Retired army colonel and New York Times best-selling author Andrew J. Bacevich provides a searing reassessment of US military policy in the Middle East over the past four decades.
From the end of World War II until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in the Greater Middle East. Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere else. What caused this shift? Andrew J. Bacevich, one of the country's most respected voices on foreign affairs, offers an incisive critical history of this ongoing military enterprise - now more than 30 years old and with no end in sight.
During the 1980s, Bacevich argues, a great transition occurred. As the Cold War wound down, the United States initiated a new conflict - a war for the Greater Middle East - that continues to the present day. The long twilight struggle with the Soviet Union had involved only occasional and sporadic fighting. But as this new war unfolded, hostilities became persistent. From the Balkans and East Africa to the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, US forces embarked upon a seemingly endless series of campaigns across the Islamic world. Few achieved anything remotely like conclusive success. Instead, actions undertaken with expectations of promoting peace and stability produced just the opposite. As a consequence, phrases like permanent war and open-ended war have become part of everyday discourse.
Connecting the dots in a way no other historian has done before, Bacevich weaves a compelling narrative out of episodes as varied as the Beirut bombing of 1983, the Mogadishu firefight of 1993, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the rise of ISIS in the present decade. Understanding what America's costly military exertions have wrought requires seeing these seemingly discrete events as parts of a single war. It also requires identifying the errors of judgment made by political leaders in both parties and by senior military officers who share responsibility for what has become a monumental march to folly. This Bacevich unflinchingly does.
A 20-year army veteran who served in Vietnam, Andrew J. Bacevich brings the full weight of his expertise to this vitally important subject. America's War for the Greater Middle East is a bracing after-action report from the front lines of history. It will fundamentally change the way we view America's engagement in the world's most volatile region.
©2016 Andrew J. Bacevich (P)2016 Random House Audio
"In one arresting book after another, Bacevich has relentlessly laid bare the failings of American foreign policy since the Cold War. This one is his sad crowning achievement: the story of our long and growing military entanglement in the region of the most tragic, bitter, and intractable of conflicts." (Richard K. Betts, director, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University)
"An unparalleled historical tour de force certain to affect the formation of future U.S. foreign policy.... Every citizen aspiring to high office needs not only to read but to study and learn from this important book. This is one of the most serious and essential books I have read in more than half a century of public service." [Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, US Marine Corps (Ret.)]
"Bacevich asks and answers a provocative, inconvenient question: In a multigenerational war in the Middle East, 'Why has the world's mightiest military achieved so little?'" (Graham Allison, director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government)
Very very thoughtful, insightful and educational text that should be required reading for anyone wishing to vote in the United States and indeed in the western world. The last chapter in particular list key topics that require educated debate and more importantly thoughtful policies
an incredibly insightful and thought provoking book. It helps put into context the tiny part which I myself have played in this war. I was gripped from start to finish and this book and the messages portrayed have made a deep impression on me.
One of the most important books for our time and for the future. With questions and answers and a crucial concluding chapter.
This is what needs to go viral, not sneezing pandas
"A Key to Understanding the US Need for Perp. War"
"To be sure, Bush's Second Inaugural qualifies as a thoroughly American text, the president reiterating sentiments voiced by more than a few of his predecessors. Yet the speech also bears the unmistakable imprint of self-indulgent fantasy, of sobriety overtaken by fanaticism. Bush's expectations of ending tyranny by spreading American ideals mirrored Osama Bin Laden's dream of establishing a new caliphate based on Islamic principals. When put to the test, the president's vision of peace gained by waging preventative war had proven to be just as fanciful as bin Laden's and harry less pernicious. As adversaries, truly they were made for each other."
-- Andrew J. Bacevich, America's War for the Greater Middle East.
Dr. Andrew "Skip" Bacevich is a national treasure. He is fairly unassuming in person. He would pass for a conservative banker, a thoughtful pastor, or reserved high school principal if you just happened to see him sitting across from you on the Amtrak from North Station to DuPont. But step out of line, and just his gaze alone would stop you in your tracks. He could stare down a bear, perhaps stop a shark in Hawaii with just his gaze. Obviously, I exaggerate. I'm not sure how wildlife would react to a retired Colonel Bacevich, but the couple times I met him when he was commanding the 11th ACR in Fulda, Germany ... well, let's be honest ... he scared the sh!t out of me. And I don't intimidate easily. Even the 17-year-old version of me.
Anyway, I've read many of Bacevich's previous books like: (The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country). I still have two other Bacevich books: (The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy) sitting stoically on the shelf right behind me (between a Gary Wills and a Steve Coll) waiting patiently to be read. I would consider myself to be a hyper-Bacevich-acolyte. I will read them soon.
Enough wind-up. This book isn't flashy. It isn't full of new revelations. It is just solid military and historical scholarship and probably one of the key historical pieces on the military adventurism of the United States in the Middle East since the Carter Administration. Bacevich isn't a lawyer, but this book seemed to me basically an airtight legal brief exploring: 1) what motivated the United States to act as it has in the Middle East? 2) what both the civilians an the military tried to accomplish there? 3) Regardless of what US policy makers and military planners wanted to do, what actually happened there? 4) What are the consequences of US policy towards the Middle East? What have our wars wrought?
This is a book everyone needs to read. If our military adventurism has continued to roll on, not just in the Middle East but Africa and to a smaller degree in South America and Asia, we need to understand why we constantly seem to screw it up. How are we as citizens going to hold our leaders (both in the Military and in political office) to account if we don't seem to really give a shit. Less than one percent of our citizens have been involved directly in these wars, but the wars have affected all of us. We all pay the monetary debt and burden of the Billions and even Trillions wasted in stupid wars, we pay the moral debt for the blood left on the battlefield, the wounds brought home, and the citizens killed to further American interests when we have no sense any longer exactly what that interest is.
We are trapped in generational, perpetual wars in the Middle East and to what end? Most of the Neo-Con arguments should have been put to bed with the absolute failure of America's longest two wars. We seem to have left both Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Libya less stable than we found them. We keep sending our damn military bulls into foreign Pottery Barns and we don't seem to grasp WHY exactly we are doing it or HOW the hell we can get out.
Anyway, this is a must read from a philosopher/historian of the highest order. It is his masterpiece. Read it, and weep.
"A detailed account of what got us in trouble"
A great summary of the last 30+ years spent trying to find a positive outcome in the Middle East. Some assertions go unsupported and I really wish the narrator framed the quotes to help understand where the person quoted stopped and the author continued, but overall I really enjoyed the lesson it provided. That's said, it does leave you feeling hope for the future of the conflict, but maybe that lack of hope is realistic.
"America needs to dispense with futile war"
Bacevich's book provides a broad survey and clear analysis of 40-year U.S. military involvement in the greater Middle East, and highlights the shifting strategic objectives and ultimate futility of the effort to impose American purposes on the region. Involvement that initially focused on access to Persian Gulf oil in the 1970s later morphed into efforts to introduce American-style democracy, freedom, and consumerism, cloaked in good vs. evil rhetoric and vainly serving as false justification of U.S. intervention worldwide. Bacevich shows that the military's pursuit of this war has become a perpetual motion machine without achievement but lacking domestic political opposition, which has the effect of distracting attention and resources from the greater and more solvable national security challenges stemming from the effects of climate change.
"Now you will know why we are in such a mess."
First things first I am an total fan boy of Andrew J. Bacevich. It's rare that a man so thoroughly inside the military machine will defect from the home team, will provide a counter narrative to out interventionist foreign policy, but Bacevich will. It helps that he was never fully engulfed by the beast, and clocked out as a full colonel, not bad, but not all that great either in the scheme of things.
So what does this undistinguished veteran have to say about "The War for the Greater Middle East"? Well it's safe to say he is not entirely happy about how it's worked out since Jimmy Carter laid out the "Carter Doctrine" that has been our underlying philosophy about how to do business in a rather dangerous corner of the world.
More to the point the old peanut farmer is raked over the coals by the author for his feckless formulations and his even more feckless execution. But it's all good when Ronald Regan, Don Reynaldo the Great, the old Gipper steps to the plate, right? Hardly, Regan does not make the same mistakes Carter does, he makes bigger and better ones. All this is laid out in excruciating details with pride of place given to the double dealing done during Iran-Contra and how that managed to infuriate both the Iranians and the Saudis.
Democrats zero for one, ditto for Republicans. Next up is George H. Bush, can he at least tie up the board for Team Republican? Swing and a miss. Bacevich once more goes into the weeds to show that we very much need to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Gulf War One was less the spectacular win it was presented and more of the ambiguous no decision that our author presents it as.
Team Republican 0-1-1 Next up the sleazy, morally easy Bill Clinton and once more into the breach dear friends with a policy which seems designed to not only fail, but fail spectacularly, which it did. Team Democrat zero for two, Team USA 0-1-2. Can Bush the younger finally put a win on the board?
We know the answer to that question. We are living in the big, nasty, complete failure of W. Bush's attempt to finish the job in Iraq. 0-1-3 Team USA with the war now metastasizing to the bad lands of the Hindu Kush.
Which leads us to the present day and Team Democrat up at the plate again. The war has further spread to not only the Horn of Africa but to Africa proper. Obama is less a commander in chief and more of a fire fighter in chief attempting to put out flash fires all over the world but never asking how all that kindling got there in the first place.
With the end of the book and the present election before us it really does not look like Obama will chalk up a win for the "War for the Greater Middle East" If Hillary gets to sit in the big desk of 1600 Pennsylvania maybe she might right this battered and sinking ship of state. However, if Bacevich is correct in his interpretations and opinion, it does not look like either Team Hillary nor team USA will pull the win. Team Trump? It's not the personalities as Bacevich makes painfully clear. It is the policy, a policy that Trump seems to have no interest in studying, never mind changing.
Bacevich has not written a happy book, more of a j'accuse, but it should be a requirement of any thoughtful citizen to read or listen to this effort. Only by learning the awful errors of the past do we have any chance of finding a correct path out of our disastrous Carter Doctrine in the Near East and beyond.
"Outstanding history of US involvement"
Any presidential candidate who cares to make wise decisions in the Middle East should have this book on their nightstand.
Sadly, none of them will.
"Great Historical Tie-in"
It provided a great historical tie-in as it relates to US Mil activities and involvement in the middle east. Author is able to explain connection of events and rational for action within a greater political context in an easy to digest way.
"And exceptional an excellent book"
This book should be required reading for anyone holding national public office and anyone aspiring to do so. It should be mandatory reading for any voter in a national election. It is at once a clear eyed view of the last 35 years of America's abortive interventions in the greater Middle East and an accurate recounting of the military's involvement. It is a brilliant attempt to expose the need for a re-examination of America's policies and objectives. I highly recommend it.
"Nice balance of history and analysis"
Much more analysis than Bulger's Why We Lost, with evaluations of the assumptions and practices that keep leading America's national security industry into failures in the Middle East.
"Excellent book everyone should read"
Incredibly quick summary of the complicated relationships we have with the middle east and our misguided role there.
"Wish to learn, understand?"
This is a great book in many ways but what is most important is that the US has become increasingly involved in the Middle East since 1943 and even the more rapid evolutions since 1979 are so long we have forgotten most of the twists and turns along this very tortured path which has yet to end.
If you are trying to piece this altogether this book is an important piece of an enduring puzzle and staggering catastrophe.
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