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A blistering critique of the gulf between America's soldiers and the society that sends them off to war, from the bestselling author of The Limits of Power and Washington RulesThe United States has been "at war" in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. Yet as war has become normalized, a yawning gap has opened between America's soldiers and veterans and the societyA blistering critique of the gulf between America's soldiers and the society that sends them off to war, from the bestselling author of The Limits of Power and Washington RulesThe United States has been "at war" in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. Yet as war has become normalized, a yawning gap has opened between America's soldiers and veterans and the society in whose name they fight. For ordinary citizens, as former secretary of defense Robert Gates has acknowledged, armed conflict has become an "abstraction" and military service "something for other people to do."In Breach of Trust, bestselling author Andrew J. Bacevich takes stock of the separation between Americans and their military, tracing its origins to the Vietnam era and exploring its pernicious implications: a nation with an abiding appetite for war waged at enormous expense by a standing army demonstrably unable to achieve victory. Among the collateral casualties are values once considered central to democratic practice, including the principle that responsibility for defending the country should rest with its citizens.Citing figures as diverse as the martyr-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the marine-turned-anti-warrior Smedley Butler, Breach of Trust summons Americans to restore that principle. Rather than something for "other people" to do, national defense should become the business of "we the people." Should Americans refuse to shoulder this responsibility, Bacevich warns, the prospect of endless war, waged by a "foreign legion" of professionals and contractor-mercenaries, beckons. So too does bankruptcy—moral as well as fiscal....

Title : Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country
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ISBN : 9780805082968
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
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Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country Reviews

  • Darwin8u
    2018-11-28 19:26

    “In this way, the bravery of the warrior underwrites collective civic cowardice, while fostering a slack, insipid patriotism.” ― Andrew J. Bacevich, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their CountryAndrew Bacevich follows up on the threads he started with The Limits of Power and Washington Rules. In this book he explores how the post-Vietnam transformation of the military from a citizen-soldier force to an all-volunteer force has come with many unintended (but not necessarily unseen) costs. Not the least of which is the expansion of long almost perpetual wars and a limited exposure of the real cost of wars to either the politicians or general population of our country. The last letter I received from my older brother (an Army helicopter pilot who served twice in Iraq and twice in Afghanistan) dealt with the idea of reconstituting the draft. While Bacevich doesn't actually recommend the draft, he does think a conversation about national service and the draft would be useful. We have reached a point where our nation's imperial impulses have grown dangerous, while at the same time, we have relegated the cost to either future generations (the lat two major wars were all fought with debt) and a small cadre of professional warriors (less than 1% of our nation's population). If we have no skin (financial or physical) in the game, we are more likely to allow our leaders to continue to push us into perpetual war.

  • Steven Z.
    2018-12-11 21:21

    Each time I read one of Andrew Bacevich’s books I find myself deep in thought which leads me to reevaluate certain opinions that I once held. Upon completing this process I usually emerge rather upset bordering on anger. Bacevich’s previous work, WASHINGTON RULES: AMERICA’S PATH TO PERMANENT WAR is a case in point as he asked the question as to why the American people seem to have accepted the use of force as routine. I integrated the book into my courses while I was teaching and I found that students were appalled at what was taking place. Bacevich who retired from the military after twenty-three years and is currently what Rachel Madow calls “a crusty conservative Catholic professor who now teaches at Boston University” has now written BREACH OF TRUST: HOW AMERICANS FAILED THEIR SOLDIERS AND THEIR COUNTRY, a book I would encourage all former students to read as I am certain once they do they will again be appalled. For myself I am often incredulous when confronted with how our government implements its national security strategy. We have gone from a policy of containment that dominated the Cold War to what Bacevich calls “full spectrum dominance” that equates security with military superiority. Currently our goal seems to be one of liberation and pacification of the Islamic world and having the ability to project our power anywhere. Our main vehicles in achieving this is an all-volunteer fighting force, employing missiles and drones in targeted assassinations, and relying on private contractors to carry out tasks that formerly were carried out by the military based on citizen-soldiers. In reaching this conclusion Bacevich has analyzed our all-volunteer army by tracing its historical development and evaluating whether as Americans we are better off now or when our soldiers were drawn from all segments of society or as it is currently from a tiny slice of our population.In reading the Prologue that describes a July 4th pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park that encapsulates the concept of how we honor our troops as a means of assuaging our collective guilt, it made me ponder whether this is accurate. Since in our society Americans are not willing to participate in military service or sacrificing anything from their everyday lives even when our country has been at war for over a decade, it would appear guilt is an accurate label. We have outsourced our defense to a small segment of society while the rest of us go on with our daily lives. This being the case we must honor our soldiers any chance we get whether thanking individuals for their service in airports, conducting lavish ceremonies at public events, or having a beer company produce commercials that we can view on television to make ourselves feel good. Recently I attended a Notre Dame-Navy football game in South Bend with my family. The atmosphere was heightened with pre-game ceremonies that included a Blue Angel flyover of the stadium. I felt goose bumps as the core of midshipmen marched on to the field and at halftime when the Blue Angel pilots were introduced. At that time it made me proud to be an American as over 80,000 people stood up and cheered. I never thought that these events had anything to do with collective guilt, but I do now.The United States military was fed by a conscripted army since World War II. It drew it soldiers from society as a whole. Each male was drafted for a period of two years unless they agreed to a longer obligation. This model remained in place until the Vietnam War when due to how that war was conducted and the politics involved in supporting a corrupt regime produced massive domestic protests and a lessening of discipline, racial conflict, drug problems, and poor command in the field. President Nixon at the time was looking for a vehicle to offset the anti-war movement and agreed to “a lottery” to replace the existing draft structure. When implemented in 1971 it accomplished the goal of the Nixon administration. Overall the Vietnam experience had a profound impact on the military. Bacevich outlines the process of military self-reflection that led to the replacement of a military based on citizen-soldiers with an all-volunteer force. The author guides the reader through military missions in Lebanon in 1983, Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, Somalia in 1993, Serbia and Kosovo in the mid-1990s, and attempts to enforce “no-fly zones” throughout the period. The chronological analysis brings us to 9/11 which Bacevich argues is the turning point in separating America from its own military. President Bush would govern from that point on as if there was no war, a period when we invaded two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, and despite declaring “Mission Accomplished” Bush found himself with no exit strategy from Iraq and in the midst of an insurgency that lasted throughout his presidency. After the attack on the World Trade Center Bush implored the American people to carry on with their lives as usual. In his speeches he spoke about “our” grief, “our” mission, “our anger” etc. “Our” was meant as a rallying cry, but when you encourage people to go to Disneyland, spend as much money as you can, and not let the terrorists witness any change in how Americans normally conduct themselves, how does the “our” fit in. Bush used “our” as “a vehicle for posturing. Minimizing collective inconvenience rather than requiring collective commitment became the distinctive signature of his approach to war management.” (29-30). America’s settled on a “three first-person-plural axioms to describe the unofficial but inviolable parameters of their prospective role. First, we will not change; second, we will not pay; third, we will not bleed.” (31) As a result the war was never really paid for. Instead of raising taxes, we had the Bush tax cuts, and never factored in the cost of the war after its conclusion. Every American should read Joseph Stieglitz’s THE THREE TRILLION DOLLAR WAR to gain an appreciation of the final cost that the next generation will bear. When Bush came into the White House the national debt was almost non-existent, when he left it was well over $7 trillion. But, as a society we did not pay attention and we suffer from what Bacevich calls “collective anomie,” “unless the problem you’re talking about affects me personally, why should I care.” (42)Not only did 9/11 change the relationship between the military and society it also changed our approach to national security. Using the credo “if you are not with us, you are against us” our approach to foreign policy was dramatically altered. This new credo replaced the concept of containment that had already been modified with Desert Storm in 1990-1991. Once the Cold War ended, who should the military prepare for? When we had the Red Army to focus on we had the support of the American people who approved enormous defense spending by electing and then reelecting Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. This money was channeled into the military-industrial complex and fueled growth. As Bacevich states “the Red Army was the gift that kept on giving,” as each time a defense increase rationale was needed there it was! When the Cold War ended we were promised a “peace dividend,” but the Pentagon was able to create a new danger-Saddam Hussein. The “New World Order” that we trumpeted was really one of disorder. We were now faced with “ethnic and religious hostility, weapons proliferation, power struggles created by the disappearance of the Soviet Union…radicalisms of a number of varieties, rising expectations of democracy and free markets coupled with the inability of government to meet those expectations.” (86) The United States went from containment to power projection. Prevention would replace deterrence. The all-voluntary army would be the strategic force that would bring decisive victory.Bacevich argues that this became an illusion as the war in Iraq did not evolve the way the Bush administration led us to believe. Once it became a quagmire the all-volunteer force found that it was not large enough to deal with the problems that developed. The military had to attract more soldiers leading to higher pay and other amenities. Further it had to attract blacks, other minorities, and even allow women to join. Bacevich brings up an interesting argument as he explores the myth long held that if women entered the military it would break “the bonds of patriarchy” and contribute to wars elimination. Militarists did not want more women to enlist, but since the all-volunteer army was insufficient to carry out its mission they were forced to accept them. Feminists who always wanted to increase female enlistment were now allies with the Pentagon’s male hierarchy in an interesting community of fate. With an increased female presence Bacevitch points to the figures that show the United States is just as aggressive in deploying its forces as ever. Even with a $600 million recruiting campaign the all volunteer force is still short of troops leading to multiple tours of duty and the use of National Guard units, and a further fragmenting of American society. One of the arguments for the all-volunteer force and a massive use of technological weapons was we could “do more with less,” as Bacevich suggests we might have been better off doing “less with less.”Despite the military fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan they have had little impact on the military’s overall reputation with the American people. The all-volunteer force is praised by the majority of Americans, but under careful scrutiny the force has produced winners and losers. The big winners include the institutions that comprise the national security state. “These include generals, admirals and civilians who fill the upper echelons of the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council staff; champions of the imperial presidency who reflexively support….global interventionism…..the professional military by its very existence enriches the list of conceivable alternatives.” (125) the professional army has created a warrior class that should also be seen as a winner—now embodied by the celebrated SEALS. We rely less on conventional troops and rely on the Special Forces that each branch of the military has available to them. They are especially well funded and have access to the best technology in the American arsenal. Perhaps the greatest victor in this scenario is military contractors. Since we do not have enough troops to carry out our mission we have outsourced many jobs that the former citizen-army did themselves. For example KBR received $40.8 billion in contracts in the last decade. In addition, as of 2010 contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan had 260,000 employees on their payroll, “more than the number of U.S. troops committed to those theaters.” (127) Few in Washington seem to want to correct this problem. With contractors giving enormous funds to political campaigns, “whenever the contractor goose travels, it leaves behind a trail of excrement. Yet given that the goose reliably produces such a bountiful supply of golden eggs, no one in a position of influence finds all that much cause to complain.” (128-9) If you are wondering who the losers are, look in the mirror.Bacevich’s tirade continues as he believes that America as a whole is enablers for what has occurred during the last twenty years. Whether discussing the role of ordinary citizens, the intellectual community, our media talking heads, and the American people themselves for not recognizing what has taken place, all are guilty. Bacevich’s solution is to change the three no’s mentioned earlier. What needs to take place is a reversion from we will not change to a concept of citizenship where we all have responsibilities and “an obligation to contribute to the nation’s defense when the country is at risk.” Instead of we will not pay citizens can pay higher taxes, forgo benefits and reduce consumption; “any war not worth paying for is not worth fighting.” Finally, instead of we will not bleed “Americans should insist upon fielding a citizen army drawn from all segments of society.” (190-1)Bacevich’s book is a call to arms for the American people, not necessarily to go to war, but to create a fair vehicle to employ when war is absolutely necessary. Hopefully Bacevich’s ideas will provoke discussion and possibly lead to much needed change. Whether you will agree or not with the themes Bacevich lays out in this book it is a stimulating and thoughtful read that is well supported with the necessary documentation. I would encourage all to pick it up.

  • Bob Mayer
    2018-11-24 20:28

    Should be required reading by all citizens, especially those who blithely say "Thanks for your service" but have no idea what that service entails. Most Americans couldn't find the countries our military is deployed in combat operations on a map.Sadly, neither could our politicians; this was written in 2013, but is even more timely. Look at the surprise expressed by members of Congress over casualties incurred by my Special Forces brethren in Niger-- they didn't even know we have 800 troops there. Congress has abdicated its role in declaring war since our last declared war: World War II.I have tried in vain to find strategic goals for all these deployments. That is a failing on the part of our senior military leadership who are failing in the basic fundamentals of all they were taught. There are few writers with the experience, education, and insight who can write about the growing gap between military and civilian. We are blissfully wandering down a very, very dangerous path.A must read.

  • Mikey B.
    2018-12-12 22:41

    This short book has an interesting premise. The U.S. should reinstate the draft. By having a volunteer army the U.S. people have disengaged themselves their military and by implication the wars that its’ country engages in. The refrain “We Support Our Troops” is repeated over and over - as long as it is not my child on a far distant battlefield.The author argues persuasively that the removal of the draft has essentially privatized the military and allowed the U.S. government and Pentagon to become more secretive about the wars they start. Also these wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) have become interminable and unwinnable – Iraq being a prime example. Politicians spout slogans on accomplishments – but there is still no democracy in the Middle East. Possibly the only accomplishment is our steady supply of oil.The author examines the evolution of the military since World War II when the U.S. started to keep a large standing army in peacetime. Up to the end of the Vietnam War all levels of society served in the U.S. military – all levels of society protested against U.S. involvement in Vietnam. During and after Vietnam the U.S. military was in disarray – but it has improved since then in morale, in racial terms... There was a euphoric “can do” spirit in the military after the first Gulf War ended in 1991. The author states that the template should have been the Somalia fiasco of 1992 when the U.S. entered optimistically and made a quick exit after it was victimized by tribal warfare – similar to what happened on a much larger scale in both Iraq and Afghanistan.Also with the privatization (removal of the draft) of the military it became smaller, but after entry into Afghanistan and then Iraq it became necessary to hire at great expense several Private Security Contractors (guns and mercenaries). There is even less control on the moral and ethical behavior of these groups than on the U.S. military. This influx of Private Security Contractors is an entirely new development to 21st century warfare. This increases the secretiveness and further distances the control that democracy has on the military.So this book has some provocative ideas – I would think it highly unlikely that any candidate for higher office could get elected on a platform of reinstating the draft. Also there were more anti-war protests during the Vietnam era because (among several reasons) more American soldiers were being killed in Vietnam (over 57,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam).This book can meander. I found Part I overly rhetorical. There were digressions - I didn’t see what William Boykin, a General turned evangelist, had to do with the author’s overall thesis. Also I felt the book U.S. centric; Islamic terrorism and fanaticism is a world wide threat – it continues to disrupt lives and spread a nihilistic faith.But at less than 200 pages this book got my attention.

  • Larry Bassett
    2018-11-17 23:35

    Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country is the 2013 continuation of the Andrew Bacevich anti-interventionist view of the history of U.S. foreign policy as it is implemented by the U.S. Executive Branch and military. He takes a most dim view of the volunteer armed services that have existed since Vietnam. And he is not shy about suggesting well footnoted changes: Is the past prologue ? If so, here is what Americans can look forward to: more needless wars or shadow conflicts sold by a militarized and irresponsible political elite; more wars mismanaged by an intellectually sclerotic and unimaginative senior officer corps; more wars that exact huge penalties without yielding promised outcomes, with the consequences quickly swept under the rug even as flags flutter, fighter jets swoop overhead, the band plays the “Marines’ Hymn,” and commercials tout the generosity of beer companies doing good works for “the troops.” Averting this dismal fate will not be easy. But here’s one place to begin: repeal the three no’s that have defined the American military system since the advent of the all-volunteer force. In place of the three no’s, substitute three affirmative commitments. Instead of we will not change, Americans should revert to a concept of citizenship in which privileges entail responsibilities . Among those responsibilities, one in particular stands out: an obligation to contribute to the nation’s defense when the country is at risk or when interests said to be essential to the American way of life require the use of military power. Instead of we will not pay, Americans should fund their wars on a pay-as-you-go basis. Payment can take several forms. Citizens can pay higher taxes, forgo benefits, or reduce consumption. The rule of thumb should be this: any war not worth paying for is not worth fighting.Instead of we will not bleed, Americans should insist upon fielding a citizen army drawn from all segments of society. The creation of the all-volunteer force reduced the importance of securing a popular buy-in as a prerequisite for military action. In Washington, this latitude fed an appetite for armed intervention. Curbing that appetite will require the restoration of popular leverage in matters relating to war. There is but one way to do this: abandon the model of the warrior-professional with his doppelgänger the private security contractor. General McChrystal’s belated discovery is correct. When it comes to war, citizens should have skin in the game. Only then can they expect to have any say in how (and whether) the game gets played.Bacevich is direct with his opinions and blunt in his criticism of those who disagree with him. He is not diplomatic. I admire him for his bluntness and personally identify with his occasional lack of tact. The all-volunteer force is not a blessing. It has become a blight. Americans can, of course, choose to pretend otherwise, but those choosing such a course cannot be said to love their country. Nor can they be said to care about the well-being of those sent to fight on the country’s behalf. This is the last paragraph of this well documented and footnoted book. I moved eagerly into this book immediately after finishing Washington Rules. I highly recommend that book as my favorite of the several books of his that I have read. I like his strong anti-interventionist position in world politics and foreign policy. This book gives a good deal of background about the history of the U.S. military, presented in a fairly straightforward manner.I give this book three stars because I do not think the writing is as compelling as Washington Rules. It is, however, a good way to end 2014 with its heavy criticism of how a long string of Presidents have managed U.S. foreign policy. In some ways Backvich is a 21st century military whistleblower. He served over two decades in the belly of the beast and knows whereof he speaks. As far as I am concerned, he is a refreshing if somewhat brash voice that should be heard.

  • Ryan
    2018-12-01 20:17

    As usual, there is excellent analysis and critique from Bacevich in this book. Yet the solution he proposes, in my opinion, is a poor one. I feel strange saying this because I am a genuine admirer of this writer - particularly his two works The New American Militarism and The Washington Rules. That said, I could not help but feel somewhat let down at the end of this. Bacevich himself admits, realist that he is, that there is probably not going to be a draft or any serious change in the way Washington conducts foreign policy until the material means to wage war diminish. What is this book then? An exercise in futility? I also feel that Bacevich shortchanges the American people somewhat. The recent outcry against intervention in Syria is a case in point: the U.S. public does not view foreign military interventions the way they did in 2003 and they are not afraid to say so (they even wrote their congressmen!). Likewise, the Democrats were able to seize control of the senate in 2006 because people were so fed up with the Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraq War. Perhaps neither of these things are earth-shattering events, but they give one a slightly more favorable view of the American public than Bacevich's outright dismissal. Now, to my biggest objection: the notion that conscription can restore virtue and effectiveness to our foreign policy. Let me be blunt, drafting people into the military against their will is a terrible idea for both moral and practical reasons - as evidenced by the author's description of his time in Vietnam. Bacevich sidesteps the unpleasant nature of what he is proposing by giving a general outline of "national service". In his view, not everyone would have to serve in the military - they would be able to choose from several options like helping the elderly or cleaning up the environment. The problems with this are obvious. If there is an unpopular war no one will want to choose military service, much less service in a combat unit. It will then be necessary (that is the government will find it so) to coerce people into military service in order to effectively prosecute the war. How does this prevent and/or shorten unnecessary military actions? Bacevich implies that the mutinous state of the US Army in Vietnam and the US Anti-War movement somehow served this function in the past. When confronted with these movements US policy makers changed their views. This is simply ridiculous. The anti-war protests peaked in 68-69 and US ground troops remained in South Vietnam until 1972. Nixon waged the war for another three years! Not to mention the fact that half the casualties we sustained in Vietnam were during his first term as president. The reality is that the war dragged on regardless of peace protests and mutinous soldiers. The draft did not empower US citizenry to end the war swiftly. World War II and The Civil War both feature prominently in this book as ideal cases of the draft "working". This view lacks nuance. Neither of these conflicts were as justified or effective as Bacevich suggests. It is possible (who really knows?) that slavery could have been abolished without a war, which is what happened in Brazil by 1887. It is also very clear, in retrospect, that FDR manipulated the US into the Second World War (Bacevich himself would almost certainly acknowledge this). This was totally contrary to the desires of a significant portion of the US general public. Both these wars were also the most destructive in our country's history. If I had to choose between them and Iraq /Afghanistan I would choose our current wars any day of the week. So the draft works well during a bloodbath. How is this a positive thing?If there is an answer to the problems Bacevich discusses then it involves changing the way our leaders and citizens think about foreign policy, not giving our government the chance to resurrect the press gang.

  • Dick Reynolds
    2018-12-05 19:20

    Andrew Bacevich opens his latest book on Washington’s use of our military establishment with a July 4, 2011 salute to American men and women serving in the armed forces. Held at Fenway Park and sponsored jointly by the Pentagon and Boston Red Sox, a gigantic ceremony with aircraft flyovers, marshall music and a choral ensemble, you can almost see the cynicism dripping from the author’s lips. His point, convincingly repeated and made throughout the book, is that events like these and current policies embraced by our political leaders ease the collective consciences of America at large and take us off the hook. We’ve supported our troops in a brief show and are now free to forget all that and get on with our lives. Bacevich shows the composition of our military starting with WWII when we had the draft and most families had relatives fighting in Europe or the South Pacific. In his view, everyone “had skins in the game.” A retired U. S. Army colonel and now professor of history and international relations at Boston University, Bacevich speaks with compelling insight and evidence of detailed research. The draft continued during the Korean War and followed with our vastly unpopular operation in Viet Nam to fight a political war instead of a military one. As a precursor to what is now happening, he cites examples of disobedience in the ranks with murders of officers by enlisted men, “fragging” with grenades, and other criminal incidents which the media made a point of not advertising. [I’m a retired USMC veteran of twenty-four years and witnessed almost identical incidents during my time in RVN.] After Richard Nixon declared “victory” and pulled another one of his tricks by eliminating the draft, slowly but surely the ranks of military volunteers began swelling. Great efforts were made to entice minorities to volunteer for military service including better pay and signing up bonuses. The percentage of African-Americans serving in the military has grown and today we see women and gays allowed to serve in combat with virtually no restrictions. In one short paragraph that made me skip a breath, Bacevich notes as an aside that a woman medic cared for his son, First Lieutenant A. J. Bacevich, who was killed in combat north of Baghdad in 2007. Today we have a small volunteer force, all with “skin in the game,” while the greater American public is continually urged to support our troops. Bacevich’s argument throughout is that we are not supporting our troops. We’ve breached their trust and abandoned their care to a group in Washington with their own agenda, not to mention contractors of the military-industrial complex, the guys Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, who are profiting from our excursions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bacevich shows us the downside: troops serving multiple tours of combat duty in each of those countries, the heartbreaking results of PTSD, divorces, broken families and alarmingly increased rates of suicide. He points out that many Reservists have been called up for active duty to fill necessary gaps, a clearly broken contract between Washington leadership and reserve units which should be used only in the event of wars declared by Congress. Bacevich concludes with recommendations for resumption of a law mandating some kind of national service. Not a draft, per se, but an obligation to serve in the armed forces, an organization like the Peace Corps, or perform some other type of civic duty. The unstated dilemma is that if the U. S. is ever again faced with a large scale war, we could be faced with the kind of rapid mobilization experienced just before WWII and the Korean War. Preparation for such conflicts, i.e., sweating in peacetime means less bleeding in wartime, will be to our advantage in the long run. This book should be read by each member of Congress, every person in the Pentagon and all members of the White House. In addition, anyone considering enlisting in any of our armed forces should be given a chance to read this book and change his or her mind before raising a hand and swearing to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. The pity is that none of these people will probably read it and we’ll go about our merry way, letting that small contingent of our all-volunteer forces do their honorable duty in response to the whims and caprices of Washington politicians.

  • Remittance Girl
    2018-11-23 17:44

    I've long admired Bacevich since I read his The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. Politically speaking, we are almost at opposite poles, but perhaps they are opposite poles of an honest, ethical conversation. Bacevich is a West Point graduate, has been a serving officer and holds a PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. He lost his son in 2008 in Iraq. Breach of Trust takes a very thorough and deeply critical look at the evolution of America's professional (as opposed to a conscripted) military. From its inception after the Vietnam war to the present, he examines who has benefited from its evolution, how it has shaped the rise of the industrial military complex, fed and grown a voracious bureaucracy and enabled disastrous foreign policies and defense strategies.The book takes acidic aim at a population that pays only superficial lip-service to 'honoring' those who serve, while demanding the right to sacrifice nothing and continuing to consume with relish while lives are wasted on foreign adventurism that is not only unsuccessful, but does little if nothing to ensure the security of the US. It is essential reading for any American who truly cares about their culture, their democracy and principles of fairness. Its implications stretch far beyond the constitution of a military and address questions of what it means to be a citizen - its benefits and its responsibilities.By necessity it covers certain parts of history in depth in order to build the author's arguments. When he offers examples to illustrate his point, he doesn't settle at one - he lists many - and because of this, there is a certain tone of academic writing to the text. This does make for dense, but it is all the more rewarding and persuasive for it.

  • Jerome
    2018-12-13 19:41

    This is not a book for the conservative or G.W.Bush apologist. From the over leaf. "The United States has been "at war" for more than a decade. Yet as war has become normalized, a yawning gap has opened between America's soldiers and the society in whose name they fight. For ordinary citizens, as former secretary of defense Robert Gates has acknowledged armed conflict has become an abstraction and a military service "something other people do."This book really blasts Rumsfeld and his all volunteer army and the privatization of what was military domain. I agree with the premise of this book, that the all volunteer army is a failure, and that we would be better off with a draft system. Privatization and the introduction of mercenaries has led to a disconnect with the American people and the part they should play in any war we get involved in by paying for it C.O.D. with higher taxes instead of passing the cost on the our grand children and their children.

  • Sally
    2018-11-13 23:34

    This book is an analysis of the reasons the military embraced an all-volunteer army, its development and the consequences of this decision for the military, politicians and citizens. It also addresses related policies such as doing more with less and the army as a projection of American imperial power. Although the all-volunteer army has largely solved the problems the military was addressing after Vietnam, the author argues persuasively that the consequences for the army and especially the American people have been overwhelmingly negative. Along the way he points out that this smaller volunteer army has not "achieved anything approximating victory in any contest larger than policing exercises" since 1945, and that the US has increasingly adopted the Israeli military ethos, for example anticipatory self-defense as seen in pre-emptive war and targeted assassinations. I recommend this thought-provoking book.

  • Joseph Stieb
    2018-12-02 01:34

    An old saying about British foreign policy goes something like this: "British foreign policy is just like American foreign policy, but less." Well, I agree with Andrew Bacevich, but less. He is probably the best commentator on the US military's relation to society today, but I can't agree with many of his most severe critiques.This book's purpose is to examine the consequences of the shift to a professional, all-volunteer force in the 1970's. There are a lot of them, but two stand out. First, Bacevich argues that the all volunteer force broke a key element of the social contract: that all citizens should contribute to the national defense. The upside of the draft was that it brought people from all backgrounds into the military and distributed the burden of service relatively evenly across society. Bacevich holds up WWII as a good example: professional athletes, politician's sons, and Harvard students fought and died in high numbers. In fact, Bacevich notes that roughly as many Harvard students died during WWII as West Point students. Today, the military burden affects only a small, disproportionately poor and diverse portion of the population. Bacevich claims that the response of guilty Americans who don't serve is the "insipid and shallow" thank-you-for-your-service/support-the-troops culture seen from ball games to beer ads to bumper stickers. Really supporting the troops for Bacevich means paying attention to what kinds of messes they get sent into, and he believes this can only be achieved if average Americans have "skin in the game" (in Stanley McChrystal's phrasing) in the form of tax money, restrictions on consumption, or the risk of being drafted. Our ignorance of and detachment from Iraq and Afghanistan speak volumes for this argument.The second main consequence of the shift to the all volunteer force is increased military adventurism abroad. Bacevich contends that Nixon calculated that the US would be freer to intervene around the world without the lingering threat of Vietnam protests. Decoupling the military from society makes the military a more flexible, easily used force, which can be a blessing or a burden depending upon how it is deployed. He is definitely critical of this idea, arguing that the military brass and political leaders have been far more reckless in their interventionism since the 1970s. He has a point, although the US certainly got involved a lot around the world in the early 20th century with just a small professional/volunteer force, including the Philippines-American war. The military went along with voluntarization because the citizen-soldier concept of Vietnam brought way too many social conflicts into the military and exposed the military to greater criticism.As usual, I'm totally on board with many of Bacevich's criticisms of USFP, especially the Bush administration's disastrous decisions and poor judgement. The Bush team's failure to make Americans do anything except wave flags and chant slogans to bear the burdens of Iraq and Afghanistan should go down in history as one of the greatest leadership failures of American history. At the minimum, he should have imposed a war tax on Americans rather than draining the budget to pay for the war. That would have kept a modicum of the social contract in place. Bacevich also had a really interesting section on how the US military drank a lot of neocon kook-aid in the 1990's, buying into ambitions of global hegemony and ending superpower competition while avoiding "dirty wars" or humanitarian intervention (possible dissertation topic here???). Politicians who use military spending and hackneyed patriotism to win votes and get money share much of the blame for America's foreign policy decisions.Still, Bacevich is too harsh in many areas, and his desire to critique USFP takes the book off topic. He draws too many parallels between Obama and Bush and doesn't give Obama enough slack for inheriting Bush's messes and cleaning at least one of them up reasonably well. He really doesn't like continued Obama war on terror strikes and interventions, but he doesn't present any alternative strategies. I for one will take Obama's scalpel (special forces and drone strikes, avoiding ground-troop interventions) over Bush's sledgehammer any day. Moreover, he tends to treat all interventions as bad, when Clinton had really good reasons for getting involved in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. To lump those conflicts together with Iraq and Afghanistan is too simplistic, although he is right that the all-volunteer force and the American people's disengagement from war made facilitated both of those interventions to a great degree. Readers of The New American Militarism and The Limits of Power will find a lot of repeat material here. I recommend reading those books first, especially the NAM. To conclude, the American discourse about war and society benefits greatly from Bacevich's criticisms. His idea of expanding national service programs for young people is worth thinking about as genuine (non-resume building) service to the nation. His best idea is that Americans should have to pay war taxes on a "pay as you go" basis so that they will actually pay attention to this conflicts. While he is harsh and uncompromising, you have to admire Bacevich's honest outrage.

  • Jack
    2018-11-21 00:43

    Bacevich has essentially written two mini-books and seems to have trouble tying them together. The description of the book states his "main" theory, that "as war has become normalized, a yawning gap has opened between America’s soldiers and the society in whose name they fight. For ordinary citizen...armed conflict has become an “abstraction” and military service “something for other people to do.” He does not spend a lot of time on fleshing out this concept, however, until the final chapter. In fact, he summarizes this concept best in one page when paraphrasing comments by General Stanley McChrystal.The second and main portion of the book is Bacevich's descriptions on what he sees as the failings of the US Army since WWII. He makes brief attempts to tie this into his main theory, but it just does not mesh well. You're never really sure what his main point is.I gave this two stars for these reasons, as well as two other reasons: (1) Bacevich spends a large majority of the book describing the Army as representative of the military, and gives little attention to comparisons to other branches of the military. (2) He gives only cursory attention to the subject of how moving back to a citizen-soldier draft model will affect the effectiveness of the military in the 21st century.This is a relatively short book (~200 pages) but seems like two long magazine articles stitched together. Both would be fine separately but do not convincingly mesh.

  • Bob H
    2018-11-13 19:22

    Col. (ret.) Andrew Bacevich has an important and accurate critique of current US military policy -- or, rather, its failure and misdirection. He focuses on the US Army, which, he tells us, "ranks among the least of these several services," yet is the force that took perhaps the heaviest burdens and wear-and-tear in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as in Vietnam before that. The book is not a military history so much as a critical look at national military strategy and policy, his central thesis being that the powers-that-be seem to send the Army into wars without impacting the American public, without the participation of a broad spectrum of the American public -- let alone conscription -- and without paying for it. He spares no scorn for this situation: wars touted as existential, yet fought without selling a single War Bond, fought with other people's kids as enlistees, and without burdening an American public that might otherwise balk at another such adventure.It's a sharp, albeit short and succinct, treatise by a retired Army officer who knows what he's talking about (and who lost a son in the Iraq war). And it's current: though the US ground presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is over -- maybe -- the current policies and mind-sets remain in place. A quick read, and worth reading, and pondering.

  • Kurt Reichenbaugh
    2018-12-04 23:28

    In summary, 1)ALL Americans should have an obligation to contribute to the nation's defense, 2)Americans should pay/fund their wars as they declare them, as in "any war not worth paying for is not worth fighting." and 3)Americans from all segments of society should serve in some way, as in what Bacevich refers to as a "citizen army". It's a thoughtful book that will go ignored, which is kind of too bad.

  • Florence Millo
    2018-12-05 20:27

    I have been saying for years that if we had to pay for Iraq from current tax dollars and if everyone's son or daughter was as risk for being sent, we would never have spent the lives, limbs, and treasure that we did. Excellent book. My only disagreement is his suggestion for a 2 year universal service requirement. No way.

  • Cindy Person
    2018-12-07 19:27

    A well written, thought provoking and non-partisan book on American foreign policy, the relationship between American civilians and the military, and the limitations of military force. Bacevich is a retired army colonel who now teaches history and international relations at Boston University.

