- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

One Percent Republic

In evaluating the Global War on Terrorism, the overriding question is necessarily this one: has more than a decade of armed conflict enhanced the well-being of the American people? The war fought by citizen-soldiers at the behest of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt did so. Can we say the same for the war launched by George W. Bush and perpetuated in modified form by Barack Obama?

Before taking stock of what a decade of war has actually produced, recall the expectations that prevailed shortly before war began. On the eve of World War II, the mood was anxious. For a nation still caught in the throes of a protracted economic slump, the prospect of a European war carried limited appeal; the previous one, just two decades earlier, had yielded little but disappointment. By comparison, expectations on the near side of the Global War on Terrorism were positively bullish. For citizens of the planet’s “sole remaining superpower,” the 20th century had ended on a high note. The 21st century appeared rich with promise.

Speaking just prior to midnight on December 31, 1999, President Bill Clinton surveyed the century just ending and identified its central theme as “the triumph of freedom and free people.” To this “great story,” Clinton told his listeners, the United States had made a pivotal contribution. Contemplating the future, he glimpsed even better days ahead—“the triumph of freedom wisely used.” All that was needed to secure that triumph was for Americans to exploit and export “the economic benefits of globalization, the political benefits of democracy and human rights, [and] the educational and health benefits of all things modern.” At the dawning of the new millennium, he concluded confidently, “the sun will always rise on America as long as each new generation lights the fire of freedom.”

What the president’s remarks lacked in terms of insight or originality they made up for in familiarity. During the decade following the Cold War, such expectations had become commonplace. Skillful politician that he was, Clinton was telling Americans what they already believed.

The passing of one further decade during which U.S. forces seeking to ignite freedom’s fire flooded the Greater Middle East reduced Bill Clinton’s fin-de-siècle formula for peace and prosperity to tatters. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the United States touched off a conflagration of sorts, albeit with results other than intended. Yet for the average American, the most painful setbacks occurred not out there in wartime theaters but back here on the home front. Instead of freedom wisely used, the decade’s theme became: bubbles burst and dreams deflated.

Above all, those dreams had fostered expectations of unprecedented material abundance—more of everything for everyone. Alas, this was not to be. Although “crisis” ranks alongside “historic” atop any list of overused terms in American political discourse, the Great Recession that began in 2007 turned out to be the real deal: a crisis of historic proportions.

With the ongoing “war” approaching the 10-year mark, the U.S. economy shed a total of 7.9 million jobs in just three years. For only the second time since World War II, the official unemployment rate topped 10 percent. The retreat from that peak came at an achingly slow pace. By some estimates, actual unemployment—including those who had simply given up looking for work—was double the official figure. Accentuating the pain was the duration of joblessness; those laid off during the Great Recession stayed out of work substantially longer than the unemployed during previous postwar economic downturns. When new opportunities did eventually materialize, they usually came with smaller salaries and either reduced benefits or none at all.

As an immediate consequence, millions of Americans lost their homes or found themselves “underwater,” the value of their property less than what they owed on their mortgages. Countless more were thrown into poverty, the number of those officially classified as poor reaching the highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking such data. A drop in median income erased gains made during the previous 15 years. Erstwhile members of the great American middle class shelved or abandoned outright carefully nurtured plans to educate their children or retire in modest comfort. Inequality reached gaping proportions with 1 percent of the population amassing a full 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.


Month after month, grim statistics provided fodder for commentators distributing blame, for learned analysts offering contradictory explanations of why prosperity had proven so chimerical, and for politicians absolving themselves of responsibility while fingering as culprits members of the other party. Yet beyond its immediate impact, what did the Great Recession signify? Was the sudden appearance of hard times in the midst of war merely an epiphenomenon, a period of painful adjustment and belt-tightening after which the world’s sole superpower would be back in the saddle? Or had the Great Recession begun a Great Recessional, with the United States in irreversible retreat from the apex of global dominion?

The political response to this economic calamity paid less attention to forecasting long-term implications than to fixing culpability. On the right, an angry Tea Party movement blamed Big Government. On the left, equally angry members of the Occupy movement blamed Big Business, especially Wall Street. What these two movements had in common was that each cast the American people as victims. Nefarious forces had gorged themselves at the expense of ordinary folk. By implication, the people were themselves absolved of responsibility for the catastrophe that had befallen them and their country.

