric about freedom and argues that the United States' dependence on oil is why it is fighting in the Middle East. He thinks that what some neo-conservatives call World War IV didn't start on 9/11 but in 1980, when Jimmy Carter, having failed to persuade Americans to cut down on their use of gas, declared that any attempt by an 'outside force' to take over the Persian Gulf would be met by a US military response. Bacevich details America's inglorious history in the region to illustrate his point."--James G Forsyth, Boston Globe

"Buy this, read this, and make others do the same, but only if you are open to new perspectives. Bacevich brings a gimlet eye to an array of subjects. Here are some of the freshest observations available on contemporary American military affairs, political life and popular culture--indeed, probably too fresh and challenging for many readers, right and left." --Thomas E. Ricks, Military Correspondent, The Washington Post, and author of Making the Corps and A Soldier's Duty

"Some of the most trenchant and original criticism of the trajectory of U.S. foreign and military policy that has surfaced since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March, 2003."--Inter Press Service

About the Author

Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of History and International Relations at Boston University. A graduate of West Point and a Vietnam Veteran, he has a doctorate in history from Princeton and was a Bush Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. He is the author of several books, including American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195173384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195173383
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Andrew J. Bacevich's The New American Militarism: How Americans Are seduced By War, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, ISBN 0-19-517338-4, is the most coherent analysis of how America has come to its present situation in the world that I have ever read. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton. And he is retired military officer. This background makes him almost uniquely qualified to comment on the subject.

Bacevich admits to an outlook of moderate conservatism. But in ascribing fault for our plight to virtually every administration since W.W. II, he is even handed and clear eyed. Since he served in the military, he understands the natural bureaucratic instincts of the best of the officer corps and is not blinded by the almost messianic status that they have achieved in the recent past.

His broad brush includes the classic period, the American Revolution - especially the impact of George Washington, but he moves quickly to the influence of Woodrow Wilson and his direct descendants of our time, the Neoconservatives. The narrative accelerates and becomes relevant for us in the depths of the despair of Vietnam. At that juncture, neocon intellectuals awakened to the horror that without a new day for our military and foreign policy, the future of America would be at stake. At almost the same time, Evangelical Christians abandoned their traditional role in society and came to views not dissimilar to the neocons. America had to get back on track to both power and goodness. The results of Vietnam on American culture, society, and - especially - values were abhorrent to both these groups.
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Format: Hardcover
I was sorry to see Andrew J. Bacevich dismiss Chalmers Johnson's 2004 The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project) quite as quickly as he did (on page 3 of the introduction, in fact), because I think these two books, taken together, provide probably the best -- and certainly the most historically-informed -- look at the rise and consequences of American empire. I endorse "The New American Militarism" as heartily as I did "The Sorrows of Empire."

Bacevich's capsule summary of Johnson's work notwithstanding, both these books take the long view of America's international military presence and are quick to grasp one key point. As Bacevich notes on page 205, "American militarism is not the invention of a cabal nursing fantasies of global empire and manipulating an unsuspecting people frightened by the events of 9/11. Further, it is counterproductive to think in these terms -- to assign culpability to a particular president or administration and to imagine that throwing the bums out will put things right."

In several insightful chapters, Bacevich traces the rise of militarism over the course of several administrations and many decades. A former Army officer himself, the author is particularly insightful in charting the efforts of the military's officer corps to recover from the stigma of Vietnam and reshape the *ethos* of the armed services as an elite intentionally separate from, and morally superior to, the society it exists to defend. But the officers are only one of the strands Bacevich weaves together.
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Dr. Bacevich offers a provocative and well-argued thesis, that Americans since Vietnam have become ever more eager to use military force as a blunt political object. I found his discussion of the evolution of the Weinberger and Powell doctrines especially interesting. As a serving Army officer, I also enjoyed the chapter on the revitalization of the American military profession after Vietnam. One may agree or disagree with his thesis concerning the motives of the 1980s officer corps, however. I would like to see a bit more documentation for his assertion that Abrams and others were driven more by a desire to re-assert the primacy of the professional soldier than by a desire to prepare for war with the Warsaw Pact. Regardless, from my studies of the period I agree that the desire to put Vietnam and counterinsurgency out of our collective memory also drove the reforms of the 80s. For another view on this period, I would also recommend _Prodigal Soldiers_ by James Kitfield.

I would encourage anyone with an interest in contemporary military affairs to read this book. Dr. Bacevich has strong opinions and he offers them with verve. It is all too typical of the political Right in this country that when an author or commentator takes any position critical of the administration in power, he is immediately accused of "liberal bias". Any honest assessment of this book will see the scathing critique of the Clinton Administration and GEN Wesley Clark as well as the Bush Administration. Again, highly recommended; would make an excellent "book club" selection.
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