- Series: American Empire Project
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (September 10, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805082964
- ISBN-13: 978-0805082968
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 173 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (American Empire Project) Hardcover – September 10, 2013
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Starred Review. Despite our ostensible admiration of our men and women in arms, Americans have offloaded the full burden of war onto their shoulders—with dismal results, argues Boston University history professor and Army vet Bacevich (Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War) in this impassioned and painfully convincing polemic. Our Founding Fathers proclaimed that all free people must make sacrifices when the nation goes to war. As late as WWII, the draft affected nearly everyone, with most people having a family member, friend, or colleague in the service. F.D.R.'s government raised taxes and instituted price controls and rationing, yet few complained. Bacevich emphasizes that eliminating the draft in 1973 sowed the seeds of disaster. When Bush announced the war on terror in 2001, the president mobilized volunteer troops, but not the nation; he urged Americans to enjoy life, and he cut taxes. Since borrowing paid the bill, and there was no draft, few complained. When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turned sour, protests were mild compared to the upheavals over Vietnam. Bacevich asserts bluntly that a disengaged and compliant citizenry has reduced military service from a universal duty to a matter of individual choice, allowing our leaders to wage war whenever (and for however long) they choose—with little to fear from an electorate who are neither paying nor perishing. (Sept. 10)
In January 1973, the military draft was suspended, in effect pointing the way to an all-volunteer military. The Nixon administration hoped this would defuse antidraft elements, and it was also concerned about dissension within the conscript army. Forty years later, one could argue that we have a more professional, efficient military, well equipped to handle the high-tech nature of contemporary warfare. Is there a downside? Absolutely, asserts history professor and U.S. Army veteran Bacevich. He criticizes what he regards as the reckless application of military power, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike Vietnam, however, most American citizens feel disconnected from the true costs of the war in blood and treasure; taxes remain low and few worry that they or their sons or daughters will be placed in harm’s way. So our “support” for our military is reduced to staged patriotic displays costing most citizens nothing. Bacevich clearly has a foreign-policy agenda beyond civil-military relations, but this is a serious, well-argued work that should engender discussion within society and government. --Jay Freeman
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A criticism of Bacevich I have read in the past is that all his books are essentially the same: The misuse of the country's military to solve matters of international diplomacy. However, a close look at his work shows how he systematically analyzes each facet of how the government, and in turn the country's citizens, look to using the armed forces as an end in itself to maintain America's role as the one indispensable nation on the planet.
A must read for those interested in what a lack of genuine concern, and in turn, the responsibilities of citizenship, for the men and women in uniform will affect the country's future.
The author, quoting the typical blather from the business/economics-illiterate liberal media, blames the Great Recession on business, banks, and Wall Street. But objective economists attribute the sole responsibility for the fiasco to unwise government policies and intrusion in the housing market forcing banks to loan money to deadbeats.
In the spring of 2007 Fed-Head Bernanke said loudly and publicly that the real estate market was sound and healthy. Within a year it melted down causing colossal collateral damage to the stock market thereby vaporizing a third to a half or more of ordinary prudent Americans' net worth!
Then politicians once again targeted the banks as their favorite scapegoat and the Obominable regime piled on to extort over $100 billion from bank shareholders, on phoney pretexts, mostly racial, to dole out to their constituencies, e.g., “community organizers.” They topped that with Dodd-Frank, an abominable welfare program for lawyers, regulators, and bureaucrats.
These execrable iniquities were perpetrated by our putrid kakistocracy.
The scathing indictment of the military system is not addressed to the men and women in uniform, but to our elected political leadership and the flag grade officers of the military. The United States being a participatory democracy, such criticism inevitably flows downhill to the citizens who by their votes permit this condition to continue.
In summary fashion, Bacevich describes United States military history from the Second World War up until the present time. The author’s characterizations can be challenged, but the underlying facts are matters of record. After the all-volunteer army was installed, U.S. military intervention in foreign countries occurred with increasing frequency, and wars stretched out for increasingly longer periods of time. To the surprise of many of us who lived through World War II, there was no sacrifice on the home front, no food rationing, and no restrictions of any kind.
In the present-day army, many traditional functions – food supply, weapons maintenance, security operations – are now provided by outside contractors such as Blackwater USA, giving rise to additional billions of dollars in costs, and severe control problems.
Bacevich presents his thoughts in short segments that are easy to follow. However, sometimes he marshals his supporting information like so many pieces of artillery without paying attention to where the guns are pointed. It is tough to buy in to the views of people like General Stanley McChrystal and Admiral William H. Standley, both of whom changed their outspoken views when change suited their own selfish purposes. Similarly, some historical events – such as the Roberts Commission’s investigation of the attack on Pearl Harbor – are presented in a distorted fashion. Perhaps that is because the book does not contain enough pages properly to explain what happened and why.
The book is well-written overall. However, there are occasions in almost every chapter when it appears as though the professor is casting out obtuse language as a challenge to the reader. It is hard for me to imagine Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe, sitting in their foxholes and using words like, “simulacrum” and “quotidian.”
All told, the subject matter is important, and the book is well worth reading.