Yet consider a third possibility. Perhaps the people were not victims but accessories. On the subject of war, Americans can no more claim innocence than they can regarding the effects of smoking or excessive drinking. As much as or more than Big Government or Big Business, popular attitudes toward war, combining detachment, neglect, and inattention, helped create the crisis in which the United States is mired.

A “country made by war,” to cite the title of a popular account of U.S. military history, the United States in our own day is fast becoming a country undone by war. Citizen armies had waged the wars that made the nation powerful (if not virtuous) and Americans rich (if not righteous). The character of those armies—preeminently the ones that preserved the Union and helped defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan—testified to an implicit covenant between citizens and the state. According to its terms, war was the people’s business and could not be otherwise. For the state to embark upon armed conflict of any magnitude required informed popular consent. Actual prosecution of any military campaign larger than a police action depended on the willingness of citizens in large numbers to become soldiers. Seeing war through to a conclusion hinged on the state’s ability to sustain active popular support in the face of adversity.

In their disgust over Vietnam, Americans withdrew from this arrangement. They disengaged from war, with few observers giving serious consideration to the implications of doing so. Events since, especially since 9/11, have made those implications manifest. In the United States, war no longer qualifies in any meaningful sense as the people’s business. In military matters, Americans have largely forfeited their say.

As a result, in formulating basic military policy and in deciding when and how to employ force, the state no longer requires the consent, direct participation, or ongoing support of citizens. As an immediate consequence, Washington’s penchant for war has appreciably increased, without, however, any corresponding improvement in the ability of political and military leaders to conclude its wars promptly or successfully. A further result, less appreciated but with even larger implications, has been to accelerate the erosion of the traditional concept of democratic citizenship.

In other words, the afflictions besetting the American way of life derive in some measure from shortcomings in the contemporary American way of war. The latter have either begotten or exacerbated the former.

Since 9/11, Americans have, in fact, refuted George C. Marshall by demonstrating a willingness to tolerate “a Seven Years [and longer] War.” It turns out, as the neoconservative pundit Max Boot observed, that an absence of popular support “isn’t necessarily fatal” for a flagging war effort. For an inveterate militarist like Boot, this comes as good news. “Public apathy,” he argues, “presents a potential opportunity,” making it possible to prolong “indefinitely” conflicts in which citizens are not invested.

Yet such news is hardly good. Apathy toward war is symptomatic of advancing civic decay, finding expression in apathy toward the blight of child poverty, homelessness, illegitimacy, and eating disorders also plaguing the country. Shrugging off wars makes it that much easier for Americans—overweight, overmedicated, and deeply in hock—to shrug off the persistence of widespread hunger, the patent failures of their criminal justice system, and any number of other problems. The thread that binds together this pattern of collective anomie is plain to see: unless the problem you’re talking about affects me personally, why should I care?

For years after 9/11, America’s armed force floundered abroad. Although the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq began promisingly enough, in neither case were U.S. forces able to close the deal. With the fall of Richmond in April 1865, the Civil War drew to a definitive close. No such claim could be made in connection with the fall of Kabul in November 2001. When it came to dramatic effect, the staged April 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad’s Firdos Square stands on a par with the September 1945 surrender ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri. There, however, the comparison ends. The one event rang down the curtain; the other merely signified a script change. Meanwhile, Americans at home paid little more than lip service to the travails endured by the troops.

Beginning in 2007—just as the “surge” was ostensibly salvaging the Iraq War—a sea of troubles engulfed the home front. From those troubles, the continuation of war offered no escape. If anything, the perpetuation (and expansion) of armed conflict plunged the nation itself that much more deeply underwater. Once again, as in the 1860s and 1940s, war was playing a major role in determining the nation’s destiny. Yet this time around, there was no upside. Virtually all of the consequences—political, economic, social, cultural, and moral—proved negative. To a nation gearing up for global war, FDR had promised jobs, help for the vulnerable, an end to special privilege, the protection of civil liberties, and decisive military victory over the nation’s enemies. To a considerable degree, Roosevelt made good on that promise. Judged by those same criteria, the Bush-Obama global war came up short on all counts.

