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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper CXXXVII: September 27, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (New
York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, August 2010).

[Thesis. The Washington consensus on and major corporations, television
national security policy that constitutes networks and elite publications like the
convention wisdom in American foreign New York Times, even quasi-academic
policy began with the Cold War and entities like the Council on Foreign
survived, remarkably, the Vietnam War Relations and Harvard's Kennedy School
and the disintegration of the Soviet of Government" (15). This book aspires
Union, no longer serves American to (1) trace the history of the Washington
interests, but the failure of the Obama rules; (2) show who wins, who loses, and
administration to alter it shows that who pays under them; (3) explain how it
change can only come from the is perpetuated; (4) show that the rules
American people.] have lost what utility they might once
have had; and (5) re-legitimate
Introduction: Slow Learner. The "disreputable (or 'radical') views to our
author's faith in orthodoxy began to national security debates" (16). The
crumble when visiting the Brandenburg American Century is ending, and it "has
Gate in Berlin in the winter of 1990-1991 become essential" to devise an
(1-4). In October 1990 a visit to Jena "alternative to the reining national
revealed the backwardness of East security paradigm" (16-18).
Germany (4-6). During his years in the
Army, Bacevich had kept down doubts; Ch. 1: The Advent of Semiwar. As
after the end of the Cold War he retired, president, Barack Obama's efforts to
and his loss of status freed him to change the U.S.'s exercise of power
educate himself (6-10). "George W. "have seldom risen above the cosmetic"
Bush's decision to launch Operation Iraqi (20). He made clear he subscribes to the
Freedom in 2003 pushed me fully into "catechism of American statecraft," viz.
opposition" (10). "This book aims to take that 1) the world must be organized, 2)
stock of conventional wisdom" (11). The only the U.S. can do it, 3) this includes
past 60 years of American history shows dictating principles, and 4) not to accept
continuity: a symbiotic "credo" this is to be a rogue or a recalcitrant (20-
(formulated by Henry Luce in 1941 as the 21). It follows that the U.S. need not
"American Century") and a "sacred conform to the norms it sets for others
trinity" ("the minimum essentials of and that it should maintain a worldwide
international peace and order require the network of bases (22-23). Imagine if
United States to maintain a global China acted in a comparable manner (23-
military presence, to configure its forces 25). The extraordinary American military
for global power projection, and to posture in the world (25-27). To call this
counter existing or anticipated threats by into question puts one beyond the pale
relying on a policy of global (27). James Forrestal called this a
interventionism") together define "the permanent condition of semiwar,
rules to which Washington adheres" (11- requiring high levels of military spending
15). In this book, "Washington" refers to (27-28). American citizens are not
the upper echelons of the three branches supposed to concern themselves with it
of government, the main agencies of the (29-30). As to how this came about, the
national security state, select think tanks "standard story line" presents as the
and interest groups, "big banks and other result of the decisions of a "succession of
financial institutions, defense contractors presidential administrations," though this
conceals as much as it reveals (30-32). Operation Northwoods]). U.S.
Eisenhower's 1961 Farewell Address on recklessness caused the Cuban Missile
the "military-industrial complex" was a Crisis, and to his credit Kennedy
rare exception (32-34). More important acknowledged this (albeit privately) and
than presidents were Allen Dulles [1893- "suspended the tradition" in defusing the
1969] and Curtis Lemay [1906-1990] (34- crisis (82-87). Bacevich rejects as a
36). Bacevich attributes the vision for an romantic delusion the view that in the
American-dominated post-World War II aftermath of this crisis Kennedy turned
world with the CIA playing an active role against the military-industrial complex
to the patrician Dulles (36-43). The and the incipient Vietnam war and shows
development of the U.S. military into a no interest in Kennedy's assassination
force capable of dominating the world, itself (87-92). He sees a parallel
especially in the area of strategic between escalation in Vietnam and post-
weapons, he attributes to the hard-bitten 9/11 aggression as "fought to sustain the
Curtis LeMay, organizer of the Strategic Washington consensus" (107; 92-107).
