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April 11, 2005

Praktike recommends "The New American Militarism"

Praktike strongly recommends Andrew Bacevich's The New American Militarism:

Bacevich | Liberals Against Terrorism: I was expecting that it would be similar to other books I've read in this vein... but I've pleasantly surprised (and disturbed at times) so far with the pattern that he outlines.... Bacevich doesn't like the neconservatives, but he's not at all fond of the New Left that the former group arose to decry, either, nor does he have much for liberal internationalists. He slams Colin Powell and the military brass around him for what he says was inventing a rationale for a continued American global military presence at the end of the Cold War, which, ironically, proved handy when interventionists repeatedly cast aside the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine throughout the 90s. He slams Wesley Clark for Kosovo. He explains how conservative evangelical Christians came to align themselves with the military in reaction to Vietnam (for an example of how this gets expressed artistically, see this video that Atrios linked to the other day), and how Christian Zionists have played a leading role in U.S. policy towards Israel, despite the fact that most American Jews actually oppose the settlement policy and that many Christian Zionists believe that when the Rapture comes, the Jews will either have to convert to Christianity or die en masse.

The best chapter in the book so far is 'Left, Right, Left,' in which Bacevich traces the journey of the neoconservatives, which he divides into an old (Norman Podhoretz and Commentary) and new group (Kristol, Kagan, and the Weekly Standard). Bacevich seems to have squirreled away nearly every embarrassingly triumphalistic neocon quote ever written and packed into one chapter. The most troubling feature of neoconservatism (which he calls a persuasion more than a coherent ideology) that he identifies is the tendency among neoconservative commentators to stridently reject the idea that there are any alternatives to American militarism and that to ponder otherwise is inherently dangerous.

Bacevich writes:

Particulars might change, but for neoconservatives crisis is a permanent condition. The situation is always urgent, the alternatives stark, the need for action compelling, and the implications of delay or inaction certain to be severe. On the one hand--if the nation disregards the neoconservative call to action--there is the abyss. On the other hand--if the nation heeds that call--the possibility of salvation exists.

Bacevich seems to have reserved particular disdain for Norman Podhoretz, whom he quotes shortly before the inward collapse of the Soviet Union (in 1986) expressing alarm and dismay that Ronald Reagan was embarking on 'a strategy of helping the Soviet Union stabilize its empire.' Oops. There's plenty more silliness from Charles Krauthammer as well...

Posted by DeLong at April 11, 2005 01:52 PM