The crux of the problem lay with two symmetrical 1 percents: the 1 percent whose members get sent to fight seemingly endless wars and that other 1 percent whose members demonstrate such a knack for enriching themselves in “wartime.” Needless to say, the two 1 percents neither intersect nor overlap. Few of the very rich send their sons or daughters to fight. Few of those leaving the military’s ranks find their way into the ranks of the plutocracy. Rather than rallying to the colors, Harvard graduates these days flock to Wall Street or the lucrative world of consulting. Movie star heroics occur exclusively on screen, while millionaire professional athletes manage to satisfy their appetite for combat on the court and playing field.

Yet a people who permit war to be waged in their name while offloading onto a tiny minority responsibility for its actual conduct have no cause to complain about an equally small minority milking the system for all it’s worth. Crudely put, if the very rich are engaged in ruthlessly exploiting the 99 percent who are not, their actions are analogous to that of American society as a whole in its treatment of soldiers: the 99 percent who do not serve in uniform just as ruthlessly exploit the 1 percent who do.

To excuse or justify their conduct, the very rich engage in acts of philanthropy. With a similar aim, the not-so-rich proclaim their undying admiration of the troops.

As the bumper sticker proclaims, freedom isn’t free. Conditioned to believe that the exercise of global leadership is essential to preserving their freedom, and further conditioned to believe that leadership best expresses itself in the wielding of military might, Americans have begun to discover that trusting in the present-day American way of war to preserve the present-day American way of life entails exorbitant and unexpected costs.

Yet as painful as they may be, these costs represent something far more disturbing. As a remedy for all the ailments afflicting the body politic, war—at least as Americans have chosen to wage it—turns out to be a fundamentally inappropriate prescription. Rather than restoring the patient to health, war (as currently practiced pursuant to freedom as currently defined) constitutes a form of prolonged ritual suicide. Rather than building muscle, it corrupts and putrefies. Web issue image [1]

The choice Americans face today ends up being as straightforward as it is stark. If they believe war essential to preserving their freedom, it’s incumbent upon them to prosecute war with the same seriousness their forebears demonstrated in the 1940s. Washington’s war would then truly become America’s war with all that implies in terms of commitment and priorities. Should Americans decide, on the other hand, that freedom as presently defined is not worth the sacrifices entailed by real war, it becomes incumbent upon them to revise their understanding of freedom. Either choice—real war or an alternative conception of freedom—would entail a more robust definition of what it means to be a citizen.

Yet the dilemma just described may be more theoretical than real. Without the players fully understanding the stakes, the die has already been cast. Having forfeited responsibility for war’s design and conduct, the American people may find that Washington considers that grant of authority irrevocable. The state now owns war, with the country consigned to observer status. Meanwhile, the juggernaut of mainstream, commercial culture continues to promulgate the four pop Gospels of American Freedom: novelty, autonomy, celebrity, and consumption. Efforts to resist or reverse these tendencies, whether by right-leaning traditionalists (many of them religiously inclined) or left-leaning secular humanists (sometimes allied with religious radicals) have been feeble and ineffective.

Americans must therefore accept the likelihood of a future in which real if futile sacrifices exacted of the few who fight will serve chiefly to facilitate metaphorical death for the rest who do not.

Andrew J. Bacevich teaches at Boston University. This essay is adapted from Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country [2], published in hardcover by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC, in September. Copyright © 2013 by Andrew Bacevich. All rights reserved.

64 Comments (Open | Close)

64 Comments To "One Percent Republic"

#1 Comment By philadelphialawyer On December 30, 2013 @ 11:41 pm

Gilbert Jacobi:

What we have now is a relatively SMALL standing army. I fail to see how increasing the size of the standing army, by instituting a draft, is going to make our leaders any less likely to use it than they are now. As I pointed out, the draftee nature of the Cold War military did not seem to pose much of an obstacle to our leaders, who managed to find not one but two Asian land wars for “our boys” to fight in the course of ten years or so.

And it is a bit of an exaggeration, if not an outright misstatement, to claim that our military is made up “largely of powerless poor people.” The military is in fact made up of lower middle class enlisted men and middle class and upper middle class officers. The dirt poor from the ghettos and the least prosperous rural areas, who don’t finish high school, do not make up the regular army, much less the even more middle class national guard units and air forces.

True, as you say, whatever their class, our leaders now show very little restraint in using and abusing our soldiers, sailors and air men. On the other hand, it seems to me that a big, drafted, WWII size military would only tempt our leaders that much more. Right now, there are SOME limits on what they can do, as the military can’t really fight more than one and a half Iraq/Afghanistan wars at a time. But with dozens more Army and Marine divisions there would be almost no limit at all.

