A blistering critique of the gulf between America's soldiers and the society that sends them off to war, from the bestselling author of The Limits of Power and Washington Rules
The United States has been "at war" in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. Yet as war has become normalized, a yawning gap has opened between America's soldiers and veterans and the society in whose name they fight. For ordinary citizens, as former secretary of defense Robert Gates has acknowledged, armed conflict has become an "abstraction" and military service "something for other people to do."
In Breach of Trust, bestselling author Andrew J. Bacevich takes stock of the separation between Americans and their military, tracing its origins to the Vietnam era and exploring its pernicious implications: a nation with an abiding appetite for war waged at enormous expense by a standing army demonstrably unable to achieve victory. Among the collateral casualties are values once considered central to democratic practice, including the principle that responsibility for defending the country should rest with its citizens.
Citing figures as diverse as the martyr-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the marine-turned-anti-warrior Smedley Butler, Breach of Trust summons Americans to restore that principle. Rather than something for "other people" to do, national defense should become the business of "we the people." Should Americans refuse to shoulder this responsibility, Bacevich warns, the prospect of endless war, waged by a "foreign legion" of professionals and contractor-mercenaries, beckons. So too does bankruptcy—moral as well as fiscal.
Despite our ostensible admiration of our men and women in arms, Americans have "offloaded" the full burden of war onto their shoulders with dismal results, argues Boston University history professor and Army vet Bacevich (Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War) in this impassioned and painfully convincing polemic. Our Founding Fathers proclaimed that all free people must make sacrifices when the nation goes to war. As late as WWII, the draft affected nearly everyone, with most people having a family member, friend, or colleague in the service. F.D.R.'s government raised taxes and instituted price controls and rationing, yet few complained. Bacevich emphasizes that eliminating the draft in 1973 sowed the seeds of disaster. When Bush announced the war on terror in 2001, the president mobilized volunteer troops, but not the nation; he urged Americans to "enjoy life," and he cut taxes. Since borrowing paid the bill, and there was no draft, few complained. When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turned sour, protests were mild compared to the upheavals over Vietnam. Bacevich asserts bluntly that a disengaged and compliant citizenry has reduced military service from a universal duty to a matter of individual choice, allowing our leaders to wage war whenever (and for however long) they choose with little to fear from an electorate who are neither paying nor perishing.
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Breach of Trust
An very good book. Well written and insightful. The author did an excellent job of characterizing the military's all volunteer force as a tool of convenience for the political elite and a society that is increasingly detached and indifferent to its purpose.