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"To be sure, Bush's Second Inaugural qualifies as a thoroughly American text, the president reiterating sentiments voiced by more than a few of his predecessors. Yet the speech also bears the unmistakable imprint of self-indulgent fantasy, of sobriety overtaken by fanaticism. Bush's expectations of ending tyranny by spreading American ideals mirrored Osama Bin Laden's dream of establishing a new caliphate based on Islamic principals. When put to the test, the president's vision of peace gained by waging preventative war had proven to be just as fanciful as bin Laden's and harry less pernicious. As adversaries, truly they were made for each other."
-- Andrew J. Bacevich, America's War for the Greater Middle East.
Dr. Andrew "Skip" Bacevich is a national treasure. He is fairly unassuming in person. He would pass for a conservative banker, a thoughtful pastor, or reserved high school principal if you just happened to see him sitting across from you on the Amtrak from North Station to DuPont. But step out of line, and just his gaze alone would stop you in your tracks. He could stare down a bear, perhaps stop a shark in Hawaii with just his gaze. Obviously, I exaggerate. I'm not sure how wildlife would react to a retired Colonel Bacevich, but the couple times I met him when he was commanding the 11th ACR in Fulda, Germany ... well, let's be honest ... he scared the sh!t out of me. And I don't intimidate easily. Even the 17-year-old version of me.
Anyway, I've read many of Bacevich's previous books like: (The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country). I still have two other Bacevich books: (The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy) sitting stoically on the shelf right behind me (between a Gary Wills and a Steve Coll) waiting patiently to be read. I would consider myself to be a hyper-Bacevich-acolyte. I will read them soon.
Enough wind-up. This book isn't flashy. It isn't full of new revelations. It is just solid military and historical scholarship and probably one of the key historical pieces on the military adventurism of the United States in the Middle East since the Carter Administration. Bacevich isn't a lawyer, but this book seemed to me basically an airtight legal brief exploring: 1) what motivated the United States to act as it has in the Middle East? 2) what both the civilians an the military tried to accomplish there? 3) Regardless of what US policy makers and military planners wanted to do, what actually happened there? 4) What are the consequences of US policy towards the Middle East? What have our wars wrought?
This is a book everyone needs to read. If our military adventurism has continued to roll on, not just in the Middle East but Africa and to a smaller degree in South America and Asia, we need to understand why we constantly seem to screw it up. How are we as citizens going to hold our leaders (both in the Military and in political office) to account if we don't seem to really give a shit. Less than one percent of our citizens have been involved directly in these wars, but the wars have affected all of us. We all pay the monetary debt and burden of the Billions and even Trillions wasted in stupid wars, we pay the moral debt for the blood left on the battlefield, the wounds brought home, and the citizens killed to further American interests when we have no sense any longer exactly what that interest is.
We are trapped in generational, perpetual wars in the Middle East and to what end? Most of the Neo-Con arguments should have been put to bed with the absolute failure of America's longest two wars. We seem to have left both Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Libya less stable than we found them. We keep sending our damn military bulls into foreign Pottery Barns and we don't seem to grasp WHY exactly we are doing it or HOW the hell we can get out.
Anyway, this is a must read from a philosopher/historian of the highest order. It is his masterpiece. Read it, and weep.
26 of 30 people found this review helpful
Any presidential candidate who cares to make wise decisions in the Middle East should have this book on their nightstand.
Sadly, none of them will.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Very very thoughtful, insightful and educational text that should be required reading for anyone wishing to vote in the United States and indeed in the western world. The last chapter in particular list key topics that require educated debate and more importantly thoughtful policies
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
if you want to understand why the USA continually uses a costly and counter productive strategy in the middle east then this is the book for you. it details all the military campaigns since the USA lost power in iran. it also explains why all this effort has achieved nothing substantial at the price of so many lives lost and so much financial debt.
Thoroughly enjoyed the objective analysis providing valuable context for decades of flawed decisions that shape our modern world.
Essential in my view in order to counter the business as usual perspective of the US Government and 'Coalition of the Willing'.
Brilliant scope and approach to a complex and convoluted situation. Non partisan and clinical in analysis.