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Denizens of Baghdad’s Green Zone, take note

Andrew Bacevich: America’s Forgotten General, 20 April 2006

Leonard Wood: Rough Rider, Surgeon, Architect of American Imperialism 
by Jack McCallum.
New York, 368 pp., $34.95, December 2005, 0 8147 5699 9
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... With the arguable exception of John J. Pershing, whose over-inflated reputation derives entirely from his brief tenure commanding US forces on the Western Front, General Leonard Wood was America’s most prominent military officer during the first quarter of the 20th century. More than any of his contemporaries, military or civilian, Wood embodied the first American empire, inaugurated by the outward thrust of 1898, reaching its zenith in 1917 with US intervention in the Great War, and then petering out in the disappointing aftermath of that struggle ...

The Long War

Andrew Bacevich: Motives behind the Surge, 26 March 2009

The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the American Surge in Iraq 
by Thomas E. Ricks.
Allen Lane, 394 pp., £25, February 2009, 978 1 84614 145 4
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... Thomas Ricks’s Fiasco, published in 2006, was a scathing account of the invasion and occupation of Iraq; The Gamble covers the ‘surge’ that pulled Iraq back from the edge of the abyss. By 2006, with Bush still insisting that the war was going swimmingly and the Pentagon keen to hand the war over to the Iraqis, it seemed that the US was heading for a catastrophic defeat ...

Debellicised

Andrew Bacevich: The Protean face of modern warfare, 3 March 2005

The Remnants of War 
by John Mueller.
Cornell, 258 pp., £16.50, September 2004, 0 8014 4239 7
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The Future of War: The Re-Enchantment of War in the 21st Century 
by Christopher Coker.
Blackwell, 162 pp., £50, October 2004, 1 4051 2042 8
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The New Wars 
by Herfried Münkler.
Polity, 180 pp., £14.99, October 2004, 0 7456 3337 4
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... War is a chameleon, possessed of an infinite capacity to adapt itself to changing circumstances. But in adapting, it preserves its essential nature: brutal, capricious and subject to only precarious control. With the passing of the Cold War, some well-meaning observers have speculated that war is on its last legs, its further intrusion into the realm of politics neither useful nor welcome ...

A Prize from Fairyland

Andrew Bacevich: The CIA in Iran, 2 November 2017

Foreign Relations of the US, 1952-54, Iran, 1951-54 
edited by James Van Hook.
for the Department of State/Washington DC. Chiron Academic Press, 970 pp., £20, September 2017, 978 91 7637 496 2
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... The series​ in which this volume appears constitutes the official historical record of American diplomacy. In 1989, the State Department published a volume with the same title as this one, nearly 1100 pages in length, which purported to document US-Iran relations in the early 1950s. In fact, focused as it was on the disputed nationalisation of Iranian oil and issues relating to prospective US economic and security assistance to Iran, the earlier volume essentially ignored the central episode of that period: the coup, engineered by the US and Britain, that ousted Mohammad Mossadegh, Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, from power ...

Small nations, take heed

Andrew Bacevich: Hanoi’s War, 7 February 2013

Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam 
by Lien-Hang Nguyen.
North Carolina, 444 pp., £29.95, July 2012, 978 0 8078 3551 7
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... Does the Cold War date from 1946 when Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech? Or had it begun decades earlier, when Churchill sought through armed intervention to strangle the Bolshevik Revolution in its cradle? Did the conflict that Washington calls the Persian Gulf War end on 28 February 1991 when George H.W. Bush declared a unilateral ceasefire? Or did that ceasefire signify little more than a pause in a conflict with Iraq that would, in the end, persist for another twenty years? The answers to these questions not only determine the duration of those two events, but also shape their meaning ...

Why read Clausewitz when Shock and Awe can make a clean sweep of things?

Andrew Bacevich: The Rumsfeld Doctrine, 8 June 2006

Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq 
by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.
Atlantic, 603 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 84354 352 4
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... The events of 11 September 2001 killed thousands, left many thousands more bereft, and horrified countless millions who merely bore witness. But for a few, 9/11 suggested an opportunity. In the inner circles of the United States government men of ambition seized on that opportunity with alacrity. Far from fearing a ‘global war on terror’, they welcomed it, certain of their ability to bend war to their purposes ...

Keep slogging

Andrew Bacevich: The Trouble with Generals, 21 July 2005

Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters 1914-18 
edited by Gary Sheffield and John Bourne.
Weidenfeld, 550 pp., £25, March 2005, 0 297 84702 3
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... What is it we expect of generals who exercise high command? The answer comes reflexively: in wartime, the measure of merit is victory. Great captains win battles, campaigns, wars. In fact, however, the standard to which generals are held is far more demanding and elusive. Victory by no means guarantees them the lasting gratitude of their political masters, the plaudits of their fellow citizens, or the respect of history ...

Social Work with Guns

Andrew Bacevich: America’s Wars, 17 December 2009

... By escalating the war in Afghanistan – sending an additional 34,000 US reinforcements in order to ‘finish the job’ that President Bush began but left undone – Barack Obama has implicitly endorsed Bush’s conviction that war provides an antidote to violent anti-Western jihadism. By extension, Obama is perpetuating the effort begun in 1980 to establish American dominion over the Middle East, hoping through the vigorous exercise of hard power to prolong the postwar Pax Americana ...

The Greatest Person then Living

Andrew Bacevich: Presidents v. Generals, 26 July 2017

The General v. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War 
by H.W. Brands.
Anchor, 438 pp., £21, November 2016, 978 0 385 54057 5
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... H.W. Brands​ is a well-known and prolific historian of an old-fashioned sort. With no axe to grind and no agenda to advance, he is all about telling stories, which he does exceedingly well. In The General v. the President he recounts a remarkable episode in American history: the clash between President Harry S. Truman and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur that culminated with MacArthur being sacked in April 1951 ...

A Hell of a Spot

Andrew Bacevich: Eisenhower and Suez, 16 June 2011

Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis: Suez and the Brink of War 
by David Nichols.
Simon and Schuster, 346 pp., £21, March 2011, 978 1 4391 3933 2
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... For the United States, what was once the strategic periphery has become the centre. On the short list of places deemed worth fighting for in the mid-20th century, Americans included Western Europe and East Asia. Any hostile power looking to control those critical regions sooner or later met with firm US resistance. In contrast, nations in the Near East or Central Asia were not worth fighting for ...

We do not deserve these people

Anatol Lieven: America and its Army, 20 October 2005

The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War 
by Andrew Bacevich.
Oxford, 270 pp., £16.99, August 2005, 0 19 517338 4
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... will therefore eventually settle down peacefully under the benign hegemony of the US. Yet, as Andrew Bacevich points out in one of the most acute analyses of America to have appeared in recent years, the United States itself is in many ways a militaristic country, and becoming more so: at the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military ...

The President and the Bomb

Adam Shatz, 16 November 2017

... be consulted on the decision? ‘These are people who have grown up saying, “Yes, sir,”’ Andrew Bacevich, a retired career officer in the US army, replied when I put the question to him. (In his recent speech following the death of four American soldiers in Niger, Kelly essentially said that the best Americans are lying in the ground of ...

Corbyn’s Progress

Tariq Ali, 3 March 2016

... chief of defence staff, Sir Nicholas Houghton. Interviewed on 8 November, he confided to a purring Andrew Marr that the army was deeply vexed by Corbyn’s unilateralism, which damaged ‘the credibility of deterrence’. On the same show, Maria Eagle, a PLP sniper with a seat on the front bench as the shadow defence secretary, essentially told Marr that she ...

A Trap of Their Own Making

Anatol Lieven: The consequences of the new imperialism, 8 May 2003

... some of the US’s imperial tendencies will no doubt remain in place – scholars as different as Andrew Bacevich and Walter Russell Mead have stressed the continuity in this regard from Bush through Clinton to Bush, and indeed throughout US history. However, without the specific configuration of hardline elements empowered by the Bush ...

Democratic Warming

Tom Nairn: The Upstaging of the G8, 4 August 2005

... A counter-radicalism of marketolatry soon relegated the older versions to museums or sects. As Andrew Bacevich points out in The New American Militarism,1 ‘radical’ came to mean Trotskyite mince reprocessed into neo-conservative sausages. Situationist-style disreputables refused old and new rules alike, naturally; but such dissent served mainly to ...

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