Streams

Citizen Soldiers Needed

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations and history at Boston University, West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, and author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, criticizes the American public for leaving national defense to "other people" and looks at the effects of the gulf between them on policy.

 


Excerpt: Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country

 

People’s War

War is an unvarnished evil. Yet as with other evils—fires that clear out forest undergrowth, floods that replenish soil nutrients—war’s legacy can include elements that may partially compensate (or at least appear to compensate) for the havoc inflicted and incurred.

For the United States, the Civil War offered one such occasion. To preserve the Union and destroy slavery, Americans served and sacrificed without stint. The citizen-soldiers who responded to the charge contained in the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”—“As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free”—won a great victory. In doing so, they set the stage for the nation’s emergence in the latter part of the nineteenth century as the world’s preeminent economic power. Out of blood came muscle.

World War II proved to be a second such occasion for acquiring muscle, if not for other powers at least for the United States. Yet by 1941, in return for service and sacrifice, Americans expected rewards more tangible than the satisfaction of doing God’s will. Once again, citizen-soldiers would fight for freedom. Thanks to the New Deal, however, freedom meant something more than submission to market forces. It now implied some measure of reciprocity, with citizens guaranteed access to the minimum essentials of life.

In describing what was at stake in World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called this “freedom from want.”1 Making freedom thus defined available to the average American was by now becoming the job of political authorities in Washington. So in their approach to justifying war against the Axis, Roosevelt and his lieutenants shrewdly emphasized a shimmering consumer-oriented vision of democratic purpose.

To a greater extent than any prior conflict, mobilizing for World War II became an indisputably communal undertaking, involving quite literally everyone. So, too, did the war’s actual conduct. As a result, the historian William O’Neill writes, the United States fought World War II as a “people’s war.” Rather than “uphold[ing] personal gratification as the be all and end all of life,” Americans demonstrated a hitherto hidden capacity for government-prescribed collective action.2 The appetite for personal gratification did not disappear. Yet at least for the duration Americans proved willing to curb it.

In this regard, the cultural moment was propitious. For a short time, the distance separating elite, middlebrow, and popular artistic expression seemed to collapse. Proletarian impulses released by the Great Depression persisted into the war years, infused now with a sense of hope that the promise of American life might indeed find fulfillment—and soon. Yearning and expectation gradually displaced the anger and despair that had characterized the 1930s. On symphony stages, this popular mood found expression in works like Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) and Appalachian Spring (1944). On Broadway, there was Oklahoma!(1943) by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. (“We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand!”) At the movies, Oscar-nominated films such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Our Town (1940), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and Sergeant York (1941) all mined the rich vein of populism. In photography these tendencies suffused the social realism of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. In painting, American regionalists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry paid homage to ordinary workers while expressing nostalgia for small-town and rural America. In a war-specific context, there was the memorable work of the cartoonist Bill Mauldin, creator of the “dogface” soldiers Willie and Joe. Elitism had not disappeared from the American scene, but for a time it was thrown on the defensive.

“In a democracy,” Undersecretary of War Robert Patterson declared in 1944, “all citizens have equal rights and equal obligations.” A graduate of Harvard Law School, Patterson was himself a combat veteran of World War I. “When the nation is in peril,” he continued, “the obligation of saving it should be shared by all, not foisted on a small percentage.”3 With regard to obligations (if not rights), Patterson’s Axiom accurately described the Roosevelt administration’s approach to war. All would contribute to the cause. All would share in whatever burdens the war effort imposed. All (or mostly all) could expect to share in the benefits, the president himself promising “jobs for those who can work. Security for those who need it.The ending of special privilege for the few.The preservation of civil liberties for all.”4

At least as important was this unspoken caveat: although achieving victory would require shared sacrifice, the president would seek to limit the pain and suffering that Americans would actually endure. The price of defeating the Axis promised to be high. Yet FDR intended, wherever possible, to offload that price onto others, while claiming for the United States the lion’s share of any benefits. For some (but not too much) pain, enormous gain—that describes the essence of U.S. grand strategy.

To an astonishing degree, Roosevelt and his lieutenants made good on both elements of this formula.

