Thursday, April 2, 2009


Andrew Bacevich on the National Security Elite:

Bacevich maintains that, starting in 1947, an informal national security elite has caused an "atmosphere of seemingly permanent crisis" and has deprived Congress of most of its responsibilities except ensuring the reelection of its own members, whom he refers to as "narcissistic hacks." The ideological conviction of this extra-constitutional group—that America's destiny and obligation is to ensure the triumph of freedom worldwide—adds "a moral gloss that can be added to virtually any initiative by insisting that...the United States is also acting to advance the cause of freedom and democracy."

James Forrestal and Paul Nitze were founding members of this elite and of its mindset—"sounding the alarm at the drop of a hat" and favoring the worst-case scenario. In 1950 Nitze wrote NSC 68, "one of the foundational documents of postwar American statecraft." NSC 68 finds the US, then at the peak of its power and influence, in "deepest peril" and "in greater jeopardy than ever before in our history," with the possibility of "the destruction not only of this Republic but of civilization itself." The long-expected Chinese Revolution and the first Soviet nuclear tests apparently induced this doom-laden mood. Succeeding generations of the elite, sometimes referred to as Wise Men, have also seen the United States as perennially beset by hideous threats, often inflated and based on a misinterpretation of reality. One recalls with embarrassment Condoleezza Rice's smoking gun as mushroom cloud and other Saddam Hussein fantasies.

The resulting permanent militarization of US policy produced ever-increasing military budgets and persistent fearmongering, which, in Bacevich's phrase, became "the stock-in-trade of Wise Men from Nitze's day to the present." Bacevich pronounces the national security elite ideology, with its reliance on the false security of military power, as "American exceptionalism in its most baleful form."

Bottom line:

"America doesn't need a bigger army," Bacevich writes. "It needs a smaller—that is, more modest—foreign policy...." Instead of the "war on terror," containment should be tried in order to allow the Islamist threat to wither away. Efforts should be concentrated on major goals like the abolition of nuclear weapons or the reversal of climate change. His conclusion is fatalistic: "Americans appear determined to affirm Niebuhr's axiom of willful self-destruction."

No comments:

Post a Comment