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Andrew Bacevich: U.S. Militarism

Retired Army colonel and big thinker Andrew Bacevich on why it’s time to throw out the playbook on American military policy.

During a rescue mission by a team from a U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, a U.S. soldier helps an Afghan Army soldier in southern Afghanistan, Monday Aug. 2, 2010. (AP)

American makes too much war, says former soldier now scholar Andrew Bacevich. The country can’t afford it, he says. It’s not even good strategy anymore, he says. But it doesn’t stop. 

And it doesn’t stop for a reason. A whole matrix of interests and assumptions, writes Bacevich, propel the United States toward power projection and war – even when it’s not working. 

Bacevich lost his own son in Iraq. But this is not about one family. It’s about a nation, he says, too wedded to war. 


Andrew Bacevich, retired U.S. Army colonel, and professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book is “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.”  You can read an excerpt here.

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  • michael

    Kind of like how the military gets 30 billion additional dollars, than claims it going to cut some of the defense spending, fines 200 million to do so than the next day approves 600 million. Whats worst is (often) our media have become sheeps in covering our military and it’s actions. examples Gen McChrystal and the aftermath of journalist and insiders being shock about reporting such, (often) most stories coming for the military point of view is reported as facts and hardly truly questions, as well as all those (supposed) think tanks and PAC with vested interest going on most of the Media Source promoting a U.S. U.S. Militarism point of view. example is the aftermath of wiki leaks, what made the Military look bad was dismissed, yet focused on Pakistan was kept, cover-up, omitting of civilians deaths were dismissed as well as (it seemed) secrecy was used not for National Defense proposes but to prevent embarrassment.Yet IED were focused on by the military.


  • Michael

    As well we yet to really hear information on Private(mercenaries)# in iraq and Afghanistan, the actual cost front-end and back-end, War Bonds to fund the wars, how 30 billion for unemployment is putting debt on our children back yet 30 billion for war is not. Or that 9 billion unaccounted for in iraq.

    I happy that your having this guess on, but the military thought ahead to keep things rolling, by

    1. not raising taxes in the front-end but charging it in the back.
    2. Preventing pictures unfavorable to the military
    3. Cozy relationship with journalist(embeds) and reporters to pick and choose what to report.
    4. Socializing the military to offer (about)anything needed to join.
    5. Not having a draft
    6. Hiring think tanks to vet reporters favorable to unfavorable in there reporting
    7. Creating companies in about every stated so congressman and senators have a vested interest in keeping things going since cutting defense would hurt that state.
    8.Calling up Reserve and Nat Guard to the front-lines.
    9. by having many journalist in there pockets enabling the under-reporting on what is happening on the ground.
    10. and covering up (in the name of National Security)information that would fully inform Americans or hurt the Industrial Complex.
    11. As well as creating and keeping lobbyist to contribute to elected officials
    12. Play on emotions of the public and tries to convince them that just a little more will win the day(9yrs later)
    12.Lastly, playing on peoples fears that any movement away from Militarism will make Americans less safe (even if evidences does not support it).

    Just ask republican/democrat/independent or anyone in the U.S. if they think our government is corrupt and the answer (most the time) will be yes, yet we claim to wish to export this to other nations(at the point of a gun of course)

    Militarism will win, just like Big Oil, Lobbyist for Wall Street because they only need to convince a few (congressman,Senate,President) to agree or look the other way by giving money to both sides it enables whoever wins to be in there pocket.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    With a volunteer army, this country need never look again to the general populace for support for its meaningless wars.

    With a volunteer army, morale needn’t be kept up, for every one of the troops can legitimately be said to have “asked for this” and thus to deserve whatever treatment they get.

    With a volunteer army, the poor (and, given the Great Recession, now more and more of the former middle class) can bear the brunt of national service, and the rich need not even pretend to contribute.

    With a volunteer army, America has no need for a draft (yet Selective Service continues to discriminate against young men), and thus has no need to confront its own worst self, and can carry on in perpetuity its atrocious behavior.

    In one hundred years, America has been involved in only one necessary war, and yet thousands of soldiers have died in unnecessary wars and “police actions.”

    In one hundred years the only thing we’ve learned is how to lose gracelessly while telling ourselves we were always winning all along.

