Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Long War and a Father Torn

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it.
 I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check.
It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

                                                                     -  Andrew Bacevich, on the death of his son in Iraq in 2007.

I'm just beginning to explore the writings of Andrew Bacevich after seeing him interviewed by Rachel Maddow a couple of weeks back.  He seems to be an extraordinary man of extraordinary vision.   A career soldier he served from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf before retiring as a colonel in the 1990s.  He holds a PhD in American diplomatic history from Princeton and has taught at West Point, John Hopkins University and Boston University.  His son, Andrew J. Bacevich Jr., also served as a lieutenant in the US Army until he was killed in Iraq by an IED in May, 2007.

I provide the background as an introduction to an incredibly moving item Bacevich wrote in the Washington Post following the death of his son.  It's a  powerful read if you're up to it.

Even before the death of his son, Bacevich was an outspoken critic of American imperialist militarism and what he calls "the long war" that America can never win.  I've just received two of his books,  Washington Rules, America's Path to Permanent War, 2010, and The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, 2005.  I expect to be reviewing them in due course.  I'm also hoping to get my hands on his latest book, American Military and the Myth of Civilian Control.

Bacevich's world view is a refreshing contrast to the dark visions of Canada's political leadership.  I guess that's because he's not just a first class intellectual but also a career soldier and father to a son whose life was sacrificed to a hopeless imperialist fantasy.


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