Foreign Policy in Focus recently posted two articles by Andrew Feldman on Andrew Bacevich, the esteemed international relations professor and author, who argues that, by habitually responding to threats with the military instead of diplomacy, the United States makes itself more vulnerable instead of shoring up its defense. Feldman not only reviewed his book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, but interviewed Bacevich for posts that both appeared on August 26. Despite Bacevich’s status in anti-intervention camps, Feldman doesn’t exactly lob softball questions at him.
For example, the former maintains, “But my argument is, roughly since the 1960s and very much so since 9/11, expansionism has an opposite effect. We’re not enhancing our power; we’re squandering it. We’re not building our prosperity; we’re going bankrupt.” But that’s not enough for Feldman, who replies, “Maybe you just don’t see it as a question of the ethical nature of expansionist policy.”
After President Obama’s Iraq speech, the New Republic posted an opinion piece by Bacevich that enjoyed wide readership. First he wrote:
And before we hasten to turn the page [on Iraq] — something that the great majority of Americans are keen to do — common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment.
Decency? Where — I’m convinced many Americans were wondering — was the decency on the part of Sunnis and Shias who showed their gratitude for the freedom we gave them by mowing each other down and blowing each other up? Until the Surge saved Iraq. Sending in reinforcements — what a concept!
In fact, as Gareth Porter points out in a recent Focal Points post . . .
The Sunni decision to cooperate in the suppression of al Qaeda in Iraq had nothing to do with the surge. The main Sunni armed resistance groups had actually turned against al Qaeda in 2005, when they began trying to make a deal with the United States to end the war.
But that hasn’t kept the Obama administration from propagating the myth of the Surge. Porter again.
For the Democratic foreign policy elite, staying ignorant of the real history of the Iraq War allows them to believe that deploying U.S. military forces in Muslim countries can be an effective instrument of U.S. power.
Meanwhile, in his New Republic piece, Bacevich writes:
So the Americans are bowing out, having achieved few of the ambitious goals articulated in the heady aftermath of Baghdad’s fall. The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation, and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget.
The “ethical nature of expansionist policy” may not be as foremost in Bacevich’s mind as whether or not it helps the United States in its relations with the world. But has anyone summed up our Iraq adventure as well?
Israel has its own Andrew Bacevich — a former solider who has become a respected spokesperson of his nation’s policies and, as well, a parent who has lost a son in one of his country’s military misadventures. David Grossman spoke to the Guardian on the occasion of the publication of his new novel, To the End of the Land, which it describes as “a memorial to his son who was killed while serving in the army, and why he remains an opponent of his country’s policy towards the Palestinians.” Interviewer Rachel Cooke writes:
Meanwhile, life in Israel grows somehow narrower. Grossman’s Arabic is almost as fluent as his superlative English, but it is harder and harder to maintain links with Palestinian friends, let alone to travel there. “I spoke three weeks ago to a dear friend, the writer Ahmad Harb…” He sighs. “Between us, there is the mutual disappointment of people who had a common dream and who saw it evaporate. But I know he continues to fight in his society exactly as he knows I do in mine. We are like two groups of miners digging from either side of a mountain; we know we will meet in the end.” The settlers? They are distorting an Israeli idealism he still holds dear. “The emotional investment we put into the occupation! As Gershon Sholem said, ‘All the blood goes to the wound.’ We are not taking care of ourselves. We are looking in the wrong direction. The settlement movement might really ruin us.”
By reflexively reaching for the military whenever they feel threatened, the United States and Israel threaten not only wreak havoc on national security and each respective state’s federal budget, but the very moral foundations of their societies.