When it came to raising an army, therefore, inclusiveness became a defining precept. Rather than relying on volunteers, the United States implemented a system of conscription similar to the one devised for World War I. The draft took black and white, rich and poor, the famous and the obscure, Ivy Leaguers and high school dropouts. In order to field a force that peaked at twelve million serving members, the armed services inducted just about anyone meeting their mental and physical prerequisites. The sons of leading politicians like President Roosevelt served, as did the sons of multimillionaires like Joseph P. Kennedy. Hollywood idols Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, and James Stewart found themselves in uniform. So, too, did A-list movie directors Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, and William Wyler; baseball stars Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Hank Greenberg; and boxing greats Joe Louis and Gene Tunney.

In other words, the United States waged World War II with a citizen army that reflected the reigning precepts of American democracy (not least of all in its adherence to Jim Crow practices). Never again would U.S. forces reflect comparable diversity. Never again would they demonstrate comparable levels of overall effectiveness.

Service exacted sacrifice. Patterson’s Axiom applied across the board. Among the four hundred thousand American lives claimed by World War II were nineteen players from the National Football League.5 Glenn Miller, America’s most popular bandleader, was killed while serving with the U.S. Army Air Forces. Harvard University contributed its share. Inscribed on one wall of the university’s Memorial Church are the names of 453 Harvard men who died in World War II—just 35 fewer than the total number of West Pointers lost.6 Harvard’s dead included four members of the university faculty and the nation’s commander in chief (class of 1904).

The citizen-army’s strengths and limitations as a fighting force reflected—and affirmed—the civil-military contract forged for the duration, the essence of which was a widely shared determination “to get the goddam thing over and get home,” the sooner the better.7 According to the novelist James Gould Cozzens, a World War II veteran, the average soldier lost little sleep contemplating the question “why we fight.” Only a single definition of purpose “carried or ever could carry any weight with him.”

His war aim was to get out as soon as possible and go home. This didn’t mean that he wouldn’t fight—on the contrary. Brought within fighting distance of the enemy, he saw well enough that until those people over there were all killed or frightened into quitting, he would never get home. He did not need to know about their bad acts and wicked principles. Compared to the offense they now committed . . . by shooting at him and keeping him here, any alleged atrocities of theirs, any evil schemes of their commanders, were mere trifles.8

Home signified homely satisfactions. “Your ordinary, plain, garden-variety GI Joe,” wrote Richard Polenberg in his popular history of the war, “was fighting for the smell of fried chicken, or a stack of Dinah Shore records on the phonograph, or the right to throw pop bottles at the umpire at Ebbets Field.”9 Or as the journalist James Wechsler put it, throughout World War II, “the American soldier—happily—always remained a civilian. His vision of the brave new world was hardly as luminous as that of editorial writers. He wanted merely security and peace and a chance to go back where he came from. . . . In a word, status quo ante, with trimmings.”10

Such mundane aspirations did not imply a grant of authority allowing Roosevelt to expend American lives with abandon. Indeed, for FDR to assume otherwise would have placed his bargain with the American people at risk. Fortunately, circumstances did not require that the president do so. More fortunately still, he and his advisers understood that.

Machine War

The outcome of World War II turned, above all, on two factors: in Europe, the prowess and durability of the Red Army; in the Pacific, the weakness and vulnerability of the Japanese economy. To hit the perfect strategic sweet spot—winning big without losing too much—required the United States to exploit both of these factors. This Roosevelt ably succeeded in doing.

Success entailed making the most of America’s comparative advantage in the production of war-essential matériel. Whatever the category—coal, oil, steel, foodstuffs, or finished goods like ships, tanks, and aircraft—no other belligerent could match the United States in productive capacity. Moreover, the American “arsenal of democracy”—difficult to attack and impossible to conquer—lay beyond the effective reach of Axis forces.11 Not long after Pearl Harbor, the army chief of staff, General George C. Marshall, announced, “We are determined before the sun sets on this terrible struggle that our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming power on the other.”12 Tapping that arsenal for all it was worth held the key to fulfilling Marshall’s vision, which was also Roosevelt’s.

The essential task was to expedite the conversion of U.S. economic might into Allied killing capacity. On that score, in the eyes of America’s senior war managers, Soviet fighting power represented an asset of incalculable value. In Washington, Winston Churchill’s speeches about the common heritage of the “English-speaking peoples,” however inspiring, mattered less than did the Red Army’s manifest ability to absorb and inflict punishment. “A democracy,” Marshall later remarked, “cannot fight a Seven Years War.”13 When it came to waging total war, totalitarian dictatorships did not labor under comparable limitations. The people of the Soviet Union would fight as long as their supreme leader, Joseph Stalin, obliged them to do so.

