It Doesn't Matter Who is President
the movers and the shakers want war
At the suggestion of a liberal acquaintance I have just finished reading a couple of books by retired US Army colonel Andrew Bacevich. I reviewed his 2020 book The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered its Cold War Victory last week. Now I have finished his 2010 book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.
In Age of Illusions Bacevich proposes that he had an Aha moment right after the end of the Cold War when visiting East Germany. He visited the Brandenburg Gate and found “a cluster of shabby-looking young men… hawking… artifacts of the Red Army.” Overall, East Germany “resembled part of the undeveloped world.” Then, at the site of the Napoleonic-era battle of Jena he ran into a Soviet training area. As he and his companions watched a column of Red Army armored vehicles, “Suddenly one of them began spewing smoke. Soon after it burst into flames.”
Against these bums we had to crank up for a 40-year Cold War?
In Washington Rules — and he means the rules by which Washington operates — he develops the idea that, no matter who is president, The Rules apply. There always seem to be a couple of big ego guys running the place, and no president goes against the narrative.
Back in the 1950s the two Big Guys were Allen Dulles at the CIA and Curtis LeMay of the Strategic Air Command. In the Sixties it was Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy calling the shots. Then for 9/11 it was Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Typically these guys presided over disaster after disaster, from the Bay of Pigs to Vietnam to Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan. But after each disaster the narrative spinners just pick themselves up and spin up a new narrative and everyone from the president on down goes along.
Even Democrats. In 2006 they went for Bush II as the monster that got the US bogged down in the endless war in Iraq. But then Obama got elected and cranked up the endless war in Afghanistan.
Administration after administration, Bacevich argues, the US worships a “sacred trinity” with the US maintaining “a global military presence” with its forces capable of “global power projection” and countering threats with “global interventionism.” That was the narrative in the Cold War.
After the Cold War, the US became the “sole superpower.”
Americans rediscovered the allure of garrisoning the planet, once more reconfigured the armed forces for global power projection, and restored military intervention to its status as preferred foreign policy option.
And in the Year of Ukraine, nothing has changed.
Bacevich proposes a new sacred trinity of Washington Rules.
“the purpose of the US military is to defend the United States”
“the primary duty station of the American soldier is in America”
“the United States should employ force only as a last resort”
Bacevich is clearly writing for a lefty, peacenik audience. His Age of Illusions sports a blurb on the back cover from Bill Moyers. He notes that we have been interested in war since the 1898 Spanish-American War, and then World War I. But I would say that we were interested in war right through the 19th century, with the Mexican War in 1846, and endless Indian wars right up until the official closing of the frontier in 1890. And then there is World War II, which I say was the result of US stupidity at the Treaty of Versailles.
The fact is that politics is about taking the war to the enemy, whether the enemy is foreign or domestic or both. And even a “peace movement” is a political war on the warmongers, with demonstrations, protests, peaceful protests, as shows of force.
Against the Age of Politics, I Have a Dream that one fine day we humans will discover a way to channel male aggression into less lethal channels, so that the highest and best thing is fighting to the death to do a tech startup, or creating resusable rockets against all odds to Occupy Mars.
Then there is this, that the CIA funded Sergey Brin, founder of Google, at Stanford. Nooo! Tell me it ain’t so!