  • Zeno

    I admire and respect this man… a honest man and a realist who can speak truth to power. His interview on Bill Moyers: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/profile.html

    …and this: http://www.counterpunch.org/bacevich03262010.html

    We need more people like him to balance the jingoistic and partisan dialog that gushes from the media every day, and diverts the country from the necessary comprehension of how this country actually functions.

  • BAS

    Very much looking forward to hearing Andrew Bracevich’s conversation w/ Tom.
    Heart-weary at the chaotic roar of rhetoric, chest thumping and vested interests that surround current military policy – hungry for lucidity.

    Great choice of guest!

  • michael

    Just look at our militarism after WW2 and support for dictators


    To name some

    like El Salvador,overthrow of P.M. Mossadeq 1953, installed shah as dictator, Guatemala 1954 1963 backed assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem, U.S. Military in 1963-1975 South East Asia 1973 coup in Chile, assassination of democratically elected Salvador allende, 1977 U.S. backed military leader, in El Salvador, 1980 U.S. trains osama to kill Soviets(guess where?) 1981 trained and funded contras, 1982 billions in aid to Saddam to kill Iranians, 1983 secretly giving Iran weapons to kill Iraqis, 1989 invade panama to remove Noriega, 1990 Iraq invades Kuwait with U.S. weapons, 1991 bush invades Iraq as well as daily weekly bombing 500000 Iraqi estimated to have died from sanctions and bombings and installs a Dictator in Kuwait, 1998 Clinton bombs a weapon factory in Sudan(turns out to be factory for aspirin.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Michael, thanks for all those posts. I am wondering about your point number 8, how the military keeps the citizenry on board for their military/industrial (imperial) undertakings:
    “8.Calling up Reserve and Nat Guard to the front-lines”

    To my observation, this has become a deterrent. People who might have joined the Reserves are choosing not to. People already in the Reserves are questioning our international exploits.

    I want to know from Bacevich if he noticed Secretary Gates was talking about closing bases IN THE UNITED STATES (as Michael says, there is a Military interest in keeping every senator on board, every state with some military money-pump). Whereas I was hoping to hear something about the 700 bases/installations in places like Uzbekistan that really should be international responsibilities, not ours. How can we learn diplomacy if there are bases — seven hundred of them — all over. If you have A-bombs, H-bombs, and global deployment, it’s like you’re the bully on the block. Why learn cooperation when you can just threaten?
    Whereabouts are those 700 bases; can Gates/Hillary Clinton be persuaded to be less imperialistic? Can we afford to try to govern the globe? (Well, after 100 years we’ll be underwater or starving, roasting, but till then…)

  • Alex

    “I am wondering about your point number 8, how the military keeps the citizenry on board for their military/industrial (imperial) undertakings:”

    simple: fear

  • Ellen Dibble

    “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  • John

    What a contrast to the first hour’s genial moron!

  • roddy o’sullivan

    Prof. Bacevich.

    First question. Given that you wrote about it in “the limits of power”, would you think that the infamous Jimmy Carter “malaise” speech would have greater resonance today?

    To me, it is astonishingly prescient.

    Second. The defense secretary announced reigning in defense spending and closing surplus bases. Is this more to do with the nearing retirement and twillight years of the baby boomers, simply meaning less people to take up the jobs, rather than a shift in defense policy??

    thanks, keep up the great work

  • Dan

    Andrew Bacevich was one of my professors and sat on my thesis defense panel. He’s an incredibly smart man with both a wealth of historical knowledge and on-the-ground combat experience, and our decision makers would do well to listen to him.

  • Rick

    It seems to me that U.S. history has swung between two extremes, the one Bacevich describes as the current stance and another isolationist position that prevents us from getting involved militarily until things are FUBAR. Why can’t we settle in the middle rather than swinging so wildly?

  • Nick B.

    Colonel Bacevich is the best. I have listened to him many times, and each time I come away impressed. His is the sanest and most coherent voice out there vis a vis American military policy. If he hasn’t already, President Obama should spend an afternoon listening to Colonel Bacevich.

  • Jeremy

    During the Roman Empire they were of a mindset of military supremacy for the gains of the empire. They also believed themselves special and superior to all other peoples around them. They constantly were striving through military conquest to spread Romanitas (roman style “civilized living”) much in the way we “spread Democracy”. We are proud, arrogant, and VERY warlike….a bad combination of traits.

