Military Intellectual and Author of Washington Rules
An influential historian, Andrew Bacevich sees the political, military, and economic crises that face America as deeply interconnected. Applauded for reaching across political lines and speaking blunt truth to power, regardless of who is in office, Bacevich offers bracingly pragmatic talks that will help steer the country back on course.
The Washington Post
Andrew Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University; he previously taught at Johns Hopkins University and at West Point, where he graduated in 1969. Time calls him “one of the most provocative – as in thought-provoking – national-security writers out there today.” His book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country is a blistering critique of the gulf between America’s soldiers and the society that sends them off to war.
Bacevich’s bestseller, Washington Rules, is a critique of the country’s military industrial complex. In his previous book, The Limits of Power, he deconstructed decades of disastrous foreign policies, arguing that America’s lust for empire and its sense of entitlement, coupled with its myth of indestructibility, has deluded and diminished the nation, at home and in the eyes of the world. “This compact, meaty volume ought to be on the reading list of every candidate for national office,” The Washington Post wrote.
- Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent WarAndrew Bacevich gives an uncompromising critique of the guiding assumptions that lead America’s foreign policy and military strategy—what he dubs the “Washington rules,” a set of principles that have dominated America’s direction for over half a century. Bacevich argues that these rules—that America must always have a massive military capable of rapid engagement, that global stability is dependent on America’s military might—are so entrenched that no elected official or policy maker has been able to alter them. These rules have led America to insolvency and perpetual war. How have the “Washington rules” shaped history, and can these rules ever be changed? Bacevich takes audiences on a journey into the heart of American doctrine to help us understand who we are as a nation, and where we go from here.
- The Limits of Power: The End of American ExceptionalismAmerica is suffering a triple crisis. Our government, led astray by years of an imperialistic presidency, is now a democracy in name only. Our military is overstretched and exhausted. Our economy, buckling under the weight of a uniquely American urge to over-consume, is in a tailspin. How did we get here, and how do we fix it? In this talk, Andrew Bacevich shows you how previous administrations, dating back as far as the end of the Second World War, have led America on this increasingly unsustainable path. This is how we reverse it, Bacevich says: we must look to the neglected tradition of realism. In short, we must respect power and its limits; suppress claims of American Exceptionalism; be skeptical of easy solutions, especially those involving force; and make sure that the books balance. Bacevich’s talk, far from an exercise in finger pointing, is an indispensable outline to fixing America’s urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.
- Breach Of TrustThe United States has been “at war” for more than a decade. Yet as war has become normalized, a yawning gap has opened between America’s soldiers and the society in whose name they fight. For ordinary citizens, as former secretary of defense Robert Gates has acknowledged, armed conflict has become an “abstraction” and military service “something for other people to do.”
Drawing from Breach of Trust, bestselling author Andrew Bacevich takes stock of the separation between Americans and their military, tracing its origins to the Vietnam era and exploring its pernicious implications: a nation with an abiding appetite for war waged at enormous expense by a standing army demonstrably unable to achieve victory. Among the collateral casualties are values once considered central to democratic practice, including the principle that responsibility for defending the country should rest with its citizens.
Citing figures as diverse as the martyr-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the marine-turned-anti-warrior Smedley Butler, Bacevich summons Americans to restore that principle. Rather than something for “other people” to do, national defense should become the business of “we the people.” Should Americans refuse to shoulder this responsibility, Bacevich warns, the prospect of endless war, waged by a “foreign legion” of professionals and contractor-mercenaries, beckons. So too does bankruptcy—moral as well as fiscal.
Politics | May 27, 2013
Only When Necessary: Andrew Bacevich On The Over-Reliance Of Militarism
When politics speaker Andrew Bacevich told Steven Colbert that we should choose to go to war “only when necessary,” and, when we do, “we really ought to adhere to the provisions of the constitution,” it seemed like a fairly straight-forward comment. Constitutionally speaking, Congress is supposed to approve and declare the decision to go to war, the professor and retired Colonel notes. However, as Bacevich explained on The Colbert Report, the American government hasn’t taken that approach to conflict since World War II. What has the government been doing since then? “All kinds of work-arounds that have basically led to the Commander-In-Chief claiming evermore authority to do whatever he wants,” Bacevich says.
