The Anatomy Of US Military Policy: An Interview With Andrew Bacevich

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Andrew Bacevich ~ Photo: democracynow.org

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been the only true global superpower, with US policymakers intervening freely anywhere around the world where they feel there are vital political or economic interests to be protected. Most of the time US policymakers seem to act without a clear strategy at hand and surely without feeling the need to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Such is the case, for instance, with the invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. US policymakers also seem to be clueless about what to do with regard to several “hot spots” around the world, such as Libya and Syria, and it is rather clear that the US no longer has a coherent Middle East policy.

What type of a global power is this? I posed this question to retired colonel and military historian Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University professor who has authored scores of books on US foreign and military policy, including America’s War for the Greater Middle East, Breach of Trust, and The Limits of Power. In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Bacevich explains how the militaristic nature of US foreign policy is a serious impediment to democracy and human rights.

C.J. Polychroniou: I’d like to start by asking you to outline the basic principles and guidelines of the current national military strategy of the United States.

Andrew Bacevich: There is no coherent strategy. US policy is based on articles of faith — things that members of the foreign policy establishment have come to believe, regardless of whether they are true or not. The most important of those articles is the conviction that the United States must “lead” — that the alternative to American leadership is a world that succumbs to anarchy. An important corollary is this: Leadership is best expressed by the possession and use of military power.

According to the current military strategy, US forces must be ready to confront threats whenever they appear. Is this a call for global intervention?

Almost, but not quite. Certainly, the United States intervenes more freely than any other nation on the planet. But it would be a mistake to think that policymakers view all regions of the world as having equal importance. Interventions tend to reflect whatever priorities happen to prevail in Washington at a particular moment. In recent decades, the Greater Middle East has claimed priority attention.

What’s really striking is Washington’s refusal or inability to take into account what this penchant for armed interventionism actually produces. No one in a position of authority can muster the gumption to pose these basic questions: Hey, how are we doing? Are we winning? Once US forces arrive on the scene, do things get better?

The current US military strategy calls for an upgrade of the nuclear arsenal. Does “first use” remain an essential component of US military doctrine?

It seems to, although for the life of me I cannot understand why. US nuclear policy remains frozen in the 1990s. Since the end of the Cold War, in concert with the Russians, we’ve made modest but not inconsequential reductions in the size of our nuclear arsenal. But there’s been no engagement with first order questions. Among the most important: Does the United States require nuclear weapons to maintain an adequate deterrent posture? Given the advances in highly lethal, very long range, very precise conventional weapons, I’d argue that the answer to that question is, no. Furthermore, as the only nation to have actually employed such weapons in anger, the United States has a profound interest and even a moral responsibility to work toward their abolition — which, of course, is precisely what the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obliges us to do. It’s long past time to take that obligation seriously. For those who insist that there is no alternative to American leadership, here’s a perfect opportunity for Washington to lead.

Does the US have, at the present time, a Middle East policy?

Not really, unless haphazardly responding to disorder in hopes of preventing things from getting worse still qualifies as a policy. Sadly, US efforts to “fix” the region have served only to make matters worse. Even more sadly, members of the policy world refuse to acknowledge that fundamental fact. So we just blunder on.
There is no evidence — none, zero, zilch — that the continued U.S. military assertiveness in that region will lead to a positive outcome. There is an abundance of evidence pointing in precisely the opposite direction.

Was the US less militaristic under the Obama administration than it was under the Bush administration?

It all depends on how you define “militaristic.” Certainly, President Obama reached the conclusion rather early on that invading and occupying countries with expectations of transforming them in ways favorable to the United States was a stupid idea. That said, Obama has shown no hesitation to use force and will bequeath to his successor several ongoing wars.
Obama has merely opted for different tactics, relying on air strikes, drones and special operations forces, rather than large numbers of boots on the ground. For the US, as measured by casualties sustained and dollars expended, costs are down in comparison to the George W. Bush years. Are the results any better? No, not really.

To what extent is the public in the US responsible for the uniqueness of the military culture in American society?

The public is responsible in this sense: The people have chosen merely to serve as cheerleaders. They do not seriously attend to the consequences and costs of US interventionism.
The unwillingness of Americans to attend seriously to the wars being waged in their names represents a judgment on present-day American democracy. That judgment is a highly negative one.

What will US involvement in world affairs look like under the Trump administration?

Truly, only God knows.
Trump’s understanding of the world is shallow. His familiarity with the principles of statecraft is negligible. His temperament is ill-suited to cool, considered decision making.
Much is likely to depend on the quality of advisers that he surrounds himself with. At the moment, he seems to favor generals. I for one do not find that encouraging.

Copyright, Truthout. 

Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he received his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.

