What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing -- and arguably quite a lot. Abizaid’s proposed appointment is both a non-event and an opportunity not to be wasted. It means next to nothing in this sense: while once... Read More
Senator Elizabeth Warren 317 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. Dear Senator Warren: As a constituent, I have noted with interest your suggestion that you will “take a hard look” at running for president in 2020, even as you campaign for reelection to the Senate next month. Forgive me for saying that I interpret that... Read More
“The United States of Amnesia.” That’s what Gore Vidal once called us. We remember what we find it convenient to remember and forget everything else. That forgetfulness especially applies to the history of others. How could their past, way back when, have any meaning for us today? Well, it just might. Take the European conflagration... Read More
The purpose of all wars, is peace. So observed St. Augustine early in the first millennium A.D. Far be it from me to disagree with the esteemed Bishop of Hippo, but his crisply formulated aphorism just might require a bit of updating. I’m not a saint or even a bishop, merely an interested observer of... Read More
March 20, 2018 Dear Mr. Sulzberger: Congratulations on assuming the reins of this nation’s -- and arguably, the world’s -- most influential publication. It’s the family business, of course, so your appointment to succeed your father doesn’t exactly qualify as a surprise. Even so, the responsibility for guiding the fortunes of a great institution must... Read More
The present arrives out of a past that we are too quick to forget, misremember, or enshroud in myth. Yet like it or not, the present is the product of past choices. Different decisions back then might have yielded very different outcomes in the here-and-now. Donald Trump ascended to the presidency as a consequence of... Read More
What makes a Harvey Weinstein moment? The now-disgraced Hollywood mogul is hardly the first powerful man to stand accused of having abused women. The Harveys who preceded Harvey himself are legion, their prominence matching or exceeding his own and the misdeeds with which they were charged at least as reprehensible. In the relatively recent past,... Read More
Consider, if you will, these two indisputable facts. First, the United States is today more or less permanently engaged in hostilities in not one faraway place, but at least seven. Second, the vast majority of the American people could not care less. Nor can it be said that we don’t care because we don’t know.... Read More
Donald Trump's election has elicited impassioned affirmations of a renewed commitment to unvarnished truth-telling from the prestige media. The common theme: you know you can’t trust him, but trust us to keep dogging him on your behalf. The New York Times has even unveiled a portentous new promotional slogan: “The truth is now more important... Read More
By way of explaining his eight failed marriages, the American bandleader Artie Shaw once remarked, “I am an incurable optimist.” In reality, Artie was an incurable narcissist. Utterly devoid of self-awareness, he never looked back, only forward. So, too, with the incurable optimists who manage present-day American wars. What matters is not past mistakes but... Read More
Apart from being a police officer, firefighter, or soldier engaged in one of this nation’s endless wars, writing a column for a major American newspaper has got to be one of the toughest and most unforgiving jobs there is. The pay may be decent (at least if your gig is with one of the major... Read More
President-elect Donald Trump’s message for the nation’s senior military leadership is ambiguously unambiguous. Here is he on 60 Minutes just days after winning the election. Trump: "We have some great generals. We have great generals." Lesley Stahl: "You said you knew more than the generals about ISIS." Trump: "Well, I'll be honest with you, I... Read More
You may have missed it. Perhaps you dozed off. Or wandered into the kitchen to grab a snack. Or by that point in the proceedings were checking outSeinfeld reruns. During the latter part of the much hyped but excruciating-to-watch first presidential debate, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt posed a seemingly straightforward but cunningly devised... Read More
A writer who dares to revisit a snarky article dashed off five-plus years earlier will necessarily approach the task with some trepidation. Pieces such as the one republished below are not drafted with the expectation that they will enjoy a protracted shelf life. Yet in this instance, I'm with Edith Piaf: Non, je ne regrette... Read More
We have it on highest authority: the recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan marks “an important milestone.” So the president of the United States has declared, with that claim duly echoed and implicitly endorsed by media commentary -- theNew York Times reporting, for example, that... Read More
Let’s face it: in times of war, the Constitution tends to take a beating. With the safety or survival of the nation said to be at risk, the basic law of the land -- otherwise considered sacrosanct -- becomes nonbinding, subject to being waived at the whim of government authorities who are impatient, scared, panicky,... Read More
To judge by the early returns, the presidential race of 2016 is shaping up as the most disheartening in recent memory. Other than as a form of low entertainment, the speeches, debates, campaign events, and slick TV ads already inundating the public sphere offer little of value. Rather than exhibiting the vitality of American democracy,... Read More
Assume that the hawks get their way -- that the United States does whatever it takes militarily to confront and destroy ISIS. Then what? Answering that question requires taking seriously the outcomes of other recent U.S. interventions in the Greater Middle East. In 1991, when the first President Bush ejected Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait,... Read More
First came Fallujah, then Mosul, and later Ramadi in Iraq. Now, there isKunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan. In all four places, the same story has played out: in cities that newspaper reporters like to call “strategically important,” security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. military at great expense simply folded, abandoning their... Read More
There is a peculiar form of insanity in which a veneer of rationality distracts attention from the madness lurking just beneath the surface. When Alice dove down her rabbit hole to enter a place where smirking cats offered directions, ill-mannered caterpillars dispensed advice, and Mock Turtles constituted the principal ingredient in Mock Turtle soup, she... Read More
Policy intellectuals -- eggheads presuming to instruct the mere mortals who actually run for office -- are a blight on the republic. Like some invasive species, they infest present-day Washington, where their presence strangles common sense and has brought to the verge of extinction the simple ability to perceive reality. A benign appearance -- well-dressed... Read More
“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again.... Read More
The abiding defect of U.S. foreign policy? It’s isolationism, my friend. Purporting to steer clear of war, isolationism fosters it. Isolationism impedes the spread of democracy. It inhibits trade and therefore prosperity. It allows evildoers to get away with murder. Isolationists prevent the United States from accomplishing its providentially assigned global mission. Wean the American... Read More
Sometimes history happens at the moment when no one is looking. On weekends in late August, the president of the United States ought to be playing golf or loafing at Camp David, not making headlines. Yet Barack Obama chose Labor Day weekend to unveil arguably the most consequential foreign policy shift of his presidency. In... Read More
In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without... Read More
Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he received his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins.
Bacevich is the author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (2013). His previous books include Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (2010); The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008); The Long War: A New History of US National Security Policy since World War II (2007) (editor); The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005); and American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy (2002). His essays and reviews have appeared in a variety of scholarly and general interest publications including The Wilson Quarterly, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Nation, and The New Republic. His op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers.
His latest book is America's War for the Greater Middle East, just published by Random House.
In 2004, Dr. Bacevich was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. He has also held fellowships at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Council on Foreign Relations.