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Introduction: War Without Exits 
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Post Introduction: War Without Exits
After reading the introduction, I agreed with some of Bacevich's claims but disagreed with others. The policies of the Bush administration, especially the Iraq War, have been utter disasters. However, Bacevich overstates the extent to which the rest of the country supports those policies and has a questionable view of why the nation acts the way it does.

The US is much more militaristic than I'd like. Even under Clinton, the military was too large and too active. A majority of the country supported the first Gulf War under Bush Sr. and (initially) the current Iraq War under W. Still, the current Iraq War would never have started had the US President been a Democrat or a more sane Republican.

The US, as the most powerful country in the post-war world, attempted to shape world events to serve its own interest, at least as perceived by the forces that control society. (Strangely, Bacevich doesn't mention the influence of corporations, despite the vast influence they exert on government decisions.) However, all nations do what they can to control other nations; the US differs from other countries mainly in that it has more power than everyone else.

Bacevich makes a few statements that really don't apply to the Clinton administration. The Clinton security team recognized the seriousness of the terrorism threat, contradicting Bacevich's depiction of a "political elite preoccupied with the governance of empire." Clinton, with great effort, balanced the budget, contradicting the claim that "Successive administrations, abetted by Congress, have deepened a looming crisis of debt and dependency through unbridled spending." Many of the criticisms apply to Republicans only, but Bacevich doesn't make that distinction.

I'm not sure what Bacevich means by freedom; maybe that will become more clear further in the book. The US policies he mentioned are aimed towards making the economy richer and increasing America's geopolitical power. Neither of those goals can be equated with the freedom of US citizens. There's no obvious connection between individual freedom, as I define it, and America's imperialistic foreign policy.

Anyway, that's enough for now.



Last edited by JulianTheApostate on Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:33 am
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Post Re: Introduction: War Without Exits
JulianTheApostate wrote:
Still, the current Iraq War would never have started had the US President been a Democrats or a more sane Republican.

Of course, we'll never really know. Bacevich tries to establish in the book that a very strong momentum existed, revved up during the Clinton years, that makes Bush's decision look like a continuation rather than a radical departure.
Quote:
Clinton, with great effort, balanced the budget, contradicting the claim that "Successive administrations, abetted by Congress, have deepened a looming crisis of debt and dependency through unbridled spending." Many of the criticisms apply to Republicans only, but Bacevich doesn't make that distinction.

He does credit Clinton later on. But you're right, he resolutely presents the crises as bipartisan in origin. Clinton was in for 8 years, so if Bacevich is right that he did nothing to change our stance toward the Mid East, it might be a solid claim.
Quote:
I'm not sure what Bacevich means by freedom; maybe that will become more clear further in the book.

He does try to make it clear. I'm still not sure I accept his cause and effect argument with regard to the people's need to have more and more stuff (what freedom now means to us) resulting in our blundering around in the world. Very possibly right, though.



Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:46 am
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Post 
Some comments from War Without Exits - Introduction to The Limits of Power

3:
Quote:
"Defence didn't actually do defence; it specialised in power projection...forces stood ready to defend Seoul or Riyadh; Manhattan was left to fend for itself."
4:
Quote:
"Seeing themselves as a peaceful people, Americans ... reflexively assign responsibility for war to others, typically malignant Hitler-like figures inexplicably bent on denying us the peace that is our fondest wish."
5:
Quote:
"Foreign policy has ... become an expression of domestic dysfunction."
6:
Quote:
"Freedom is not so much a word or even a value as an incantation."
6-7:
Quote:
"Reinhold Niebuhr ... was the most clear eyed of American prophets... with an unblinking eye that allowed no room for hypocrisy, hokum, or self-deception.... this sense implies an obligation to see the world as it actually is, not as we might like it to be."
7:
Quote:
"Hubris and sanctimony have become the paramount expressions of American statecraft."

8:
Quote:
"What is freedom today? ... fundamental questions ... that President Bush seems oblivious to their very existence offers one measure of his shortcomings."
9:
Quote:
"sense of entitlement ... penchant for empire ... connection between these two tendencies is a causal one."
10:
Quote:
"Dick Cheney announced ... 'Deficits don't matter'"
11:
Quote:
"Perpetual national security emergency aggravates the disorders afflicting our political system, allowing the executive branch to accrue ever more authority"
12:
Quote:
"Niebuhr once wrote "...every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously ... when the decay which leads to death has already begun."
12:
Quote:
"The Iraq War ... has long since become a fool's errand."
13:
Quote:
"History will not judge kindly a people who find nothing amiss in the prospect of endless armed conflict as long as they themselves are spared the effects. ... Americans need to reassert control over their own destiny, ending their condition of dependency and abandoning their imperial delusions."



Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:54 am
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Post Re: Introduction: War Without Exits
DWill wrote:
JulianTheApostate wrote:
Quote:
I'm not sure what Bacevich means by freedom; maybe that will become more clear further in the book.

He does try to make it clear. I'm still not sure I accept his cause and effect argument with regard to the people's need to have more and more stuff (what freedom now means to us) resulting in our blundering around in the world. Very possibly right, though.

It seems strange to label the acquisition of wealth "freedom", as Bacevich does. However, I do agree that such economic goals, along with the preferences of big business, are a major factor behind US military and foreign policy, especially since the Cold War ended.

However, other factors he didn't mention are also relevant. Humanitarian concerns, not economic motives, led to US intervention in Yugoslavia in the 90's. The US overthrew the Taliban in desperately poor Afghanistan as a response to the 9/11 attacks. The conservatives advocating the Iraq invasion sought to increase US geopolitical power; controlling oil was just part of the rationale.

There is one connection between freedom as typically defined (individual rights) and the increasingly materialistic nature of society. Over the last several decades, American has rejected many of its previously held beliefs. The decline of racial prejudice, sexism, religious discrimination, and homophobia is a good thing. At the same time, community ties weakened and people ended up focusing more on their individual materialistic self-interest.



Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:49 pm
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