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The American Military Crisis
August 14, 2008 11:40 AM   Subscribe


 
Here's a recent interview with Bacevich: Redefining the War on Terror.
posted by homunculus at 11:47 AM on August 14, 2008


Some good stuff here, but in several places he does not take it far enough in my opinion. Case in point:

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Bush conceived of a bold, offensive strategy, vowing to "take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge."

The "strategy" was conceived before 9/11, and even before he took office. Even in 2000, he campaigned as a war president, and all 9/11 did was allow the long-standing PNAC plan to be put into action. It is almost impossible to overstate how critical this is.

What went wrong is a group of neocon ideologue insiders emerged from the bowels of the cold-war think-tank complex immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union and began casting about with Machiavellian abandon for a new meta-mythical theme in which to keep the gravy train Ike warned us about rolling.

The last thing these Vulcans were going to do was begin to deconstruct the cold-war apparatus, and the ease with which "terrorism" came to replace "communism" as abstract enemy number one is truly astonishing. Thus, the still-in-play PNAC doctrine is really the cold-war re-written as the neocons wished it had been: pre-emption instead of containment, privatization to ensure war profiteering, wars fought endlessly on multiple fronts. That the "enemy" is now whoever the Pentagon tells us is--is the ultimate icing on this cake. During the Clinton years the neocon establishment was positively begging Bill to invade Iraq, and once Bush was in power it was full speed ahead.

But Bacevich is right to say, as he does in the interview, that both Obama and McCain have uncritically accepted President Bush's concept on a global war on terror. Alas, the neocon rhetorical framework for the global "war on terror" (hollow, Orwellian phrase!) has indeed been far too uncritically accepted, and until that rhetorical framework is truly deconstructed we are all in jeopardy of falling for the same old lies.
posted by ornate insect at 12:36 PM on August 14, 2008 [9 favorites]




You know, horrible and stupid though the GWOT has been, recent events have made me consider that the fact that 9/11 distracted them from baiting Russia and China and sent them off on a new course of action that for the most part only involved picking on 3rd world countries and ticking off allies that are (in the end) likely to be fairly forgiving may actually have been for the best.
posted by Artw at 1:15 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


indeed been far too uncritically accepted, and until that rhetorical framework is truly deconstructed

Who in their right mind with a family to feed and a mortgage to pay by working in politics has a sack big enough to take on this task? Nobody. It's suicide. Period.
posted by spicynuts at 1:17 PM on August 14, 2008


You know, horrible and stupid though the GWOT has been, recent events have made me consider that the fact that 9/11 distracted them from baiting Russia and China and sent them off on a new course of action that for the most part only involved picking on 3rd world countries and ticking off allies that are (in the end) likely to be fairly forgiving may actually have been for the best.

Damn, y'know, that's actually a good point. There's always some silver in that lining, huh?
posted by John of Michigan at 1:33 PM on August 14, 2008


Speaking of books... The Quiet American should be required reading for anyone with aspirations of foreign service, or geopolitical leadership.
posted by ilovemytoaster at 1:33 PM on August 14, 2008


ornate insect,
I'm not sure your analysis of the motivations of the neocons is correct. I don't think they do what they do to perpetuate the military-industrial complex, I think they are the leftovers of the ideological faction of Cold Warriors. They are the anti-Realpolitik faction, the ones who really did see the Cold War as a moral struggle and not just a clash of geopolitical maneuvering. This helps explain the actions and lack of planning leading up to Iraq; they really, truly believed that all they needed to do was topple Saddam, and everything would fall into place and we would be embraced as saviors and democracy would bloom. This is why the current administration seems so divorced from reality, because they are operating almost entirely on ideology, on what they think "should" happen and not what is actually happening. I find this far more terrifying than people cynically manipulating events to make a profit or keep power.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:28 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


The military-industrial complex is not just leftovers from the Cold War. It's a hale and hearty, rapacious monster alive and well. Doing better than ever, in fact.

There's even a DoD funded insitution created to feed The Beast.
posted by Xoebe at 3:03 PM on August 14, 2008


"This is why the current administration seems so divorced from reality, because they are operating almost entirely on ideology, on what they think "should" happen and not what is actually happening. I find this far more terrifying than people cynically manipulating events to make a profit or keep power."

This is true as well. And scary.
posted by Xoebe at 3:05 PM on August 14, 2008


Self-link to Bacevich's review of Robert Kagan's new book in Foreign Affairs: "If the old Kagan expressed considerable optimism about the United States' capacity to spread freedom, democracy, and other principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the new Kagan encloses "universal values" in quotation marks, as if to distance himself from Thomas Jefferson's claims. Kagan dismisses outright the notion that the advance of democracy reflects "merely the unfolding of certain ineluctable processes of economic and political development." In fact, he acknowledges, "We really don't know whether such an evolutionary process, with predictable stages and known causes and effects, even exists." This is a bit like a senior Vatican official expressing skepticism about whether Jesus Christ rose from the dead."

He's an excellent writer. When historians get around to looking at the dreadful Bush II years, the basic question will be this one: Where the fuck were the adults?
posted by bardic at 3:34 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


This helps explain the actions and lack of planning leading up to Iraq; they really, truly believed that all they needed to do was topple Saddam, and everything would fall into place and we would be embraced as saviors and democracy would bloom.

No, I'm sorry, but that isn't true.

The Iraq war wasn't unplanned, it was, indeed, planned well before any excuse to attack Iraq was available, according to many people present at that time. And Cheney knew during Gulf War 1 that toppling Saddam wouldn't bring about a stable system in Iraq, he said so on TV, remember?

The ideological stuff is just smoke screen for the True Believers. None of this was an accident; none of this was a surprise to the people who knocked over the dominoes.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:10 AM on August 15, 2008


Bacevich will be on Bill Moyers Journal tonight.
posted by homunculus at 1:18 PM on August 15, 2008


Illusions of Managing History: The Enduring Relevance of Reinhold Niebuhr. University Lecture by Andrew J. Bacevich.
posted by homunculus at 1:20 PM on August 15, 2008


I was originally in ornate insect's camp as well, and assumed that the Bush administration and the neocons in general were simply in it for the profit and power. However, I'm not sure that's really true. Particularly over the past few years it's seemed more and more like they're driven more by ideology than a rational, if cold-blooded, thirst for profit, and Sangermaine sums up well what seems to be true.

What's not clear to me is whether it's the same people who started out profit-seeking but then at some point started to drink their own Kool Aid, or if it's competing camps -- one driven by money, the other by ideology -- with power shifting back and forth between the two. I think the latter is more likely.

Frankly I'd much rather have the cold-blooded killers from the MIC than ideologically-driven maniacs who think they're on a mission from God; at least the former are likely to act predictably and rationally in response to changing events. Once people have fallen off the rationality wagon, there's no telling exactly what they'll do. (I'd rather have my leaders be lawful evil than chaotic good...)
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:31 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


paisley henosis,
We are talking about different things. The attack itself may have been planned, but the execution was not. This is shown in the recent Pentagon report on the planning of the war, which concluded that there was none. They didn't plan for the long-haul, there was no planning for the aftermath or reconstruction, they botched setting up command posts and structures, etc. Read the report for yourself. It looks like they expected to just be in and out and everything would take care of itself; they were surprised by the insurgency and the chaos.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:57 PM on August 15, 2008


We are talking about different things.

Indeed, I see that. And, certainly, it would be impossible to argue that they had any sort of plan in place to cover what would happen inside of Iraq once you took Saddam out of the picture.

The only thing that you said that I would disagree with is: It looks like they expected to just be in and out and everything would take care of itself.

They knew that Iraq, without Saddam enforcing a brutal peace, was a powder keg with a lit fuse. They knew it because they said it a decade before. They just didn't care about what would happen after the got rid of Saddam, because they knew that they would already have captured his massive oil reserves. What do the lives of a few thousand poor people and immigrants matter in the face of that?

The only way Bush believes his own ideological window-dressing, is if Cheney has been using it to manipulate him so long that he actually believes he will be vindicated by history. And that wouldn't surprise me one way or the other.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:21 PM on August 15, 2008


I just watched the interview on Moyers. Damn.

.
posted by homunculus at 11:31 PM on August 15, 2008


You can watch the interview here
posted by =^^= at 7:34 PM on August 16, 2008


the Moyers interview is seriously good stuff. recommended.
posted by ilovemytoaster at 6:18 PM on August 17, 2008


ornate insect: and the ease with which "terrorism" came to replace "communism" as abstract enemy number one is truly astonishing.

Just wanted to repeat that.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:09 AM on August 18, 2008


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