The bestselling author of The Limits of Power critically examines the Washington consensus on national security and why it must change
For the last half century, as administrations have come and gone, the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained unchanged: American security requires the United States (and us alone) to maintain a permanent armed presence around the globe, to prepare our forces for military operations in far-flung regions, and to be ready to intervene anywhere at any time. In the Obama era, just as in the Bush years, these beliefs remain unquestioned gospel.
In Washington Rules, a vivid, incisive analysis, Andrew J. Bacevich succinctly presents the origins of this consensus, forged at a moment when American power was at its height. He exposes the preconceptions, biases, and habits that underlie our pervasive faith in military might, especially the notion that overwhelming superiority will oblige others to accommodate America's needs and desires—whether for cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods. And he challenges the usefulness of our militarism as it has become both unaffordable and increasingly dangerous.
Though our politicians deny it, American global might is faltering. This is the moment, Bacevich argues, to reconsider the principles which shape American policy in the world—to acknowledge that fixing Afghanistan should not take precedence over fixing Detroit. Replacing this Washington consensus is crucial to America's future, and may yet offer the key to the country's salvation.
Bacevich, a retired colonel, critiques the unstated, unexamined premises, the "Washington Rules" that govern American foreign policy even to the detriment of national security and domestic harmony. Bacevich is frustrated by the hamstrung debate, but Sean Runnette is not. He reads with a polite NPR softness at odds with the crusading, rabble-rousing tone of Bacevich's writing, but the contrast works better than might be expected. Runnette treads softly over Bacevich's reportage, picking out the most crushing indictments of the text and highlighting them by dropping his voice to an intimate whisper. The contrast between the ideas proffered and their accompanying emotions are distinct, and well-rendered. A Metropolitan hardcover (Reviews, May 24). \n