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The Real Adam Smith: Ideas That Changed The World

The Real Adam Smith: A Personal Exploration by Johan Norberg, takes an intriguing, two-part look at Smith and the evolution and relevance of his ideas today, both economic and ethical. It’s difficult to imagine that a man who lived with horse drawn carriages and sailing ships would foresee our massive 21st century global market exchange, much less the relationship between markets and morality. But Adam Smith was no ordinary 18th century figure. Considered the “father of modern economics,” Smith was first and foremost a moral philosopher. The revolutionary ideas he penned in The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, changed the world. Norberg explores Smith’s insights regarding free trade and the nature of wealth to the present, where they are thriving and driving the world’s economy.

In the second hour, Ideas That Changed The World, Norberg traces Smith’s insights regarding the benefits of free trade and the nature of wealth to the present, where they are currently in operation. He talks with some of the most distinguished Adam Smith scholars, as well as leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies to discover how Smith’s ideas continue to be relevant and drive the global economy today.

Visit our media website to find other programs here: http://freetochoosemedia.org/index.php

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The Spinoza Web

spinozaThe Spinoza Web is a website that seeks to make the Dutch philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-1677) accessible to a wide range of users from interested novices to advanced scholars, and everything in between. It is a continually developing, active project whose success depends on its users. Please contact us with feedback, suggestions, and ideas!

At present our website offers two points of entry. The ‘Timeline Experience’ tells the story of Spinoza, using rich graphic and other supporting material through which the user can navigate to enter and experience his very world. The ‘Database Search’ is a gateway to an enormous repository for the study of Spinoza, whose goal is eventually to assemble all first-hand documentation pertaining to him. Attractively designed without compromising on scholarly standards, our website promotes a source-based contextual approach to Spinoza who, revered and reviled, has had countless rumours and myths attached to his name over the course of the centuries.

‘Spinoza’s web’-project
The Spinoza Web is a creation of the ‘Spinoza’s Web’-project of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It traces back to an early initiative of its main executive, Jeroen van de Ven, and was implemented by the project’s principal investigator, Piet Steenbakkers, who had entertained a long-time wish for a website dedicated to Spinoza. In 2014 postdoctoral researcher Albert Gootjes joined their ranks in a largely advisory capacity. Later that year the team commissioned the Rotterdam-based advertising agency Nijgh, which gladly welcomed the new challenge of combining creative inspiration with scholarly rigour.

Beta release
After extensive planning and user tests, November 2016 saw the beta release of The Spinoza Web, notably featuring the ‘Timeline Experience’ and Database with entries largely based on the historical and bibliographical research by Jeroen van de Ven. Subsequent releases are scheduled to boost the ‘Database Search’ by making available in open access Spinoza’s writings both in their original editions and in an authoritative English translation. Further plans include the addition of an interactive element facilitating Spinoza studies. To help us realize our pursuits, we welcome all contributions including but not limited to financial support. Potential contributors are encouraged to get in touch using the Contact page.

See: http://spinozaweb.org/

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Umberto Eco ~ Ur-Fascism

nyrbWe must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances—every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.

In 1942, at the age of ten, I received the First Provincial Award of Ludi Juveniles (a voluntary, compulsory competition for young Italian Fascists—that is, for every young Italian). I elaborated with rhetorical skill on the subject “Should we die for the glory of Mussolini and the immortal destiny of Italy?” My answer was positive. I was a smart boy.

I spent two of my early years among the SS, Fascists, Republicans, and partisans shooting at one another, and I learned how to dodge bullets. It was good exercise.

In April 1945, the partisans took over in Milan. Two days later they arrived in the small town where I was living at the time. It was a moment of joy. The main square was crowded with people singing and waving flags, calling in loud voices for Mimo, the partisan leader of that area. A former maresciallo of the Carabinieri, Mimo joined the supporters of General Badoglio, Mussolini’s successor, and lost a leg during one of the first clashes with Mussolini’s remaining forces. Mimo showed up on the balcony of the city hall, pale, leaning on his crutch, and with one hand tried to calm the crowd. I was waiting for his speech because my whole childhood had been marked by the great historic speeches of Mussolini, whose most significant passages we memorized in school. Silence. Mimo spoke in a hoarse voice, barely audible. He said: “Citizens, friends. After so many painful sacrifices … here we are. Glory to those who have fallen for freedom.” And that was it. He went back inside. The crowd yelled, the partisans raised their guns and fired festive volleys. We kids hurried to pick up the shells, precious items, but I had also learned that freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric.