In his book, The New American Militarism, Bacevich explains that a set of ‘Washington rules’ that govern the nation’s military strategy have led to perpetual war. And, he argues, that’s not a good thing. As he explains in the interview, there is too much emphasis on trigger-happy solutions to conflicts with other nations. He agrees that war, sometimes, can be necessary, but it should not be constant. Nor should it be so easy to get Congress to “throw you the keys to the car and say drive wherever you want and send us the bill.” Drawing from extensive military experience both in the field and in academia, Bacevich paints a detailed picture of America’s current domestic and international policies. He explores the pitfalls of the America’s military mindset—and how we can, and must, change it going forward.
Politics | April 17, 2013
American Militarism: TIME Profiles Andrew Bacevich’s “Provocative” Work
In his typical no-holds-barred candor, Bacevich assesses the evolution of American militarism from the original publication of his book until today. “When force once again becomes the option of last resort, when our armed forces are held accountable, and when Americans realize that our ‘warriors’ are not morally superior to the rest of us — then militarism will have begun to subside,” he says in the TIME interview. And, as far as he can tell, this mindset has yet to take hold. Further, he argues that, “overall, American generalship has been mediocre at best,” and we need to admit to America’s shortcomings if we have any hopes of learning from them. As he explains at length in both The Limits of Power and his newest book, The Washington Rules, poor leadership decisions made by senior military officials have caused many American wars to be fought and lost. And learning from these poor decisions, he explains in the interview, “requires reflection.”
While he says his present-day critiques of American military strategy and foreign policy come from his position as an outside observer, he does have experience in the field. A retired colonel, a Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he combines field experience with academic analysis in his keynotes and his writing. He offers a pragmatic and uncompromising account of how the nation’s current military strategy was formed, and tells audiences where the military-driven mindset will take the country in the future.
Politics | May 03, 2013
Google Talks: Andrew Bacevich On America’s Unnecessary Military Might
“My book is not anti-American and it is not an attack on soldiers,” politics speaker Andrew Bacevich says in his new Google Talks keynote. Rather, his recently re-released book (titled The New American Militarism, now being published with an updated Afterword) explores the way the nation has moved into an era where American values and worth are inextricably linked to military might. “Somewhere right around the end of the cold War, Americans generally said ‘Yes,’ to military power,” Bacevich, a former soldier himself, tells the crowd. This is when he argues we saw a shift to a more unabashedly militaristic state. He defines this “new American militarism” as follows: outsized expectations regarding the ethicacy of force, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and a romanticized view of soldiers.
How does this manifest in American society? While Bacevich doesn’t deny that society will, at some points, be required to achieve certain goals and security measures through the use of force. Throughout history, there have been examples of a military organization that rises to meet challenges when needed—but only when needed. “A grave and proximate threat to the nation’s well-being might [have] required a large and powerful military establishment,” he says. “But in the absence of such a threat, policy makers scaled down this establishment accordingly.” Generally speaking, “it was policy to maintain the minimum force required—and no more.” We have since shifted away from that policy, and into a state where the government values a strong military presence for its own sake. This can be seen in the estimates that say the United States government spends more on its military than every other country in the world—combined.
This “redundant and futile” line of thinking costs money, Bacevich says. Have the sacrifices made by soldiers and the grossly exorbitant spending been worth it? Is the nation more secure? Is the world ultimately more peaceful? While he admits that there have been positive strides made by use of military force, overwhelmingly he says that the answer to those questions is no. In his gripping talks, he shares his own academic and field experience to paint a vivid picture of the role of the military in American domestic and international policy today. And, he provides a new framework for analyzing our military-driven society—and why we need to change it.
Politics | April 10, 2013
Foreign Relations: Andrew Bacevich On U.S. Obligations At Home & Abroad
On the heels of conflict over the federal budget, and the potential of new threats from abroad, politics speaker Andrew Bacevich recently visited BNN News to discuss what these new developments mean for national and international American policy. A Professor of International Relations at Boston University, Bacevich provides uncompromising critique on the American doctrine. In his keynotes and his lectures, he explores how the ‘Washington Rules’ (the belief that national and global stability hinges on the size and strength of a massive American military presence) have affected the nation’s past and its trajectory into the future. For example, in this interview he discusses how a massive military assault on Iraq was a “bogus proposition.” “We went off on this war tangent and fell for the argument that invading and occupying Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, somehow would offer some way of precluding another 9/11,” says Bacevich.
The ‘Washington Rules’ argument stems from the remnants of Cold War thinking, where many believed that unleashing a tremendous military force could remake the world in America’s image. These rules, Bacevich argues, have actually done just the opposite of what they were intended to do, and have led to perpetual war and insolvency rather than peace and stability.
In addition to discussing foreign policy, Bacevich also touched on America’s obligations at home. Environmentalism and economic growth, he said, need to be assessed with a different framework than they have in the past. Environmentalism, he says, shouldn’t be the sole property of the left—especially when he argues that the very root of right-wing policy is “conservation”. And what’s more important for conservatives to conserve than the planet which supports our very existence? Finally, in closing, he says that we should be wary of vast market growth. “I don’t see that mere growth, an ever-bigger economy, provides a recipe for a good society,” he argues. We must begin to think about the purpose and costs of America’s actions both at home and abroad, says Bacevich, if we ever hope to tackle the major problems that plague our world.
Andrew Bacevich, from Boston University, speaks during a panel discussion of the 2012 Current Strategy Forum at the U.S. Naval War College.
Normal, Illinois, United States
|Education||West Point (B.S.)
Princeton University (M.A., Ph.D.)
|Known for||Analysis of U.S. foreign policy|
Andrew J. Bacevich, Jr. (born 1947) is an American political scientist specializing in international relations, security studies, American foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history. He is currently Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. He is also a retired career officer in the United States Army. He is a former director of Boston University’s Center for International Relations (from 1998 to 2005) and author of several books, including American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (2002), The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005) and The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008). He has also appeared on television shows such as The Colbert Report and the Bill Moyers Report and has written op-eds which have appeared in papers such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Financial Times. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Bacevich has been “a persistent, vocal critic of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, calling the conflict a catastrophic failure.” In March 2007, he described George W. Bush‘s endorsement of such “preventive wars” as “immoral, illicit, and imprudent.” His son, also an Army officer, died fighting in the Iraq War in May 2007.
Bacevich graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1969 and served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, serving in Vietnam from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1971. Later he held posts in Germany, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; the United States; and the Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of Colonel in the early 1990s. He holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University before joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998.
On May 13, 2007, Bacevich’s son, 1LT Andrew John Bacevich, was killed in action in Iraq by an improvised explosive device south of Samarra in Salah ad Din Governorate. The younger Bacevich, 27, was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.
Bacevich has described himself as a “Catholic conservative”  and initially published writings in a number of politically oriented magazines, including The Wilson Quarterly. His recent writings have professed a dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration and many of its intellectual supporters on matters of American foreign policy.
On August 15, 2008, Bacevich appeared as the guest of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS to promote his book, The Limits of Power. As in both of his previous books, The Long War (2007) and The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005), Bacevich is critical of American foreign policy in the post Cold War era, maintaining the United States has developed an over-reliance on military power, in contrast to diplomacy, to achieve its foreign policy aims. He also asserts that policymakers in particular, and the American people in general, overestimate the usefulness of military force in foreign affairs. Bacevich believes romanticized images of war in popular culture (especially movies) interact with the lack of actual military service among most of the U.S. population to produce in the American people a highly unrealistic, even dangerous notion of what combat and military service are really like.
Bacevich conceived The New American Militarism not only as “a corrective to what has become the conventional critique of U.S. policies since 9/11 but as a challenge to the orthodox historical context employed to justify those policies.”
Finally, he attempts to place current policies in historical context, as part of an American tradition going back to the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a tradition (of an interventionist, militarized foreign policy) which has strong bi-partisan roots. To lay an intellectual foundation for this argument, he cites two influential historians from the 20th century: Charles A. Beard and William Appleman Williams.
Ultimately, Bacevich eschews the partisanship of current debate about American foreign policy as short-sighted and ahistorical. Instead of blaming only one President (or his advisors) for contemporary policies, Bacevich sees both Republicans and Democrats as sharing responsibility for policies which may not be in the nation’s best interest.
In March 2003, at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bacevich wrote in The Los Angeles Times that “if, as seems probable, the effort encounters greater resistance than its architects imagine, our way of life may find itself tested in ways that will make the Vietnam War look like a mere blip in American history.”
In an article of The American Conservative dated March 24, 2008, Bacevich depicts Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama as the best choice for conservatives in the fall. Part of his argument includes the fact that “this liberal Democrat has promised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq. Contained within that promise, if fulfilled, lies some modest prospect of a conservative revival.” He also goes on to mention that “For conservatives to hope the election of yet another Republican will set things right is surely in vain. To believe that President John McCain will reduce the scope and intrusiveness of federal authority, cut the imperial presidency down to size, and put the government on a pay-as-you-go basis is to succumb to a great delusion.”
In the October 11, 2009, issue of The Boston Globe, he wrote that the decision to commit more troops to Afghanistan may be the most fateful choice of the Obama administration. “If the Afghan war then becomes the consuming issue of Obama’s presidency — as Iraq became for his predecessor, as Vietnam did for Lyndon Johnson, and as Korea did for Harry Truman — the inevitable effect will be to compromise the prospects of reform more broadly,” Bacevich wrote.
