The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War
Andrew J. Bacevich
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In this provocative book, Andrew Bacevich warns of a dangerous dual obsession that has taken hold of Americans, both conservatives and liberals alike. It is a marriage of militarism and utopian ideology, of unprecedented military might wed to a blind faith in the universality of American values. This mindset, Bacevich warns, invites endless war and the ever-deepening militarization of U.S. policy. It promises not to perfect but to pervert American ideals and to accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy.
In The New American Militarism, Bacevich examines the origins and implications of this misguided enterprise. He shows how American militarism emerged as a reaction to the Vietnam War, when various groups in American society -soldiers, politicians on the make, intellectuals, strategists, Christian evangelicals, even purveyors of pop culture-came to see the revival of military power and the celebration of military values as the antidote to all the ills besetting the country as a consequence of Vietnam and the 1960s. The upshot, acutely evident in the aftermath of 9/11, has been a revival of vast ambitions, this time coupled with a pronounced affinity for the sword. Bacevich urges Americans to restore a sense of realism and a sense of proportion to U.S. policy. He proposes, in short, to bring American purposes and American methods-especially with regard to the role of the military-back into harmony with the nation's founding ideals.
For this edition, Bacevich has written a new Afterword in which he considers how American militarism has changed in the past five years. He explores in particular how this ideology has functioned under Barack Obama, who ran for president on a campaign based on hope for change and for a new beginning. Despite such rhetoric, Bacevich powerfully suggests, the attitudes and arrangements giving rise to the new American militarism remain intact and inviolable as ever.
different view had taken hold. Now the United States military was “a place where everyone tried their hardest. A place where everybody . . . 24 the new american militarism looked out for each other. A place where people—intelligent, talented people—said honestly that money wasn’t what drove them. A place where people spoke openly about their feelings.” Soldiers, it turned out, were not only more virtuous than the rest of us, but also more sensitive and even happier.35 Contemplating the GIs
occupied, as Senator Robert Taft on the right and former vice president Henry Wallace on the left proposed to do, became almost by definition perverse.80 When deciding how to respond to growing Communist influence in Western Europe or to the invasion of South Korea, President Harry S Truman did not necessarily pause to consult the latest scribblings of Schlesinger or Niebuhr. The influence of intellectuals on policy is seldom that straightforward. Indirectly, however, these Cold War liberals
offered here asserts that present-day American militarism has deep roots in the American past. It represents a bipartisan project. As a result, it is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, a point obscured by the myopia and personal animus tainting most accounts of how we have arrived at this point. The New American Militarism was conceived not only as a corrective to what has become the conventional critique of U.S. policies since 9/11 but as a challenge to the orthodox historical context employed
faith in God.” Graham believed that the values of West Point fused to the values of religious traditionalism might “become the beacon lights to guide our nation through this perilous period.”63 In the aftermath of Vietnam, evangelicals came to see the military as an enclave of virtue, a place of refuge where the sacred remnant of patriotic Americans gathered and preserved American principles from extinction. (Lending this notion a veneer of plausibility was the fact that the just-created
imperial forces and, once Britain withdrew from “East of Suez,” the shah of Iran.5 To build up indigenous self-defense (or regime defense) capabilities of select nations, it arranged for private contractors to provide weapons, training, and advice—an indirect way of employing U.S. military expertise. The Vinnell Corporation’s ongoing “modernization” of the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), a project now well over a quarter century old, remains a prime example.6 By the end of 1979, however, two