But our new enemies were never clearly defined
"Who exactly U.S. troops were fighting in Iraq was never entirely clear," Bacevich argues. "The enemy manifested about as much political cohesion and unity of effort as the Native American tribes that the United States Army had labored to pacify through much of the nineteenth century."
Bacevich points out the United States has won no real military victories since World War II ended in 1945, except for brief "policing exercises" in Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1990.
Today, Barack Obama shows a preference for small-scale operations, rather than major wars. With an affinity for drones, Obama has made "targeted assassination" the centerpiece of our national security policy.
Obama came to the presidency promising something better, Bacevich argues, but ended up perpetuating irrational military and foreign policies.
In recent years, a draft may well have provoked widespread protests similar to those during the Vietnam War.
Most Americans seem to ignore the fact that money to finance current wars in the Middle East is largely generated by borrowing, which increases the national debt.
Nobel-Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes predicted the costs of war in their 2008 book, "The Three Trillion War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict."
In a recent paper published by the Harvard Kennedy School, Bilmes estimates Iraq and Afghanistan war costs, including future benefits and medical treatment for veterans, could reach $6 trillion. Those costs accounted for about 20 percent of national debt increases between 2001 and 2012.
Veteran's disability benefits, Bacevich writes, rose from $15 billion in 2000 to $57 billion in 2012. "To fund war, the government simply borrowed."
Bacevich graduated from West Point and retired from the Army as a colonel, after serving 23 years. A veteran of the Vietnam and First Persian Gulf wars, Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University today. In May 2007, his son Andrew was killed while serving in Iraq.
Bacevich's previous books include: "American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy" (2002), "The New American Militarism" (2005), "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008) and "America Rules: America's Path to Permanent War" (2010).
"Breach of Trust" has harsh words for many of today's intellectuals.
"Some opted for integrity over influence," he writes. But others "helped make respectable Washington's infatuation with armed force as the preferred tool of statecraft."
Failing to expose the "large political and moral defects of the nation's military system," Bacevich asserts, "qualifies as grotesque and contemptible irresponsibility."
Personally, I have been fixated on reading about foreign policy since I started studying the Vietnam War back in 1963. Hundreds of fascinating histories and analyses have been published in books, magazines and academic journals.
If you haven't followed foreign policy in any detail, but are interested in starting, "Breach of Trust" just might be the best book to read first.
The book ends on a challenging note: "The warriors may be brave, but the people are timid. So where courage is most needed, passivity prevails, exquisitely expressed (and sanctimoniously justified) in the omnipresent call to 'support the troops.'"
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.