From Publishers Weekly
Bacevich, a retired colonel, critiques the unstated, unexamined premises, the "Washington Rules" that govern American foreign policy--even to the detriment of national security and domestic harmony. Bacevich is frustrated by the hamstrung debate, but Sean Runnette is not. He reads with a polite NPR softness at odds with the crusading, rabble-rousing tone of Bacevich's writing, but the contrast works better than might be expected. Runnette treads softly over Bacevich's reportage, picking out the most crushing indictments of the text and highlighting them by dropping his voice to an intimate whisper. The contrast between the ideas proffered and their accompanying emotions are distinct, and well-rendered. A Metropolitan hardcover (Reviews, May 24). (Aug.) (c)
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*Starred Review* The U.S. spends more on the military than the entire rest of the world combined and maintains 300,000 troops abroad in an “empire of bases,” all part of a credo of global leadership and a consensus that the U.S. must maintain a state of semiwar. The Washington consensus, across administrations dating back to the cold war, is that the world must be organized in alignment with American principles, even if it means using force. Bacevich, with background in the military at the rank of retired army colonel and the perspective afforded by academia, offers a vivid and critical analysis of the assumptions behind the credo of global leadership and eternal military vigilance that has become increasingly expensive and unsustainable. He details American misadventures from the Bay of Pigs to the invasion in Iraq, and the most prominent figures (“semiwarriors par excellence”) behind the credo, notably Allen Dulles, director of the CIA in the 1950s, and Curtis LeMay, director of the Strategic Air Command during the same period. The credo of global leadership and hyper-militarism is so ingrained and resilient in the U.S. psyche that it survived even the doubts that surfaced after the miserable failure of U.S. military might in Vietnam. Whatever their party or philosophy, all presidents want to project an image of toughness that has made them vulnerable to the credo, at great cost in American dollars and lives. Bacevich challenges Washington (the president, Congress, and the military industrial complex) as well as citizens to rethink the credo that has directed national security for generations. --Vanessa Bush
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