Military Guy Against Endless War
but otherwise clueless
A very liberal acquaintance mentioned to me the the name of Andrew Bacevich. He’s a retired US Army colonel who has written a slew of books arguing against our current national policy of endless war. I am most of the way through his 2020 book The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered its Cold War Victory.
Bacevich is against the elite consensus of “globalized neoliberalism, militarized hegemony, individual empowerment” that has characterized the post Cold War era. He notes that as soon as the Cold War was over, Bush I was making war in the Middle East. Then Clinton bombed the remains of Yugoslavia, Bush II invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama left Iraq and then returned, and the “revived Iraq War spilled into Syria, and he mounted a “surge” in Afghanistan that “failed miserably.”
It was during [Obama’s] presidency that the very idea of war termination vanished from national security circles. The concept of “forever wars” took hold.
Really, it’s a story of ruling-class cluelessness. And Bacevich underlines his narrative by saying that Trump is what you get when the ruling class screws up. But you knew that.
But Bacevich is writing for a readership of progressives, so his tale of the folly of endless war is backed up by a leftist approach to culture and economics. Oh and don’t forget climate change! Post Cold War America is a culture war between those “with an ‘impulse toward orthodoxy’” and those fighting for freedom from “race, gender, and sexuality” discrimination. The Great Recession was a consequence of “complex financial instruments… [that] investment banks had essentially perpetrated [as] a gigantic swindle.” No mention of low-down mortgages and liar loans at the behest of Fannie and Freddie.
So, while Bacevich has original things to say about wars and military affairs, the rest of his narrative is pure liberal conventional wisdom, whether it’s race or climate or neoliberalism. Bless his heart.
What is “neoliberalism,” by the way? I am coming to think that it is just a convenient pejorative that anyone can use to show that nobody is pulling the wool over their eyes on the economic front.
Only, of course, nobody knows nuttin’ about national or global economics. In my view, anyone complaining about “neoliberalism” is just advertising their ignorance.
But I am finding the military, endless war, critique useful. And it behoves our non-Democratic leaders to get a clue about endless wars and meddling in everyone’s business.
But there’s a problem, for a chap like me that’s read his Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt’s Concept of the Political and knows that there is no politics without an enemy. How do you get your national leaders — or any politicians — to cool their jets and stop going to war, whether it’s war with Putin or war with J6 insurrectionists.
It’s the great Question for the Ages. Ever since the Dawn of Time we have needed men to do the fighting for us. Because food-growing territory. But now we don’t need to fight about stuff. And yet we are still programmed for all that fighting.
Really, it is the most amazing challenge for the human race, exciting and frightening: to convert our fighting instinct into some kind of non-violent competition that doesn’t build mountains of skulls. I think that we are only at the very beginning of figuring out how to do it. I give Andrew Bacevich credit for figuring out the military end of this. It’s our job to go to work on the economic and cultural end of it. Because our liberal friends don’t have a clue.