- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 8 hours and 8 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Macmillan Audio
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 3 Aug. 2010
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003Y7LXD4
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War Audio Download – Unabridged
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Written by a Boston history professor who in a previous existence was a professional American soldier with the rank of colonel, the book examines clearly and succinctly just what the US is up to as it performs its self-appointed role of global policeman and why it feels it necessary to perform this task at all.
Bacevich experienced an epiphany when, still in the army, he visited East Germany when the Wall came down. So this was the mighty foe he had spent his professional existence combating - a nation of run-down factories, crumbling infrastructure and antiquated cars. It dawned on him that the image he had been given of an all-powerful menace which might leap into aggressive action at any given moment, was something less than the truth. It sparked his own education, a desire to understand what were the mechanics behind US actions.
What he came up with, and what the book examines, was that the US has been acting for the entire post-war period under a credo which states that the US, and the US alone, should lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world, for such purposes as it sees fit, and in any way that it sees fit. This problematic credo - problematic for the rest of the globe, which hasn't much asked to be led, saved, liberated or transformed - is enacted through what Bacevich describes as a sacred trinity of global military presence, global power projection, and global interventionism. Suddenly, America's actions since WW2 all start to make sense.Read more ›
Americans, it seems, believe in a providential right to be the world's policeman and to intervene where and how they deem fit (for peace and democracy, ostensibly). So we have this travesty: three thousand Americans die in 9/11 and the whole world has to pay. Half a million Iraqi children die from US sanctions and Madeline Albright, the Secretary of State, says: "It's a hard choice, but I think, we think, it's worth it".
I have met a few Americans (on the right) who are always bemoaning the size of the US debt and wailing about how the country is going to pay for (healthcare, education, infrastructure etc). Bacevich quotes Ike Eisenhower: "The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities; two fine, fully equipped hospitals ...". This was in the 1950s. Paradoxically, the citizens of god's own country would rather fellow citizens die from waste than give up making bombs. Bacevich believes that it is time America attends to home issues and focuses on becoming an example of a prosperous and thriving democracy; this being more fruitful than the ruinous path on which the country seems bent on taking.
Well researched and well-written.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
I think the most salient point he makes is that of the domino effect in reverse. He explains how we entered the Vietnam war at that time on this propaganda and how we fell for the reverse propaganda that we could create a new new domino effect of "democracy" by preemptive war, and most all of us fell for it, including me.
I however want to do this cursory review upon my first reading, but may edit it on the second as there is so much that he says that is not only prudent and relevant to our time, while simultaneously exposes the misjudgment, however one may see it.
Edit: It takes a while to fully Grok Bacevich, who tells us it is not Washington that makes us what we are it is us. And until we decide to stop the madness, the madness will not stop. Bacevich ends his book with these four words. "We too, must choose" And we must, shall we continue down this line and break ourselves or shall we become a great and prosperous country once again? It is up to us not Washington, it is up to me an you. A prophet is without honor in his own land. We can wish all we want, but practical realities define our position.
The brilliance of this piece is that it is not judgmental nor partisan, it is just the truth. He lays out the facts in such a succinct way that it mesmerized me. Bacevich will be remembered as a patriot and a true military man in search of truth, not unlike Smedley Butler.
Our self-appointed role of leading, liberating, and saving the world through activism, hard power, and negotiating from strength continues today - DOD has become the Department of Global Policing, and President Obama finds himself continuing the model laid down since 1945. The author also skims over too quickly how we have exhausted the authority and goodwill acquired immediately after WWII - via the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Afghanistan I and II, the 2007 Recession, going from the world's largest creditor to debtor nation, decades of trade and government deficits, energy profligacy, decaying cities, manufacturing, and infrastructure, Katrina, supporting dictators and human rights abusers, etc.
DOD consumes $700 billion/year (I'm assuming that includes Iraq and Afghanistan), while stationing 300,000 troops abroad in 761 sites in 39 nations, plus 90,000 sailors and marines at sea. Our expenditures approximate those of the rest of the world combined. and are propelling us towards insolvency and perpetual war.
An excellent example of how we are digging ourselves into a hole occurred just this week when the U.S. announced the State Department is in advanced discussions with Vietnam to share nuclear fuels and technologies in a deal that would preserve Hanoi's right to enrich uranium indigenously. This obviously undermines our containment stance vs. North Korea and Iran, and is intended to somehow intimidate China. Similarly, the U.S. is also supporting India's enrichment and military-fuel capability efforts - again to somehow intimidate China. Meanwhile, we also parade a flotilla of ships nearby off South Korea to intimidate North Korea, and further irritate China.(They now have, or soon will have, supersonic missiles capable of raining down on our aircraft carrier task forces - a great example of asymmetric warfare that makes our Navy look obsolete and a near total waste.) And then we wonder why China is modernizing its military.
Col. Bacevich's conclusion - "It's time (for America) to choose."