Perhaps, in the end, a draft MIGHT lead to a Vietnam War type impasse, in which the middle and upper classed finally rebel against the useless slaughter of their own sons. Perhaps. But in the meantime, we will only get more war and turmoil.

And, as with anyone who calls for a draft, the burden of proof is on you. You have to show a good reason for interfering with the lives, freedom and autonomy of millions of young people. A draft needs a justification, the lack of a draft should be the baseline. And chancy predictions about what our leaders would do with a more class inclusive military don’t, in my view, cut it.

#2 Comment By Princek On December 31, 2013 @ 9:32 am

Sadly, Mr. Bacevich seems to be afflicted with the same sort of schizophrenia that many other conservatives suffer from: a love of “America” as a theoretical construct but a general disdain for real live Americans. He stingily reserves his respect for the 1 percent who wear a military uniform while everyone else is, it seems, just part of the problem – mere participants in or outright contributors to the “civic decay” he bemoans.

I have no idea what “metaphorical death” actually implies. I do get the impression, however, that the article as a whole was intended “metaphorically,” since it offers very few if any concrete prescriptions about how to extricate ourselves from the peril Mr. Bacevich believes were are facing. His only suggestion appears to be that we conduct every war as if it were WW2 all over again. But doesn’t this beg the question of whether every war is comparable to WW2? Isn’t it possible that war comes in many forms and the response should likewise vary – including with respect to the manner in which it is prosecuted? The constant impulse to compare and contrast all our subsequent wars to our participation in “The Good War” has grown rather tiresome. Mr. Bacevich, in drawing on this same approach, appears to have erred by viewing current affairs through the mirror of that war – with the images accordingly reversed. Thus, his view seems to be: WW2 was a “good war” because it was a “people’s war,” one which produced greater “well-being” for all while our recent wars, not being “people’s wars,” were not “good wars” and thus could not produce “well-being” for all. Moreover, the proposition that only by whole-heartedly pursuing war can we in like manner whole-heartedly pursue the betterment of our own society seems rather all-or-nothingish to me. The idea that we need a more engaged public may be laudable. But the parallel assumption that this requires us all to serve as soldiers to the Republic is not convincing.

#3 Comment By Anthony Alfidi On January 1, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

Without plutocracy, citizen soldiers rise unchecked. Americans have grown accustomed to wealth inequality and class privilege. Decades of entitlement programs and cultural programming have permanently changed our culture. I’ve analyzed the hazards of a permanent plutocracy for years: [3]

Bias against military veterans is quite strong among educated upper-class Americans. The few plutocrats I’ve met in San Francisco have informed me that my military service somehow renders me unfit for polite society. Anecdotal tales aren’t as powerful as statistics. The numbers showing unemployment rates among veterans that far exceed the general population’s U-rate are beyond dispute. The plutocracy doesn’t mind this state of affairs because it doesn’t interrupt their golf schedules or wine tastings at the local country club.

Col. Bacevich’s conclusion that Americans are resigned to this state of affairs reminds me of Samuel Huntington’s conclusion in his classic “The Soldier and the State.” Huntington concluded in the 1950’s that Americans would become more conservative in their acceptance of a permanent war machine and a warrior caste to run it. We have fulfilled his prophecy. America has entered a neo-feudal period.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Other commenters here have identified the draft as a solution. That would correct our drift toward neo-feudalism if it were enacted with other social reforms to curb the entitlement state (i.e., the Simpson-Bowles budget reforms) and the Wall Street bailout regime (i.e., re-enact Glass-Steagall). Correcting the soldier-society imbalance won’t be easy, but it’s worth doing if we care about America.

#4 Comment By Kilo4/11 On January 1, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

UGA IX, I thought I was extreme in my insistence that nobody get out of the draft next time around, but you have outdone me by a sight – well done!

I foresee one possible problem for your proposal for a revamped draft – which I otherwise think is excellent – and wonder if you agree, and if so, what you think might be done about it. Namely, I fear that getting “the services to turn in their estimates of personnel needs …” leaves the door open to all manner of beaurocratic resistance such as fudging the numbers, falsifying the definition of “needs”, etc. The services must be consulted, obviously, but there is such entrenched opposition to a draft there that I would want some outside accounting agency to go over their numbers. There may be a need to limit the slots open to volunteers, say to 50% of the total force, otherwise there may be so few billets left open (assuming we are aiming at a small force) for draftees as to defeat the whole purpose of sharing the burden and acting as a brake on the warmongers.

