Day By Day

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Terminal Silliness of Andrew Bacevich

As I write this, I have C-Span on in the background. Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism, is making a stunningly idiotic argument. He points out that through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and even the twentieth centuries, the US raised and trained armies to meet specific military threats, then once that threat was defeated disbanded the armies. The real American military tradition, he argues, is that of an extremely small standing army -- a tradition that has been violated since the end of the Cold War.

Actually Andrew, the small army tradition you cherish so much existed in a very different world. That was a time when America was thousands of miles away from any threatening force, behind oceans protected by the British military, and surrounded by weak states we could easily dominate. After 1815 there was no real possibility that we would have to fight a major foe.

The change you dislike so much actually came at the end of WWII. The vast mobilization of that war merged into a permanent Cold War and the creation of what Ike called "the military-industrial complex," and a set of global commitments that spread our forces over much of the globe. By the mid-seventies those forces were entirely professionalized.

And, let us not forget, the end of the Cold War left us in a world of modern technologies shrunk distance to the point where those vast oceans were no longer adequate protection [especially since Britain was no longer patrolling them] and empowered potential enemies [both state and non-state] with weapons that could unleash devastating damage on us. We also inherited a world where we, not Britain, maintained and protected a globe-spanning network of economic interests. Because of our new role in the world and because of the new technologies of communication and destruction, we had to maintain the capacity to project our power with devastating effect, anywhere and everywhere throughout the world.

Wake up guy -- this is not the nineteenth century and hasn't been for a long-long time.

At least James Fallows challenged him on the basis that his publications have been entirely critical of the military and betray an anti-military bias, to which he replied that he was one of a small group of people who are working to reverse the recent trend toward perpetual militarism. At least he is up front about his bias; that allows readers to gauge the extent to which it shapes his conclusions. I wish historians were so honest.

Now Condi Rice is speaking. She (who shall not be named) notes that she has softened her image -- new hair style and "a really nice" conservative suit. I guess the "Emma Peel" look wasn't working for her. Here come the protesters -- she handles it well. She says it is a wonderful thing that people can speak their minds..., and that they now can do so in Baghdad. [Thunderous applause]

Condi's cool. She's got the audience with her. You go girl! The theme -- free trade promotes political liberalism and prosperity. OK.

No comments: