The American Conservative, 8 October 2007

Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel best known as the author of The New American Militarism, excoriates General David Petraeus’ recent Congressional testimony, pointing out that if Petraeus were correct and the “surge” were working, then his recommendation that it be discontinued would be preposterous.  Bacevich argues that the elite in Washington is driven chiefly by the fear of admitting that it was wrong.  After reviewing Petraeus’ arguments and contrasting his views with the more cautious pronouncements of other senior commanders, Bacevich concludes:

Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver.  The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact.  Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life.  He has failed his country.  History will not judge him kindly.   

American debates on foreign policy are usually conducted in terms of two, and only two, historical analogies: Munich and Vietnam.  Not only do these analogies grow tiresome, but their use in debate rests on an absurd set of oversimplifications.  Those tired of this idiocy may welcome Paul W. Schroeder’s “Fire Fight.”  Schroeder compares the current position of the USA in Iraq to the position of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Italy in the period 1848-1859.  Not only does Schroeder draw out intriguing parallels between the way the Hapsburgs weakened themselves by wasting their resources in an unwinnable war in Italy and the way in which America is weakening itself in Iraq, he also acknowledges what the Munich–Vietnam shouters usually overlook, that an analogy is a comparison between things which are in other respects dissimilar.  Given that definition, a “perfect analogy” is a contradiction in terms.  Schroeder specifies the limits within which analogy is useful. 

 Other highlights include Philip Weiss, keeper of the mondoweiss blog, on the apparent inability of the organization Freedom Watch to specify its relationship with the Bush administration or its policy towards Israel; Kelley Beaucar Vlahos on neoconservatives among the top advisors to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; and Pat Buchanan on the future of Belgium.

Previous Post
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: