Gloucester City Hall
Why The U.S. Keeps Losing Wars (But Fights Them Anyway)
National security analyst Andrew Bacevich, a retired U.S. Army officer, will talk about the challenges and limitations America faces on a rapidly changing global stage. Copies of his latest book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, will be available for sale and signing.
“For at least the past 35 years—that is, since well before 9/11—the United States has been ‘at war’ in various quarters of the Islamic world,” says Bacevich. “At no point has it demonstrated the will or the ability to finish the job. Washington’s approach has been akin to treating cancer with a little bit of chemo one year and a one-shot course of radiation the next. Such gross malpractice aptly describes U.S. military policy throughout the Greater Middle East across several decades.”
Warning against calls for what hawks term “World War IV”—the Cold War was WW III—he argues that such an undertaking would require the country to go back to the belt-tightening, taxation and conscription of the 1940s in a decades-long occupation to deal with new extremist groups that pop up and the endless challenge of rebuilding failed states like those in Iraq, Syria and Libya, which neither we nor our allies have an appetite for nor the resources to sustain.
“Waging World War IV would require at least a five-fold increase in the current size of the U.S. Army—and not as an emergency measure but a permanent one,” he adds, faulting U.S. presidential contenders for stoking fears and sowing illusions. “The pretense that dropping a few more bombs or invading one or two more countries will yield a conclusive outcome amounts to more than an evasion. It is an outright lie.”
Bacevich, a 20-year Army veteran who served in Vietnam and an emeritus professor of history and international relations at Boston University, is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy. He received his Ph. D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the B.U. faculty in 1998, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University.
His previous books include Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (2013), Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (2010), The Long War: A New History of US National Security Policy since World War II (editor, 2007), The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005), and American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy (2002).
Bacevich’s essays and reviews have appeared in The Wilson Quarterly, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Nation, The American Conservative, Newsweek, The New Republic and TomDispatch. Op-eds have also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers.
In 2004, Professor Bacevich was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. He has also been a fellow of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Bacevich, who served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971, retired with the rank of colonel in the early 1990s. A persistent critic of the invasion and occupation of Iraq in the early 2000s, he lost his only son there in May 2007, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army who was killed in action by an improvised explosive device.
“Bacevich is thought-provoking, profane and fearless,” said the New York Times Book Review of America’s War for the Greater Middle East, just published in April. “[His] call for Americans to rethink their nation’s militarized approach to the Middle East is incisive, urgent and essential.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Robert Kaplan called it Bacevich’s magnum opus—“a deft and rhythmic polemic aimed at America’s failures in the Middle East from the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency to the present.”
Prior to the lecture and Q&A, forum organizers will present the 11th annual $500 scholarship award for building global awareness to a Gloucester High School senior nominated by her teachers. The recipient has been a top honors student since middle school and is involved in numerous extracurricular activities and volunteer projects to benefit the community, according to Forum organizers.
This will be the last event of the Cape Ann Forum’s 2015-2016 season and the 94th since it was established in 2001. The all-volunteer organization has put on six or more free programs each year since its founding but will scale back to two next year, one in the fall and one on the spring.