Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (American Empire Project)
a book by Andrew J. Bacevich
(our site's book review)
“War no longer qualifies as the people’s business.” These days, he [Bacevich] writes, “in formulating basic military policy and in deciding when and how to employ force, the state no longer requires the consent, direct participation, or ongoing support of citizens.” [Except when it comes time to pay the bill. Of course that huge burden is being laid, without even a pang of guilt, on the heads of our children and their children, ad infinitum. So it's a "free" war—free of responsibility, free of cost. What a bargain!] If reduced to a phrase, this book would be a call to reinstate the draft. (Source: The Demilitarized Soldier: Andrew Bacevich, American Foreign Policy and Breach of Trust, Tom Gallagher, The Los Angeles Review of Books)
This nicely sums up the core of Vietnam veteran Andrew J. Bacevich's book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country. The military record of the post-9/11 era is a story of "protracted wars ending in unsatisfactory ways that cost enormous amounts of money and lives and end up probably reducing America’s standing in the world." Mainstream media propaganda tells us soldiers' homecomings are usually about a healthy soldier in uniform, his doting wife, proud children, and the appreciative cheers of a grateful nation. Yet the actual, depressing reality is that far more veterans will come home to troubles—physical, psychological, interpersonal and financial, and rather than cheers they get indifference. (In 2013, there occurred the 1 millionth American service man or woman who has returned home maimed or wounded from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, which have killed nearly 7000 U.S. soldiers, not counting thousands of civilian contractors. World War II statistics: 418,500 killed and 670,846 wounded. Note that WWII U.S. soldiers wounded isn't nearly as high as the million wounded in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, either of which are the longest wars the USA has ever fought.)
If we had a draft where all our young were vulnerable, we'd think twice when the next Dubya attempts to invade another country without provocation just to satisfy ugly neocon wet dreams
So this book persuasively argues that the U.S. needs to dump this system based on a professional military and replace it by reviving the military system based on the tradition of the citizen soldier—i.e., the draft, so we'd think twice when the next Dubya attempts to invade another country without provocation just to satisfy ugly neocon wet dreams. Some antiwar figures, such as Noam Chomsky, have advocated such a plan to deter war. One reviewer says: "Those who wish to honor the humanity of America’s soldiers should agitate not for conscription but for the freedom to resign. The remaining soldiers would be there by choice, and if they continued fighting unjust, counterproductive wars, it would be harder to regard them as victims of bad leadership and an apathetic populace." This is a very good point! The reviewer goes on: "Nothing would compromise American liberty more than a national slave army [draftees—recall the Vietnam disaster]. Instead, we need to nurture a culture of war-weariness, anti-militarism, peace, and individual liberty [soldiers who can quit at will]." (Source: Would Conscription Put the Brakes on War?, reason.com, Anthony Gregory)
Then perhaps we'll use our military defensively to protect our citizens like in WWII in which any dolt could see that if Hitler succeeded in Europe he'd be coming to conquer us and damn soon. If Saddam had said he was going to conquer the USA as soon as he could stockpile the needed weapons to do the job, there could have been an excuse for the 2003 Iraq attack. But he said no such thing. Bush's excuse for the attack was stupid and lame, and if every young adult U.S. citizen had been vulnerable to a draft, including Presidents' daughters and Congresspersons' sons, that attack would never have happened, and today the world would not be up against ISIS, courtesy of OBomb'em the bungler. The author says it gets down to having "skin in the game." The current U.S. Congress, in which only 20% of its members are veterans, is down from almost 75% as recently as 1980. The Congress has little skin in the game, and they act accordingly. The costs of war are unseen by the population and unacknowledged by their representatives. The military is a marginalized and isolated subsector of the population.
Here's a guy who understands what it means to have skin in the game—which neither Dubya nor Obama ever has or ever will
About 71% of the 34 million 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. would fail to qualify for military service because of reasons related to health, physical status (too fat or thin) and educational background, according to the Pentagon. Young people are ineligible if they are: obese, lack a high school diploma or a GED, convicted felons, or taking prescription drugs for ADHD. Only 1% of young people are both eligible and willing to serve in the military. The big need for warm bodies to fill uniforms has led to some looser recruitment standards. (Ever see a fat person try to do a pushup? It ain't pretty.) (Source: Pentagon: 7 in 10 Youths Would Fail to Qualify for Military Service, Time, Nolan Feeney)
About 71% of the 34 million 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. would fail to qualify for military service because of reasons related to health, physical status (too fat or thin) and educational background, according to the Pentagon
If there was skin in the game, we'd have left the Middle East once the soldiers and citizens alike agreed that the job is done or that it's not working. The Dubya and Obama administrations plan a war that will go on forever, because we're not asked to pay for the war with taxes and they can simply seduce the homeless and the poor into joining for a paycheck, never worrying about the fate of more advantaged young people, since there is no draft. Most people are against the Middle East war and yet it is planned to be infinite by people who don't and won't ever have skin in the game, and the bill won't come due during their administrations. Besides, expensive security forces of professionals are available to administrations to fill in the gaps.
