politics | May 02, 2013

Google Talks: Andrew Bacevich On America's Unnecessary Military Might

"My book is not anti-American and it is not an attack on soldiers," politics speaker Andrew Bacevich says in his new Google Talks keynote. Rather, his recently re-released book (titled The New American Militarism, now being published with an updated Afterword) explores the way the nation has moved into an era where American values and worth are inextricably linked to military might. "Somewhere right around the end of the cold War, Americans generally said 'Yes,' to military power," Bacevich, a former soldier himself, tells the crowd. This is when he argues we saw a shift to a more unabashedly militaristic state. He defines this "new American militarism" as follows: outsized expectations regarding the ethicacy of force, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and a romanticized view of soldiers.

How does this manifest in American society? While Bacevich doesn't deny that society will, at some points, be required to achieve certain goals and security measures through the use of force. Throughout history, there have been examples of a military organization that rises to meet challenges when needed—but only when needed. "A grave and proximate threat to the nation's well-being might [have] required a large and powerful military establishment," he says. "But in the absence of such a threat, policy makers scaled down this establishment accordingly." Generally speaking, "it was policy to maintain the minimum force required—and no more." We have since shifted away from that policy, and into a state where the government values a strong military presence for its own sake. This can be seen in the estimates that say the United States government spends more on its military than every other country in the world—combined.

This "redundant and futile" line of thinking costs money, Bacevich says. Have the sacrifices made by soldiers and the grossly exorbitant spending been worth it? Is the nation more secure? Is the world ultimately more peaceful? While he admits that there have been positive strides made by use of military force, overwhelmingly he says that the answer to those questions is no. In his gripping talks, he shares his own academic and field experience to paint a vivid picture of the role of the military in American domestic and international policy today. And, he provides a new framework for analyzing our military-driven society—and why we need to change it.

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digital and social media | May 01, 2013