    “Don’t let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America “you are too arrogant, and if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name.”
    MLK Jr.

  • http://tombarlow.ner tom

    today the trade deficit with China is reportedly up 18% for the last month. China is massively building infrastructure. China has a shortage of workers, we have a 10% unemplyment rate. Imagine if the 1 trillion Dollars spent in Iraq was spent here on infratructure.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think, Nick, that the Military here is Too Big To Fail, and Obama realizes that there are taxes, jobs, all sorts of stabilizing factors — Bacevich is outlining it now.
    It’s another turning of the Titanic.
    I blame the Secretary of State for the lack of shift of direction. I think she is invested in the Old Alliances in Washington and in the World, that have America dominating, trying to dominate.
    There needs to be a new diplomatic thrust. Bacevich should go talk to her, I’d say.
    And we should get ready for deeper recession but in the longer run, survival.

  • JP

    When corporations that depend on war, like Xe (Blackwater), come into existence and turn into behemoths worth hundreds of billions of dollars, do you think they will accept peace, and thus their own obsolescence?

    No, they become a permanent lobby for war and the mindset of militarism in our country.

    … and we have multitudes of this kind of corporation in our country, dependent on war and continuously lobbying for it.

  • BHA

    Posted by Joshua Hendrickson
    “In one hundred years, America has been involved in only one necessary war, and yet thousands of soldiers have died in unnecessary wars and “police actions.””

    I’m curious Joshua, which one was the one necessary war and why do you think it was necessary (and the others were not).

  • (Rev.) Linda Maloney

    Professor Bacevich, I cannot express the depth of my admiration for you and your work. I have degrees in American Studies and Theology, and nothing I learned in either program is at odds with what you say. As soon as I had read your book on American militarism, I purchased a copy for my Congressman; whether it has anything to do with the fact that he consistently votes against supplemental war appropriations, I cannot say. As for me, I buy every book you write as soon as it appears. Washington Rules is at the top of my reading pile right now!

  • Jeanne Albert

    I was against war in Afghanistan from the very start for the very reason that it is virtually impossible to end a war (among other reasons, such as killing innocent people.) Prof. Bacevich’s position is commendable, but did he speak against the war when it might have made a difference– before the invasion?

  • Ellen Dibble

    “The invasion”? I think we infiltrated in order to extirpate al-Qaida.
    My own protest was a recommendation to New York City that on rebuilding the World Trade Center, they be sure to install anti-aircraft weaponry in the upper reaches. Possibly every skyscraper should have that.
    Versus unending wars in case someone turns into an enemy.

  • jeffe

    One hundred years ago would be 1910.
    Wars the USA has been in since 1910:

    1918 WW1

    1941-1945 WW2

    1950-1953 Korean War

    1960-1975 Vietnam war

    1961 Bay of Pigs

    1983 Grenada

    1989 US Invasion of Panama

    1990-1991 Persian Gulf War (first war with Iraq)

    1995-1996 Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    2001-present Invasion of Afghanistan

    2003- present Invasion of Iraq

  • Sally Strange

    Ellen, it takes a lot of chutzpah to deny that the US invasion of Afghanistan is something different than an invasion. An “infiltration” is exactly what liberals like myself suggested in the aftermath of 9/11, when we said that it would be better to mount a police investigative action agains Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, rather than going to war against the Taliban and the entire country of Afghanistan. That might have been successful. Instead, we sent tens of thousands of troops in to topple the government, install a new one, and rebuild what we destroyed in the process–if that’s not an invasion then I don’t know what is.

  • Raymond D. Tindel

    Col. Bacevich speculates that our military posture post WWII is much too aggressive and we would have been much better off to rise to the challenge less often. It is a fact, however, that by dealing with our enemies at a distance, we have fought our wars not on our own soil but on other nations’ territory.

    Second, it appears to me that one of the consequences of our attack on Sadaam Husein was that Libya gave up its nuclear program. Is it not reasonable to speculate that had we not attacked Iraq, had Libya not been led to give up its nuclear program, we might have ultimately had nuclear war in the Middle East?


