One of the best things that happened to me when I ran for the chance to be a candidate in the Democratic Primary was that I got to hear Andrew Bacevich speak. It was an event in Iowa. He spoke after I did. In my whole life, there are maybe five speeches that changed the way I think about the world. Bacevich’s is one of them.
After that speech, I read every one of his books and came to recognize (yet another) fundamental blindness in my own view of the world.
I have always been skeptical of American military policy — not of the integrity or commitment of our soldiers, but of the wisdom of our so-called leaders devising that policy. More powerfully than anything I’ve ever read, Bacevich (former military, himself not a “liberal”) makes the case for just how self-defeating (let alone deeply immoral and at times, illegal) our wars have been.
This is the point that should move all of us — liberals, conservatives, whatever: self-defeating. Of course, liberals will be moved by other bits in this story (the immoral part especially), and true conservatives (or libertarians, like Rand Paul), the anti-imperialism bits. But we all, regardless of our politics, should be moved by the self-defeating bit. Because if this colossal expenditure in treasure and lives is not advancing our interests, then why are we doing it? We have become the Death Star: When did we forget, the Death Star always fails?
Only Bernie came close to raising this point as powerfully as it should be raised, and even he didn’t really get that close. But because of Bacevich, I now believe it is an argument as profound as any about the failure and corruption of our government — ALMOST as critical (maybe) as the corruption of our democracy because of money in politics (and of course, it is a product, in part at least, of that, too).
I want to study and write more about this, but I’ve got tons more to read before I can do that with any confidence. Meanwhile, here’s the message: Read Bacevich. His latest book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East (2016), is a great beginning.
Don’t stop there.
Originally published at lessig.tumblr.com.