Air Command (SAC) (43-52). Dulles and
LeMay shared devotion to country, Ch. 3: The Credo Restored. William
ruthlessness, a certain recklessness (52- Fulbright's The Arrogance of Power
55). They exploited American anxieties (1966) urged a rethinking of the
and insecurities in yin (Dulles's CIA) yang Washington rules (109-15). A radicalized
(LeMay's SAC) fashion, leaving the David Shoup, a Medal of Honor winner
mainstay of American military power, the and former commandant of the Marine
U.S. Army, in a relatively weak position Corps, argued in "The New American
(55-58). Militarism" (Atlantic, April 1969) that the
U.S. had become "a militaristic and
Ch. 2: Illusions of Flexibility and aggressive nation" (120; 115-21). The
Control. Kennedy kept Dulles and 1960s Zeitgeist shift made LeMay "an
LeMay to signal continuity, but there was embarrassment, mocked and vilified
a behind-the-scenes struggle led by Gen. rather than venerated," which showed
Maxwell Taylor to reassert the role of the that the Washington rules had incurred
U.S. Army by expanding and modernizing serious damage in Vietnam; the Army
conventional forces that was was in dire shape (122; 121-27). Yet
"simultaneously masked by, and astonishingly, in the subsequent decade
captured in, the phrase flexible the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15) was "fully
response" (60; 59-63). This agenda restored" (127). As in post-1918
purported to aim at "resisting Germany, élites looked for scapegoats
aggression" but really created new and worked to reverse "the war's
options for limited aggressive warfare by apparent verdict" (128). The Council on
the U.S. (63-66). McNamara engaged in Foreign Relations 1976 volume entitled
a struggle with LeMay to control U.S. The Vietnam Legacy: The War, American
policy on nuclear weapons, but he Society, and the Future of American
embraced the need for redundancy Foreign Policy is an expression of élite
based on a land-sea-air attack "triad" and consensus that the Vietnam war was
LeMay et al. "got most of what they insignificant, an anomaly (129-34). By
wanted" (66-72). In the aftermath of the 1980, Democrats and Republicans were
Bay of Pigs, Kennedy instituted the again on the same page (134-36).
morally and legally "indefensible" Reagan's election "sealed the triumph of
Operation Mongoose," in effect, a Vietnam revisionism" (136; 136-38). And
program of state-sponsored terrorism" the end of the Cold War posed no
against Cuba (80; 72-82 [but Bacevich is challenge to the Washington rules, as
silent on its wilder elements, like
Madeleine Albright's pretentious lionized with a view to normalizing war
arrogance exemplifies (138-45). and lowering expectations, a view now
embraced by the Obama administration
Ch. 4: Reconstituting the Trinity. (205-11). Proponents of global
The period from 1980 to 2000 saw "not counterinsurgency (GCOIN) emerged, like
retrenchment but reconfiguration" (147). John Nagl and Gen. Benet Sacolick (211-
The new mission was not American 13). Obama embraced the GCOIN
defense but facilitation of a new world version of the Long War with Gen.
order (148-50). After 9/11 this pretense Stanley McChrystal to carry it out in
was dropped and "[a]ctivism became the Afghanistan, forfeiting the opportunity to
watchword" (150, emphasis in original; reassess American policy (213-21).
150-52). Resorting to war became
"notably more frequent and less Ch. 6: Cultivating Our Own Garden.
controversial" in 1980-2000, finding "its Time-honored no-nonsense American
ultimate expression in the Bush Doctrine pragmatism has turned into an absurdity-
of preventive war" (152-53). Americans swallowing herd mentality (222-23). The
"passively assented" (154). Behind the problem set the U.S. faces has radically
scenes, the shape this took was changed from the time of the early Cold
struggled over by the officer corps and War, but the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15)
civilian semiwarriors pushing RMA that proposes to address them remains
(Revolution in Military Affairs) (154-64). essentially the same (224-25).
Initially, U.S. élites held that victory in Eisenhower would have been appalled
Iraq demonstrated that speed could be (225-26). The size of the Pentagon
substituted for mass in military budget, the size of the U.S. nuclear
campaigns (165-75). But the experience arsenal, and the extent of overseas
of the occupation revealed this to be a military presence cannot be justified
fantasy (175-81). (226-27). These persist because of the
interests they serve, not the mission they
Ch. 5: Counterfeit COIN. fulfill, and are likely to do so for some
Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, time (228-30). Bacevich invokes George
replacing "shock and awe" as "the Long Kennan, William Fulbright, and Martin
War" replaced the "global war on terror," Luther King Jr. in urging that the U.S.