Read more: http://www.nybooks.com/

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Mijn generatie, tien jaar later. Generatiebesef, jeugdervaringen en levenslopen in Nederland

ester

Binnenkort compleet online: Peter Ester, Henk Vinken & Isabelle Diepstraten ~ Mijn generatie, tien jaar later. Generatiebesef, jeugdervaringen en levenslopen in Nederland. Rozenberg Publishers 2008. ISBN 978 90 361 0099 1

Verder niets, er zijn alleen nog een paar dingen
die ik houd omdat geen mens er iets aan heeft
dat zijn mijn goede jeugdherinneringen
die neem je mee zolang je verder leeft

– Boudewijn de Groot

“Mijn generatie liet zich meer leiden door kerk en politiek en werd daardoor minder zelfstandig”, “In mijn generatie was er voor vrouwen geen pensioen en moest je ophouden met werken als je trouwde”, “In mijn generatie kon het niet op, er was werk genoeg en overal kreeg je subsidie voor”, “Mijn generatie heeft het moeilijk gehad om aan de slag te komen”, “Wat mijn generatie typeert is die enorme vrijheid die we hadden. Je mocht alles onderzoeken”. Dit zijn uitspraken van mensen uit verschillende generaties. Uitspraken die voor velen herkenbaar zijn. Ze suggereren dat personen uit een zelfde generatie gemeenschappelijke ervaringen hebben. Veelal gaat het om ervaringen uit de jeugdjaren die een blijvende indruk achterlaten en een stempel drukken op een generatie. Ervaringen die de lotgevallen van een generatie ook na de jeugdperiode tekenen.

Inhoudsopgave

Inleiding
1. Theorie over generaties
2. Jeugdjaren van generaties
3. Onderzoek naar generaties
4 .Onderwijs
5. Arbeid
6. Cultuur
7. Politiek
8. Toekomst

Epiloog
Literatuur
Over de auteurs

Mijn generatie, tien jaar later verscheen in 2008 bij Rozenberg Publishers. ISBN 978 90 361 0099 1

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Mijn generatie, tien jaar later ~ Inleiding

esterVerder niets, er zijn alleen nog een paar dingen
die ik houd omdat geen mens er iets aan heeft
dat zijn mijn goede jeugdherinneringen
die neem je mee zolang je verder leeft

Boudewijn de Groot

“Mijn generatie liet zich meer leiden door kerk en politiek en werd daardoor minder zelfstandig”, “In mijn generatie was er voor vrouwen geen pensioen en moest je ophouden met werken als je trouwde”, “In mijn generatie kon het niet op, er was werk genoeg en overal kreeg je subsi­die voor”, “Mijn generatie heeft het moeilijk gehad om aan de slag te ko­men”, “Wat mijn generatie typeert is die enorme vrijheid die we hadden. Je mocht alles onderzoeken”. Dit zijn uitspraken van mensen uit verschil­lende generaties. Uitspraken die voor velen herkenbaar zijn. Ze suggere­ren dat personen uit een zelfde generatie gemeenschappelijke ervaringen hebben. Veelal gaat het om ervaringen uit de jeugdjaren die een blijvende indruk achterlaten en een stempel drukken op een generatie. Ervaringen die de lotgevallen van een generatie ook na de jeugdperiode tekenen.

De media verklaren opvattingen en gedragingen van bepaalde groepen vaak uit generatielidmaatschap. Ze putten zich uit in het bedenken van rake generatiestereotyperingen. Een willekeurige greep: de ‘generatie van nix’ (De Volkskrant en De Groene Amsterdammer), de ‘generatie van genieters’ (HP/De Tijd), de ‘meerkeuze generatie’ (NRC Handelsblad), de ‘betalende generatie’, de ‘generatie fantastisch’ (De Standaard), de ‘Mammoetgeneratie’ (Intermediair), de ‘grenzeloze generatie’ (HP/De Tijd), de ‘stille generatie’ (Elsevier), de ‘anti-nix generatie’ (De Groene Amsterdammer), de ‘achterbank generatie’ (De Volkskrant), de ‘XTC ge­neratie’ (Nieuwe Revu), de ‘laconieke generatie’ (De Volkskrant), de ‘op­timistische generatie’, de ‘weg-van-de-waanzinnige-werkelijkheid-genera­tie’ (Adformatie), de ‘hapsnap-generatie’ en de ‘schnabbelgeneratie’ (HP/ De Tijd), de ‘generatie nuchter’ (Elsevier) en de ‘eliminatiegeneratie’, de ‘schokvaste generatie’ en de ‘ouderloze generatie’ (De Volkskrant).

Deze labeling wordt vaak opgediend met een dun cultuursociologisch sausje (vgl. Pijffers, 1993; Popcorn, 1991; Popcorn & Marygold, 1996). Soms worden daarbij hele decennia verdicht tot één uniek sociaal, cultu­reel en politiek klimaat, zoals de zompige, saaie en zelfgenoegzame jaren vijftig, de experimentele jaren zestig (‘the Gay Sixties’), of de een diepgaande reflectie op de feiten. Het zijn speculaties die niettemin een gevoel van herkenning oproepen, makkelijk weg lezen, kundig in de markt gezet worden, en lekker in het gehoor liggen. Read more

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