Small Wars Journal

Andrew J. Bacevich: The Revisionist Imperative

Fri, 01/20/2012 - 2:28pm

Andrew J. Bacevich: The Revisionist Imperative

The History News Network recorded this video of Andrew J. Bacevich speaking at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago, IL, on January 7, 2012. Topic: George C. Marshall Lecture on Military History



Thu, 02/02/2012 - 6:34pm

In summation: The Stupid Little People are manipulated into a militaristic frenzy by a mysterious cabal of war-loving politicians and Hollywood producers. It's just that obvious!

This Smedley Butler-esque critique is profoundly old and tiresome ("the sucker class" was Butler's term for the hoi polloi). This speech does not represent serious scholarship.

War is assuredly a much abused policy instrument, but not for the simplistic reasons that Gramsci, uhhh... I mean, Bacevich suggests. They are both much more profound (particularly the cultural imperatives and diplomatic intracacies) and mundane (the fundamental cluelessness of policy-makers since time immemorial) than he chooses to admit.

Naturally, Bacevich cites nations like Germany, France and England as the moral and intellectual superiors of the cretinous and easily-fooled Americans. Yet, I recall an Englishman who, on the subject of war, once put the following words in the mouth of a Danish prince:

This is th'imposthume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
Why the man dies.

There's a lot more wisdom in that than Bacevich's speech. And, it's a lot shorter.

Erich G. Simmers

Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:50pm

Bacevich's remarks are well worth considering. My concern is that he is not the first to utter this sentiment, and the Washington-Hollywood complex (as he terms it) goes on as it has throughout this century. If this struck a chord with you, it would be well worth your time to look at Richard Slotkin's <em><a href="… Nation</a></em>. It is a great look at how entertainers, journalists, and politicians have used popular mythologies to drive foreign policy.