None of this could be happening if we made current taxes pay for wars now and we fired all the mercenaries and pros since we cannot even come close to affording them. The U.S. has been forced by neocon warmongers to get deep into hopeless debt as we make the rest of the world get more furious with us by the day, watching as every drone murder to kill a terrorist kills innocents as well, and each of these victims has ten relatives swearing vengeance on us. Experts are telling us that every one we kill creates at least seven more. But our so-called leaders are not concerned at all about such devastating math and its implications. They're having way too much fun playing God, looking at computer screens half a world away and pushing a button sending drones on kill missions. It's like the ultimate video game and they get PAID to play it. And there's no risk to the killers.
Our leaders are having way too much fun playing God to ever quit, looking at computer screens half a world away and pushing a button sending drones on kill missions (do they know it isn't a video game?)
Bacevich is a history professor and author
Bacevich deserves great credit for having the guts and wisdom and heart to find time in his career as professor of history and international relations at Boston University to write such an important book. He has had skin in the game himself back in the Vietnam era—the man knows what he is talking about. This country needs more wise citizens of good character and good values like Bacevich, and fewer neocon sellouts and flunkies like Dubya and Obama. The author reminds us that in WWII the famous, the prominent and the wealthy all served (e.g., JFK) and they won the war. Now mostly the maginalized, unemployed, homeless, foreigners buying citizenship, and the poor head for the recruiter's office, motivated by a paycheck, hunger, boredom, or college money promised to veterans. And now gays, lesbians and lots of women are joining up and getting skin in the game—they're a lot cheaper than mercenaries and pros. Rightwing resistance was overcome via a serious need for new recruits.
Mostly the maginalized, unemployed, homeless, foreigners buying citizenship, and the poor head for the recruiter's office
Bacevich sees himself as neither left nor right and he considers the source of our economic malaise to be the relentless wars since 2001. He believes the USA needs to have a program of required national service, one that says all 18-year-olds—basically, kids as they come out of high school, owe a period of service to country or community, some of them serving in the military, others serving in a variety of other capacities, whether we’re talking Teach for America, Peace Corps, protecting the environment. This makes good sense for many reasons, none less than the fact that it will have a restraining effect on warmongering neocon empire builders who do not wish to see their own sons and daughters in harms way. However, unless such policies occur, no one expects that we will stop spending more on defense than the next 15 countries combined.
The U.S. is a cruel, paranoid, authoritarian bully out to punish anyone complaining about our attacks
Might makes right or Might makes stupid?
The author believes that our modern militarism is unsustainable and unwise, and the numbers bear him out—we cannot just keep getting another trillion bucks in debt every year. And the American idea that military force is the answer to all problems is going over terribly with the rest of the world, which sees us as an arrogant bully—an accurate assessment. There are many military contractors whose profiteering steals honor from the soldiers they serve alongside, says Bacevich. He closes this important book with the accusation that those who disagree with his thesis “cannot be said to love their country. Nor can they be said to care about the well-being of those sent to fight on the country’s behalf.” The man pulls no punches, calling the current endless war unvarnished evil.
Bacevich calls the U.S.'s current endless war on Islam 'unvarnished evil'
The world sees us as an arrogant bully—a bull in the world's china shop
Neither Bacevich nor reviewers spent much time on this elusive concept called victory. What would it look like in the hopeless U.S.-created messes in Afghanistan and Iraq? Nuke 'em all? Send 20 million U.S. troops and locate and destroy all "terrorists"? This plan is useless, since every one we kill produces ten more out to kill us. Think of these countries as terrorist factories run by the U.S. Each is a very productive factory indeed. Eventually every citizen of these two countries would have gone through our wonderful processing plant and the entire population of each would be "terrorists"! Such is the consequence of letting murderous neocon empire builders lead our country into battle—or anywhere else.
The U.S. has a genuine terrorist creation factory going, and the end result of our bull-in-a-china-shop tactics was the Islamics evolving a few bull-in-a-china-shop tactics of their own: ISIS
Using drones and other weapons, the U.S. murdered several innocents for every terror suspect they killed
The U.S. military bullies dropping a little 'democracy' on Middle Eastern citizens
Congress should have "grown a pair" and nipped the rotten Dubya-led Iraq invasion in the bud. Look at the horrid consequences of their cowardice! The idiots in charge of these wars seemed not to realize that these countries—before we arrived to wreck everything and begin murdering—already hated the U.S. and many that were on the verge of joining with the terrorists did so after they saw how we acted. And the more we kept up wrecking and murdering the more they signed up with the terrorists. There is NO way to win and have a victory, folks. NONE! So as the War Games movie said, "The only way to win is not to play." And the U.S. leaving these countries is therefore logically the ONLY victory we will ever get there. Our leaders seem to be too stupid to see this obvious conclusion.
The sad thing about our War on Terror is that in this war it is the USA that is doing most of the terrorizing. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
The sad thing about our War on Terror is that in this war it is the USA that is doing most of the terrorizing. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us"