Monday, November 11, 2013

A soldier's plea for more than empty gestures

Breach of Trust
How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country
by Andrew J. Bacevich

Monday the 11th is Veterans Day, and the Library is closed along with most government services. Originally Armistice Day, November 11 was  renamed Veterans Day in 1954, when celebrating the end of "the war to end all wars" and the advent of world peace became too ironic even for Congress. As twelve years of continuous combat in the Middle East stretch into thirteen, it is worth remembering that Veterans Day began as a celebration of peace achieved, not war sustained.

Andrew Bacevich has spent the past decade warning about America's drift into a state of perpetual warindeed, his 2010 book Washington Rules is subtitled "America's Path to Permanent War." Now, in Breach of Trust, he points the finger of blame squarely at us, the American people, for allowing Washington to renounce a 200-year tradition of citizen-soldiery: "To abandon the tradition of the citizen-soldier, seeking to create an invincible offensive force able to win any argument, [is] to open the door to schemers pursuing criminal policies."

Bacevich knows what he's talking about. Now a professor of history and international studies at Boston University, he also is a retired Army colonel, West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran. His 27-year-old son was killed six years ago in Iraq. Bacevich's short books are bitter medicine, clear and honest.

A final example: "A people who permit war to be waged in their name while offloading onto a tiny minority responsibility for its actual conduct have no cause to complain about an equally small minority milking the system for all it's worth. Crudely put, if the very rich are engaged in ruthlessly exploiting the 99 percent who are not, their actions are analogous to that of American society as a whole in its treatment of soldiers: the 99 percent who do not serve in uniform just as ruthlessly exploit the 1 percent who do."

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Review by Don Beistle

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