Americans have been betrayed. Sooner or later,
Americans will realize that they have been led to defeat in a pointless war
by political leaders who they inattentively trusted. They have been misinformed
by a sycophantic corporate media too mindful of advertising revenues to risk
reporting truths branded unpatriotic by the propagandistic slogan, "you are
with us or against us."
happens when Americans wake up to their betrayal? It is too late to be rescued
from catastrophe in Iraq, but perhaps if Americans can understand how such a
grand mistake was made, they can avoid repeating it. In a forthcoming book from
Oxford University Press, The
New American Militarism, Andrew J. Bacevich writes that we can avoid
future disasters by understanding how our doctrines went wrong and by returning
to the precepts laid down by our Founding Fathers, men of infinitely more wisdom
than those currently holding reins of power.
Bacevich, West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, and soldier for 23 years, is
a true conservative. He is an expert on U.S. military strategy and a professor
at Boston University. He describes how civilian strategists – especially Albert
Wohlstetter and Andrew Marshall – not military leaders, transformed a strategy
of deterrence that regarded war as a last resort into a strategy of naked aggression.
The resulting "marriage of a militaristic cast of mind with utopian ends" has
"committed the United States to waging an open-ended war on a global scale."
The greatest threat to the U.S. is not terrorists but the neoconservative belief,
to which President Bush is firmly committed, that American security and well-being
depend on U.S. global hegemony and impressing U.S. values on the rest of the
world. This belief resonates with a patriotic public. Bacevich writes, "In the
aftermath of a century filled to overflowing with evidence pointing to the limited
utility of armed force and the dangers inherent in relying excessively on military
power, the American people have persuaded themselves that their best prospect
for safety and salvation lies with the sword."
If Americans persist in these misconceptions, America will "share the fate
of all those who in ages past have looked to war and military power to fulfill
their destiny. We will rob future generations of their rightful inheritance.
We will wreak havoc abroad. We will endanger our security at home. We will risk
the forfeiture of all that we prize."
Bacevich understands that the problem is not how to deal with terrorism but
how to deal with the hubris, laden with catastrophe, that America is God's instrument
for bringing history to its predetermined destination. Being assigned such an
exalted role creates the delusion that America's virtue is unquestionable and
its use of preemptive coercion is infallible, a delusion that led to the "cakewalk
war" that would entrench democracy in the Middle East and have the troops home
in 90 days.
American hubris, which flows so freely from President Bush's mouth, explains
why half the U.S. population yawns over the U.S. slaughter of Iraqi civilians
and communist-style torture of Iraqi prisoners. The "cakewalk war" is now almost
two years old and has claimed 10 percent of the U.S. occupation force as casualties.
Yet, the delusion persists that the U.S. is prevailing in Iraq.
The new American militarism would be inconceivable, Bacevich writes, "were
it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals."
Books written about "militant Islam" could equally describe militant evangelical
Christianity. How did a Christian doctrine of love and peace become an apology
Bacevich explains that evangelicals, aghast at Vietnam era protests of America's
war against "godless communism," turned to the military as the repository of
traditional American virtues. For evangelicals, end-times doctrines converged
eschatology with national security. Prophecies merged America's fate with Israel's.
Islam inherited the role of godless communism and became the target of the war
against evil. America emerged with the "same immensely elastic permission to
use force previously accorded to Israel."
America's security and the well-being of the world are threatened by America's
unwarranted belief in the efficacy of force. War is ungovernable: "The shattered
reputations of generals and statesmen who presumed to bring it under control
litter the 20th century. On those rare occasions when war has yielded a seemingly
decisive outcome, as in 1918 or 1945, it has done so only after exacting a staggering
price from victor and vanquished alike. Even then, in resolving one set of problems,
'good' wars have fostered resentments or created temptations, leading as often
as not to further conflict."
The new American militarism has abandoned the Founding Fathers, deserted the
Constitution, and unrestrained the executive. War is a first resort. Militarism
is inconsistent with globalism and with American ideals. It will end in abject
The world is a vast place. The U.S. has demonstrated that it cannot impose
its will on a tiny part known as Iraq. American realism may yet reassert itself,
dispel the fog of delusion, cleanse the body politic of the Jacobin spirit,
and lead the world by good example. But this happy outcome will require regime
change in the U.S.