#5 Comment By Jack On January 1, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

The article places way too much emphasis on the ability of the American people to decide on issues of war. Recent history has shown that the people have little power. If they don’t see the need for a war, facts will be manufactured to compel support as in Iraq and if the facts prove false, then by that time it is too late. We are committed and must stay the course. Ordinary Americans can hardly expected to maintain their own personal CIAs.

#6 Comment By Gilbert Jacobi On January 1, 2014 @ 5:36 pm


You’ve failed to address any of Professor Bacevich’s points, while also erecting a straw man by saying Professor Bacevich claims wars are “THE defining factor in the fate of our society.” What he in fact claims is that: “Having forfeited responsibility for war’s design and conduct, [by leaving it up to the 1%] the American people may find that Washington considers that grant of authority irrevocable.” Thus, he is not saying it is the wars that are the defining factor, but Americans’ attitude toward them, and the effect this in turn has on our freedom.

In its earlier wars, America, and large numbers of Americans, importantly including those who fought, stood to gain something: territory, resources, markets, prestige and influence on the world stage. In Professor Bacevich’s words, our wars “made the nation powerful (if not virtuous) and Americans rich (if not righteous).” Because these earlier wars occurred during a period of national ascent does not mean they were wholly responsible for that ascent, and in any case, this concurrence does not rule out their having a demonstrably deleterious effect under different conditions. The reason such wars were at least compatible with, if not causative of, our historical period of ascent was because we still had vast quantities of free land to exploit, to feed and stimulate our burgeoning industrialization. That does not invalidate the claim that they are destructive to our prosperity, and so much else, today. All our wars accomplish today is impoverishing 98% of us while stoking the hatred of the rest of the world. What it does for the 1% who fight is a mixed bag, but in any case, a great nation cannot continue to rely on such a tiny segment of the population for such a serious matter, any more than it can continue to let the wealth go to that top1%.

The snarky “All without too much obesity ensuing.” betrays ignorance of the conditions of those earlier wars, when the great majority of the population made its living doing physical labor. As well, today’s apathy and lack of civic participation is a fundamentally different reason than the reason we fought our earlier small wars with small volunteer forces. In those actions, the main reason we used a small volunteer force was simply because that’s all that was needed. We were still a vigorous democracy. Americans had not yet “In military matters, … largely forfeited their say.” We are relegated to volunteers today because government paid a bribe to the so-called anti-war movement of the ’60s: get off our backs and we will insulate you and your children from military duty and from the tedium of participating in the debate over questions of war and peace. This bribe has worked flawlessly for all who took it: the detached, neglectful and inattentive 98%, the top 1%, and the interests of the MIC, between which last two there exists, not coincidentally, quite a bit of overlap. And this disgraceful bargain has undeniably contributed to the public apathy toward the other social ills noted in the article, and is proceeding, in fact, to a “prolonged ritual suicide.”

The justification for a draft is simple: the only way we can stay our leaders’ hands from launching so many wars is by making sure the lives of their children ride on those decisions. This should be the “baseline”, not the continued free ride of those who pose as being against wars while doing nothing to stop them.

#7 Comment By philadelphialawyer On January 1, 2014 @ 7:20 pm


“The justification for a draft is simple: the only way we can stay our leaders’ hands from launching so many wars is by making sure the lives of their children ride on those decisions. This should be the ‘baseline,’ not the continued free ride of those who pose as being against wars while doing nothing to stop them.”

I addressed that already. During the Cold War, our leaders, every bit as elitist as those we have now, had no problem sending “our boys” to die in dubious Asian wars. Even though there was a “peacetime” draft for the first time in our history. That is the main point…history does NOT show that a draft reins in the war mongers. Far from it. With a big, drafted military, our leaders managed to find big wars for it to fight. True, they still manage to find wars to fight with our current, smaller, volunteer military, but the wars are at least smaller too.

So your justification is no justification. A draft did not prevent large wars of choice in the 1950’s and 60’s and I see no reason to think it would prevent them now.

As for the “thesis” of the article, it too, as I pointed out, is ahistorical. Contrary to what you say, the lack of a draft is our historical baseline. And our leaders, when there was no draft in the past, found smaller wars to fight, just as they do now. And no amount of irrelevant talk about “free land” can change that. The US has been bellicose right from the start, with or without a draft. But somewhat less bellicose without one.

“The snarky ‘All without too much obesity ensuing’ betrays ignorance of the conditions of those earlier wars, when the great majority of the population made its living doing physical labor.”

LOL! I am quite aware that physical labor was more prevalent in the past. But that hardly means that the lack of a draft is the reason for obesity now. Indeed, as you imply, the life of relative abundance without much hard physical labor we now have is the main cause of obesity. And, therefore, what? Institute a draft so that people won’t be so fat! Is that a serious notion?! The lack of the draft doesn’t cause obesity, and there are plenty of veterans who are fat anyway! Its like saying we should have a manned space flight to Mars program so that unemployment can be marginally reduced in Houston and Cape Canaveral! The effort is mismatched to the goal.

“As well, today’s apathy and lack of civic participation is a fundamentally different reason than the reason we fought our earlier small wars with small volunteer forces. In those actions, the main reason we used a small volunteer force was simply because that’s all that was needed.”

And that’s all that’s needed now. We don’t need a big military to fight Iraq and the Taliban. And most people eschewed the military in the past for the same reason they do now…because they felt they had better and less risky things to do then getting shot up for low pay.

“We were still a vigorous democracy.”

Really? When African Americans, Native Americans and women could not vote? Shoot, when the small wars with a volunteer army started, in the 1790’s, “democracy” was mostly still a dirty word and there were property qualifications even for white male suffrage. The connection you draw is totally ahistorical.

“Americans had not yet In military matters, … largely forfeited their say. We are relegated to volunteers today because government paid a bribe to the so-called anti-war movement of the ’60s: get off our backs and we will insulate you and your children from military duty and from the tedium of participating in the debate over questions of war and peace.”

But that same “bribe” was on offer for the overwhelming majority of our country’s history. Other than during the Civil War and WWI and WWII, there was no draft at all, until the Cold War. And even militia training was mostly a dead letter in most communities for most of that period. To me, it totally reverses the burden of proof to say that the lack of a draft represents a “bribe.” NOT drafting folks to go and fight for dubious causes is “bribing” them? Respecting the most basic tenets of freedom and autonomy and individual rights is an illegitimate payment, like giving graft to a cop to get away with breaking the law?

As for participating in politics, that has ALWAYS been voluntary as well.

“This bribe has worked flawlessly for all who took it: the detached, neglectful and inattentive 98%, the top 1%, and the interests of the MIC…”

And the one percent and the MIC would be worse off with a huge military to equip and deploy? How does that follow? Was the MIC hurting during the years of the Cold War draft?

As for the “neglectful 98%,” I agree to some extent, that not having to fight oneself makes one less likely to closely watch and evaluate when and how the country goes to war. But, as I said last time, what is the solution here? Have a drafted army, have it misused like it was in Vietnam, and then hope, years into the quagmire, with tens of thousands of American, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other folks dead, that an antiwar movement will take shape and eventually convince the influential middle and upper classes to reconsider?

“And this disgraceful bargain has undeniably contributed to the public apathy toward the other social ills noted in the article, and is proceeding, in fact, to a ‘prolonged ritual suicide.’”

Perhaps the public apathy that has developed is more a factor of (1) money taking over politics, so that activism and doesn’t matter as much, and (2) government, and therefore politics itself, becoming less important, as more and more areas are insulated from public control and regulation by a judiciary that is itself the product of the moneyed classes, as is the bought and paid for GOP which appoints it.

Leaving people alone, NOT forcing them to fight unnecessary wars, is hardly a “disgraceful bargain.” It is our legacy and birthright, in the absence of an existential threat to our country.

#8 Comment By UGA IX On January 2, 2014 @ 8:44 am

Kilo 4/11-Thanks. I agree that the services’ estimates should not be binding. We are starting to see way to much deference to the military in general. It’s not a good idea to give them too much say or too much reason to think highly of themselves. They have the guns, after all.

#9 Comment By UGA IX On January 2, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

Thanks,Kilo4/11. You are right that the services should not get the final say. In fact I believe there is too much deference shown to the services now about almost everything. I suspect they are getting the idea that they are even more special than they are. A highly paid, highly professionalized, separate class, standing military is a dangerous thing to have around, They have the guns.