  • Keith Boyea
    2018-11-14 19:38

    Seemed to cover a lot of ground Bacevich has covered in the past. For fans of Bacevich, you won't be disappointed. For those that disagree with his thesis, you may find it thin. In some places I struggled to tie the thesis directly back to the argument, but nonetheless, a well done effort.

  • C. Scott
    2018-12-05 17:35

    Not the best I've read from Bacevich, but I completely agree that we need to rethink how we're using our military. His suggestion that we end voluntary service has given me a lot to think about.

  • Randy Painter
    2018-12-12 00:24

    This book provides an informed perspective from a conservative thinker and scholar who served his country and lost his own son in the Iraq War. He compels the reader to question authority and the status quo, with a critical analysis resulting in conclusions reminiscent of great liberal and progressive voices - yet grounded in his personalized story, a well-articulated and consistently applied conservative argument, and well-researched and supported views on history and military affairs. If more Americans thought like Bacevich, the military/political/business elite would be second-guessing their career choices. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in shattering the military-industrial-congressional complex and reigning in the power of presidents to wage perpetual war.

  • Matt S
    2018-11-29 01:20

    An absolute must read. I can't help but think of the military trope from Starship Troopers, "Service guarantees Citizenship." In Bacevich's sense, this could not be truer. The gulf of resentment between servicemembers and civilians is so cavernous that healing isn't something I would ever hold my breath for in our lifetime, let alone the period ending this conflict. Bacevich perfectly captures an ambivalence and lack of true sacrifice on behalf of the American people which is seen all too clearly by the Warrior class.

  • Gary Misch
    2018-11-30 17:24

    Full disclosure: The author sets forth in this book a point of view that I have been privately stating for several years; I agree with him in all respects.Andrew Bacevich wants you to know that the United States, both as a national entity, and as individual citizens, has failed its military. In this context he is talking primarily about its Army, which has done the lion's share of the fighting over its last twelve years of continuous warfare. In fairness, he gives the other services their due, while noting that they have retained much more focus than the Army. It is our military as a whole that is the problem, but as he points out, no other service has been so broken by our never ending wars than the U.S. Army.The problem, he notes early on, is not really the Army, or the military. It is the all volunteer military, or more properly, our all professional military. I know of what he speaks; I was a member of it for twenty-one years. As a retired Army colonel, I suppose that he was my very distant colleague.Bacevich is now a highly respected professor of history and international relations at Boston University, and a widely read editorialist on the foibles of American overseas misadventures. His pieces often carry a very useful analysis of how the wheels of the Department of Defense mesh (or don't mesh) with the various non western cultures throughout the world that successive administrations have insisted on interacting with on an intimate military level.His premise is presented with near perfect non technical clarity. We fought the Vietnam War with a citizen (draftee) army. The citizens owned the war, until they were fed up with it. Part of the process of getting fed up may have involved the tightening, or ending of student deferments.(We can argue whether or not the war could have been prosecuted more competently, and ended before support evaporated, but that's another story)When Richard Nixon ended the draft, and created the "all volunteer military," the military became completely decoupled from society. Bacevich points out that what we really got wasn't a military where a fair chunk of society served for a short time. We got a military where no more than one per cent of society serves. This military constitutes a separate warrior class, available for use by politicians when they wish, without the consent of the population at large. As he argues, why should the general population care? They aren't being taxed to fight these wars. Our endless wars are being fought with other people's kids, and borrowed money. The result is a constant temptation to engage in military adventures. It has become too easy to say that we should intervene, and there is seldom any consequence for the politician who does. This temptation to intervene is no longer confined to old line conservative hawks. Most liberals seem to have jumped on the band wagon, though there is an odd anti war alliance between Noam Chomsky and Pat Buchanan. Society soothes itself by celebrating the warrior. We are all "heroes" now. Even beer companies are in on the act. Of course, celebration doesn't equal participation.Assisting us in sustaining this giant standing army is, of course the military/industrial complex, now supplemented by the support contractor complex. With the increased pay and respect of our professional military, we can't afford to use even a junior enlisted man or woman on kitchen duty. Well compensated contractors do everything from guarding bases, to cooking, to cutting grass.Bacevich's prescription is unlikely to be adopted - slim down the military, and reinstitute the draft. Even consider using draftees for other services such as environmental service, caring for the sick and elderly, &c, just to get people into national service. I object to that. When President Clinton first proposed his AMERICORPS, I suspected that he was looking for a way to confer GI benefits without military service. There are few, if any things as strenuous as military service; I'm reluctant to draft people for anything but that. In any case, the chances of imposing the inconvenience of a peace time draft are nil, no matter what the service.As dessert, Bacevich acquaints the reader with the Pentagon's world wide command structure, which gives a taste for just how ready we are to "go in" to the next hot spot. How eager should we be to do that? Only our banker knows for sure. And the mothers of our children. This book should be mandatory reading for all. Bacevich is saving us the trouble of wading through "The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire," and several other highly instructive histories about over reach. As an exercise, the reader could list all recent conflicts, and determine which were important to our national security: Afghanistan, Iraq II, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq I, Beirut, USS Stark attack, Kuwaiti tanker reflagging, Gulf of Sidra Incident, Grenada invasion, Panama Invasion, the mining of Nicaraguan coastal waters &c. (the author does this for us - there are more, but perhaps you've had enough war for this review). How many readers realized there were that many?

  • Mick
    2018-11-25 19:45

    Worth your time if you are interested in western society's relationships with their military. Focused the US.

