393 of 424 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How We Got Here
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...
Published on March 20, 2005 by William Brennan
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book "The New American Militarism"
I was a little disappointed that the issue is already eight (8) years old and I just received it as a "new book". Perhaps this is partly my fault because I didn't look for the date of the last edition. Anyway, it reads well, the writing is excellent and the foreword and the postscript are almost enough to reconcile me to the age of the main body of the book.
Published 5 months ago by R. Sinkovec
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393 of 424 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How We Got Here,
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.
The perfect man to idealize and mythologize America's road back was Ronald Reagan. Again, Bacevich does not shrink from seeing through the surreal qualities brought to the Oval Office by Reagan to the realities beneath them. The Great Communicator transformed the Vietnam experience into an abandonment of American ideals and reacquainted America with those who fought that horrible war. Pop culture of the period, including motion pictures such as Top Gun and best selling novels by many, including Tom Clancy completely rehabilitated the image of the military.
The author describes how Evangelical leaders came to find common cause with the neocons and provided the political muscle for Reagan and his successors of both parties to discover that the projection of military might become a reason for being for America as the last century closed.
One of his major points is that the all volunteer force that resulted from the Vietnam experience has been divorced from American life and that sending this force of ghosts into battle has little impact on our collective psyche. This, too, fit in with the intellectual throw weight of the neocons and the political power of the Evangelicals.
Separate from but related to the neocons, Bacevich describes the loss of strategic input by the military in favor of a new priesthood of intellectual elites from institutions such as the RAND Corporation, The University of Chicago and many others. It was these high priests who saw the potential that technology provided for changing the nature of war itself and how American power might be projected with `smart weapons' that could be the equivalent of the nuclear force that could never be used.
So it was that when the war we are now embroiled in across the globe - which has its antecedents back more than twenty years - all of these forces weighed heavily on the military leaders to start using the force we'd bought them. The famed question by Secretary of State Madeline Albright to General Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" had to have an answer and the skirmishes and wars since tended to provide it.
Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.
It is in his prescriptions that the book tends to drift. The Congress must do its constitutionally mandated jobs or be thrown out by the people. Some of his ideas on military education are creative and might well close the gap between the officer corps and civilians that he points to as a great problem.
But it is the clearly written analysis that makes this book shine. It should be a must read for those who wonder how we got to Iraq and where we might be heading as a society. The nation is in grave danger, and this is a book that that shows how we got to this juncture. Where we go from here is up to us. If we continue as we are, our options may narrow and be provided by others.
READ THIS BOOK
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baedecker on the road to perdition,
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. He also looks at the influence of the "defense intellectuals;" the importance of evangelical Christians and how their view of Biblical prophecy shapes their understanding of politics; the rise of (yes) the neo-conservatives; and even the role of Hollywood in changing America's understandings of the "lessons of Vietnam" and the re-glamorization of the military in films like "Top Gun."
The author is a sharp-eyed analyst, but also an engaging writer, and he gives the reader a lot to think about. I was intrigued, for example, by his discussion of how "supporting the troops" has become the *sine qua non* of modern politics and how doing so has replaced actual military service as an indicator of one's love of country. More fundamentally, his identification and analysis of "World War III" (already over) and "World War IV" (currently underway, and declared [surprisingly] by Jimmy Carter) struck me as a remarkably useful lens for interpreting current events.
In tying his threads together, Bacevich is not afraid to make arguments and draw conclusions that may make the reader uncomfortable. As the passage I quoted above makes clear, for example, someone looking for a straightforward declaration that "It's all Bush's fault!" will have to go someplace else. As a further implication of the above passage, Bacevich argues that the "defense intellectuals," the evangelicals, and even the neocons were and are doing what they believe are most likely to promote peace, freedom, and the security of the American people. "To the extent that we may find fault with the results of their efforts, that fault is more appropriately attributable to human fallibility than to malicious intent" (p. 207). Additionally, Bacevich is unashamed of his military service, holds up several military leaders as heroes, has some choice words for the self-delusions of leftist "peace activists," and even argues that federal education loans should be made conditional on military service.
This doesn't mean the president and his fellow conservatives get off much easier, though. Bacevich is roundly critical of Bush and his administration, including Colin Powell; dismisses the Iraq invasion ("this preposterous enterprise" [p. 202]); and in a move that will probably get him crossed off the Thayer Award nominations list, suggests officer candidates be required to graduate from civilian universities instead of West Point (his alma mater) or Annapolis -- intellectually-isolated institutions that reinforce the officer caste's separation from civil society.
