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Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their…

Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country

by Andrew J Bacevich

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I think Bacevich raises some really interesting issues that are worth considering in greater depth and discussing more broadly in our society. He essentially argues that a few changes in the way American society and its military interact and relate to each other have helped to create (or at least reinforce) a world in which war becomes normalized and the people have become apathetic about use of force.

Bacevich looks at three core ideas that he says infuse American thinking, particularly post-9/11 and post-elimination of the draft—(1) that Americans will not change (i.e., the idea that "they" win when we change our lives in response to the war), (2) that Americans will not pay now (the fact that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been mostly financed by large amounts of debt, rather than sacrifice in the form of increased taxes or other revenue-raising policies), and (3) that we will not bleed (that is, that the military is composed of those who volunteer, and that other Americans have little or no "skin in the game"). He argues that these three concepts have led to an America in which war has become the new normal, and American military might has become more imperial in nature than democratic, with the growing military-industrial complex and private security sectors as symptoms of this. There's a lot more to the argument that just that, but I think Bacevich makes some interesting points, particularly looking at the world through his own experiences as a U.S. Army officer of 23 years, an academic in the field of history and international relations, and the father of a soldier who died in Iraq.

I can't say whether I agree or disagree with his arguments, as I had never really thought about them before, but the book gave me a lot to think over and made its points well. This is definitely a topic that I will be thinking about and discussing more, and I feel like Bacevich's book gave me a solid basis to begin doing so. It was well-written and easy to follow, and provided a solid foundation for deeper thinking about the issues presented. ( )
  crazylilcuban | Jun 15, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The author is a former military officer (spent two decades there) who built a second career in academia, so this critique of the lack of connection between the American public and the now-professional/volunteer military, and what that means for the formation of policy, is worth reading on that count alone.

Professionalization of the armed forces may be a good idea if we're thinking about sheer efficiency -- and in theoretical terms, at least, the idea that every soldier will be committed to protecting the nation because he or she is serving voluntarily. So much for theory. Bacevich devotes this book to the reality -- the fact that only a tiny minority of us have any sense of what is involved in military service, and what that means for us as a nation when we embark on large-scale wars that last years, and aren't willing to do anything but push the sacrifices off onto others. That takes the shape of refusing financial sacrifices to pay for those global conflicts, and refusing to tolerate the idea of a draft or some kind of national service that spreads the burden more equally. Both of these, of course, would push us to realize the true cost of what we're doing when we commit our military forces to action, and likely result in more thoughtful conclusions about what is in the nation's best interests.

Bacevich comes to this from a POV that many will label "left", but the stuff he's criticizing should concern us all, regardless of nationality or political hue, especially because he himself has had "skin in the game" and because he's pointing out that a misguided policy process produces toxic results for everyone out there. This is a straightforward argument, dense and well-reasoned, but best taken in small doses in order to ponder it all. Barreling straight through from beginning to end, without stopping along the way to digest and reflect, is likely to trigger indigestion. I found this very readable, more interesting and better reasoned than some of Bacevich's other books. ( )
  Chatterbox | Dec 31, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I probably should not write a review since I didn't finish the book. I promised to though and since I don't see myself finishing this book I feel I should write something.

When I promise to write a review I make a concerted effort to finish the book. Since I was not able to get into this book and finish it, I gave it two stars. I can't say why, if might have been because of his style of writing or perhaps because I kept having to stop and look up words. It started to be less a book and more a vocabulary lesson. I'm not impressed by people throwing obscure words into their writing, it feels as if they are showing they have a better education than I do. Which Mr. Bacevich does have.

I was so disinterested in this book by the time I quit I can't even remember most of what I read, except that he was comparing the World Wars and Korea to the army today and the army today lost. ( )
  BellaFoxx | Nov 6, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I will say up front that I have been a fan, and avid reader of the output from Andrew Bacevich. That being said, this book really highlights a number of issues that I think warrant attention from all Americans, particularly those in the political halls of government. Bacevich notes that the all-volunteer military (a thread that he has pursued in other writings) has essentially become discenfranchised from the majority of the US population. This means that the majority of Americans only see or hear about the US military (as demonstrated in this book) through staged productions at major sporting events or the like. The small percentage of the population that actually serves, and continues to serve over and over again, has effectively givent the government a tool to utilize, that generally doesnt really impact the lives of most Americans. Bacevich comments on how many times the US military has been utilized since the end of the draft, and it is startling. Hence the call for a type of draft, where all Americans might "feel the pinch" if military forces were put in harms way.
Bacevich also calls to task ex-military senior officers who "see the light" after they have left the military, and in no-way raising the alarm bells while in uniform. Not sure if this is to highlight the seemingly unpleasant taste that leaves with anyone who might question their motivations, but it is worthy to note in and of itself.
Bottom line, Bacevich makes a great case about the consequences of the all-volunteer force: "not least among them is a proclivity for wars that are, if anything, even more misguided adn counterproductive than Vietnam was....The warriors may be brave, but the people are timid. So where courage is most needed, passivity prevails, exquisitely expressed...in the omnipresent call to support the troops." Wow. So true. A great read, and it will certainly spark some interesting questions on where do we go from here. The Syria situation today provides a great example of what Bacevich is talking about in this great book. ( )
1 vote pjlambert | Oct 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
“Breach of Trust: How Americans failed their soldiers and their country” is a look at how the United States has drifted into the habit of endless warfare. Its author, Andrew Bacevich, is a retired U.S. Army Colonel, a graduate of West Point, and now a professor of international relations and history at Boston University. As a military insider his view of the problem is slightly one sided but still accurate in spite of that. Richard Nixon’s move to an all volunteer army has served to divorce the vast majority of Americans from the military. With no relatives at risk and, at least during the Bush II administration, not being asked to make monetary sacrifices, American voters have refused to take responsibility for the wars the government fights in their name.

Bacevich’s points are valid, without “skin in the game” American’s have been uninterested in America’s military adventurism. However he is not the first to see this. During a 2004 question and answer session at the 40th reunion of Freedom Summer activists Congressman John Lewis explained that a draft was proposed by a handful of lawmakers who were interested in bringing the American public into the debate. The vast majority of members of Congress and the Senate did not want the average citizen to voice their opinions, or even to form an opinion. “Go to the mall and shop” was the president’s advice, which could be translated as “Don’t look behind the curtain.”

Bacevich’s conclusion is as gloomy as his analysis is accurate. I would have liked to read some suggestions, even fanciful ones, on how to fix the situation. As it is the book reads like the deck officer on the Titanic calmly explaining to the passengers that all the lifeboats are gone, the water is freezing, and the ship is beyond saving. If there is no hope do we really need to know? Nine tenths of the book was an interesting and often eye opening read. It deserved much better than the conclusion Bacevich wrote. ( )
  TLCrawford | Sep 20, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805082964, Hardcover)

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” for more than a decade. Yet as war has become normalized, a yawning gap has opened between America’s soldiers 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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:13 -0400)

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. Rather than something for "other people" to do, Bacevich argues that national defense should become the business of "we the people."… (more)

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