With France defeated and the British empire short of will and wherewithal, the president looked to the Red Army to destroy the mighty Wehrmacht. “The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians,” he told Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau in June 1942. That same year Admiral Ernest King, chief of naval operations, assured reporters in an off-the-record briefing that “Russia will do nine-tenths of the job of defeating Germany.”14

Getting the Russians to shoulder the burden of defeating America’s most dangerous adversary promised both to ensure support for the war effort on the home front and to position the United States to become victory’s principal beneficiary. “The American people will not countenance a long war of attrition,” the Pentagon’s Joint War Plans Committee had warned in 1943.15 A long war of attrition fought by the Soviet Union was altogether another matter, however. For Washington, providing Stalin with whatever the Soviet Union needed to stay in the fight (while easing any doubts the Soviet dictator might entertain about America’s commitment to the cause) constituted not only a strategic priority but also a domestic political imperative.

To appreciate the implications of this arrangement—the Soviets doing most of the fighting while drawing freely on the endless bounty of American farms and factories—consider casualty statistics. At just above four hundred thousand, U.S. military deaths for the period 1941–45 were hardly trivial. Yet compared to the losses suffered by the other major belligerents, the United States emerged from the war largely unscathed. Estimates of Soviet battle losses, for example, range between eleven and thirteen million.16 Add civilian deaths—ten million or more in the Soviet Union, a mere handful in the United States—and the disparity becomes that much greater. To ascribe this to the fortunes of war is to deny Roosevelt credit that is rightly his.

The U.S. approach to waging war against the Japanese empire offered a variation on the same theme. With opportunities for outsourcing that war less available (and less desired), the United States shouldered the principal responsibility for defeating a Japan that was as resource poor as the United States was resource rich. When it came to industrial capacity, Japan was a comparative pygmy, its economy approximately one-tenth as large as the American leviathan. In 1941, Japan accounted for 3.5 percent of global manufacturing output, the United States 32.5 percent. At the outset of hostilities, Japan was producing 5.8 million tons of steel and 53.7 million tons of coal annually. For the United States, the comparable figures were 28.8 million and 354.5 million.17 As the war progressed, this gap only widened. The submarines that decimated Japan’s merchant fleet and the bombers incinerating its cities brought the economy to its knees.

“In any week of her war with Germany between June 1941 and May 1945,” writes the historian H. P. Willmott, succinctly expressing the genius of U.S. grand strategy, “the Soviet Union lost more dead than the total American fatalities in the Pacific war.”18 Many factors account for that disproportion, but among them were calculated choices made by FDR and his principal advisers: give the Russians whatever they needed to kill and be killed fighting Germans; engage the Wehrmacht directly in large-scale ground combat only after it had been badly weakened; and fight the Japanese on terms that played to American advantages, expending matériel on a vast scale in order to husband lives.

“Our standard of living in peace,” General Marshall had declared in September 1939, “is in reality the criterion of our ability to kill and destroy in war,” adding that “present-day warfare is simply mass killing and mass destruction by means of machines resulting from mass production.”19 The unspoken corollary was this: the mass production of machines to wage war could enhance the American standard of living in the peace to follow. A preference for expending machines rather than men could—and did—produce strikingly positive effects on the home front.

Even today, the numbers remain startling. While a conflict of unprecedented scope and ferocity was devastating most of Eurasia, the United States enjoyed a sustained economic boom. Between 1939 and 1944, the nation’s gross domestic product grew by 52 percent in constant dollars. Manufacturing output trebled. Despite rationing—inconvenience packaged as deprivation—consumer spending actually increased.20

More remarkable still, the benefits of this suddenly restored prosperity were broadly distributed. To be sure, the rich became richer, with the wartime pretax income of the top quintile of earners increasing by 55.7 percent. Yet the nonrich also benefited and disproportionately so. Families in the lowest quintile saw their incomes grow by 111.5 percent, in the second lowest by 116 percent.21 Between 1939 and 1944, the share of wealth held by the richest 5 percent of Americans actually fell, from 23.7 percent to 16.8 percent.22 The war that exhausted other belligerents and left untold millions in want around the world found Americans becoming not only wealthier but also more equal.

Notably, all of this happened despite (or because of) increased taxation. Throughout the war, tax policy remained a contentious issue. Overall, however, Americans paid more, and more Americans paid. Between 1940 and 1942, the corporate tax rate went from 24 to 40 percent, with an additional proviso taxing “excess” profits at 95 percent. Tax rates on individual income became more progressive even as larger numbers of wage earners were included in the system. In 1940, approximately 7 percent of Americans paid federal income taxes; by 1944, that figure had mushroomed to 64 percent. No one proposed that wartime might offer a suitable occasion for cutting taxes.23

None of this is to imply that World War II was a “good war,” either on the fighting fronts or at home. If anything, the war stoked deep-seated prejudices and provided an outlet for modern-day pathologies. Race riots rocked major American cities. Bitter strikes paralyzed critical industries. Prostitution flourished. Unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases proliferated. Social dislocation produced increases in juvenile delinquency. To this day, the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans remains a deeply embarrassing stain on President Roosevelt’s record.

Yet if not good, Roosevelt’s war was surely successful. If the essential objective of statecraft is to increase relative power, thereby enhancing a nation-state’s ability to provide for the well-being of its citizens, then U.S. policy during World War II qualifies as nothing less than brilliant. Through cunning and foresight, he and his lieutenants secured for the United States a position of global preeminence while insulating the American people from the worst consequences of the worst war in history. If World War II did not deliver something for nothing, it did produce abundant rewards for much less than might have been expected.

Furthermore, the collaboration forged between government and governed yielded more than victory abroad. At home, it dramatically enhanced the standing of the former while reinvigorating the latter. The Great Depression had undermined the legitimacy of the American political system, prompting doubts about the viability of democratic capitalism. World War II restored that lost legitimacy with interest. As a people, Americans emerged from the war reassured that prosperity was indeed their birthright and eager to cash in on all that a fully restored American dream promised. Thanks to FDR’s masterly handling of strategy, those gains came at a decidedly affordable price. War waged by the people had produced battlefield success and much more besides.

 

From the book [How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country]. Copyright (c) 2013 by [Andrew J. Bacevich]. Reprinted by permission of [Metropolitan Books]. All rights reserved.

Guests:

Andrew Bacevich
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [28]

Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Why so upset? I don't expect you to be knowledgeable or interesting; scoring on you is easier than the Giants defense.I can anticipate your cold war Reagan era artifact/AIPAC line easily. Keep banging the war drums, you just might get your way... but not on Syria. Hard to swallow that eh? Hahaha. Come and spend your money out in the open friend, your pals in the ranks are already turning their backs on you.

As for my handle it is short and sweet, 15 key strokes, yours is 67? OMG, do you really think anyone cares that you think yourself superior to the neighborhood in which you live? I love how obsessed you are with my posts. Did you think you were some sort of intellectual because people would rather smile and walk away than debate you? They're scared buddy! I am too, but please keep posting, you're better than Netflix for on demand entertainment.

Your Pal,

Mr. Bad

Sep. 24 2013 06:34 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Mr. Bad from NYC,

As if "Mr. Bad" is not a trollish name.

Crawl back under your bridge socialist troll.

Sep. 24 2013 05:23 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

You wrote:

"Yadda, Yadda, Yadda."

Brilliant. A+. This one sentence summarizes all your points perfectly. A miracle of concise expression. Bravo.

Here's a new one for you to employ when cornered by your seeming ignorance and lack of insight:

“Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true. Facts, schmacts.” -Homer Simpson

Sep. 24 2013 04:33 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Mr. Bad from NYC said:

> Doesn't your ignorance ever embarrass you? What a shamefully sad attempt to troll. You could at least take a defensible position based on facts instead of fantasy.

I am not embarrassed by pointing out your Double Standards.

> Abkhazia and South Ossetia's governments have treaties with Russia for continued defense of their territory so I really don't know what you're talking about and neither do you apparently.

Russian tanks INVADING another independent country looks good to Imperialist Socialists, but not to civilized people.

> 2.) All interested parties, i.e. China, USA, Taiwan, acknowledge the "One China" policy. It has been this way for decades. The question is not whether or not Taiwan (ROC) is a sovereign nation, but what other status OTHER than a sovereign nation it should have and how and when or even if it will be fully reintegrated under PRC control.

Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

If Taiwan wanted to be part of the China Borg it would have happened by now. So counter to your Imperialist Socialist ideology, Taiwan is not "inviting" China to invade it as you claim South Ossetia "invited" KGB Putins Russia to "defend" it.

> 3.) Your stunning ignorance of these basic and well known facts make me wonder if you have a genuine viewpoint at all or any reason to post other than to vent your spleen.

Sorry comrade. I don't buy into your Imperialist Socialist world view. And you do spend time "venting your spleen" in your lengthy nonsense posts.

I wonder how you reacted when the Berlin Wall came down. Must have been a black day for you.

Sep. 24 2013 12:22 PM

@The Truth from Becky

"So he wraps this conversation up by essentially saying "bring back the draft"? Interesting."

Not what I heard at all, Becks. Universal national service in which all citizens are expected to participate is a good thing.

I cannot speak for Dr. Bacevich but two-years of paid national service - education, parks, the trades, medicine, military - preceded by 12 weeks of basic is a good thing in my book.

Sep. 24 2013 12:09 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Doesn't your ignorance ever embarrass you? What a shamefully sad attempt to troll. You could at least take a defensible position based on facts instead of fantasy.

1.)The fact that Georgia invaded South Ossetia is not disputed by any news source, be it pro or anti Russia. So yes, maybe adding some more "LOLS" will redirect the attention away from the fact you don't even know what happened in 2008. The Georgian invasion force was annihilated in Tskhinvali. Do you know where that is? It's in South Ossetia. Duh. Abkhazia and South Ossetia's governments have treaties with Russia for continued defense of their territory so I really don't know what you're talking about and neither do you apparently.

2.) All interested parties, i.e. China, USA, Taiwan, acknowledge the "One China" policy. It has been this way for decades. The question is not whether or not Taiwan (ROC) is a sovereign nation, but what other status OTHER than a sovereign nation it should have and how and when or even if it will be fully reintegrated under PRC control. The US/Taiwan mutual assistance treaty only provides that Taiwan will be protected from military aggression (and this is not explicit) not from eventual reunification on peaceful terms.

3.) Your stunning ignorance of these basic and well known facts make me wonder if you have a genuine viewpoint at all or any reason to post other than to vent your spleen.

Sep. 24 2013 12:00 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Mr. Bad from NYC said:

> Are we under treaty to protect south ossetia? Who cares? South Ossetia WANTS to be under Russian control, they rebelled against Saakashvili and HE invaded.

LOL! Like Kuwait wanted to be under control of Sadaam Hussein? LOL!

> Is there any country we don't have to protect according to you?

Islamist Regime of Iran, Islamist Regime of Pakistan, KGB Putins Russia.

> Maybe we should have deployed our ICBM's to protect a cowardly tie chomper with an inept CIA propped up military like Saakashvili?

KGB Putins Russia is hardly a force for good. Backing the Assad family dictatorship of Syria doesn't look good - especially in light of the use of poison gas, a WMD, like the WMD Saddaam used on the Kurds of Halabja.

> Oh, and Taiwan IS part of China, your should read a book once in awhile.

Which book comrade? Mao's little Red Book?

Sep. 24 2013 11:40 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Are we under treaty to protect south ossetia? Who cares? South Ossetia WANTS to be under Russian control, they rebelled against Saakashvili and HE invaded. Is there any country we don't have to protect according to you? Maybe we should have deployed our ICBM's to protect a cowardly tie chomper with an inept CIA propped up military like Saakashvili?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kid379OjuC0

Oh, and Taiwan IS part of China, your should read a book once in awhile.

Sep. 24 2013 11:24 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jgarbuz from Queens

Your tilting at windmills.

I never said we should abandon our treaty obligations to Japan. If China was prepared to go to war with Japan our treaty would not be a factor. Also, we do not preserve Taiwan's sovereignty, we preserve the peace in the straight. Taiwan will never, ever, go nuclear and the notion that you think it would shows you to be paranoid and uninformed.

A smaller professional core military would be more than enough to keep the peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia. All of your ramblings (which never leave out the requisite Israel reference)smack of AIPAC warmongering. We all know that Israel is the country most likely to spark a mid east conflagration (200+ undeclared nuclear weapons) and without US military presence Israel will actually have to settle with the Palestinians, which could lead to an Israeli civil war.

Sep. 24 2013 11:17 AM
Marc from NYC

I thought it was simply called Empire.

Sep. 24 2013 11:17 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Switzerland just had a plebiscite whether compulsory military service should continue. 70% of the voters said yes. The Swiss citizen is required to perform certain responsibilities for the national good and in turn the nation meets it’s obligation by making sure that a high level of economic and social standards are in place. Citizens of Switzerland are required to perform their duty. In turn society meets its obligation by having a decent standard of living free of poverty and neglect.
What is asked of citizens can only work when society also meets its obligations. Namely the economic well being of its citizenry. With out that nothing can work. Why would any one lay done their life for a nation when the message of the nation is that it doesn’t give a damn for most but concern’s it self for the few.
What the guest is engaging in is some form of Romanticism.

Sep. 24 2013 11:15 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

China wants to invade Taiwan and incorporate it in its Borg.

Sep. 24 2013 11:10 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Mr. Bad from NYC foolishly said:

> We aren't going to invade China nor will China invade Japan. Nor will Russia invade a NATO country.

What about Non-NATO countries - South Ossetia for example?

> The world does not need a global hegemon any longer, the age of "World Wars" is over. It's peace or Armageddon, and if it's the latter the USA will bear the majority of the responsibility for ending civilization as we know it.

Nice pipe dream that might work with cultures that prefer to live. Your fantasy won't work with cultures that believe in 72 virgins/raisins as a reward for dying in service of the jihad.

Sep. 24 2013 11:06 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Only fascists like Bloomberg see the police and the military as interchangeable. In a state which is NOT totalitarian the police, even if corrupt, preserve social order. Abolition of the military may not be achievable but there is nothing inherently wrong with the notion of doing away with the primary driver of chaos, suffering, misery and destruction in human history.

Sep. 24 2013 11:03 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To MR Bad

Thank you for the Palestinian view, but I do not represent AIPAC or anyone other than myself. China will not invade Japan as long as there is a US-Japan Security treaty that protects Japan. We also protect Taiwan. I don't know what China would do otherwise. I can only hope they won't do any such thing. But if the US withdraws, don't expect Japan or Taiwan not to go nuclear immediately thereafter.
Iran might not invade Saudi Arabia, but without US commitment to the Saudi regime, don't expect the Saudis not to go nuclear ASAP.
Diplomacy is toothless without the threat of force. Iran has become a bit more compliant after a few years of biting sanctions. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Without the US, the world scrambles in directions we cannot foresee.

Sep. 24 2013 11:02 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jgarbuz from Queens

Thank you for the reliable AIPAC perspective but the USA has lately been inflating instability and conflict, not restraining it. The notion that our treaty organizations require a huge standing army and Navy is ridiculous. We aren't going to invade China nor will China invade Japan. Nor will Russia invade a NATO country. Our nuclear deterrent along with a small professional core Armed Force built with the accompanying selective service component (doomsday option) would be ideal. It would indeed curb military adventurism and put the emphasis back on diplomacy in foreign relations, something that is sorely lacking when every attempt at reconciliation with regional powers like Iran and China is viewed as weakness. The world does not need a global hegemon any longer, the age of "World Wars" is over. It's peace or Armageddon, and if it's the latter the USA will bear the majority of the responsibility for ending civilization as we know it.

Sep. 24 2013 10:55 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

jf from the truth said:

> There is no future in the military. It must be replaced with the peace corp. Militaries are pure idiocy, pure evil, pure nonsense.

Why stop there? Disband the police. You think that crime will disappear? You think that crime is caused by the actions of the police? Let's see how things work out.

Sep. 24 2013 10:54 AM

Dr. Bacevich said we shouldn't take at face value the claims that the motivations for the interventions in the '90's were humanitarian.

Just before that, the Prof. described motivations for interventions in the mid-East in terms of promoting democracy, solving the problems of the region, making them like us, etc.

Is Dr. Bacevich suggesting that the latter /should/ be taken at face value?

What about the profiteering interests of the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned about?

And other corporate and empire/hegemony-supporting interests?

Sep. 24 2013 10:50 AM
The Truth from Becky

So he wraps this conversation up by essentially saying "bring back the draft"? Interesting.

