Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

The New American Militarism

The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War
by Andrew J. BacevichNew American Militarism

Ultimately this book ends up being slightly less than the sum of its parts. A conservative critique of unfettered American use of force, it is well written and engaging but somewhat unsatisfying. The critique of the first Gulf War, and the random bombings of Clinton are as brutal and compelling a critique of these normally celebrated eras as you will find. But after that fresh take, the ground becomes much more well trod. Perhaps it is a victim of its own gloomy predictions, in 2005 its fears were new and debatable, today they are self-evident truths. I’ve also read many a latter book which has picked up on some of its themes to varying degrees.

Perhaps for that reason I suspect this would have been stronger as a shorter book, such as a kindle single. While only 226 pages long, the chapters on the nuclear era strategists, conservative Christians and to a lesser extent neocons could have been shrunk and alluded to instead of directly targeted. Like many conservatives Bacevich also tends to have few ideas as to how to address the problem he identifies, beyond simply ‘return to the constitution’ or other idealistic paeans to the past. I also found the use of the WW IV construct contradictory to the overall argument of the book (afterall, if you’re in a true world war, surely militarism has many strenghts)

Still, it ranks as one of the most sensible and serious critiques of the many mistakes of US policy since the end of the Cold War. It isn’t just a left/right issue, it isn’t just the fault of some fallen individual or insidious ideology. Were that it was so easy. Instead, the US needs a fundamental reconsideration of how it ensures its security in the world, both for its own sake, and those of its ideals. Because it can not afford another decade like the last. Nor the one before that…

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