In his article “Non Believer” in the July 7, 2010, issue of The New Republic, Bacevich compared President George W. Bush, whom he characterizes as wrong-headed but sincere, with President Obama, whom he says has no belief in the Afghanistan war but pursues it for his own politically cynical reasons: “Who is more deserving of contempt? The commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause, however misguided, in which he sincerely believes? Or the commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause in which he manifestly does not believe and yet refuses to forsake?”
In an October 2010 interview with Guernica Magazine, Bacevich addressed his seemingly contradictory stance on Obama. While Bacevich supported Obama during the 2008 presidential race in which Obama repeatedly said he believed in the Afghanistan War, Bacevich has become increasingly critical of Obama’s decision to commit additional troops to that war: “I interpreted his campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan as an effort to insulate him from the charge of being a national security wimp. His decision to escalate was certainly not a decision his supporters were clamoring for.” 
Bacevich’s papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.
- Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (Henry Holt and Co., 2013) ISBN 978-0-8050-8296-8
- Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (Macmillan, USA, 2010) ISBN 0-8050-9141-6 
- The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (Macmillan, USA, 2008) ISBN 0-8050-8815-6
- The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II (Columbia University Press, USA, 2007) ISBN 0-231-13158-5
- The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford University Press Inc, USA, 2005) ISBN 0-19-517338-4
- American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (Harvard University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-674-01375-1
- The Pentomic Era: The U.S. Army Between Korea and Vietnam (National Defense University Press, DC, `1986)
- “America Decides: Is Change in the Heir?”. The Diplomat 7 (3): 28–30. Sep/Oct 2008.
- “Breaking Washington’s Rules”. The American Conservative 10 (1): 23–26. January 2011.
- MacQuarrie, Brian (2007-05-15). “Son of professor opposed to war is killed in Iraq”. Boston Globe.
- Bacevich, Andrew J. (2007-03-01). “Rescinding the Bush Doctrine”. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-05-01.
- Honor the Fallen Army 1st Lt. Andrew J. Bacevich
- “Soldier from Fort Hood killed in Iraq“, The Associated Press, published May 14, 2007, accessed May 15, 2007.
- Barlow, Rich (November 22, 2010). “Are Americans God’s Chosen People?”. BU Today. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
- Bacevich, Andrew J. (October 11, 2009). “Afghanistan – the proxy war”. The Boston Globe.
- Bacevich, Andrew, “Non-Believer”, The New Republic, August 31, 2010 10:53 pm ET. Retrieved 2010-09-05. Referenced in Frank Rich, “Freedom’s just another word”, The New York Times, September 4, 2010 (September 5, 2010 p. WK8, NY ed.).
- Bacevich, Andrew J. (October 1, 2010). “Blood Without Guts”. Guernica Magazine.
- Overview of Washington Rules at Mises.org
- Review of Washington Rules at NY Times
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Andrew Bacevich|
- “Is the war in Afghanistan worth fighting?” Great Debate at Boston University, November 4, 2009
- “Moral Obligations in the Global War on Terror: Who Owes What?” Talk given at Boston University, March 21, 2009
- Prophets and Poseurs: Niebuhr and Our Times, World Affairs
- Illusions of Victory By Andrew Bacevich
- Is Perpetual War Our Future? By Andrew Bacevich
- I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose, Washington Post, May 27, 2007
- Andrew Bacevich webpage at Boston University
- Interview with Andrew Bacevich in Bostonia, alumni magazine of Boston University, Seduced by War
- Extensive excerpts from The New American Militarism
- Conversations with Andrew Bacevich
- Archive of Bacevich’s writings for The Nation
- Andrew Bacevich bloggings at HuffPo
- Iraq panel’s real agenda: damage control for The Christian Science Monitor
- Sycophant Savior General Petraeus wins a battle in Washington—if not in Baghdad.
- Bill Moyers Journal interview of Andrew Bacevich
- Amy Goodman interviews Andrew Bacevich about his book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
- Online book discussion of Andrew Bacevich’s “The Limits of Power”
- The Camp Doha Incident Report
- Video discussion between Bacevich and Heather Hurlburt on Bloggingheads.tv
- Andrew Bacevich on Afghanistan War: The President Lacks the Guts to Get Out on Democracy Now!
- Jake Whitney in Guernica Magazine interviews Bacevich