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Washington Rules America's Path to Permanent War

American Empire Project

Andrew J. Bacevich

Metropolitan Books

0805094229

9780805094220

Trade Paperback

304 Pages

$18.00

CAD25.00

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For the last half century, as administrations have come and gone, the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained unchanged: American security requires the United States (and us alone) to maintain a permanent armed presence around the globe, to prepare our forces for military operations in far-flung regions, and to be ready to intervene anywhere at any time. In the Obama era, just as in the Bush years, these beliefs remain unquestioned gospel.

In a vivid, incisive analysis, Andrew J. Bacevich succinctly presents the origins of this consensus, forged at a moment when American power was at its height. He exposes the preconceptions, biases, and habits that underlie our pervasive faith in military might, especially the notion that overwhelming superiority will oblige others to accommodate America's needs and desires—whether for cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods. And he challenges the usefulness of our militarism as it has become both unaffordable and increasingly dangerous.

Though our politicians deny it, American global might is faltering. This is the moment, Bacevich argues, to reconsider the principles which shape American policy in the world—to acknowledge that fixing Afghanistan should not take precedence over fixing Detroit. Replacing this Washington consensus is crucial to America's future, and may yet offer the key to the country's salvation.

REVIEWS

Praise for Washington Rules

"Bacevich forcefully denounces the militarization that he says has already become a routine, unremarked-upon part of our daily lives . . . Washington Rules is a tough-minded, bracing and intelligent polemic against some 60 years of American militarism . . . Bacevich has two main targets in his sights. The first are the commissars of the national security establishment, who perpetuate these 'Washington rules' of global dominance. By Washington, he means not just the federal government, but also a host of satraps who gain power, cash or prestige from this perpetual state of emergency: defense contractors, corporations, big banks, interest groups, think tanks, universities, television networks and The New York Times. He complains that an unthinking Washington consensus on global belligerence is just as strong among mainstream Democrats as among mainstream Republicans. Those who step outside this monolithic view, like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, are quickly dismissed as crackpots, Bacevich says. This leaves no serious checks or balances against the overweening national security state. Bacevich's second target is the sleepwalking American public. He says that they notice foreign policy only in the depths of a disaster that, like Vietnam or Iraq, is too colossal to ignore . . . [He] is singularly withering on American public willingness to ignore those who do their fighting for them . . . In his acid account of the inexorable growth of the national security state, he emphasizes not presidents, who come and go, but the architects of the system that envelops them: Allen W. Dulles, who built up the C.I.A., and Curtis E. LeMay, who did the same for the Strategic Air Command. Both of them, Bacevich says, would get memorials on the Mall in Washington if we were honest about how the capital really works . . . Bacevich, in his own populist way, sees himself as updating a tradition—from George Washington and John Quincy Adams to J. William Fulbright and Martin Luther King Jr.—that calls on America to exemplify freedom but not actively to spread it."—Gary J. Bass, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, The New York Times Book Review

"Eloquent and, above all, passionate . . . Any serious foreign-policy thinker should heed his call: is the current militaristic approach to the rest of the world really the best and, more important, the only way?"—Newsweek

"Engaging and insightful . . . A timely analysis and critique of contemporary and historical defense policies . . . Thought provoking."—The Washington Times

"A reader doesn't have to be a policy wonk to appreciate Bacevich's methodical analysis. It's a reality check: crisp, cogent and straightforward."—The Buffalo News

"Eloquent and damning . . . Bacevich writes with a gutwrenching honesty that gives his charges a credibility frequently missing in pop denunciations of America's imperial outreach."—Commonweal


"Bacevich comes with more than just book smarts to question American military power . . . [He] is right: there is something un-American about maintaining a huge presence around the world and pursuing endless war without sharp focus or clear goals."—Air Force Times

"To say that Washington Rules is a breath of fresh air in the debate over U.S. foreign policy would be like comparing a zephyr to a hurricane. Writing with Force-Five fury, Andrew Bacevich lays bare the dogmas and shibboleths that have animated national security doctrine for the last half century and produced an Orwellian nightmare of permanent war in the name of permanent peace. This passionate, often discomforting book brings rare clarity to a subject of urgent importance for all Americans."—David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

"Against a national strategy gone astray, Bacevich offers a unique combination of rigorous analysis and emotion-powered protest. May it be widely read, may it disenthrall us from the academic generals, militant academics, and cynical politicians who insist that we must invest blood and treasure in mud-brick Afghan villages, while China invests in advanced technology."—Edward N. Luttwak author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire

"‘Washington Rules' is the author's shorthand for the American conviction that we always represent the good and the pure in international affairs. His powerful book clearly demonstrates how threadbare this idea has become."—Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback Trilogy and Dismantling the Empire

"The hard-earned insights of this veteran, analyst, insider, and parent will resonate with people across the political spectrum and offer a serious, riveting, and authentically personal critique of U.S. power."—Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now!

"Bacevich presents compelling and alarming evidence that our nation is locked into a counterproductive global military presence sustained by power projection and interventionism by military force. A must-read for all those concerned with America's future."—Lt. General (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., PhD

"Washington Rules dissects the convictions that have turned the United States into a warrior nation—a country devoted to military solutions that do little, if anything, to enhance its security or advance the well-being of its citizens or the foreign peoples on whom we inflict our illusory benevolence. A brilliant historian's analysis of what ails America, this book should be read by every national officeholder and and by all who care about America's future safety and prosperity."—Robert Dallek, author of The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953

"Washington Rules exposes well-entrenched assumptions that for decades have underlain ineffective and costly U.S. policies. Bacevich shines a bright light on the meaning of national security and what it requires, while addressing fundamental but long-ignored questions about America's place in the world and the role of military power."—Paul R. Pillar author of Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy

"Valiant . . . welcome thinking by a former military man who has seen the light."—Kirkus Reviews

"U.S. Army colonel turned academic, Bacevich (The Limits of Power) offers an unsparing, cogent, and important critique of assumptions guiding American military policy. These central tenets, the 'Washington rules'—such as the belief that the world order depends on America maintaining a massive military capable of rapid and forceful interventions anywhere in the world—have dominated national security policy since the start of the cold war and have condemned the U.S. to 'insolvency and perpetual war.' Despite such disasters as America's defeat in Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis, the self-perpetuating policy is so entrenched that no president or influential critic has been able to alter it. Bacevich argues that while the Washington rules found their most pernicious expression in the Bush doctrine of preventive war, Barack Obama's expansion of the Afghan War is also cause for pessimism: 'We should be grateful to him for making at least one thing unmistakably clear: to imagine that Washington will ever tolerate second thoughts about the Washington rules is to engage in willful self-deception. Washington itself has too much to lose.'"—Publishers Weekly

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Introduction: Slow Learner

Worldly ambition inhibits true learning. Ask me. I know. A young man in a hurry is nearly uneducable: He knows what he wants and where he's headed; when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts,...

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  • Washington Rules by Andrew Bacevich--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Andrew Bacevich's book Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, narrated by Sean Runnette. The bestselling author of The Limits of Power critically examines the Washington consensus on national security and why it must change.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Andrew J. Bacevich

  • Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of The Limits of Power and The New American Militarism. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the recipient of a Lannan Award and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • Andrew J. Bacevich
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