Michael: Bacevich Calls It a DayAndrew Bacevich, author of "The New American Militarism," wrote an excellent op-ed in WaPo the other day. (free subscription req.) He argues with great good sense that we will do less harm by leaving Iraq immediately than by staying any longer. I strongly recommend a read.
Bacevich is a refreshing anodyne to the Pollyannaish nonsense of the Neo Cons. Military power alone cannot achieve all our political aims in the world. The sooner Americans learn that lesson, the better place the world will be. Bacevich explores the damage that excessive militarism is doing to our politics, our economy, and our national character in his book.
He makes some recomendantions about how we can begin the work of recovering from generations of excalating militarism:
- Heed the Founders- We must restore the ideals which animated the founding of our nation as specified in the Constitution. Nothing in our Constitution mandates or encourages our government to employ military power to save the rest of the world, or remake it in our image - just the opposite, in fact. We are enjoined to "provide for the common defense." The concept of national security has become so enlarged as to become meaningless. Bush I's 1992 incursion into Somalia, Clinton's 1999 war in Kosovo, or Bush II's crusade against Saddam Hussein, can only be held to be vital to defense of the nation if that concept is empty of any meaning. We need a military policy that focuses on defending the nation against agression instead of world dominance.
- Revitalize the sepration of powers- The constitutional principle that Congress has the sole authority to wage war has been essentially abdicated by politicians too craven to stand up for their Constitutional prerogatives and from generations of standing toe to toe with a hostile superpower. Those days are gone and the authority to commit the nation to armed action that the Executive has acreted must be withdrawn.
- View force as a last resort- We must renounce the Bush Doctrine of preventivie war for what it is: a policy of naked aggression. By placing ourselves above the normative values of international law as embodied in the UN Charter, we risk fatally weakening those norms upon which world order truly rests. This is not a policy of pacifism. The U.S. reserves the right, as do all nations, to act in its own defense, unilaterally if necessary - we could have struck against al Qaida well before 9/11 under this principle. Nor need the U.S. tolerate behavior posing a proximate threat to itself or its citizens - we clearly had the right to topple the Taliban regime for their support of al Qaida. Finally, we have the right to act in concert with other nations to wholesale violations of human rights and immediate threats to international peace.
- We must work to enhance U.S. strategic self-sufficiency, especially in energy- Americans have come to believe that their safety and well-being requires a guaranteed right of access to the world's resources - any threat to that access, real or imagined, has more often than not elicited an armed response. This notion underlies the entire rational of the 25 year long World Oil War in which we have engaged sporadically since 1980. Only by putting significant resources into severing our ties of dependency to the Middle East can we address the underlying cause of the current crisis in international affairs.
- Organize U.S. armed forces explicitly for national defense rather than power projection- This implies jettisoning the elastic concept of "national security" in favor a military doctrine focused on defense of American territory. We should shed outdated and unecessary defense obligations and press allies to take up the full burdens of their own defense. This entails bringing home American troops from bases abroad and closing those bases where an immediate for them need no longer exists. The purpose of such a strategic withdrawal is three-fold: to reduce the prospect of being dragged into distant conflicts in which our interest is marginal or non-existent; to allow us to choose where we will engage our forces instead of ceeding that decision to an enemy, and; to treat our allies as partners instead of vassals. Our defense alliances, such as NATO, may stand, but should make our allies truly equal partners.
- Devise an appropriate gauge for determining the level of U.S. defense spending- The method of budgeting which has prevailed for the past decades - more than the prior year no matter the cost - must end. We should peg expenditures to realistic threats and what others are spending. On the current budget trajectory, we are on course to spend more than the rest of the world combined soon. We cannot sustain such a pace forever.
- Enhance alternative instruments of statecraft- To view force as a last resort, we must enhance the power and effectiveness of alternatives. We currently undervalue the soft-power alternatives that we have and give them little budgetary priority. Our humanitarian aid comes to 1/10 of 1% of our budget, far less than other Western nations. Such expenditures reduce the sources of conflict and serve our interests directly; foriegn aid is not a luxury or charity, it is self-interested. If the federal government spent its foriegn aid with the creativity, accountability, and entreprenuerial creativity of the Gates Foundation, we could truly change the world. We must also reduce or eliminate foriegn military aid as currently constructed.
- Revive the moribund ideal of the citizen-soldier- The military has become increasingly isolated from civilian life. Citizens who prefer an American republic to an American empire should view the trends underway in military culture as worrisome. We need to make the military more representative of the populace and encourage service. We need a new GI Bill that ties federal education grants more closely to service. Those who serve should recieve free college education.
- Reconcile the American military profession to American society- The officer corps must go through a liberal education in America's universities primarily, with all officer candidates training at military academies after graduation. Military personnel should be paid so that government housing is not required. Soldiers should live among their fellow citizens, not in insulated enclaves.
Bacevich admits his prescription will be tough to swallow. He writes that have become so reflexive in our resort to military force to solve problems and achieve our aims that it can fairly be termed an addiction. Recovery from our national addiction to militarism begins with acknowledging the disease. Denial merely postpones the day of reckoning.