  • w bradford

    I would only ask… why is it there are so few
    ‘thinkers’ anywhere in sight… anywhere in the
    public media… where are the intellectuals that
    can seek any truths ? And why is the public so
    devoid of these important voices.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Sally, I agree with you a hundred percent, but the original enterprise in Afghanistan was not presented as an invasion. We might not have been in favor of an invasion. But “getting big Laden” had plenty of support.

  • jeffe

    Raymond and one could argue that Iran’s nuclear program was also a result of our invasion of Iraq.

    We still might have a nuclear war in the Middle East.

  • yar

    I would like to hear what your guest thinks about the time when we had a draft instead of the all volunteer force played and now plays in our tendency toward engaging in wars?

  • Ellen Dibble

    However much we agree with Bacevich, however many of us agree, it is an exercise in futility if the economic ramifications are not addressed LOUDLY in every lobby in Washington. I’m sure that’s the Too Big To Fail military making us drag our feet, but not being real up front about it. We say there are glorious American objectives (and fears), but I think it’s a profitable part of our economy digging in its heels.

  • Chris

    Would this work?

    IF the people of the United States and the people of Europe STOPPED USING HEROIN BASED DRUGS: THE TALIBAN WOULD HAVE NO ECONOMY!!!

    Is that correct? Could THAT serve as the ONLY power we truly have, instead of spurious military power?

    Thank you VERY much! I admire you SO much!

  • T. Voyd Sherrell

    Memorial Day, For sale

    It came in the mail,
    A store-wide sale

    On this Memorial Day
    Reminding of less to pay,
    Some gave all
    But not at the mall,
    Freedom is not free
    Buy one get one free,
    Draped in a flag
    Would you like a bag?
    Forget about the war
    Consumerism the whore

    It came in the mail
    A store-wide sale

    T. Voyd

    I am a veteran of Iraq and have copyrights on the above poem. Please respect my thoughts.

  • Anne

    Bacevich has written and spoken of the role of military service in citizenship. But not all of us can or do serve in the military. Can someone ask him to talk about what makes a good citizen (besides voting?) and what a civilian can do in all of this?

  • Larry

    today the trade deficit with China is reportedly up 18% for the last month. China is massively building infrastructure. China has a shortage of workers, we have a 10% unemplyment rate. Imagine if the 1 trillion Dollars spent in Iraq was spent here on infratructure.
    Posted by tom

    The military and the military industry it supports like it the way it is.

    They are very very rich making sure the money is going to themselves.

    What does it do for the rest of us?

    Nothing. It is breaking us and we are going the way of the old Soviet Union.

    And just like the Soviet Union after the fall the only who’s who came out OK were the Oligarchs. They cleaned up.

    And it will be that way here.

    Can you imagine American without a middle class? Better try because it is coming.

  • BHA

    I am curious what Col. Bacevich thinks of the USA’s support for Israel no matter what they do. At best ‘we’ say “you shouldn’t do that” and always veto any action against Israel.

    What do you think the benefit/harm has been to the USA as a result of that unfailing support?

  • http://Verizon?? Dave Sweetman

    Tom missed a point. Speak of “Liberal Values” in connection with US foreign policy and you will bring down a fire storm from the raging radio right et al. And unfortunately many if not most Americans agree with that. also Athe American people do not understand “nuabnce.” Bacevich is spot on, as many of us (myself included) have known since the build up in Vietnam. I was in the Tonkin Gulf when the French fell at dien Bien Phu. that lesson should have been learned.Basevich helps folks like me to articulate the concepts. One mistake the American people make is to embrace the wrong belief that there is a way to win. We can only strive for progress – tedious, frustrating and unending.

  • michael

    Great guest, think i’m going to check out his book, thanks for having him on, and thanks for the guest for putting holes in the Typical putting others countries first before our owns.

  • Gary

    Bravo! Hear, hear!! America certainly needs a different tack. How much have all these wars cost over the last 100 years?! Imagine if we used some of that money for education, health, infrastructure, science, alternative energy R & D, etc., etc. We can’t keep walking about the world, dragging our knuckles, wielding a club and expect the rest to fall into line.

  • http://onpointradio.org anthony j gioco

    Professor Bacevich,

    Thank you for the connect to reality. your efforts must stay alive in the media.
    Its incrediable how nonpragmatic we are. Over simulation with advertising, us of Orwellean speak, premium 5 second sound bites all contribute to a false information exchange. Even your host , Mr Ashbrook is looking for the 5 second solution.
    Keep up your efforts, If you need a single voice of support I with you.

    Anthony J Gioco

  • michael

    to ellen,

    Well, my thinking for 8 is instead of calling a draft effecting all Americans, by calling reserves and Nat guards the military can get many on board because a draft is not needed nor affects them, along with friends and family of Reserves and Nat Guards now have a vested interest in the war along with good P.R for returning vets coming back to there jobs and the work places, while being drilled into the reserves and Nat Guard that there better than others civilians Americans for doing so. Plus the military can guilt americans to not stopping the war.

  • Patricia McNulty, MD

    While I am no great student of military history, it seems that in times past, wars were initiated for some strategic reason. An example would be to gain more or better land, or some strategic high point or access to water, or to garnish spoils of war. Whether moral or not, there was at least some rationale. The current conflicts we are involved in seem to do nothing to benefit the average American. While some big companies will undoubtedly sign fat contracts for oil or minerals etc., the net effect of these conflicts is that they are bleeding us dry. Our current economic disaster is due to expenditure with no gain. Furthermore, it seems that this is precisely how many empires have initiated their downfalls.
    If our efforts actually succeed in keeping women from being stoned for not wearing a burka, then I could see a justification, but I think we need to face the truth that these wars are destroying us financially.

  • Charlie Mc

    President Obama: I supported you, and still do; but you had better start listening to this “prophet”.
    A prophet does not predict the future, but transmits wisdom in the here, now, and in this sorry situation.

  • hilary stookey

    The politics of a deliberately encouraged paranoic public has not been such a stretch to wonder about in the last 10 years or less. George Orwell may well be looking down on us in America, saying: I warned you.

    Thank heavens for NPR.

  • Ellen Dibble

    michael, thanks for explaining. I see what you mean.
    By the way, in 2003 into 2004 I was writing to many of those deployed in Iraq; there was a website booksforsoldiers or some such, where you could e-mail to anyone lonely enough or far enough from home to care to, and send them reading stuff (or things to eat, for instance). And one correspondent of mine was with the group somehow involved in Abu Ghraib interrogations, and he would talk about the prejudices getting stoked among his fellows and the sort of insanity of the whole situation. With him and with others, I could be a pretty good cheerleader, telling them leave it to us on the home front to worry about the justifications for war; we’ll do the politicking; you have to believe we won’t get you into unrealistic messes.
    I didn’t say it like that. But more and more, I thought the patriotic thing to do was more like all-out effort on the home-front in terms of politicking, and I didn’t have the heart to cheerlead any longer.
    We need a military that can believe in their mission without reservation, and it was beginning to be an exercise in deception. My own morale as an American has been tested; I don’t want contagion to start.
    The poem posted by the veteran says it: “Respect my position.” More or less, “You sent me; didn’t you say you needed me, my all?”

  • Dennis Knight

    Hi Tom,
    I think I was the last caller in the cue today when the show ended. I was interested in hearing Andrew’s thoughts on the lack of a comprehensive energy policy in the US that should include large scale, distributed, grid connected renewable energy sources here at home and how that could reduce or eliminate our need for foreign oil resources and the military assets required to protect them. Right now we subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of around $550 Billion Dollars a year. Add to that the money we are spending on the military and military industrial complex to “protect” our interests in foreign oil reserves the figure probably tops just over a trillion dollars a year (serious money). We only subsidize or incentivize the renewable energy industry by less than $50 Billion Dollars per year. If we could begin to rapidly reduce subsidies on fossil fuels and the money it takes to protect them and invest that savings in clean, grid conected wind and solar power generation it seems as though we could fix a lot of issues such as national security, health care and jobs creation. We have the technology and talent to do this right now. This would also extend the life of our own fossil fuel reserves to be used in more beneficial industries such as plastics, medicine and other advanced materials possibly for centuries. Are we truly too blind or complacent to see it?

  • Rob

    WOW…Tom, I am really glad Andrew is smart enough not to echo your anti-China sentiment. Now you show your true color…Can not believe you have been stationed in Shanghai before…

  • elis

    Excellent show.