So this book isn't one that will blindly reinforce anyone's prejudices. In part for that reason -- but mostly for its trenchant analysis, readable prose, and broad historical view -- I'm happy to list "The New American Militarism" as one of the best and most important books I've read in some time. Perhaps even since "The Sorrows of Empire."
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thought-Provoking Account of the 20th Century American Military Experience,
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.
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More "reviewers" who either haven't read the book or don't understand it,
Careful observers will note the abolute claims that lie under the surface of these criticisms. If you criticize anything about the United States, you're automatically anti-Bush. If you question the wisdom of viewing the military as a first-option in handling international problems, you're even worse: a liberal anti-Bush peacenick. History supposedly demonstrates that diplomacy never works with any "tyrant" (whatever that is), while war allegedly always work. It's just one stark claim after another, with never any gray area in the middle.
If you read the book, this "you're either with us or with the terrorists, either dream war or hate President Bush" mentality should remind you of something. It very closely resembles the description Bacevich gives of neoconservatism, which he says engenders a worldview that is constantly in crisis mode. Things are always so dire for neocons, Bacevich explains, that only two feasible options present themselves at any given time: doing what the neocons want (usually deploying military force in pursuit of some lofty but unrealistic goal), or suffering irreversible and potentially fatal setbacks to our national cause.
Is it really surprising that the reviews of this book from a neocon mindset are also the reviews giving one star to a book that sytematically critiques and upends neoconservatism?
In actuality, as many have pointed out already, Bacevich is "anti-Bush" only insomuch as he is anti-neoconservative. Bacevich openly states that he throws his full weight behind traditionally conservative issues, like small government and lower taxes. Indeed, he is a devoutly religious social conservative who himself severed twenty years in the Army officer corps. This is why his exposee on America's new militarism has so much credibility.
Since he was in the military, he knows that sometimes the military is necessary to handle situations that develop in the world. However he also understands that the military is often grossly unfit to handle certain situations. This is the main theme of his book. At its core, the story is about how, in response to Vietnam, military leaders worked frightfully hard to rebuild the military and to limit the freedom of starry-eyed civilians to use the armed forces inappropriately.
Their most important objective was to ensure that no more Wilsonian misadventures (like Vietnam) would happen. The officer corps did this by carving out a space of authority for the top brass, from which they could have unprecedented input in policy decisions, and be able to guide strategy and tactics once the military deployed into action. After ascending to a position of greater prominence, they implemented the "Weinberger Doctrine," followed by the "Powell Doctrine," both specifically tailored to avoid Vietnam-style quagmires. The Gulf War, claims Bacevich, saw the fruition of fifteen years of hard work to accomplish these reforms. And they worked beautifully.
However, the end of the last decade saw the Neo-conservatives challenge the status quo. And with the election of W. Bush, they were finally in a position where their ideas could again have a disproportionate influence on foreign policy. What we now have in Iraq is another military quagmire, where the solution must be political, but where military occupation renders political solutions impossible.
This story is about how the military profession emerged from the post-Vietnam wilderness, dazzled the world during the first Gulf War, then once again lost its independent ability to craft related policies with the arrival of Rummie and the neocons.
It's a fascinating story, and Bacevich relates it skillfully.
139 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN ASTOUNDING CRITIQUE OF AMERICA'S MILITARISM,
Like "historynut," I don't exactly pride myself on my writing, but I think it's important to broadcast the importance of this book. I'll leave it to Andrew Bacevich to blow you away. As a West Point graduate, a soldier for more than 20 years, a Vietnam veteran, and a self-described conservative, Bacevich is far from your average anti-war writer. The fact that someone with his credentials is so deeply concerned with America's tendency to shoot first and ask questions later should make all of us think twice about the direction in which we are headed. Bacevich examines the trends - military, political, intellectual, and cultural - that have lead to our increasing preoccupation with the military since the Vietnam war. His discussion is interesting and all-encompassing (anyone who likes Tom Clancy novels as much as I do will enjoy the chapter in which he examines the growing prevalence of militarism in pop culture.) Bacevich has written a hugely important book, which I urge all of you to read.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, Incisive, Nonpartisan,
Refreshingly, Bacevich approaches the new American militarism as neither a Democrat nor Republican, from neither the left nor the right. No doubt, those with a stake in defending the policy of the present Administration no matter how foolish, or in castigating it as the main source of our current militarism, will see "bias" in this book. The truth though is that Bacevich makes a genuine effort to approach his subject in a spirit of open and disinterested inquiry. He has earned the right to say, near the end of his book, that "this account has not sought to assign or impute blame." As a result, he is not stymied by the possibility of embarrassing one political side or the other by his arguments or conclusions. This leads to a nuanced and highly independent and original treatment of the subject.