is the latest doctrinal effort to preserve needs a new approach, to model freedom
the Washington rules (182-86). The so- rather than impose it (231-37). First and
called "surge" implicitly marked a quest foremost, America should save not the
for conditions allowing the U.S. to leave world but itself (237). Bacevich proposes
Iraq without admitting defeat (186-91). a new trinity: 1) the purpose of the
Gen. David Petraeus emerged as an military is to defend the U.S. and its vital
advocate (and as salesman, through FM interests; 2) soldiers' primary duty
3-24, the manual he revised and which stations are on American soil; 3) force
Bacevich insists is in its emphasis on should be used only as a last resort and
narrative replete with postmodernism) of in self-defense, in accord with the Just
counterinsurgency doctrine as "a War tradition (238-41). The American
substitute [for warfare] suited to the public must shoulder its complicity in
exercise of great power politics in the what has happened, fostered by an all-
twilight of modernity" (197; 191-97). volunteer force and debt-financed
Implicitly, the manual argues that "war budgets (241-47). It is tragic that Barack
as such . . . no longer worked" (198; 198- Obama, elected to institute change, has
202). Petraeus took credit for progress in lacked the courage to alter the
Iraq that he did not achieve (202-04). Washington rules, instead "choosing to
The general with a Princeton Ph.D. was conform" (247-49). "If change is to
come, it must come from the people" whom Washington Rules is dedicated.
(249). The need for education "has Bacevich, who once described himself as
become especially acute" (249; 249-50). a “Catholic conservative,” has emerged
as a leading mainstream critic of
Notes. 19 pp. American militarism (though he avoided
the word in The Limits of Power). He is
Acknowledgments. Friends, politically non-partisan.]
colleagues, and the editors at
Metropolitan Books (198). Critique. Andrew Bacevich's latest book
begins with an intriguing personal
Index. 14 pp. analysis of why he was so "slow" to
acknowledge and study American
About the Author. Andrew Bacevich imperialism and militarism, but these
is professor of history and international pages only scratch the surface of his
relations at Boston University. He has experience (the author may well be
written for Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, reserving a fuller account for later in his
The Nation, the New York Times, the writing career). Washington Rules is
Washington Post, and the Wall Street curiously evasive in other ways as well.
Journal. Though Bacevich is arguing for
relegitimizing radical analysis of
[Additional information. Andrew J. American imperialism and militarism and
Bacevich was born in 1947 in, has used those terms in the past, there is
poignantly, Normal, Illinois. He nothing radical in his text. He uses the
graduated from West Point in 1969 and term imperialism only twice and
served for a year in Vietnam (1970- militarism only twice, though in 2005 he
1971). He retired from the U.S. Army in titled a book The New American
the early 1990s with the rank of colonel. Militarism. — Bacevich seems to be
He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. diplomatic seeking to remain within the mainstream
history from Princeton. He has taught at while articulating an analysis that is
West Point and Johns Hopkins. At Boston palatable to an American public
University he teaches courses on “The indoctrinated with antiradicalism (an
American Military Experience,” indoctrination that can be traced much
“American Foreign Policy,” “Wars of the more deeply in the pattern of American
Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries,” history than is acknowledged in this
“Ideas and American Foreign Policy,” and book, which for the most part takes
“U.S. Foreign Policy since the End of the World War II as its point of departure).
Cold War.” He is the author of American Even Reinhold Niebuhr, who presided
Empire: The Realities and Consequences over his previous book, is never
of U.S. Diplomacy (2002) The New mentioned here, though he is scarcely a
American Militarism: How Americans Are radical. — As part of this cautious
Seduced by War (2005), and The Limits approach, Bacevich carefully omits
of Power: The End of American pieces of evidence that point to a darker
Exceptionalism (2008), and he is the version of American history, and in doing
editor of The Imperial Tense: Problems so, he downplays the role of corporations
and Prospects of American Empire (2003) and the struggle for resources like oil,
and The Long War: A New History of U.S. scarcely mentioned here. This refusal to
National Security Policy since World War examine the deeper motives behind what
II (2007). Bacevich is a member of the he calls "the Washington rules" enfeebles
Council on Foreign Relations. In addition his analysis, but also makes it more
to the son they lost in Iraq, he and his acceptable to the average American
wife Nancy have three daughters, to reader. — Gerard De Groot in the
Washington Post called the book previous book, The Limits of Power; we
"excellent" and "brilliant," but Bacevich's didn't notice it here). — Bacevich is also
toned-down approach is still too radical weak on the privatization of war and
for the New York Times, which published national security work and on the role of
a pathetic review according to which his domestic politics and of media in the
"annoying references to America's management of public opinion. However,
supposed 'emperor-president' sound his book can perhaps be recommended
paranoid and ring false. They make it for those who are beginning to criticize
hard to take the argument seriously" mainstream thinking. The book
(Jonathan Tepperman, "We Got Trouble", appeared on the New York Times Book
New York Times Book Review [Sept. 14, Review bestseller list on Sept. 26, 2010.
2010]—actually, the phrase "emperor-
president" appears on p. 69 of Bacevich's