New American militarism is connected with the desire to establish global neoliberal empire ruled by the USA (the dream of total world
dominance). It became official policy since the collapse of the USSR and involves "heliocentric" view on foreign policy,
when the USA is the center of the world order and other states just rotate around it on various orbits. The US population is by-and-large-completely
brainwashed into this vision.
Opposition to the US militarism is almost non-existent due contemporary US popular culture infused with the language of militarism
and American exceptionalism. As Bacevich noted:
In this new Crusade for world hegemony the key ideas of Trotsky Permanent Revolution remains intact -- a crusade for establishing
new social system on all counties on the Earth. This is just Great Neoliberal Crusade, instead of Communist Crusade. This new
justification for Crusades has the same problems as two previous. But it does not matter as the key role of democracy here is the same
as in quote "the goal justifies the means"
Professor Andrew Bacevich wrote several short books on the subject. he avoids the term neoliberalism and did not try to explain new
American militarism in terms of the quest for neoliberal empire expansion. But he is a very good observer and the books contain many
insights into US elite thinking and blunders. Among them we can note two:
While all three books are excellent and raise important issues, they overlap. Probably the most original and the most important
on them is Washington Rules, were Bacevich attempts to explain "Permanent War for Permanent Peace" that the USA practice since the end
of WWII. All three books have the same weaknesses: Bacevich does not see connection between Neoliberalism demand for economic expansion
and "New American Militarism" and regime of permanent wars that the USA pursue since WWII.
He provide sharp critique of neocons, but never ask the question: which political forces brought those pathetic second or third rate
thinkers to the forefront of formulation of the US foreign policy and maintain them for more then a decade after Iraq debacle.
He also mistakenly believe that American people (who were completely estranged from any influence on nation's policies) bear some
guilt for the policy which was formulated to benefit the first hundred of the largest US corporations. In other words he does not understand
that the USA is yet another occupied country.
The foreign policy of the USA since 1945, but especially, after the dissolution of the USSR was and is "open militarism". Recently
John Quiggin tried to define militarism is came to the following definition (crookedtimber.org):
This new epidemic of the US militarism started after the dissolution of the USSR was called by Professor Bacevich (who is former
colonel of the US army) it New American Militarism.
Professor Bacevich had shown that the main driver of the US militarism is neocons domination of the US foreign policy, and, especially,
neocons domination in State Department regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in power. They profess that the US that is
uniquely qualified to take on the worldwide foes of peace and democracy, forgetting, revising, or ignoring the painful lessons of World
War II, Vietnam, and Iraq. And that establishing and maintaining the neoliberal empire is worth the price we pay as it will take the
USA into the period of unprecedented peace.
Bacevich scored a direct hit on the foundations of the American national security state with this scathing critique, and demolishes
the unspoken assumptions that he believes have led the United States into a senseless, wasteful, and counter-productive "perpetual
war for perpetual peace".
Lessons that President Obama is clearly never able to learn. In this sense his book
Washington Rules: America's
Path to Permanent War is an excellent peace of research with sections that some may find very troubling as it suggest that the USA
elite is suicidal and is ready to sacrifice the county for achieving its delusional goal of world domination.
UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper CXXXVII: September 27, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, August
The Washington consensus on national security policy that constitutes convention wisdom in American foreign policy began with
the Cold War and survived, remarkably, the Vietnam War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, no longer serves American interests,
but the failure of the Obama administration to alter it shows that change can only come from the American people.
Introduction: Slow Learner
The author's faith in orthodoxy began to crumble when visiting the BrandenburgGate in Berlin in the winter of 1990-1991(1-4).
In October 1990 a visit to Jenarevealed the backwardness of EastGermany (4-6). During his years in the Army, Bacevich had kept down
doubts; after the end of the Cold War he retired, and his loss of status freed him to educate himself (6-10).
"George W.Bush's decision to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 pushed me fully into opposition" (10). "This book aims to
take stock of conventional wisdom" (11). The past 60 years of American history shows continuity: a symbiotic "credo" (formulated
by Henry Luce in 1941 as the "American Century") and a "sacred trinity" ("the minimum essentials of international peace and order
require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter
existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism") together define "the rules to which Washington
In this book, "Washington" refers to the upper echelons of the three branches of government, the main agencies of the national
security state, select think tanks and interest groups, "big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major
corporations, television networks and elite publications like the New York Times, even quasi-academic entities like the Council on
Foreign Relations and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government" (15).
