America's Path to Permanent War
By Andrew Bacevich
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805091410, 304pp.)
Publication Date: August 3, 2010
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The bestselling author of The Limits of Power critically examines the Washington consensus on national security and why it must change
For the last half century, as administrations have come and gone, the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained unchanged: American security requires the United States (and us alone) to maintain a permanent armed presence around the globe, to prepare our forces for military operations in far-flung regions, and to be ready to intervene anywhere at any time. In the Obama era, just as in the Bush years, these beliefs remain unquestioned gospel.
In a vivid, incisive analysis, Andrew J. Bacevich succinctly presents the origins of this consensus, forged at a moment when American power was at its height. He exposes the preconceptions, biases, and habits that underlie our pervasive faith in military might, especially the notion that overwhelming superiority will oblige others to accommodate America's needs and desires—whether for cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods. And he challenges the usefulness of our militarism as it has become both unaffordable and increasingly dangerous.
Though our politicians deny it, American global might is faltering. This is the moment, Bacevich argues, to reconsider the principles which shape American policy in the world—to acknowledge that fixing Afghanistan should not take precedence over fixing Detroit. Replacing this Washington consensus is crucial to America's future, and may yet offer the key to the country's salvation.
Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War and The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism and The New American Militarism. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998. He is the recipient of a Lannan Award and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Washington Rules is a tough-minded, bracing and intelligent polemic against some 60 years of American militarism. . . . As foreign policy debates in the run-up to the November elections degenerate into Muslim-bashing bombast, the country is lucky to have a fierce, smart peacemonger like Bacevich."—New York Times Book Review "Eloquent and, above all, passionate. . . Any serious foreign-policy thinker should heed his call."
—Newsweek "Brilliant. . . A convincing critique of America's conduct of war since 1941. . . . Bacevich advocates a more level-headed assessment of danger, advice all the more cogent since it comes from a former soldier."—Washington Post "A reader doesn’t have to be a policy wonk to appreciate Bacevich’s methodical analysis. It’s a reality check: crisp, cogent and straightforward."—The Buffalo News "Engaging and insightful. . . A timely analysis and critique of contemporary and historical defense policies. His writing style is anything but wonkish, and he is great at the clever turn of phrase. . . . Thought provoking."
—The Washington Times "Bacevich, who has excellent credentials and writes with authority about military strategy and international politics, deserves a hearing."—The Boston Globe Bacevich hits upon a truth that cannot be dismissed. . . Eloquent and damning. . . impressively reader-friendly. Bacevich writes with a gut-wrenching honesty that gives his charges a credibility frequently missing in pop denunciations of America’s imperial outreach. . . . One of the best accounts we have of our childlike dependence on the security war-making seems to offer but never quite delivers."
“Bacevich comes with more than just book smarts to question American military power. . . Bacevich is right: there is something un-American about maintaining a huge presence around the world and pursuing endless war without sharp focus or clear goals.”
—Air Force Times “Passionate, personal, and polemical. . . a sophisticated critique of the United States’ global ambitions.”
—Wilson Quarterly "Vivid and critical analysis of the assumptions behind the credo of global leadership and eternal military vigilance that has become increasingly expensive and unsustainable. . . . Bacevich challenges Washington (the president, Congress, and the military industrial complex) as well as citizens to rethink the credo that has directed national security for generations." —Booklist (starred review) "Valiant. . . Discards long-held 'habits of conformity,' rethinking America's mission abroad. . . Welcome thinking by a former military man who has seen the light."—Kirkus "An unsparing, cogent, and important critique of assumptions guiding American military policy."—Publishers Weekly "Provocative. . . well-articulated. . . Bacevich makes his powerful critique of American foreign and military policy in a clear analytical fashion. . . As an initial project for [a] more informed citizenry, I would suggest reading Andrew Bacevich's Washington Rules."—History News Network “To say that Washington Rules is a breath of fresh air in the debate over U.S. foreign policy would be like comparing a zephyr to a hurricane. Writing with Force-Five fury, Andrew Bacevich lays bare the dogmas and shibboleths that have animated national security doctrine for the last half century and produced an Orwellian nightmare of permanent war in the name of permanent peace. This passionate, often discomforting book brings rare clarity to a subject of urgent importance for all Americans.”
—David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 “Against a national strategy gone astray, Bacevich offers a unique combination of rigorous analysis and emotion-powered protest. May it be widely read, may it disenthrall us from the academic generals, militant academics, and cynical politicians who insist that we must invest blood and treasure in mud-brick Afghan villages, while China invests in advanced technology.”
—Edward N. Luttwak author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire “‘Washington Rules’ is the author's shorthand for the American conviction that we always represent the good and the pure in international affairs. His powerful book clearly demonstrates how threadbare this idea has become.”
—Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback Trilogy and Dismantling the Empire “The hard-earned insights of this veteran, analyst, insider, and parent will resonate with people across the political spectrum and offer a serious, riveting, and authentically personal critique of U.S. power.”
—Amy Goodman, host and executive producer, Democracy Now! “Bacevich presents compelling and alarming evidence that our nation is locked into a counterproductive global military presence sustained by power projection and interventionism by military force. A must-read for all those concerned with America’s future.”
—Lt. General (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., PhD “Washington Rules dissects the convictions that have turned the United States into a warrior nation—a country devoted to military solutions that do little, if anything, to enhance its security or advance the well-being of its citizens or the foreign peoples on whom we inflict our illusory benevolence. A brilliant historian’s analysis of what ails America, this book should be read by every national officeholder and and by all who care about America’s future safety and prosperity.”
—Robert Dallek, author of The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953 “Washington Rules exposes well-entrenched assumptions that for decades have underlain ineffective and costly U.S. policies. Bacevich shines a bright light on the meaning of national security and what it requires, while addressing fundamental but long-ignored questions about America's place in the world and the role of military power.”
—Paul R. Pillar author of Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy