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Old 10-15-2009, 09:29 AM
Location: Texas
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I think that the only lesson history really teaches us is that political leaders refuse to learn the lessons of history.
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Old 10-15-2009, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Old Gringo View Post
I think that the only lesson history really teaches us is that political leaders refuse to learn the lessons of history.
Not just political leaders but its citizens as well.
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Old 12-27-2009, 12:35 PM
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In light of recent related discussions, I thought this thread was relevant.
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Old 02-14-2010, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by TnHilltopper View Post

quick bio:

Andrew Bacevich, is a professor of international relations at Boston University, former director of its Center for International Relations (from 1998 to 2005) He graduated from West Point in 1969 and served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. 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 prior to joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998. On May 13, 2007, Bacevich's son, also named Andrew J. Bacevich, was killed in action in Iraq.

The dirty little secret to which few in Washington will own up is that the United States now faces the prospect of perpetual conflict. We find ourselves in the midst of what the Pentagon calls the “Long War,” a conflict global in scope (if largely concentrated in the Greater Middle East) and expected to outlast even General Palmer’s “Twenty-Five Year War.” The present generation of senior civilians and officers have either forgotten or inverted the lessons of Vietnam, embracing open-ended war as an inescapable reality.

To apply to the Long War the plaintive query that Gen. David Petraeus once posed with regard to Iraq—“Tell me how this ends”—the answer is clear: no one has the foggiest idea. War has become like the changing phases of the moon. It’s part of everyday existence. For American soldiers there is no end in sight.

While there are many explanations for why Americans have disengaged from the Long War, the most important, in my view, is that so few of us have any immediate personal stake in that conflict.

When the citizen-soldier tradition collapsed under the weight of Vietnam, the military rebuilt itself as a professional force. The creation of this all-volunteer military was widely hailed as a great success—well-trained and highly motivated soldiers made the new American way of war work. Only now are we beginning to glimpse the shortcomings of this arrangement, chief among them the fact that today’s “standing army” exists at considerable remove from the society it purports to defend. Americans today profess to “support the troops” but that support is a mile wide and an inch deep. It rarely translates into serious or sustained public concern about whether those same troops are being used wisely and well.

When testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971, the young John Kerry famously—or infamously, in the eyes of some—asked, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

What exactly was that mistake? Well, there were many. Yet the most fundamental lay in President Johnson’s erroneous conviction that the Republic of Vietnam constituted a vital American security interest and that ensuring that country’s survival required direct and massive U.S. military intervention.

Johnson erred in his estimation of South Vietnam’s importance. He compounded that error with a tragic failure of imagination, persuading himself that once in, there was no way out. The United States needed to stay the course in Vietnam, regardless of the cost or consequences.

Now we are, in our own day and in our own way, repeating LBJ’s errors. In his 1971 Senate testimony, reflecting the views of other Vietnam veterans who had turned against the war in which they had fought, Kerry derisively remarked, “we are probably angriest about all that we were told about Vietnam and about the mystical war against communism.”

The larger struggle against communism commonly referred to as the Cold War was both just and necessary. Yet the furies evoked by irresponsible (or cowardly) politicians more interested in partisan advantage than in advancing the common good transformed the Cold War from an enterprise governed by reason into one driven by fear. Beginning with McCarthyism and the post-1945 Red Scare and continuing on through phantasms such as the domino theory, bomber gap, missile gap, and the putative threat to our survival posed by a two-bit Cuban revolutionary, panic induced policies that were reckless, wrong-headed, and unnecessary, with Vietnam being just one particularly egregious example.

The mystical war against communism finds its counterpart in the mystical war on terrorism. As in the 1960s, so too today: mystification breeds misunderstanding and misjudgment. It prevents us from seeing things as they are.

As a direct result, it leads us to exaggerate the importance of places like Afghanistan and indeed to exaggerate the jihadist threat, which falls well short of being existential. It induces flights of fancy so that otherwise sensible people conjure up visions of providing clean water, functioning schools, and good governance to Afghanistan’s 40,000 villages, with expectations of thereby winning Afghan hearts and minds. It causes people to ignore considerations of cost. With the Long War already this nation’s second most expensive conflict, trailing only World War II, and with the federal government projecting trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, how much can we afford and where is the money coming from?

For political reasons the Obama administration may have banished the phrase “global war on terror,” yet the conviction persists that the United States is called upon to dominate or liberate or transform the Greater Middle East. Methods may be shifting, with the emphasis on pacification giving way to militarized nation-building. Priorities may be changing, Af-Pak now supplanting Iraq as the main effort. But by whatever name, the larger enterprise continues. The president who vows to “change the way Washington works” has not yet exhibited the imagination needed to conceive of an alternative to the project that his predecessor began.

The urgent need is to de-mystify that project, which was from the outset a misguided one. Just as in the 1960s we possessed neither the wisdom nor the means needed to determine the fate of Southeast Asia, so today we possess neither the wisdom nor the means necessary to determine the fate of the Greater Middle East. To persist in efforts to do so—as the Obama administration appears intent on doing in Afghanistan —will simply replicate on an even greater scale mistakes like those that Bruce Palmer and John Kerry once rightly decried.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He is the author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, just out in paperback.

Mr. Bacevich has given his permission to post this article in whole as a topic of discussion in our forum. The full PDF version is also available at the following link.

The American Conservative -- To Die For a Mystique

This guy must be another whiny Noam Chomsky type I guess.
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Old 03-13-2011, 07:39 PM
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If Johnson and Nixon hadn't fought the VietNam War, if there was no welfare to speak of, if we stayed out of El Salvador and other repressive countries, including Korea, Chile, Columbia, Arabia, etc., where would our nation's finances be today? Lots more people would be living and breathing. If we didn't keep ginning up the war machine every several years, does that mean we would be more solvent in our government, but less employed, as the years went by? I know this: We are becoming very similar to Ireland, under the English. Ireland supplied foodstuffs, and the Irish supplied soldiers and farmers. England supplied the Irish with bankers, merchants, landowners, and let's not forget, the English arranged for a large Irish constabulary to help the Irish peasantry leave their houses when they ran out of money. Meanwhile, the blameless English people read newspapers that editorialized from the banker's point of view. The papers were especially helpful by depicting the Irish as bog-trotting chimpanzees. So now America will supply soldiers and food, to be distributed by the bankers and generals. We will serve our true masters by destroying the homes of the peasants of Islamic countries. Lest we think of our enemies as people, we will depict them as goat-herding towel-heads. Better than chimpanzees.
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