This book aspires to
(1) trace the history of the Washington rules;
(2) show who wins, who loses, and who pays under them;
(3) explain how itis perpetuated;
(4) show that the rules have lost what utility they might once have had;
and (5) re-legitimate "disreputable (or 'radical') views to our national security debates" (16).
The American Century is ending, and it "has become essential" to devise an "alternative to the reining national security paradigm"
Ch. 1: The Advent of Semiwar.
As president, Barack Obama's efforts to change the U.S.'s exercise of power "have seldom risen above the cosmetic"(20). He made
clear he subscribes to the "catechism of American statecraft," viz. that 1) the world must be organized, 2)only the U.S. can do it,
3) this includes dictating principles, and 4) not to accept this is to be a rogue or a recalcitrant (20-21).
It follows that the U.S. need not conform to the norms it sets for others and that it should maintain a worldwide network of bases
Imagine if China acted in a comparable manner (23-25). The extraordinary American military posture in the world (25-27). To call
this into question puts one beyond the pale(27). James Forrestal called this a permanent condition of semiwar, requiring high levels
of military spending(27-28).
American citizens are not supposed to concern themselves with it (29-30). As to how this came about, the "standard story line"
presents as the result of the decisions of a "succession of presidential administrations," though this conceals as much as it reveals
Eisenhower's 1961 Farewell Address on the "military-industrial complex" was a rare exception (32-34). More important than presidents
were Allen Dulles [1893-1969] and Curtis Lemay [1906-1990] (34-36).
Bacevich attributes the vision for an American-dominated post-World War II world with the CIA playing an active role to the patrician
Dulles (36-43). The development of the U.S. military into a force capable of dominating the world, especially in the area of strategic
weapons, he attributes to the hard-bitten Curtis LeMay, organizer of the StrategicAir Command (SAC) (43-52). Dulles and LeMay shared
devotion to country, ruthlessness, a certain recklessness (52-55). They exploited American anxieties and insecurities in yin (Dulles's
CIA) yang(LeMay's SAC) fashion, leaving the mainstay of American military power, the U.S. Army, in a relatively weak position(55-58).
Ch. 2: Illusions of Flexibility and Control
Kennedy kept Dulles and LeMay to signal continuity, but there was a behind-the-scenes struggle led by Gen. Maxwell Taylor to reassert
the role of the U.S. Army by expanding and modernizing conventional forces that was "simultaneously masked by, and captured in, the
phrase flexible response " (60; 59-63).
This agenda purported to aim at "resisting aggression" but really created new options for limited aggressive warfare by the U.S.
McNamara engaged in a struggle with LeMay to control U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, but he embraced the need for redundancy based
on a land-sea-air attack "triad" and LeMay et al. "got most of what they wanted" (66-72).
In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy instituted the morally and legally "indefensible" Operation Mongoose," in effect,
a program of state-sponsored terrorism" against Cuba (80; 72-82 [but Bacevich is silent on its wilder elements, like Operation Northwoods]).
U.S. recklessness caused the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to his credit Kennedy acknowledged this (albeit privately) and "suspended
the tradition" in defusing the crisis (82-87).
Bacevich rejects as a romantic delusion the view that in the aftermath of this crisis Kennedy turned against the military-industrial
complex and the incipient Vietnam war and shows no interest in Kennedy's assassination itself (87-92).
He sees a parallel between escalation in Vietnam and post-9/11 aggression as "fought to sustain the Washington consensus" (107;
Ch. 3: The Credo Restored.
William Fulbright's The Arrogance of Power (1966) urged a rethinking of the Washington rules (109-15). A radicalized David Shoup,
a Medal of Honor winner and former commandant of the MarineCorps, argued in "The New American Militarism" (Atlantic, April 1969)
that the U.S. had become "a militaristic and aggressive nation" (120; 115-21). The 1960s Zeitgeist shift made LeMay "an
embarrassment, mocked and vilified rather than venerated," which showed that the Washington rules had incurred serious damage in
Vietnam; the Army was in dire shape (122; 121-27).