In chronicling the rise of American militarism, Bacevich rightly starts with Wilson's vision of American exceptionalism: an America leading the world beyond the slaughterhouse of European battlefields to an international order of peaceful democratic states. But where President Wilson wanted to create such a world for the express purpose of rendering war obsolete, Bacevich notes that today's "Wilsonians" want to export American democracy through the use of force. He follows this overview with an insider's thumbnail history of American military thinking from Vietnam to the first Gulf war. He explains how the military in effect re-invented itself after Vietnam so as to make it far more difficult "to send the Army off to fight while leaving the country behind." Today's highly professionalized and elite force is largely the result of this thinking. In turn this professional military presented to the country and its civilian leaders a re-invented model of war: war waged with surgical precision and offering "the prospect of decision rather than pointing ineluctably toward stalemate and quagmire." Gulf War I was the triumphant culmination of this model. The unintended and ironic consequence, of course, was that war and the aggressive projection of American military power throughout the world came to be viewed by some in our nation's leadership as an increasingly attractive policy option.
The body of the book analyzes how the legitimate attempt to recover from the national trauma of Vietnam led ultimately to a militarism increasingly reflected in crucial aspects of American life. In religion he traces how a "crusade" theory of warfare has supplanted the more mainstream "just war" theory. In popular culture he discusses the rise of a genre of pop fiction and movies reflecting a glamorized and uncritical idealization of war (he examines "An Officer and A Gentleman", "Rambo: First Blood Part II", and "Top Gun" as examples). In politics he identifies the neo-conservative movement as bringing into the mainstream ideas that "a decade earlier might have seemed reckless or preposterous"; for example the idea that the United States is "the most revolutionary force on earth" with an "inescapable mission" to spread democracy -- by the sword if necessary. Bacevich calls these ideas "inverted Trotskyism", and notes that the neo-conservative movement shares with Mao the assumption that revolution springs "from the barrel of a gun".
Bacevich concludes his book with a pithy ten-point critique offered as a starting point for "a change in consciousness, seeing war and America's relationship to war in a fundamentally different way." Among his points are greater fidelity to the letter and the spirit of the Constituional provisions regarding war and the military, and increased strategic self-sufficiency for America. Perhaps the most important points of his critique are those about ending or at least reducing the current disconnect between the experience of the American military and the population at large. Although it is possible to quarrel with individual details of his critique, Bacevich has performed an invaluable service for those who wish to consider how we might reduce and even end our present addiction to military power as the best or even exclusive means to "make the world safe for democracy".
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relevant and Objective,
This review is from: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Paperback)Author Andrew Bacevich has superb credentials on military, diplomatic, and historical issues. A Vietnam Veteran, 25+ year career in the Army and now professor of International Relations, Bacevich is one of the few that has the experience *and* knowledge to dissect what has been occurring in American socio-political culture and society for the last several decades. Bacevich notes the current focus on the military to solve the world's problems and to promote America's interests is not the sole work of a President and Congress, but the combination of culture, mentality, political, and now primarily economic, interests. This book has tons of footnoting, which allows you to delve further into these issues on your own.
The author astutely reinforces the fact that the Militarist Mentality won't change, regardless of which political party is in control of the Executive and Houses of Congress in the United States. Here only some examples out of many:
Entry of the U.S. military into the Middle East:
THE CARTER DOCTRINE:
The Carter Doctrine was prescribed at the State of the Union Address in 1980. Another civilian prescription utilizing the military as medicine to alleviate and even cure, political symptoms. This Doctrine began a new era of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, specifically using the American military to enforce its economic interests and lifestyle dependence on oil. The Carter Doctrine was a major shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. It specifically stated that use of the military can and will be used to enforce U.S. economic interests.
At his State of the Union Address, Carter stated:
"Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be declared as an assault on the vital interest of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force" (p. 181).
Worth noting is that the Carter Doctrine was declared during the Cold War, when there was a adversary to check U.S interests. Today, that rival is gone.
Some argue the so-called 'War on Terror' is merely a historical continuation of American foreign policy interests in using its military to promote its geo-political and economic interests.
WAR AS SPECTATOR SPORT:
War has been, and now is presented as a spectacle. No different than a spectator sport. Live reports, video display, and laymen presentations of new technology, usually via video, to the civilian public at press conferences.
