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98 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bacevich Connects the Dots, August 6, 2010
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This review is from: Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (American Empire Project) (Hardcover)
Andrew Bacevich offers an explanation of what is putting our way of life at risk. If he is correct, the Afghan War has no end in sight as did the Iraq War (see Charles Ferguson's book: No End in Sight: Iraq's Descent into Chaos). In fact, the Afghan War is now the longest war in U.S. history.

Retired U.S. military and intelligence personnel have written prolifically about the current wars and what they mean for the U.S. They educate the public about connecting foreign policy to war strategy to what our young enlisted men and women do in the wars. Examples include books by Wesley Clark (A Time to Lead: For Duty, Honor and Country), Michael Scheuer (Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq) and David Bellavia (HOUSE TO HOUSE: A TALE OF MODERN WAR). In the history of warfare, there has probably never been a population with as much access to information about their wars.

Washington Rules provides analysis of the considerations that President Obama faced when he made the decision to expand the military effort in Afghanistan. Whereas the consensus holds that this president grasps issues and is not primarily informed by ideology, there may have been a dominant domestic political calculation to this war decision. Bacevich identifies pressures imposed on our president by the "military industrial complex" and the "national security apparatus." These loaded terms summarize privileged powers within the U.S. that seek global military engagement in part to maintain the status quo within. This is the Status Quo argument that has been used to explain some U.S. motives in the wars.

Andrew Bacevich has patriotic credentials to state the Status Quo argument. He has been doing this for some time. (See his previous book: The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project)). His son was killed in Iraq while serving as a 1st Lt. in the Army. Andrew Bacevich is a veteran of the Vietnam War, a graduate of West Point and he taught at both West Point and Johns Hopkins. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. He is a retired Army Colonel.

Bacevich is critical of George W. Bush and Barack Obama but for completely different reasons. Bacevich addresses the question debated from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters: which is worse, the president who sends young people into harm's way due to misguided notions or the president who sends young people into harm's way because of political calculation? Of course, this question is framed in a simple way in order to introduce debate. Bacevich is more appalled by the latter, however.

Washington Rules traces America's overreliance on military power from the administration of Woodrow Wilson right up to that of Barack Obama. Over time the U.S. presidency morphed into an imperial presidency with a self-imposed mission to intervene in problems throughout the world irrespective of long-term U.S. interests. An exaggerated sense of what the military can accomplish went unquestioned until recently. Bacevich makes history come alive with applications of the lessons of the Vietnam War along with several other wars.

Washington Rules addresses the following questions. What did we get out of Desert Storm? What should our role be with regard to the Islamic World? What happens if we back down in Afghanistan? Bacevich asks tough questions and that's healthy. It's taking me time to digest his solutions to these issues although I'm excited about changes to the status quo. With regard to the Middle East, Bacevich says our role should be to demonstrate that liberalism can coexist with religion.

Finally, Washington Rules is entertaining because it's almost a horror story in real time. These issues affect our way of life right now. Teachers across the country are being laid off as the States struggle with their budgets, and I wonder how that might be related to federal debt accumulated to finance the wars. Bacevich is a Declinist in that he flatly states that the American Century is over and we have reached certain limits.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 3, 2010 5:00:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 3, 2010 5:02:59 PM PST
John says:
The U.S. has "backed down" before:

1970s: Carter administration. The Soviets took this as a signal to go on the offensive, with Soviet troops either invading, or their allies invading the following countries: Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Laos, etc.

1980s: US under Clinton used the military only for peacekeeping. Result: growing Al Queda bombings of U.S.-aligned countries (in Africa in 1998, etc.). Somalia, the USS Cole, etc. Massacres in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the Congo conflict (over 5 million people killed since 1994).

Ever hear of the "weak horse" theory of U.S. power ? If you want to see what the world looks like without U.S. power, go to Congo or Somalia.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2010 6:27:08 PM PST
Afia says:
It sure wouldn't be pretty if the U.S. were to back down. Seems the top politicians spend a lot of time framing the words on the subject, such as "clear, hold and build," or "clear, hold and turn over to the Afghans," or "clear, hold and hold." Now we're sending tanks there, and tanks don't have a good record of returning from the Hindu Kush to their country of origin. Let's hope it doesn't result in a worst case scenario.

Posted on Dec 10, 2010 12:53:25 PM PST
Omer Belsky says:
"With regard to the Middle East, Bacevich says our role should be to demonstrate that liberalism can coexist with religion"

I would argue that the most important middle east agendas of the US are maintaining oil supplies, preventing or minimizing attacks on US and its allies, and preventing any major confrontation between the various actors, or at least managing these conflicts to reduce the collateral damage they cause.



In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2010 8:00:00 AM PST
Afia says:

You zeroed in on the part that agitated me the first time I saw it. Nations have interests, and the US has interests in the things you noted. The role of the US, or any nation, cannot merely be to set a good example to other regions or powers. Bacevich might say our interests could be better advanced if we fixed our internal problems and thereby provided an example of a good society. Or he might say our internal problems like budget constraints make recent foreign strategies unwinnable. I think this is a serious gap that he should address, especially if he ever runs for an elected office.

Thanks for your comment,

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