Andrew J. Bacevich

What Poets Can Teach Us About the War in Afghanistan
December 20, 2010

The editor of a journal recently asked me to write an article addressing this question: “What will Afghanistan look like in 2020?” I declined, saying that my contribution would consist of two words: “Who knows?” I should have added: “Who cares?” The answer, of course, in that everyone in Washington seems to care. Indeed, Washington obsesses about Afghanistan—hence, the never-ending stream of assessments and reassessments, study group reports and op-eds to which we are treated, each possessing a shelf life of approximately 15 minutes.

The Page That Refuses to Turn
October 25, 2010

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only.

Obama Can't Stand Up to His Generals—And That's Dangerous
October 04, 2010

"The President is an elected king," wrote Randolph Bourne nearly a century ago, "but the fact that he is elected has proved to be of far less significance ... than the fact that he is pragmatically a king." Bourne thereby identified a central truth of modern American politics: Stripped to its essence, our democracy has become an elaborate process of conferring enormous power on a single individual. What we choose to call an inauguration is more accurately a coronation.

Hillary Clinton's 'American Moment' Was Nothing But American Blather
September 13, 2010

It came. It went. It vanished without a trace. Last week America’s secretary of state appeared before what passes in Washington for a gathering of the great and good and announced that a “new American Moment” had arrived. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton (and her hopelessly pedestrian speechwriters), the secretary’s effort to brand our age didn’t take. The duration of the new American Moment did not extend beyond the peroration of her eminently forgettable speech. The temptation to pass quietly over Clinton’s performance and move on is strong—but should be resisted.

Obama Wants Us To Forget the Lessons of Iraq
August 31, 2010

The Iraq war? Fuggedaboudit. “Now, it is time to turn the page.” So advises the commander-in-chief at least. “[T]he bottom line is this,” President Obama remarked last Saturday, “the war is ending.” Alas, it’s not. Instead, the conflict is simply entering a new phase. And before we hasten to turn the page—something that the great majority of Americans are keen to do—common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment.

Civilian Control? Surely, You Jest.
August 18, 2010

The principle of civilian control forms the foundation of the American system of civil-military relations, offering assurance that the nation’s very powerful armed forces and its very influential officer corps pose no danger to our democracy. That’s the theory at least, the one that gets printed in civics books and peddled to the plain folk out in Peoria.     Reality turns out to be considerably more complicated.

Americans Should Be Asked to Sacrifice for the War on Terrorism. But Sacrifice What?
August 04, 2010

The following query found its way into my in-box: Could you please tell me what "sacrifices" you think we should be making because we are at war? I told a friend about how I had seen you on TV saying that we are at war, but people aren't making sacrifices. So he asked me what sacrifices, and I couldn't give him an answer. Glad to oblige. Typically, this sort of question serves as a prelude to an appeal to restore the draft. Yet when it comes to sacrifice, there’s a more immediately available option.

Leakistan: The New Insurgency
July 25, 2010

Based on initial press reports, the leaking of “90,000 classified documents” related to the Afghanistan war doesn’t really tell us much that we don’t already know. Our Afghan partners are less than reliable. Nation-building is a painstakingly slow enterprise. At least some Pakistanis are playing a double game. NATO forces continue to kill non-combatants, despite universal acknowledgment that doing so alienates the people whose affections we are desperate to win. The insurgents are on the march. Who, if anyone, is likely to find any of this news?

A Moral Foreign Policy? Get Serious.
July 21, 2010

My last post, suggesting it might be morally problematic for a commander-in-chief to persist in waging a war to which he is less than fully committed, drew this response from Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security: Bacevich wants us to consider foreign policy decisions black-and-white moral affairs. Bush, he argues, reliably chose the wrong option out of two available but was at least guided by a flawed moral compass. Obama, Bacevich argues, is amoral. This is absurd. In matters of war, leaders at all levels make hard moral choices involving sin and virtue.

July 07, 2010

As a candidate for president, George W. Bush famously promised to pursue a “humble” foreign policy. The events of 9/11—for Bush akin to a conversion experience—swept humility by the board. The 43rd president found his true calling: Providence was summoning him to purge the world of evil. When it came to fulfilling this mission, Bush’s subsequent efforts yielded precious little. Recklessness compounded by profound incompetence became the hallmark of his administration.