Yet astonishingly, in the subsequent decade the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15) was "fully restored" (127). As in post-1918 Germany,
élites looked for scapegoats and worked to reverse "the war's apparent verdict" (128). The Council on Foreign Relations 1976 volume
entitled The Vietnam Legacy: The War, American Society, and the Future of American Foreign Policy is an expression of élite
consensus that the Vietnam war was insignificant, an anomaly (129-34).
By 1980, Democrats and Republicans were again on the same page (134-36).Reagan's election "sealed the triumph of Vietnam revisionism"
(136; 136-38). And the end of the Cold War posed no challenge to the Washington rules, as Madeleine Albright's pretentious arrogance
Ch. 4: Reconstituting the Trinity
The period from 1980 to 2000 saw "notretrenchment but reconfiguration" (147). The new mission was not American defense but
facilitation of a new world order (148-50). After 9/11 this pretense was dropped and "[a]ctivism became the watchword" (150,
emphasis in original;150-52). Resorting to war became "notably more frequent and less controversial" in 1980-2000, finding "its ultimate
expression in the Bush Doctrine of preventive war" (152-53). Americans "passively assented" (154).
Behind the scenes, the shape this took was struggled over by the officer corps and civilian semi-warriors pushing RMA(Revolution
in Military Affairs) (154-64).Initially, U.S. élites held that victory in Iraq demonstrated that speed could be substituted for mass
in military campaigns (165-75). But the experience of the occupation revealed this to be a fantasy (175-81).
Ch. 5: Counterfeit COIN.
Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, replacing "shock and awe" as "the Long War" replaced the "global war on terror," is the latest
doctrinal effort to preserve the Washington rules (182-86). The so-called "surge" implicitly marked a quest for conditions allowing
the U.S. to leave Iraq without admitting defeat (186-91).Gen. David Petraeus emerged as an advocate (and as salesman, through FM3-24,
the manual he revised and which Bacevich insists is in its emphasis on narrative replete with postmodernism) of counterinsurgency
doctrine as "a substitute [for warfare] suited to the exercise of great power politics in the twilight of modernity" (197; 191-97).
Implicitly, the manual argues that "war as such . . . no longer worked" (198; 198-202). Petraeus took credit for progress in Iraq
that he did not achieve (202-04).
The general with a Princeton Ph.D. was lionized with a view to normalizing war and lowering expectations, a view now embraced
by the Obama administration(205-11). Proponents of global counterinsurgency (GCOIN) emerged, like John Nagl and Gen. Benet Sacolick
(211-13). Obama embraced the GCOIN version of the Long War with Gen.Stanley McChrystal to carry it out in Afghanistan, forfeiting
the opportunity to reassess American policy (213-21).
Ch. 6: Cultivating Our Own Garden.
Time-honored no-nonsense American pragmatism has turned into an absurdity-swallowing herd mentality (222-23). The problem set the
U.S. faces has radically changed from the time of the early Cold War, but the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15) that proposes to address
them remains essentially the same (224-25).Eisenhower would have been appalled(225-26). The size of the Pentagon budget, the
size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and the extent of overseas military presence cannot be justified(226-27).
These persist because of the interests they serve, not the mission the fulfill, and are likely to do so for sometime (228-30).
Bacevich invokes George Kennan, William Fulbright, and Martin Luther King Jr. in urging that the U.S. needs a new approach, to model
freedom rather than impose it (231-37). First and foremost, America should save not the world but itself (237).
Bacevich proposes a new trinity:
- the purpose of the military is to defend the U.S. and its vital interests;
- soldiers' primary duty stations are on American soil;
- force should be used only as a last resort and in self-defense, in accord with the Just War tradition (238-41).
The American public must shoulder its complicity in what has happened, fostered by an all-volunteer force and debt-financed budgets
(241-47). It is tragic that Barack Obama, elected to institute change, has lacked the courage to alter the Washington rules,
instead "choosing to conform" (247-49). "If change is to come, it must come from the people"(249). The need for education "has
become especially acute" (249; 249-50).
Except from Macmillan
Introduction: Slow Learner Worldly ambition inhibits true learning. Ask me. I know. A young man in a hurry is nearly uneducable:
He knows what he wants and where he's headed; when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts, he has neither the
time nor the inclination. All that counts is that he is going somewhere. Only as ambition wanes does education become a possibility.
My own education did not commence until I had reached middle age. I can fix its start date with precision: For me, education began
in Berlin, on a winter's evening, at the Brandenburg Gate, not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen. As an officer in the U.S. Army
I had spent considerable time in Germany. Until that moment, however, my family and I had never had occasion to visit this most famous
of German cities, still littered with artifacts of a deeply repellent history. At the end of a long day of exploration, we found
ourselves in what had, until just months before, been the communist East. It was late and we were hungry, but I insisted on walking
the length of the Unter den Linden, from the River Spree to the gate itself. A cold rain was falling and the pavement glistened.
The buildings lining the avenue, dating from the era of Prussian kings, were dark, dirty, and pitted. Few people were about. It was
hardly a night for sightseeing. For as long as I could remember, the Brandenburg Gate had been the preeminent symbol of the age and
Berlin the epicenter of contemporary history.
Yet by the time I made it to the once and future German capital, history was already moving on. The Cold War had abruptly ended.
A divided city and a divided nation had re united. For Americans who had known Berlin only from a distance, the city existed primarily
as a metaphor. Pick a date— 1933, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1961, 1989—and Berlin becomes an instructive symbol of power, depravity, tragedy,
defiance, endurance, or vindication. For those inclined to view the past as a chronicle of parables, the modern history of Berlin
offered an abundance of material. The greatest of those parables emerged from the events of 1933 to 1945, an epic tale of evil ascendant,
belatedly confronted, then heroically overthrown.
A second narrative, woven from events during the intense period immediately following World War II, saw hopes for peace dashed,
yielding bitter antagonism but also great resolve. The ensuing stand-off—the "long twilight struggle," in John Kennedy's memorable
phrase— formed the centerpiece of the third parable, its central theme stubborn courage in the face of looming peril. Finally came
the exhilarating events of 1989, with freedom ultimately prevailing, not only in Berlin, but throughout Eastern Europe.
.... ... ...
Although commonly depicted as the most advanced and successful component of the Soviet Empire, East Germany more closely resembled
part of the undeveloped world.
... ... ...
Briquettes of soft coal used for home heating made the air all but unbreathable and coated everything with soot. In the German
cities we knew, pastels predominated—houses and apartment blocks painted pale green, muted salmon, and soft yellow. Here everything
was brown and gray
... ... ...
Bit by bit, my worldview started to crumble. That worldview had derived from this conviction: that American power manifested a
commitment to global leadership, and that both together expressed and affirmed the nation's enduring devotion to its founding ideals.
That American power, policies, and purpose were bound together in a neat, internally consistent package, each element drawing strength
from and reinforcing the others, was something I took as a given. That, during my adult life, a penchant for interventionism had
become a signature of U.S. policy did not—to me, at least—in any way contradict America's aspirations for peace. Instead, a willingness
to expend lives and treasure in distant places testified to the seriousness of those aspirations. That, during this same period,
the United States had amassed an arsenal of over thirty-one thousand nuclear weapons, some small number of them assigned to units
in which I had served, was not at odds with our belief in the inalienable right to life and liberty; rather, threats to life and
liberty had compelled the United States to acquire such an arsenal and maintain it in readiness for instant use.2 I was not so naíve
as to believe that the American record had been without flaws. Yet I assured myself that any errors or misjudgments had been committed
in good faith. Furthermore, circumstances permitted little real choice. In Southeast Asia as in Western Europe, in the Persian Gulf
as in the Western Hemisphere, the United States had simply done what needed doing. Viable alternatives did not exist. To consent
to any dilution of American power would be to forfeit global leadership, thereby putting at risk safety, prosperity, and freedom,
not only our own but also that of our friends and allies.
The choices seemed clear enough. On one side was the status quo: the commitments, customs, and habits that defined American globalism,
implemented by the national security apparatus within which I functioned as a small cog. On the other side was the prospect of appeasement,
isolationism, and catastrophe. The only responsible course was the one to which every president since Harry Truman had adhered. For
me, the Cold War had played a crucial role in sustaining that worldview.
Given my age, upbringing, and professional background, it could hardly have been otherwise. Although the great rivalry between
the United States and the Soviet Union had contained moments of considerable anxiety — I remember my father, during the Cuban Missile
Crisis, stocking our basement with water and canned goods — it served primarily to clarify, not to frighten.
The Cold War provided a framework that organized and made sense of contemporary history. It offered a lineup and a scorecard.
That there existed bad Germans and good Germans, their Germans and our Germans, totalitarian Germans and Germans who, like Americans,
passionately loved freedom was, for example, a proposition I accepted as dogma. Seeing the Cold War as a struggle between good and
evil answered many questions, consigned others to the periphery, and rendered still others irrelevant.
Back in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, more than a few members of my generation had rejected the conception of the Cold War
as a Manichean struggle. Here too, I was admittedly a slow learner. Yet having kept the faith long after others had lost theirs,
the doubts that eventually assailed me were all the more disorienting. Granted, occasional suspicions had appeared long before Jena
My own Vietnam experience had generated its share, which I had done my best to suppress. I was, after all, a serving soldier.
Except in the narrowest of terms, the military profession, in those days at least, did not look kindly on nonconformity. Climbing
the ladder of career success required curbing maverick tendencies. To get ahead, you needed to be a team player. Later, when studying
the history of U.S. foreign relations in graduate school, I was pelted with challenges to orthodoxy, which I vigorously deflected.
When it came to education, graduate school proved a complete waste of time — a period of intense study devoted to the further accumulation
of facts, while I exerted myself to ensuring that they remained inert.
Now, however, my personal circumstances were changing. Shortly after the passing of the Cold War, my military career ended. Education
thereby became not only a possibility, but also a necessity. In measured doses, mortification cleanses the soul. It's the perfect
antidote for excessive self-regard. After twenty-three years spent inside the U.S. Army seemingly going somewhere, I now found myself
on the outside going nowhere in particular. In the self-contained and cloistered universe of regimental life, I had briefly risen
to the status of minor spear carrier. The instant I took off my uniform, that status vanished. I soon came to a proper appreciation
of my own insignificance, a salutary lesson that I ought to have absorbed many years earlier. As I set out on what eventually became
a crablike journey toward a new calling as a teacher and writer—a pilgrimage of sorts—ambition in the commonly accepted meaning of
the term ebbed. This did not happen all at once. Yet gradually, trying to grab one of life's shiny brass rings ceased being a major
Wealth, power, and celebrity became not aspirations but subjects for critical analysis.
History—especially the familiar narrative of the Cold War—no longer offered answers; instead, it posed perplexing riddles. Easily
the most nagging was this one: How could I have so profoundly misjudged the reality of what lay on the far side of the Iron Curtain?
Had I been insufficiently attentive? Or was it possible that I had been snookered all along? Contemplating such questions, while
simultaneously witnessing the unfolding of the "long 1990s"— the period bookended by two wars with Iraq when American vainglory reached
impressive new heights—prompted the realization that I had grossly misinterpreted the threat posed by America's adversaries. Yet
that was the lesser half of the problem. Far worse than misperceiving "them" was the fact that I had misperceived "us." What I thought
I knew best I actually understood least. Here, the need for education appeared especially acute.
George W. Bush's decision to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 pushed me fully into opposition. Claims that once seemed elementary—above
all, claims relating to the essentially benign purposes of American power— now appeared preposterous. The contradictions that found
an ostensibly peace-loving nation committing itself to a doctrine of preventive war became too great to ignore. The folly and hubris
of the policy makers who heedlessly thrust the nation into an ill-defined and open-ended "global war on terror" without the foggiest
notion of what victory would look like, how it would be won, and what it might cost approached standards hitherto achieved only by
slightly mad German warlords. During the era of containment, the United States had at least maintained the pretense of a principled
strategy; now, the last vestiges of principle gave way to fantasy and opportunism. With that, the worldview to which I had adhered
as a young adult and carried into middle age dissolved completely. *
What should stand in the place of such discarded convictions? Simply inverting the conventional wisdom, substituting a new Manichean
paradigm for the old discredited version—the United States taking the place of the Soviet Union as the source of the world's evil—would
not suffice. Yet arriving at even an approximation of truth would entail subjecting conventional wisdom, both present and past, to
sustained and searching scrutiny. Cautiously at first but with growing confidence, this I vowed to do. Doing so meant shedding habits
of conformity acquired over decades. All of my adult life I had been a company man, only dimly aware of the extent to which institutional
loyalties induce myopia. Asserting independence required first recognizing the extent to which I had been socialized to accept certain
things as unimpeachable. Here then were the preliminary steps essential to making education accessible. Over a period of years, a
considerable store of debris had piled up. Now, it all had to go. Belatedly, I learned that more often than not what passes for conventional
wisdom is simply wrong. Adopting fashionable attitudes to demonstrate one's trustworthiness—the world of politics is flush with such
people hoping thereby to qualify for inclusion in some inner circle—is akin to engaging in prostitution in exchange for promissory
notes. It's not only demeaning but downright foolhardy. This book aims to take stock of conventional wisdom in its most influential
and enduring form, namely the package of assumptions, habits, and precepts that have defined the tradition of statecraft to which
the United States has adhered since the end of World War II— the era of global dominance now drawing to a close. This postwar tradition
combines two components, each one so deeply embedded in the American collective consciousness as to have all but disappeared from
The first component specifies norms according to which the international order ought to work and charges the United States with
responsibility for enforcing those norms. Call this the American credo. In the simplest terms, the credo summons the United States—and
the United States alone—to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world. In a celebrated manifesto issued at the dawn
of what he termed "The American Century," Henry R. Luce made the case for this spacious conception of global leadership. Writing
in Life magazine in early 1941, the influential publisher exhorted his fellow citizens to "accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert
upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit." Luce thereby captured
what remains even today the credo's essence.3 Luce's concept of an American Century, an age of unquestioned American global primacy,
resonated, especially in Washington. His evocative phrase found a permanent place in the lexicon of national politics. (Recall that
the neoconservatives who, in the 1990s, lobbied for more militant U.S. policies named their enterprise the Project for a New American
Century.) So, too, did Luce's expansive claim of prerogatives to be exercised by the United States.
Even today, whenever public figures allude to America's responsibility to lead, they signal their fidelity to this creed.
Along with respectful allusions to God and "the troops," adherence to Luce's credo has become a de facto prerequisite for high office.
Question its claims and your prospects of being heard in the hubbub of national politics become nil. Note, however, that the duty
Luce ascribed to Americans has two components. It is not only up to Americans, he wrote, to choose the purposes for which they would
bring their influence to bear, but to choose the means as well. Here we confront the second component of the postwar tradition of
American statecraft. With regard to means, that tradition has emphasized activism over example, hard power over soft, and coercion
(often styled "negotiating from a position of strength") over suasion. Above all, the exercise of global leadership as prescribed
by the credo obliges the United States to maintain military capabilities staggeringly in excess of those required for self-defense.
Prior to World War II, Americans by and large viewed military power and institutions with skepticism, if not outright hostility.
In the wake of World War II, that changed. An affinity for military might emerged as central to the American identity. By the midpoint
of the twentieth century, "the Pentagon" had ceased to be merely a gigantic five-sided building.
Like "Wall Street" at the end of the nineteenth century, it had become Leviathan, its actions veiled in secrecy, its reach extending
around the world. Yet while the concentration of power in Wall Street had once evoked deep fear and suspicion, Americans by and large
saw the concentration of power in the Pentagon as benign. Most found it reassuring. A people who had long seen standing armies as
a threat to liberty now came to believe that the preservation of liberty required them to lavish resources on the armed forces. During
the Cold War, Americans worried ceaselessly about falling behind the Russians, even though the Pentagon consistently maintained a
position of overall primacy. Once the Soviet threat disappeared, mere primacy no longer sufficed. With barely a whisper of national
debate, unambiguous and perpetual global military supremacy emerged as an essential predicate to global leadership. Every great military
power has its distinctive signature. For Napoleonic France, it was the levée en masse— the people in arms animated by the ideals
of the Revolution. For Great Britain in the heyday of empire, it was command of the seas, sustained by a dominant fleet and a network
of far-flung outposts from Gibraltar and the Cape of Good Hope to Singapore and Hong Kong. Germany from the 1860s to the 1940s (and
Israel from 1948 to 1973) took another approach, relying on a potent blend of tactical flexibility and operational audacity to achieve
The abiding signature of American military power since World War II has been of a different order altogether. The United States
has not specialized in any particular type of war. It has not adhered to a fixed tactical style. No single service or weapon has
enjoyed consistent favor. At times, the armed forces have relied on citizen-soldiers to fill their ranks; at other times, long-service
professionals. Yet an examination of the past sixty years of U.S. military policy and practice does reveal important elements of
continuity. Call them the sacred trinity: an abiding conviction that the minimum essentials of international peace and order require
the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing
or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism. Together, credo and trinity—the one defining purpose, the
other practice—constitute the essence of the way that Washington has attempted to govern and police the American Century. The relationship
between the two is symbiotic. The trinity lends plausibility to the credo's vast claims. For its part, the credo justifies the trinity's
vast requirements and exertions.
Together they provide the basis for an enduring consensus that imparts a consistency to U.S. policy regardless of which political
party may hold the upper hand or who may be occupying the White House. From the era of Harry Truman to the age of Barack Obama, that
consensus has remained intact. It defines the rules to which Washington adheres; it determines the precepts by which Washington rules.
As used here, Washington is less a geographic expression than a set of interlocking institutions headed by people who, whether acting
officially or unofficially, are able to put a thumb on the helm of state. Washington, in this sense, includes the upper echelons
of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government. It encompasses the principal components of the national
security state— the departments of Defense, State, and, more recently, Homeland Security, along with various agencies comprising
the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities. Its ranks extend to select think tanks and interest groups. Lawyers, lobbyists,
fixers, former officials, and retired military officers who still enjoy access are members in good standing. Yet Washington also
reaches beyond the Beltway to include big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major corporations, television
networks and elite publications like the New York Times, even quasi-academic entities like the Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government.
With rare exceptions, acceptance of the Washington rules forms a prerequisite for entry into this world. My purpose in writing
this book is fivefold: first, to trace the origins and evolution of the Washington rules—both the credo that inspires consensus and
the trinity in which it finds expression; second, to subject the resulting consensus to critical inspection, showing who wins and
who loses and also who foots the bill; third, to explain how the Washington rules are perpetuated, with certain views privileged
while others are declared disreputable; fourth, to demonstrate that the rules themselves have lost whatever utility they may once
have possessed, with their implications increasingly pernicious and their costs increasingly unaffordable; and finally, to argue
for readmitting disreputable (or "radical") views to our national security debate, in effect legitimating alternatives to the status
quo. In effect, my aim is to invite readers to share in the process of education on which I embarked two decades ago in Berlin. The
Washington rules were forged at a moment when American influence and power were approaching their acme. That moment has now passed.
The United States has drawn down the stores of authority and goodwill it had acquired by 1945. Words uttered in Washington command
less respect than once was the case. Americans can ill afford to indulge any longer in dreams of saving the world, much less remaking
it in our own image. The curtain is now falling on the American Century. Similarly, the United States no longer possesses sufficient
wherewithal to sustain a national security strategy that relies on global military presence and global power projection to underwrite
a policy of global interventionism. Touted as essential to peace, adherence to that strategy has propelled the United States into
a condition approximating perpetual war, as the military misadventures of the past decade have demonstrated.
To anyone with eyes to see, the shortcomings inherent in the Washington rules have become plainly evident. Although those most
deeply invested in perpetuating its conventions will insist otherwise, the tradition to which Washington remains devoted has begun
to unravel. Attempting to prolong its existence might serve Washington's interests, but it will not serve the interests of the
Devising an alternative to the reigning national security paradigm will pose a daunting challenge—especially if Americans look
to "Washington" for fresh thinking. Yet doing so has become essential. In one sense, the national security policies to which Washington
so insistently adheres express what has long been the preferred American approach to engaging the world beyond our borders. That
approach plays to America's presumed strong suit—since World War II, and especially since the end of the Cold War, thought to be
military power. In another sense, this reliance on military might creates excuses for the United States to avoid serious engagement:
Confidence in American arms has made it unnecessary to attend to what others might think or to consider how their aspirations might
differ from our own.
In this way, the Washington rules reinforce American provincialism—a national trait for which the United States continues
to pay dearly. The persistence of these rules has also provided an excuse to avoid serious self-engagement. From this perspective,
confidence that the credo and the trinity will oblige others to accommodate themselves to America's needs or desires — whether for
cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods—has allowed Washington to postpone or ignore problems demanding attention here at
Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland and Detroit. Purporting to support the troops in their
crusade to free the world obviates any obligation to assess the implications of how Americans themselves choose to exercise freedom.
When Americans demonstrate a willingness to engage seriously with others, combined with the courage to engage seriously with themselves,
then real education just might begin.