One example of many are current U.S. newspaper reports: they don't use the term "wounded" when reporting about American soldiers in Iraq. They use the euphemistic term, "injured." "17 Iraqis 'wounded' and 3 American soldiers 'injured.'" Similar to similar to a football game. Slogans such as "Shock and Awe, Support the Troops," and deck of cards identifying the most wanted Baath party members. "Freedom is not Free." Many American military personel (and civilians) have internalized this propaganda.
Using Hollywood To Enhance "Honor" and perpetuate myths:
Bacevich carefully details the planned and choreographed footage of George W. Bush dressed as a fighter pilot on the USS Abraham Lincoln. This was intentionally and specifically lifted from the movie "Top Gun." Immediately after this planned footage, an action figure doll was created and sold for $39.99. It was called the "Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush: U.S. President and Naval Aviator" (p. 31).
Well-dressed, handsome, and beautiful anchors report about the war in such series as "The Week in War." More simulation of the spectator sport of war in our pop culture. One segment in the "Week in War program" is called "The Fallen," where the photo of a soldier, his name, age, and hometown are presented, and the date of his death. Then the cameramen go to his family's home. Often a family picture of the "fallen soldier" is shown. Then, an interview with the somber, and at times tearful family in their living room, sitting on their couch: "He was a good kid. He always wanted to help people."
The "Fallen" is related to a concept that the Germans began about 300 years ago. This concept is called the "Cult of the Fallen Soldier." When a soldier is killed in war he is elevated to a higher status because of his death. He is placed on a pedestal, because somehow, and in some enigmatic way, he "sacrificed" for a noble cause that is often abstract or confusing to the public. To further simplify the confusion and sullenness resulting from the soldier's death, religion is often injected into the deceased soldiers elevation on a pedestal. You can see this Cult of the Fallen Soldier in Arlington, Virgina today, and in many military cemeteries around the world.
GLORIFICATION OF THE MILITARY THROUGH MOVIES:
Bacevich notes moves and their role. "Top Gun" had a tremendous impact in many ways. Pop culture, and Navy recruiting sky-rocketing. As for the flurry of "Vietnam war movies," again the noble concepts of "courage, honor, fear, triumph" are latently and explicitly reinforced to the public of all ages and socio-economic levels.
It took me a chapter or two to get used to Bacevich's writing style, but I grew to like it.
Chapters: 1) Wilsonians Under Arms 2) The Military Professions at Bay 3) Left, Right, Center 4) California Dreaming 5) Onward 6) War Club 7) Blood for Oil 8) Common Defense
"Support" for the military is often incorrectly linked with one's "patriotism." This faulty thinking is perpetuated by the electronic and print media in often subtle forms but extremely effective forms, and at times very explicit and in aggressive manners. The government intentionally steers the publics' focus to the 'Military aspects of war' to avoid attention to the more realistic and vital 'political aspects.' The latter being at the real heart of the motivation, manner, and outcome of most *political* conflicts.
Bacevich notes journalists: journalist Thomas Friedman complained that a Super Bowl half-time show did not honor the "troops." He then drove to the Command Center to visit and speak with the "troops." Soon after, he carried on with his own self-centered interests, like everyone else.
The military in and of itself is not dangerous nor pernicious. The military doesn't formulate foreign policy. The military just implements it, carrying out the orders and instructions of elitist civilians who have never served in the armed forces. It's not the military nor the men and women serving in it, we must be wary of. It's the civilians masters with vested interests in the governmental and corporate world who must be held accountable.
General Creighton Abrams wanted to diminish the influence of civilian control over the military after Vietnam. Civilians and politicians were making military decisions. It seems the situation is similar in 2007. Chairman of the JCS Peter Pace sounds political. History will be the judge.
This is a very insightful book for those interested in recent history as well as the current situation the United States is in. The troops should be supported for what they do. Because unfortunately they are the ones that pay the price for elitist decisions made by upper-class civilians from the Ivy League cliques that run the U.S. politically and economically.
Highly recommended and relevant to our contemporary times and our future.
Andrew Bacevich did excellent reasearch and writing in this book. I'll think we'll be hearing a lot more of him. Hopefully He'll get more access to the public. If - the mainstream media allows it.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear Cut Analysis,
-- explains the evolution of military political power post Vietnam until the present.
-- does well describing the neo conservative movement.
-- fair towards all presidents.
-- excellent recommendations for overhauling the military education system.
-- broad treatment. reads like a good college lecture.
-- the hollywood chapter, although enjoyable, seemed out of place (although I must say, I signed up due to Top Gun and Tom Clancy. I was going to be Jack Ryan)
Finally, I did not appreciate the personal attack against the author posted by other reviewers on amazon.com which accuse this retired officer of incompetence in the field. True, the author is critical of General Clark but he does so in the capacity of historian, not military officer. Alleged past professional shortcomings, of which all officers will experience in the course of a career, (i.e., I am referring specifically to the accusation posted by another reviewer that Dr. Bacevich was responsible for the deaths of 3 Soldiers during Desert Storm due to incorrect safety procedures which he advocated) have no bearing on the authors succinct analysis of a very real danger to our Republic.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First, read the afterword,
This review is from: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Paperback)This book, in my opinion, is not about the United States steering itself toward permanent war, although that may be a conclusion justified by the text.
Rather, I think this book is more about our permanent preparation for war. The difference is slight but significant. The author captures the implications of preparing for permanent war in the elegant afterword. Not only is this a great expense for our society, however measured, it suggests to many that we have the power to change the world any time we wish, regardless of the threat--in other words, our determination to rid the world of evil is without limits. The author suggests we also are moving in the wrong direction as we establish a warrior class that looks inward toward itself, rather than assuming a more conventional role in our society where war, historically, was seen as an aberation to be fought by citizen-soldiers on a case-by-case basis. He's not the first to make this observation, but he supplies fresh context.
Are we in a perpetual pep rally? Sometimes it seems so. But isn't that the nature of American exceptionalism? It certainly is part of the lofty yet contentious dream of the neocons who envisage us stabilizing the world, spreading democracy and setting the example for those less fortunate. This can only flow from being a superpower, unafraid.
The truth (a dangerous word to use, I know) is that we've been at war now for more than 10 years and the metrics of victory are elusive.
These are very thoughtful issues.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it's worse than you think,
Our military idolatry, Bacevich believes, is now so comprehensive and beguiling that it "pervades our national consciousness and perverts our national policies." We have normalized war, romanticized military life that formally was deemed degrading and inhuman, measured our national greatness in terms of military superiority, and harbor naive, unlimited expectations about how waging war, long considered a tragic last resort that signaled failure, can further our national self-interests. Utilizing a "military metaphysic" to justify our misguided ambitions to recreate the world in our own image, with ideals that we imagine are universal, has taken about thirty years to emerge in its present form. It is this marriage between utopians ends and military means that Bacevich wants to annul.
How have we come to idolize military might with such uncritical devotion? He likens it to pollution: "the perhaps unintended, but foreseeable by-product of prior choices and decisions made without taking fully into account the full range of costs likely to be incurred" (p. 206). In successive chapters he analyzes six elements of this toxic condition that combined in an incremental and cumulative fashion.
After the humiliation of Vietnam, an "unmitigated disaster" in his view, the military set about to rehabilitate and reinvent itself, both in image and substance. With the All Volunteer Force, we moved from a military comprised of citizen-soldiers that were broadly representative of all society to a professional warrior caste that by design isolated itself from broader society and that by default employed a disproportionate percentage of enlistees from the lowest socio-economic class. War-making was thus done for us, by a few of us, not by all of us. Second, the rise of the neo-conservative movement embraced American Exceptionalism as our national end and superior coercive force as the means to franchise it around the world. Myth-making about warfare sentimentalized, sanitized and fictionalized war. The film Top Gun is only one example of "a glittering new image of warfare." Fourth, without the wholehearted complicity of conservative evangelicalism, militarism would have been "inconceivable," a tragic irony when you consider that the most "Christian" nation on earth did far less to question this trend than many ostensibly "secular" nations. Fifth, during the years of nuclear proliferation and the fears of mutually assured destruction, a "priesthood" of elite defense analysts pushed for what became known as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). RMA pushed the idea of "limited" and more humane war using game theory models and technological advances with euphemisms like "clean" and "smart" bombs. But here too our "exuberance created expectations that became increasingly uncoupled from reality," as the current Iraq debacle demonstrates. Finally, despite knowing full well that dependence upon Arab oil made us vulnerable to the geo-political maelstroms of that region, we have continued to treat the Persian Gulf as a cheap gas station. How to insure our Arab oil supply, protect Saudi Arabia, and serve as Israel's most important protector has always constituted a squaring of the circle. Sordid and expedient self interest, our "pursuit of happiness ever more expansively defined," was only later joined by more lofty rhetoric about exporting universal ideals like democracy and free markets, or, rather, the latter have only been a (misguided) means to secure the former.
Bacevich opens and closes with quotes from our Founding Fathers. In 1795, James Madison warned that "of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other." Similarly, late in his life George Washington warned the country of "those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hotile to republican liberty."
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The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War by A. J. Bacevich (Paperback - September 7, 2006)