    Imagine a strong military defending us, but without the power ‘to do mischief’. Why are we defending the world anymore. Troops out of Europe. Quadrupling the Peace Corps. Halving the military budget. Showing an example of good to the world.

    Lowered taxes, and more money for the things we need around here. Michael, you have my support.

    Thanks for this show.

  • Margaret M. Blanchard

    Brilliant analysis. Colonel Bacevich’s diagnosis of our current American foreign policy and use of our military should be a warning. What he says explains not only why our “empire” is fading, but why we need to find another policy for dealing with threats or deprivations that is more beneficial to the greatest good for America and for global stability. We need a public discussion and revamping of this policy before the next national election. I’d like to hear a discussion between him and other retired military officers about this, something those of us not in the military can listen to and comment on, as well as alternative proposals from all of us. Maybe another On Point program, Tom?

  • Philip Kaveny

    I am so proud of ON point for having your guest Andrew Bacevich, retired U.S. Army colonel, and professor of history and international relations at Boston University and I truly look forward to reviewing. His new book is “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.”

    I am an American, Anglican, Episcopalian, Christian, liberal Democrat supporting Roe V. Wade, Obama’s economic stimulus packages, Obama’s national health care program, and consumer protection legislation. I also support gay rights and same-sex marriage, and the Jeffersonian wall between church and state. Further I would like to see a return to the Federal Income Tax rates under The Eisenhower administration where the maximum marginal tax rate was 93%.
    One of my core beliefs is articulated by Eisenhower’s cautionary farewell speech about the power of the military industrial complex. My generation was inspired by Kennedy’s phrase “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” All my mother’s brothers fought with distinction as officers during the Second World War, and my father was a World War I Veteran. I was a Vietnam- era protestor.
    I watched 9/11 play out like everybody else and I totally disagree with Michael Moore’s mean-spirited characterization of George Bush immediately after the event. I feel that Bush showed great courage and judgment to stand pat in what could have easily become World War Three, had Bush leaned on all of the launch buttons. Of course afterwards I do have a lot of issues with the subsequent eight years
    Obama will be a one-term president, not because of conservative opposition on the right, but because many liberal spokespersons, who are incidentally, making NPR, sound like Fox News, have turned on him, like Naomi Klein who blamed him for not rebuilding Rome in a day. On the other hand, we have the ironic point of light of the NPR “On Point” show with Barney Frank and Ron Paul agreeing on cutting the military budget.
    Can we hope that this sanity is contagious and the United States under the present administration will adopt a sustainable military policy outside of Washington rules? Rather than fulfilling my deepest fear that military commitment is a self justifying perpetual motion machine. To say it in another that in the process of trying to hold everything, we end up holding nothing just as the Great Powers did in 1914.
    By Philip E. Kaveny (public sphere intellectual)

  • FT

    How much of this did he believe before his son died in Iraq?

    I’d like to believe it didn’t make a difference to his tendency to come down on one side of the argument, but in the absence of evidence one is left wondering whether it may have made all the difference.

  • willy

    Please. Bacevich offers only tired antiwar cliches tinged with equally unoriginal American declinism. We’ve heard all this before, and have been hearing it for decades. Bacevich is a former military man and now an academic, so he’s irresistible to people like Ashbrook. His views, though, are hardly new. The fact that they’re being greeted as such here speaks volumes. I respect Bacevich’s military service, but his world view is little different from what one would expect to hear from any run-of-the-mill activist professor, and as such not terribly interesting or newsworthy.

  • William

    Obama caved into the political pressure of the Washington DC “elites” and failed to pull out of Iraq. There is something about those “elites” that just love to send the “country class” kids to war. I wonder if we had a draft and the first people to be drafted were college graduates with no exceptions things might be different.

  • bugbuster

    Obviously I can’t mention any names, but I once worked briefly for a “military contractor” in northern Virginia. I am convinced that this firm did no real work. The technical equipment they had was more than ten years out of date. I believe that they were props. They were certainly unusable. They *talked* about their “product” in terms that made it sound cutting edge, but when they demonstrated its state of progress to me, I saw that it was badly designed and implemented, and had it worked perfectly, it would have been useless. I was never asked to sign even a non-disclosure agreement let alone have a security clearance. None of this made any sense.

    I wonder how much of this goes on. Surely I wasn’t witnessing the only instance of fraud being perpetrated on the taxpayers of this country in northern Virginia.

  • Joshua Hendrickson


    I think that World War Two was “necessary” in the sense that our involvement of men and materiel were required to bring down the Third Reich. I don’t believe that everything that happened in that war was necessary; for instance, too much of the fighting in the Pacific was based on attrition, and I definitely see the use of the atomic bomb (twice!) as immoral.

    Perhaps this is arguable; as far as I’m concerned, all the other wars were inarguably unjust and unnecessary.

  • GMG

    Wow. Wonderful show on a subject that should be at the top of then national dialog, but which has somehow become taboo. “The Washington Rules no longer work for the country.” Dead on. Let’s hope the cure isn’t worse than the disease.

  • Jim

    The colonel strikes me as an honest man trying to honestly understand the world. That makes him a rare American, worthy of our consideration.

    Thank you On Point for this rational discussion.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Philip Kaveny writes,
    “I feel that Bush showed great courage and judgment to stand pat in what could have easily become World War Three, had Bush leaned on all of the launch buttons.”

    I don’t recall anyone anywhere talking about using nuclear weapons as a response to 9/11, not even the most rabid neocons or hawks, so it is hard to imagine where you come up with this observation. Did you think Bush or his cabinet were tempted by this insanity, and if so, where did you hear any evidence for it?

    The rest of your post I find agreeable enough, with this exception: I do think that your blaming the left’s critique of Obama for his (present? future?) failure is misguided. Certainly the rabid right is hounding the man for being something he isn’t–a socialist–but those of us on the left (like Naomi Klein) are truly fed up with conservatives in liberal’s clothing. Obama, like most Democrats, is a conservative (whereas Republicans are reactionaries; there are few true liberals anywhere in our political system) and thus deserves to be criticized from the left. Where I think you are mistaken is in believing that left-critique to have any effect on Obama. He just ignores us, while he is keenly tuned into criticism from the right.

  • BAS

    Let’s rethink our global influence by living by example. Yes. Great hour.

    Time to bring Rory Stewart back in, too, Tom. Continue this discussion please.

  • Robbie Roethig

    Thanks for having Andrew Bacevich on. Andrew’s demeanor, his wisdom, his dignity, his depth of information is unparralelled. I cannot get too much of Andrew Bacevich. I like it that he appears frequently on Democracy Now! Dr. Bacevich has lost so much in service to his Country and the loss of his beloved son to war on Iraq. He never makes what he speaks with so much clarity about, about him. I am sad for his prfound loss.
    If the nation is to be saved from itself. . .we have to shut down the Evil, Stupid, Chauvanistic Empire.

  • Chris Pratt

    Obama should have choosen you as sec. of defense. I was really impressed with your thoughtfulness and answers to tough questiong. You have my respect and hope to hear more from you.

  • mike

    the great empires that once flourished on the planet have all followed the old rules of expansion and domination. We too like lemmings will follow their example over the cliff and join the wreckage of their folly.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Larry: I’d like to talk with you by e-mail
    about how you could be part of a film I’m making, seriously.

    What I’d like to hear is a conversation between Stanley McChrystal and Andrew Bacevich (no moderator necessary).
    It should be in prime time on PBS and replayed on Youtube and other sites for a week. It should happen 10 days before the fall elections. The elections should include a referendum of whether we should withdraw from Afghanistan immediately (ASAP-by 2011).

    People are given to believe by media that wars of occupation are somehow akin to NFL Football games, NASCAR races and prize fights…. at most, just something to discuss in a macho setting and maybe place a bet on. Why can’t we have fantasy war on the net for the mongers to talk about and end the real thing. It is so far away that all the in person evidence people ever see is the veteran amputees out shopping. Insane people fight over oil and minerals instead of spending the same money for sustainable ways. More and more I am sure that 9/11 was an inside job…. subsequent events, as well as evidence tend to support conspiracy. If the oligarchy can intimidate and lie the way they have about the Gulf leak and fracking it is no big leap to see how they could cover a 9/11 set-up.

    If any of are over 50 and want to discuss age discrimination and dissatisfaction with your employment situation. Please, please contact me. I need to hear from more folks in the West and deep South.

