« Obama guides the world... | Main | A Reflection on Yemen by Martin J »

22 April 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.



I hardly know what to say because the number of interconnected issues involved here are so many and so important.

I don't disagree with anything the Col. or Andrew Bacevich said.

I think the disconnect between our government and our military's stated goals and aspirations on defending ourselves and the world are immense, irreconcilable and unmanageable.

If we do not reassess, scale back and take back some of the promises our leaders have made we will eventually destroy our American way of life through excessive debt, massive levels of misspent government revenue is used to maintain our literally and truly nonexistent Empire, inadequate funding for our own needs and escalating social unrest here at home.

If the people of Planet Earth want a "world's policeman" then everybody should be contributing to such an international organization with manpower and funding. The world's population has gone from about 3 billion to 7 billion since 1960. Our country does not dominate the world as it once did, we cannot possibly fulfill these duties without failure or self-destruction.


Colonel, Bravo for this words, perfectly, well said


"It seems clear to me that the draft will not return. Bacevich says that as well. He and I agree that American culture is now so sybaritic and self-obsessed that it is unlikely that the force necessary to pursue our self-assigned mission of world "purification" can be created and maintained."

I know I sound redundant but US "elites", including military ones, are not conditioned by continental warfare. I do respect Bacevich, to survive own son's death in Iraq is a heavy load. I am not sure I would be able to bear this. But the problem is not in that--United States are not continental power with everything it entails, nor will it ever be the one--US true security lies with the naval force. Losing in Vietnam didn't change the landscape of Chicago or D.C. No American housewives were raped, no local convenient stores were burned to the ground by bombing, no schools withstood direct hits, no children were killed--but that is how most of the world lives for centuries. Conditioning by warfare matters, great deal. American exceptionalism is in insularity from war.


Very interesting. However, I wouldn't necessarily write off the entire American populace as "sybaritic and self-obsessed". What one sees in marketing materials like advertising (and most "style" pieces are advertising without the logo) is often aspirational. There are plenty of Americans, I would say a large majority, who aren't near well-off enough to be either a sybarite or a self-obsessive. They're pretty much the same hard working Americans they've been for decades. Whether they're actually more pacifist than their forebears of 50 or 100 years ago is difficult to know. I would guess that they are quite a bit more cynical about military adventures, though, given what occurred in Vietnam and subsequent military actions.



You are kidding yourself. What you seen now is, in the main, "the antic capering of a degenerate stock," All they want in life is to be rich. pl



"are not conditioned by continental warfare." How laughably xenophobic and Russian that is. it is a long time since Stalingrad my friend and your army "conditioned by continental warfare" fought poorly in Afghanistan. pl


On a visit to the USA over Christmas and New Year 2011/12 I experienced a startling contrast in the world awareness of two US citizens.
Party of the First Part sat next to me on a Heathrow-Dallas flight with headphones on watching the movie, except for a brief interval during which he led me to believe that he was returning from a secondment to the IT section of a subsidiary of his corporation in Switzerland. During his three months there he had gone ...nowhere. He was youngish, say late 20s, and white.
Party of the Second Part was youngish and black. I met and spoke with him and his dad at a diner in Savannah where they were visiting family over the holidays, being ordinarily residents of NYC. POTSP described how delighted he was to have been based in Germany with the US Airforce as he had had ample scope to take flights to countries both adjacent and further afield, like Spain and explore a little while on leave (furlough?).
My sample of two proves the square root of hee haw, but the sybaritic quality which troubles you is probably multiplied by insularity, extraordinary as that sounds for a continent sized country.



I agree with you. General Westmoreland requested a million troops to fight in Vietnam but LBJ turned him down because it meant activating the National Guard. 5000 US soldiers plus twice as many mercenaries in Iraq won’t do squat. In addition, the USA ally Saudi Arabia is the godfather to the Daesh and NATO member Turkey is morphing into the new Ottoman caliphate. The Iraq America war has been going on for a quarter century and is unwinnable as it is being fought. To compound this insanity, because Americans are not being drafted, we no longer matter to ruling elite. The blue collar class and conscripts are held in total contempt. Every anti-Trump comment on Huffington Post applies to those who voted for him. The loss of democracy, the forever wars and the increased white middle age suicide rate are all intertwined. Our lives have to matter. If not, America will go broke and it will splinter apart just like the old Soviet Union.



"Insularity?" what could be more "insular" than the great majority of working class Englishmen whom I know? The causes do not matter. The end result does. You are going to be on your own, Get ready for it. pl


"and your army "conditioned by continental warfare" fought poorly in Afghanistan."

Actually, it didn't, but then again, what do I know (a hint--I have more classmates and friends who fought in Afghanistan than CIA would only dream about interviewing). What "xenophobia" has anything to do with that? Is Lester Grau an idiot? Leningrad lost more people in 900 days than US lost through its military history combined. Facts are facts, numbers are numbers. I can tell you my family's (which is average) military history but what would it change and I am not sure you want to hear it, I could be wrong, of course.



We don't have "conscripts." We have working class soldiers now and they ARE despised by the Morning Joe crowd in spite of the BS about thanking for service. I generally tell people who say that they should thank some private rather than me. pl

David Lentini

Magical thinking---about cultures, history, economics, and humanity---has a bad way of perpetuating itself, since it denies reality while claiming to be fully rational. The gods first make crazy whom they would destroy.


Bacevich continues his Quixotic quest for a force structure that will reign in the ability of politicians to engage in ill-advised wars. Bacevich wrongly chalks failure in war to a "military system is out of sync with its military ambitions" - the AVF. Bacevich doesn't offer an alternative that would have achieved victory (as our elites have defined victory) - probably because such a victory is not practically possible with or without an AVF. No military can overcome the obstacles required to achieve the neocon/borg fantastical victories the promise (ie. a secular, democratic Afghanistan that respects all religions, treats women equally; a foreign-sponsored military force that will conquer all opponents in Syria and institute a modern, pro-western secular democracy, etc.).

Also, like so many others, Bacevich wishes that elites and "America" would have more skin in the game, but history shows that can't be achieved through the kind of technocratic social engineering which he and others have previously advocated for. He complains about only 1% of Americans who serve - what does he want, a 20 million person military? Universal service which would require the accession 4 million souls annually? The schemes to get American skin in the game by forcing the people to share the burdens imposed by wars of choice to not stand up to modest scrutiny. He fails to recognize the self-limiting features of an AVF.

He's right draft will not return anytime soon. After Vietnam the American people decided that our government could not be trusted to use that power responsibly and not much has happened to change that. Support for a draft won't return until America faces an existential threat at some point in the future.

I can't criticize Bacevich too much though - I do share his concerns but I am not optimistic there are any solutions to the problems he describes.


Sybaritic, now that's a good word. Regarding the mention of A-Stan in this context, the death toll in the massive coordinated attack in Kabul on Tuesday has been revised from initial reports that all of the dead were "innocent afghan" civilians to the fact that most of the dead were "elite intelligence officers" who died when the roof collapsed on them from the massive blast. 60+ dead 300+ wounded in an attack that reminds of IS tactics in the use of military grade explosives, atypical of the Taliban. We certainly aren't out of the woods yet.



Being a Scot I am happy to be independent. The current scaremongering over the future of the EU worries me not. My daughter and her family will, I suspect, enjoy a brighter future in the absence of the Borg "dripping roast " represented by the EU (and the UK).

Thanks once more.



Whose magical thinking, mine or Bacevich? If mine we should discuss my primitive Orientalist views. pl


Col. Lang -

We'll have to agree to disagree about the current state of the American people. As far as "All they want in life is to be rich", well, that's been a draw to the US since long before either of us was around. I'm pretty sure it started with Columbus. There are exceptions, but it certainly wasn't uncommon.



My ancestors who fought in the Pequod War, King Phillips War, served at Valley Forge and Yorktown did not fight to be rich and to have an easy life. Perhaps yours did. pl


Col. Lang -

My relatives only fought in WWII and Vietnam, not sure if that counts or not. But I think it's a bit much to deny any economic attraction to the US.


That's my take too colonel. I joined the marines when I was 17. The enlisted ranks are full of, as Mr. Obama says, bitter clingers. In my own state the governor has stated there is no place for conservative minded folks.

I have 4 sons. The beltway is not worth any one of them and is reflected in what I teach them.


"All they want in life is to be rich"

It's vulgar, sad thing.

- Eliot

Jag Pop

There is an ultra famous poem by that name: Dulce et Decorum Est
written by Wilfred Owen (killed in action the last week of WWI).

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Mark Pyruz

I usually agree with Col.Bacevich. However in the context of an aggressive--I might even characterize it as "bullying," it matters what type of application of hard power is applied.

These days economic warfare as applied to countries adopting a foreign policy independent of the U.S.-led global security order--such as Iran and Russia--are subjected to economic warfare in the form of sanctions. And against non-state actors, there is the application of drones.

Where Bacevich may be correct is if a major war were to occur where a significant segment of American society were required for formal conquest and, most importantly, sustained occupation. To a certain extent, this has been the lesson of OIF and even OEF-A.

As a commenter above has pointed out, there are segments of American society that are not immersed in self-indulgence. Yes, less affluent--you might say poor-- elements of American society can be induced to fight foreign wars. In my own personal, multiethnic background, mom's side of the family is Native American. During the late 1960's, all of my cousins from this side of the family volunteered for U.S. military service when they turned 17. The eldest fought in Vietnam and returned with a brain injury; we lost him here stateside. Stretching back two generations, we lost a great uncle (USA) at Battle of Bitche and a great great uncle returned from WWI with a lung injury from a German chemical weapon attack. I should point out members of our current generation have also volunteered, per tradition to the Marines.

As a side note, the Battle of Okinawa was mentioned in this post. My nephew's grandfather fought in the Battle of Sugar Loaf. He too returned with a brain injury and passed away stateside.

I'll tell you what hurts: not long after my eldest cousin passed away (around 2000), I happened to notice the label on a t-shirt I'd purchased at a local department store. It read "Made in Vietnam."


Dear Colonel,

Agree completely with your argument, but as I dont see the US accepting (barring a massive defeat and/or economic collapse) a realistic set of FP objectives - if we are building roads in Afghanistan, we should also rebuild our crumbling US roads and bridges.

So how to get beyond the limitations of a AVF?

Simple but disturbing - Boston Dynamics


An army of military robots could give the military and FP elites the necessary numbers, at, I am sure, a bankrupt-the-US cost. Personally I find the concept of such a robot army very disturbing, but then again, I also found Terminator disturbing (but a great flick).

Now just wait until some genius decided to let the military robots make more of themselves.


The trade off was the Draft would be dropped,

but the Military would become a "volenteer"'Professional force,

Thus the US Military could be used for what ever the Politicians wanted, with out having to get, or coerce, popular support for the wars.

It worked well enough for a while, but the ongoing wars are breaking the "system".

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad