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05/27/2005 Archived Entry: "Gordon on Militaristic Myths"

Gordon P. writes, A cogent observation from Richard K. Betts' "The Lure of Military Society" [a review of _The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War_, by Andrew J. Bacevich], ...

"...What is new is less the militarist myths than the lack of counterweights to hold them in check. Americans became accustomed to permanent mobilization in the course of half a century of war, hot and cold, against fascism and communism. Over the full span of U.S. history, having huge armed forces has been an episodic, decidedly temporary event, but for today's Americans under the age of 70 this situation is all they have ever known. During the Cold War, this massive power was kept in bounds by the counter-power of the Soviet Union. Although bloody sparring in Korea and Vietnam was thought to be the price of avoiding the defeat of the West by salami tactics, it was simply not an option to do for Hungary or Czechoslovakia what Bush the Younger did for Iraq. In the world before the 21st century, Americans had to remain sober and restrained because the costs of indulging the romantic view of war were obvious.

In the unipolar world there is no longer anything to hold the United States in check but our own good sense. How can we get back from militarist myths to prudence? Bacevich has laudable prescriptions, for example to heed the founders, revitalize the separation of powers, view force as a last resort, move to a strategy of defense and self-sufficiency, and revive the venerable concept of the citizen-soldier. But how do we make such sensible changes happen?..."

Gordon's comment: Unfortunately, so far, there seems to be a distinct shortage of "good sense" within the post-9/11 U.S., "heeding the founders" (AKA "Original Intent") is considered to be passe by _both_ sides of the aisle (and has been Officially Rejected by the Supreme Court), Separation of Powers went out the window with FDR's Imperial Presidency, force is viewed as the _first_ resort (especially when it is in the aid of achieving "good intentions"), it's been Officially Accepted that the best "defense" is an overwhelming and pre-emptive offense, self-sufficiency was abandoned in the 1960s, and I seriously question the positivity of the concept of the "citizen-soldier" (except perhaps in the _very_ limited sense that there should be no standing military --- only voluntary regional militias...).

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