#10 Comment By Gilbert Jacobi On January 2, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

cdugga writes,
…”Iraq was a pre-emptive war of choice made by compelling the American public to action with false information and a connection to 9-11 to justify invasion. What if Sohdomy Insane truelly had wmd’s? Would a necessity for conscription or raising revenue to pay for the war made a difference in the decision for war or the outcome?”

You raise a good point and one where it can be demonstrated that a meaningful draft would make a difference for the better. Imagine that instead of going through the motions of oversight, a truly motivated senate committee – so motivated because 15 or 20 senators had children in uniform who stood to be sent in harm’s way based upon the Senate’s recommendations – dug into the intelligence with all its resources and all its energy. Do you think we’d have been hoodwinked then? And if 100 of their top contributors were in the same boat? Remember also, reinstating the draft does not presuppose or require a massive, WW 2-size force. There is no reason we can’t have a partially draftee manned military with the same or even lower force levels than we have now.

#11 Comment By Richard Mazur On January 3, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

Draft or not, the American love affair with wars will continue until we get it that playing a cop for the world is just plain dumb because it’s expensive and we are broke. The argument that we have to fight them over there so we won’t have to over here is a propaganda line reserved only for the patriotic but naïve Americans and their obedient puppet, UK. The other equally funny line is: If not us, who?
Unfortunately, propaganda sells, Americans sign up, and we spend trillions we don’t have.

#12 Comment By Ted Duke On January 4, 2014 @ 10:54 am

I will forgo commenting on the War of Northern Aggression, the War to End All Wars WWI that my father served in, WWII that my oldest brother dies in, the mess of Vietnam which my friends and shipmates died in and just cut to the heart of the matter.

Bacevich outlines the problem well. The answer in my mind is simple. TERM LIMITS and since the incumbents won’t ever vote that change, then the people MUST get fed up enough to vote them out. Any elected official that votes to continue FUNDING this ridiculous government must GO.

Are you fed up enough yet?

#13 Comment By Christopher Rushlau On January 13, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

At first scanning I dismissed this essay (in a note to Historians Against War whereby it came to my attention) as being anti-“citizen-soldierish” by failing to mention its thesis, the draft, by name and by “being nine-tenths too long”. I went back and read the whole thing. It sings. It not only pursues a point doggedly (dogs of war?) but gracefully.
I was in Iraq in OIF2, got slightly blown up in the Mosul dining facility, did the Walter-Reed tour. Four-hour sessions in guard towers with fellow National Guardsmen always produced this consensus statement on what we were doing: “stupid”.
Is that much stupidity accidental?
It seems to involve Israel. The rule might be, when you find this much stupidity, someone is really pushing a stupid agendum, one that does not bear explicit examination.
Bacevich’s essay does examine the key linkages. I only regret he chose despair at the last rather than the final call-up to the final battle: if we don’t talk about what the Jewish state is and what it does, here in the US, here in the cultural and political domain, in connection with our security policy, where are we then, and do we care?
Let me give an example you might credit. George Mitchell is a Mainer of blue-chip credentials, right? He said to a university gathering here two and a half years ago that the Israel lobby had never been stronger in Congress than at (that) present.
You can at least mention Israel, is my point . . . even though, and even precisely because, your true friends counsel you to avoid the issue like the plague.
That avoidance is the face of antisemitism (or, as a Jewish critic suggested, “Jew-hatred”, being a much clearer term) in the modern world. If you want to see a systematic attempt at “ritual [mass] suicide”, look at Israel. Do you care?
That is where citizen-soldiering starts. To paraphrase Mark van Doren on liberal education, that it requires initially what it pursues as an end: a regard for truth–no, I can quote someone else, David Hume, directly on this: democracy is going to the aid of a stranger on the city street when she is being mugged. That is the heart of citizen-soldiering. If in our case she is holding a gun to the head of someone else and threatening to blow them both away, she and her victim, and if no competent authority seems to be emerging to deal with the crisis: then you are appointed. That is citizen-soldiering.

#14 Comment By Kevin E Kelly On May 28, 2018 @ 11:56 am

All this points to what very few of us want or are willing to acknowledge. We have become an empire. There are many changes which result in moving from republic to empire. These changes are only now coming to light. Fear not for the die has not yet been cast. We or should I say future Americans will have the chance to avoid much of the negatives empire brings. This isn’t over yet.