Andrew Bacevich

Andrew Bacevich is a former colonel in the US army and the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.

A Prize from Fairyland: The CIA in Iran

Andrew Bacevich, 2 November 2017

In a narrow sense, the crisis in US-Iran relations that erupted in the early 1950s derived from three intersecting factors: oil, the end of empire and the Cold War. As Lord Ismay put it, the purpose of Nato, created in 1949, was to ‘keep the Russians out, the Americans in and Germany down’. The purpose of US policy towards Iran at the time can be reduced to a similarly neat triad: excluding Russia, showing Britain the door and keeping Iran’s government tied directly to Washington.

At no time during the sixty-plus years since General MacArthur’s downfall have existing civil-military arrangements worked as advertised. That is to say, never has the interaction of military and civilian leaders, conducted in an atmosphere of honesty and mutual respect, privileging the national interest rather than personal ambition and institutional agendas, yielded consistently enlightened policies. This remains one of the dirty little secrets the American elite is reluctant to own up to. In that respect, the clash between Truman and MacArthur represents not the resolution of a problem but a harbinger of problems to come.

Small nations, take heed: Hanoi’s War

Andrew Bacevich, 7 February 2013

Does the Cold War date from 1946 when Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech? Or had it begun decades earlier, when Churchill sought through armed intervention to strangle the Bolshevik Revolution in its cradle? Did the conflict that Washington calls the Persian Gulf War end on 28 February 1991 when George H.W. Bush declared a unilateral ceasefire? Or did that ceasefire signify...

A Hell of a Spot: Eisenhower and Suez

Andrew Bacevich, 16 June 2011

For the United States, what was once the strategic periphery has become the centre. On the short list of places deemed worth fighting for in the mid-20th century, Americans included Western Europe and East Asia. Any hostile power looking to control those critical regions sooner or later met with firm US resistance. In contrast, nations in the Near East or Central Asia were not worth fighting...

Social Work with Guns: America’s Wars

Andrew Bacevich, 17 December 2009

By escalating the war in Afghanistan – sending an additional 34,000 US reinforcements in order to ‘finish the job’ that President Bush began but left undone – Barack Obama has implicitly endorsed Bush’s conviction that war provides an antidote to violent anti-Western jihadism. By extension, Obama is perpetuating the effort begun in 1980 to establish American...

The Long War: Motives behind the Surge

Andrew Bacevich, 26 March 2009

Thomas Ricks’s Fiasco, published in 2006, was a scathing account of the invasion and occupation of Iraq; The Gamble covers the ‘surge’ that pulled Iraq back from the edge of the abyss. By 2006, with Bush still insisting that the war was going swimmingly and the Pentagon keen to hand the war over to the Iraqis, it seemed that the US was heading for a catastrophic defeat. If...

The events of 11 September 2001 killed thousands, left many thousands more bereft, and horrified countless millions who merely bore witness. But for a few, 9/11 suggested an opportunity. In the inner circles of the United States government men of ambition seized on that opportunity with alacrity. Far from fearing a ‘global war on terror’, they welcomed it, certain of their ability to bend war to their purposes. Although the ensuing conflict has not by any means run its course, we are now in a position to begin evaluating the results of their handiwork.

With the arguable exception of John J. Pershing, whose over-inflated reputation derives entirely from his brief tenure commanding US forces on the Western Front, General Leonard Wood was America’s most prominent military officer during the first quarter of the 20th century. More than any of his contemporaries, military or civilian, Wood embodied the first American empire, inaugurated by...

Keep slogging: The Trouble with Generals

Andrew Bacevich, 21 July 2005

What is it we expect of generals who exercise high command? The answer comes reflexively: in wartime, the measure of merit is victory. Great captains win battles, campaigns, wars. In fact, however, the standard to which generals are held is far more demanding and elusive. Victory by no means guarantees them the lasting gratitude of their political masters, the plaudits of their fellow...

War is a chameleon, possessed of an infinite capacity to adapt itself to changing circumstances. But in adapting, it preserves its essential nature: brutal, capricious and subject to only precarious control. With the passing of the Cold War, some well-meaning observers have speculated that war is on its last legs, its further intrusion into the realm of politics neither useful nor welcome....

From The Blog
13 February 2012

Not long ago, Greg Jaffe, the Washington Post’s military correspondent, wrote that ‘this is the American era of endless war.’ Endless war manifestly does not suggest any eagerness to use military power with an eye towards liberating or pacifying countries governed by regimes that Washington happens to dislike. Post-9/11 experiments along those lines in Iraq and Afghanistan yielded little but disappointment. The American people have lost their stomach for invasions that lead to long-term military occupations, with all that implies in terms of casualties suffered and money poured down the drain. When Robert Gates said that anyone advising a future president ‘to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined’, he was codifying sentiments that had long since found favour with the American public.

A key justification of the Bush administration’s purported strategy of ‘democratising’ the Middle East is the argument that democracies are pacific, and that Muslim democracies...

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