The reason is threefold: 1) the illusion of full spectrum dominance; 2) the illusionof strategic principles (the Weinberger-Powell docrine); 3) the illusion of a newcivilian-military compact (127-31). These“puerile expectations” have now beenexposed (131-33).
Learning theWrong Lessons.
Three lessons of thecurrent wars: 1) they define futurechallenges; 2) civilian interference inmilitary planning is counterproductive; 3)the civilian-military divide must behealed (139; 133-41).
“Small Wars”for Empire.
Current trends wouldendorse “imperial policing” as the U.S.military’s primary mission (141-43).
Does Knowing Douglas Feith IsStupid Make Tommy Franks Smart?
The civilian meddling represented byFeith was a problem (143-44). But themediocrity of U.S. military leadership was“consistently disappointing” (147; 145-52).
Why the Draft Is Not a GoodIdea and Won’t Happen.
Practical andpolitical obstacles make this optionimplausible (152-56).
The EnduringNature of War.
“War’s essential natureis fixed, permanent, intractable, andirrepressible” (156). The IED shows war’sunpredictability (157-60).
The LimitedUtility of Force.
Whatever its aim,reliance on the use of force is provingcounterproductive (160-63).
The Follyof Preventive War.
The doctrine of preventive war is both morally wrong andirrational (citing Niebuhr again) (163-65).
The Lost Art of Strategy.
Americanmilitary leaders, with Tommy Franks acase in point, confuse operations withstrategy, ignoring the fact that thesubordination of war to politics “lies atthe very heart of strategy” (168; 165-69).“America doesn’t need a bigger army. Itneeds a smaller—that is, more modest—foreign policy” (169).
CONCLUSION: The Limits of Power.
The presidential campaign doesn’tmatter as much as finding an approachto American politics that does notexacerbate the tendency to demanddelivery of goods, oil, and credit, andinstead comes to a “realistic appreciationof limits” (174; 170-74). In foreignpolicy, citing Niebuhr again, the U.S.should return to “enlightened realism,”with “containment” instead of aggressionas the response to Islamism (174-78).Abolishing nuclear weapons andpreserving the earth should take priorityas aims (178-81). Americans are living indenial (181). “Thus does the tragedy of our age move inexorably toward itsconclusion . . . Americans appeardetermined to affirm Niebuhr’s axiom of willful self-destruction” (182).
On the Author.
Andrew J. Bacevich
was born in 1947 in Normal, Illinois. Hegraduated from West Point in 1969 andserved for a year in Vietnam (1970-1971). He retired from the U.S. Army inthe early 1990s with the rank of colonel.He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. diplomatichistory from Princeton. He has taught atWest Point and Johns Hopkins, and is nowprofessor of international relations andhistory at Boston University, where heteaches courses on “The AmericanMilitary Experience,” “American ForeignPolicy,” “Wars of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries,” “Ideas andAmerican Foreign Policy,” and “U.S.Foreign Policy since the End of the ColdWar.” His Fall 2008 office hours are11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m.to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays;his office telephone number is 508-358-0194. He is the author of
AmericanEmpire: The Realities and Consequencesof U.S. Diplomacy
The New American Militarism: How Americans AreSeduced by War
(2005), and the editor of
The Imperial Tense: Problems and Prospects of American Empire
The Long War: A New History of U.S.