  • Scottnshana
    2018-11-14 23:19

    I think this sort of look at American civil-military relations is timely. I know of some other Iraq vets who don't like the way this relationship was satirized in "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben Fountain, but I think if anyone should write a non-fiction examination of that relationship it ought to be Colonel Bacevich, both a history professor and a man who had 'skin in the game' in Iraq; I don't think it weakens his argument that he lost his son there. His examinations of American military campaigns elucidates where we've been and where we are in U.S. civ-mil relations, and his mastery of U.S. military history facilitates that. Dumping on FDR has become a sort of cottage industry (probably because the Greatest Generation is slowly leaving us), and I like the way that the author brings us back to the realities of World War II under Roosevelt's leadership: "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." Contrast that with his treatment of Bush 43 five pages later. "In his decoupling of the people from war waged in their name lay the Bush administration's most notable post-9/11 accomplishment. In place of a Lockean social contract based on the concept of reciprocal responsibility, a promissory note now provided the basis for waging war--and the people who so casually endorsed that note had no expectation of ever having to settle accounts." The difference, according to Bacevich, lay in our grandmothers building engines on the Boeing assembly lines and giving up stockings to the war effort back in 1942 with an expectation that their efforts counted in a nation at war. When faced with 9/11, he writes, the contract was instead "The Three No's"--We will not change, we will not pay, and we will not bleed in order to take down al Qaeda. I like the way he wove in H.R. McMaster's personal story (another brilliant warrior-scholar with his own amazing book on civ-mil relations), but I was a little non-plussed that he (Bacevich) didn't mention the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine once in a book covering U.S.-Iraq relations since the end of the Cold War. I also believe his questions about pre-emption and targeted assassination are worthy of discussion: If Israel needs to do that to survive, that is their business. These two trends that arrived with the Global War on Terror are something new, though, in American foreign policy, and we should ask where these ideas are taking us because the geostrategic positions of the U.S. and Israel are vastly different. My only gripe about "Breach of Trust" is a diversion in Chapter Five about more demographics entering the military and combat jobs; if the point of the book is to show the increasing distance between military personnel and their civilian counterparts, I'm not sure why chronicling the entrance of African-Americans, women, and gays/lesbians into the mainstream strengthens his argument. If the point is to state that every able-bodied citizen can now serve, then I see his point, but the divergence from his narrative here was a little awkward. Regardless, I think Colonel Bacevich is asking the right questions--e.g., has ending the draft really made us stronger? Are we more likely to go to war if most of the homes in America no longer feel the pain of it? I recommend this one to anyone interested in national security and current events.

  • Karen
    2018-12-12 18:35

    What a fantastic book this would be for American book clubs! Imagine a book that asks readers to question their own cultural willingness for endless war. Citizens may not see that this is where we are as a nation. Yet Bacevich describes how this works in our culture in perfect detail. To see the "cheap grace" of America's "support the troops" bumper sticker mentality would be an uncomfortable read for many. This is especially true, given that Bacevich is inviting citizens to assume a level of responsibility many would prefer to continue to outsource to their military/industrial complex. I read this book as the former wife of a Vietnam Veteran. Back then, young men raised on John Wayne movies about the "Green Berets" volunteered with noble hearts for military service imagining what they could contribute in the defense of their nation. That nobility of heart was misused by the military/industrial complex in an imperial war not central to the nation's defense, leaving men feeling "what was the point of my service? What was it for?"As America continues the tradition of non-stop imperial wars begun in Vietnam, I imagine all of the new families of veterans dealing with the pain of this question. "What was the point of this? What was it for?" So much lingering pain continually being created! What can we say is the point of it all? Only the 1% of our population who serve need to ask it, as the 99% who don't serve, can and do, avoid the question.Andrew J. Bacevich describes what currently seems to be the point of it all in scathing detail. For the institution of the Army: a purpose that generates funding; for the companies: year-after-year profits; for the people involved, the upwardly-mobile career. He sees it so acutely, I found myself wondering "how can someone who obviously loves the values, institutions, and honor of the military see this so clearly?" It's a miracle, really. I'm grateful that my country is one where his voice of honorable dissent is published, broadcast, and debated. That wouldn't be possible in every country. Indeed, I would love to see a debate between Bacevich and military senior leadership who believe our current way of waging war is the correct one. Bacevich's recommendations are to make the costs of our wars visible to the average citizen by bringing back the draft for all segments of society (including national service for those not interested in the military), pay for wars as-we-go so we know the fiscal cost of a war in addition to the personnel cost of lost and injured lives, and assume our rights and responsibilities for how the "game is played" because we then have 'skin in the game.' By knowing the true costs, we can make better decisions as a nation and stop outsourcing to the security state that asks nothing of us but to "keep shopping."I deeply admire Bacevich's courage in writing such a pointed critique of something so close to his heart. He focused on the big picture of the American citizen's cultural relationship to the military.I was surprised he did not paint the picture of the personal cost for citizens who serve so those who haven't seen it or felt it know what it is like. This may literally be too painful, especially given his own loss of a beloved son in Iraq. I am grateful for Andrew J. Bacevich's service to his country in the military, also for his service as the parent of a son who served and gave his all, and as a critic asking all of us as Americans to resume our responsibilities as a body politic.

  • Kurt
    2018-11-29 19:32

    As a Vietnam-Era veteran myself, I hung on these words from a retired Army colonel who lost a son during Iraq, a man who can talk the talk and walk it, too. He states that ordinary citizens in America have been relieved of any obligations to contribute to our country's defenses, replaced by a professional army mustered by less than one half of one percent of our total population who have little or no interest since they are not personally interested. It also provides ¨impetus for the conflict which assumes, in a democracy...all citizens have equal rights and equal obligations.¨ But no more. It left e wondering, like the author, whose war??? We re a country ¨made by war¨ and ¨fast becoming a country undone by war.¨ The author cites history as evidence of this: we have not won a war since he end of WWII. The army's character has changed since 1775 when embattled farmers, an armed citizenry fighting for national independence, defined its essence. The army that dragged itself out of Vietnam was ¨besieged from without and within by social turbulence, pandemic drug addition, race wars, sedition, civilian scapegoat-ism, draftee recalcitrance, barracks theft and crime, lowered self-esteem, and negative morale unlike anything ever found in its past experience¨ in essence, ¨the ¨antithesis of democracy.¨ I was serving during this period of time. I saw these things.Richard Nixon undid the draft. Today's military, reliant on volunteers, has shrunken the size of our volunteer forces because the ¨appeal of military service during wartime¨remains limited. The author contends that wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, the two longest in our history, continue because Americans have little or no ¨skin in the game.¨ That is to say, a professional army necessarily becomes ¨unrepresentative of the population. If a national goes to war, every town, every city, needs to be a risk. Only then will everyone have ¨skin in the game.¨ Interesting, eh? During WWII, all Americans accepted fighting for freedom as their job; sadly, today, with freedom still their birthright, they expect someone else to do the fighting. The author suggest three things as curatives: first, Americans should revert to a concept of citizenship in which privileges of freedom entail responsibilities, i.e., an obligation to contribute to the national defense in some way. Second, Americans should fund their wars on a pay-as-you-go basis. Pay higher taxes, forego benefits, or reduce consumption rather than increase our national debt. Third, Americans should insist upon fielding a citizen army drawn from all segments of our society. When it comes to wars, citizens should all have skin in the game.Finally, the book comes with a chilling caution: if the past is prologue, Americans can look forward to more needless wars or shadow conflicts sold by a militarized and irresponsible political elite; more wars mismanaged by an intellectually sclerotic and unimaginative senior officer corps, and more wars exacting huge penalties without yielding promised, viable outcomes.¨ I love how, in one of the chapters, the author alludes to the five C's: Committment, Courage, Candor, Competence, and Compassion, virtues the vast majority of our self-serving politicans are sorely lacking.

  • Ted Hovey
    2018-12-03 23:15

    This book should be read by all citizens of the United States. It should be discussed with fellow citizens with the end in mind of finding and facing truth in our country's recent history of unending war.Andrew J. Bacevich graduated from West Point in 1969 and served in the U.S. Army for over twenty years. He served in Vietnam, Germany, and the Gulf. His son was killed in Iraq in 2007 by an IED.Bacevich focuses on the creation of the all-volunteer army after the Vietnam War. He persuasively contends that abandoning the concept of the citizen-soldier resulted in a tendency for the U.S. to enter wars that were "even more misguided and counterproductive than Vietnam was." He addresses the issue of using contractors to perform security duties traditionally carried out by citizen-soldiers, without the moral consequences and accountability. He explores the relative ease with which U.S. presidents have embraced the idea of pre-emptive attacks on, and targeted assassinations of, perceived enemies.The author suggest three changes in order to reform our military and to restore a proper relationship between the Army and civilian citizens:"Americans should revert to a concept of citizenship in which privileges entail responsibilities.""Americans should fund their wars on a pay-as-you-go basis. Payment can take several forms. Citizens can pay higher taxes, forgo benefits, or reduce consumption. The rule of thumb is this: any war not worth paying for is not worth fighting.""Americans should insist upon fielding a citizen army drawn from all segments of society ... There is but one way to do this: abandon the model of the warrior-professional with his doppelganger the private security contractor."Bacevich recommends a two-year "program of national service in which all able-bodied eighteen-year-olds participate, with some opting for the military and the rest choosing other service opportunities: preserving the environment, caring for the sick and elderly, assisting the poor and destitute, or joining the Peace Corps."I couldn't agree more. As a veteran of the pre-volunteer army who served to protect the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law and freedoms it provides, I've been saddened to watch our country enter into wars of questionable, at best, legality and moral purpose. Maybe re-introducing the draft in the way Andrew Bacevich recommends will help to get us back to being the kind of country we can all be proud of.

  • Jessica
    2018-11-30 00:16

    I think Bacevich raises some really interesting issues that are worth considering in greater depth and discussing more broadly in our society. He essentially argues that a few changes in the way American society and its military interact and relate to each other have helped to create (or at least reinforce) a world in which war becomes normalized and the people have become apathetic about use of force. Bacevich looks at three core ideas that he says infuse American thinking, particularly post-9/11 and post-elimination of the draft—(1) that Americans will not change (i.e., the idea that "they" win when we change our lives in response to the war), (2) that Americans will not pay now (the fact that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been mostly financed by large amounts of debt, rather than sacrifice in the form of increased taxes or other revenue-raising policies), and (3) that we will not bleed (that is, that the military is composed of those who volunteer, and that other Americans have little or no "skin in the game"). He argues that these three concepts have led to an America in which war has become the new normal, and American military might has become more imperial in nature than democratic, with the growing military-industrial complex and private security sectors as symptoms of this. There's a lot more to the argument that just that, but I think Bacevich makes some interesting points, particularly looking at the world through his own experiences as a U.S. Army officer of 23 years, an academic in the field of history and international relations, and the father of a soldier who died in Iraq.I can't say whether I agree or disagree with his arguments, as I had never really thought about them before, but the book gave me a lot to think over and made its points well. This is definitely a topic that I will be thinking about and discussing more, and I feel like Bacevich's book gave me a solid basis to begin doing so. It was well-written and easy to follow, and provided a solid foundation for deeper thinking about the issues presented.

  • Eapen Chacko
    2018-12-12 00:28

    A career soldier in the Vietnam war, Bacevich became an academic after his long military career. His thesis will almost certainly upset politicians and policy wonks on the left, the right, and the armed forces military command. This is why it is a noteworthy book, quite apart from the run of the mill best seller. When the draft was abolished, the myth of an all volunteer army was established, and this was the first breach of trust. It cut the link between the civilian population and the soldiers in the field, because wars, police actions, or nation building didn't involve us or require any sacrifice in our life styles. The defense establishment and procurement machinery continued to build equipment and arms budgets that weren't suited to a smaller, more mobile army. Social policies of women fighting alongside men and the subsequent increase of harassment and inequity suits didn't negatively affected morale and didn't make the force more effective. As our forces were suddenly held accountable for nation building in Afghanistan while being picked off by Taliban fighters infiltrating the villages we where we were building sewers and schools, reupping and enrollment fell off. Then came the further breach of trust that technology would make our troops safer and more effective. So, now citizens of every political persuasion can go to a football or baseball game and watch a personal ceremony at halftime honoring a returning or wounded veteran, and then we can forget about the fact that we are still involved in Afghanistan and haven't really served the veterans who have returned from these vicious and debilitating conflicts with no military objective. The general staff, who tell us all about surges on CNN, are not military leaders but politicians in a costume. Although this book is short, its thesis is broad, sweeping and compelling. Read this in conjunction, with "The Outpost," by Jake Tapper. You'll think differently about our military ambitions and reality as Bacevich sees it.

  • Jason Villeneuve
    2018-11-13 23:36

    Is America better off having an all-volunteer army? Should we go back to the draft? The first thought that comes to mind for me, and I would think most Americans, would be oh hell no! However Andrew Bacevich brings up some fantastic and very intriguing points of why going away from the draft has led to dire consequences for the country. The author quickly summarizes the problems a drafted army caused in Vietnam and how this led to the end of conscription. He then moves through the necessary steps and changes the military had to make to ensure an all-volunteer army would remain the most powerful military on the planet. For defensive purposes only of course, no pre-emptive warfare or forced democracy for the good ole’ US of A. Well not for a few years anyway.It all sounded so good to the American public. No war for me equals no worries for me. Well the country learned pretty fast that when no one has skin in the game widespread warfare is pretty easy to wage. One of the many unintended consequences of ending the draft was a less involved public. When only one percent of the country has to worry about fighting those battles overseas the unending war becomes the norm. The professional army is now in place and that probably isn’t changing anytime soon.Public apathy, overwhelming cases of PTSD, pre-emptive wars, and the abuse of power by private firms contracted by the military are some of the growing issues Bacevich ties to ending the draft. On the surface an all-volunteer army sounds like the right solution, but Bacevich brings to light a bevy of problems that really have helped corrupt the military and our society as a whole. A quick and interesting read that makes you think…those qualities always make for a solid recommendation.

  • Kent
    2018-12-13 19:38

    This is an important, thought provoking book that will particularly hit home with veterans and those who are familiar with the American political system. It’s one of the top two books I’ve read this year. I can’t say I agree with everything the author concludes, but I can’t say I disagree. It is a critical study of key political, philosophical, ethical, moral, structural, and practical aspects of the American way of war and military focused heavily on the past fifty years. It is kept in the context of society and questions if war should be another function run independently by the elitists in government, like say, the Department of Education, or if it should be exercised democratically as a people’s war by a citizen army, with the population’s skin in the game and the restraint that comes with that. It’s one of the top two books I’ve read this year. It is one of those that after a few pages you start taking notes in the margins, highlighting, and identifying key quotes. You won’t think of these issues the same way after you finish.