  • Tem Kudakwashe

    I was listening to the interview in my car and when I got home I went straight to the radio so I wouldn’t miss any of it. This has got to be the most intriguing analysis of any present day issue that is relevant to this country — that I have ever heard. Andrew: Man, you are good! Keep up the good work. I will get your book.

  • Jack

    Re Willy’s August 11 comment.

    I gather “anti-war cliches and run-of-mill activist professors” offend him. Presumably he prefers pro-war, bomb-them-back- to the stone age slogans mouthed by the rabid neo-con crowd. What is welcome and worth repeating endlessly, as Professor Bacevich argues, is a reasoned, unemotional, fear free, examination and debate of what is really the present and foreseeable threat to our national security. If this could be established and accepted by our elected representatives then maybe the light of sanity would inform the means of dealing with it. More and more expensive military toys, pie in the sky defensive systems and a military budget of $700 billion are way off the mark.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    “The Jihadist threat is real but not existential.”

    At last! Bacevich sums up the real truth about our War on Terror. We have militarily been dealing with the Jihadist threat as though it were existential, and this attitude is echoed in our conservative culture–witness the whole “Islam is going to impose Sharia law on America” delusion shared by many on the right.

  • elkojohn

    Seventy-seven years ago, Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, Marine Corps, gave a speech entitled, War is a Racket. What made this speech so credible, if not surprising, is the fact that Smedley Butler was the highest decorated Marine in history. He began to castigate the U.S. and its wars of aggression after his retirement from the Marines.
    From his book, ”War is a Racket:”
    “I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil intersts in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.” [p. 10]
    “War is a racket. …It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” [p. 23]

  • Not in our name….

    Many thanks to Professor Bacevich for saying what
    so many of us feel compelled to oppose today in the streets -the military machine and its emormous cost
    and failure to address the real issues of today which
    is government aggression and human rights violations.

    As JFK once said America has no right to police the
    world and anyone who has read the book on the CIA, A Legacy of Ashes will know how the America leadership hasn’t been promoting democracy but upholding corrupt leaders and suppressing human rights worldwide.

    In addition, Professor Bacevich is so right to point out how the government has taken away our individual civil libeties and reduced our prosperty with its misuse of US tax payers monies to fund illegal wars
    and operations overseas….

    Hence we have an obligation as citizens and US tax payers to stop this abuse in our name as it continues
    to threaten our own national security, daily….

  • Ronny Calling

    Poor american citizens,
    You are blind.
    You too think as 40% os white americans, that WARS ARE GOOD, NORMAL AND NECESSARY?
    Wake up. Stop dreaming. The world has changed!

  • http://www.antonfoek,com Anton

    Incomprehensible the US has spend so much money, technology and analytical- and manpower and since Korea mever has been able to win a war. [ If there is such a thing as winning a war ]
    Very often I think what would have happened if all these monies had been spend on building schools and hospitals or a social system eradicating poverty and ignorance.

  • rick

    COL (Ret) Bacevich is biting the hand that feeds him. I doubt that he refuses his monthly retirement check or that he would be willing to turn away from military punditry, so he is profiting from the very system he deplores. It is no different from the many American Soldiers who are serving in wars they don’t believe in because they value the salary, benefits and prestige that they wouldn’t have as a civilian. Same as it has always been, same as it always will be.

  • Potter

    It took me awhile to get to this but Bacevich and Ashbrook are excellent in this interview. Thank you.

  • Antonjsf

    Afganistan costs the U.S. 220 million dollars a day. A day?? Yes every 24 hours….

Sep 3, 2014
This still image from an undated video released by Islamic State militants on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, purports to show journalist Steven Sotloff being held by the militant group. The Islamic State group has threatened to kill Sotloff if the United States doesn't stop its strikes against them in Iraq. Video released Tuesday, Sept. 02, 2014, purports to show Sotloff's murder by the same rebel group. (AP)

Another beheading claim and ISIS’s use of social media in its grab for power.

Sep 3, 2014
In this Fall 2013 photo provided by the University of Idaho, students in the University of Idaho’s first Semester in the Wild program take a class in the Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness, Idaho. (AP)

MacArthur “genius” Ruth DeFries looks at humanity’s long, deep integration with nature – and what comes next. She’s hopeful.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

On Point Blog
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Friday, Aug 29, 2014

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