Sep. 24 2013 10:47 AM
jf from the truth

There is no future in the military. It must be replaced with the peace corp. Militaries are pure idiocy, pure evil, pure nonsense. Government ordered indiscriminate mass murder for corporate profit. Pure corruption. Pure war crimes. Pure horror facilitated by your tax dollars by your representatives.

Sep. 24 2013 10:47 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The unfortunate reality is that without US power, everything crumbles. There is no world order without the US. If the US withdraws, it's like when Rome declined. Much of the world falls into disorder and a new Dark Ages, with countries going nuclear and WMDs being used all over the planet. Unfortunately, the US remains the "indispensable power" for decades to come. The alternative is many countries going nuclear.

Sep. 24 2013 10:45 AM
Dan Ochiva from New York

I would like to hear about the efforts of the makers of military hardware who certainly have 'skin in the game' with helping to push the 'need' for massive levels of investment to protect us from imaginary enemies.

Sep. 24 2013 10:44 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Please ask your guest the following: Does he support the US breaking treaties with countries and thereby forcing them to go nuclear? Yes, after WWII many countries became dependent on treaties and agreements with the US, that the US would be there for them when they are threatened. Should we back out of our commitments and treaties and prefer those countries scramble for their own nuclear weapons instead?

Sep. 24 2013 10:36 AM
bernie from bklyn

the concept that the majority of US citizens have no "skin in the game" regarding our need to start/enter/create wars is the only reason why these asinine decisions are allowed to continue. a draft? maybe....or how about a direct personal tax on every citizen in this country every time we enter or create a war? call it "the president's war decision tax". iraq war never would've happened, obviously.

Sep. 24 2013 10:06 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Americans have always been against a standing army, and never happy about conscription, which was only used when war was imminent. A standing army was always considered a potential threat to democracy. There was rarely any reason for the US to have a conscription army as we had very little serious danger of invasion, as is the case with other countries especially Israel. We put emphasis on our navy instead. The Swiss have had a universal conscript army for centuries, but again to preserve their independence being a small democratic state in the midst of great powers at one time.
National service is probably a good thing, to give young unemployed as sense of service and responsibility before they enter the work force in a serious manner. But the military does not want nor need a conscript army, and to say that a conscript army will restrain the US from intervening in foreign conflicts is not proven. It's a theory. And the US does have treaties, interests and obligations around the world and sometimes does have to intervene militarily. We don't want more countries to get atomic bombs, and so we have treaties with many which they count on.

Sep. 24 2013 09:58 AM

CORRECTION: "who were warned all-along",
was meant to have read,
"who were *warning* all-along", or,
"who warned all along".

Sep. 24 2013 06:36 AM

Professor Bacevich:
In March, 2008 you wrote a piece entitled, "The Right Choice? The conservative case for Barack Obama"[1]. I have read that you have since expressed disappointment in the President.

Two Questions:
1.) Do you have any regrets in not taking greater heed of voices such as those of Jeremy Scahill and Noam Chomsky, among any number of others, who were warned all-along not to be taken-in by Obama's rhetoric?

2.) How did you vote in last year's Presidential election?

Brian Lehrer/Staff/Station:

Just two, out of many themes and topics that would more than warrant entire segments with Dr. Bacevich:
-On his "heretical" view that Ronald Reagan was far from conservative
-In conversation/debate with the likes of Noam Chomsky or Jeremy Scahill

NOTES:
[1] http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-right-choice/

[2] Shared by, among others, historian John Lukacs, by the way.
See 'How Right Was Reagan?', Richard Gamble, The American Conservative, May, 2009
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-right-was-reagan/

Note, also, that Noam Chomsky has had some things to say about the characterization of Reagan as "conservative".

Here's just one example, from (according to Wikiquote; can't verify source because link is broken) a 1990 interview with Adam Jones:

"The political policies that are called conservative these days would appall any genuine conservative, if there were one around to be appalled. For example, the central policy of the Reagan Administration - which was supposed to be conservative - was to build up a powerful state. The state grew in power more under Reagan than in any peacetime period, even if you just measure it by state expenditures. The state intervention in the economy vastly increased.[...]"

More at:
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky

Sep. 24 2013 06:28 AM

Thank you WNYC and BL & Co. for finally having Dr. Bacevich on the show again. A refreshing change from all the establishment voices (to put it charitably) we've been hearing day after day.

I hope you will invite the professor back for a full segment on Syria and other unfolding events.

Sep. 13 2013 07:33 AM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.