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Is America obsessed with militarization?

Updated on February 26, 2015

The Germans and the Japanese have been known throughout history as militarists, and are thought of as such even today, according to a professor and author of “The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.” The United States, it would seem, has also taken on this title, he said.

While force may be necessary at times, it has become all too normal in the U.S., said Andrew Bacevich. “We have allowed ourselves to be persuaded that drones and skilled commandos could conceal the brutality of war,” said Bacevich.

Bacevich spoke to roughly 750 people in the Dennison Theatre Wednesday night, as part of the University of Montana’s Presidential Lecture Series. Bacevich’s topic was, “The New American Militarism,” off of his book, which he published in 2005.

Bacevich is currently the chair of International Relations, and a professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, and achieved his Masters and PhD from Princeton, specializing in American Diplomatic and Military History, U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Studies.

Bacevich said the barbaric tactics of war first came from WWI, and were reinforced by WWII, the Vietnam War and the Korean War. From these tactics came two realizations. The first, was that war is brutal. The second, was that military service itself was both degrading and oppressive, he said.

As the technology for war further developed, the idea of war became more widely respected, said Bacevich. “For the right causes, it now turned out, war could offer an attractive option, humane, even thrilling, he said, “but it turned out to be not all that different from other wars, ugly and brutal.

Andrew Bacevich speaks to a crowd of roughly 750 people at the University of Montana on Wednesday, March 12, about militarism in the United States.
Andrew Bacevich speaks to a crowd of roughly 750 people at the University of Montana on Wednesday, March 12, about militarism in the United States. | Source

This new American militarization started with the terrorist attack on the twin towers on September 11, 2001, when the U.S. engaged in the “War on Terror”, said Bacevich. This war continues even today as an open ended war, although it is no longer labeled as the “War on Terror”, he said.

After 9/11, the U.S. began spending more money on its military than any other nation in the world, he said. According to Bacevich, in 2001 the base military budget for the pentagon was $278 billion, while today’s budget, which was released just last week, has just reached $522 billion.

“For the armed forces, dominance constitutes a baseline, or a point of departure, viewing supremacy as merely adequate,” he said, “ Leading, in fact, to the normalization of war. As a consequence, self restraint when using force, has all but disappeared”

“War has become a normal state, and seemingly permanent condition for the United States,” said Bacevich.

In his speech, Bacevich offered a “menu” of options to stray from the current normalization of war. He began with stating that the U.S. government should heed the intentions of the founders.

Bacevich said that army and perpetual war defined Europe, and the ideals of the founding fathers was to create the absence of such things in the form of the United States. He continued with nine additional options that should also be examined, but what he seemed to feel the most passionately about was the idea of the citizen soldier.

Looking back at past wars, citizen soldiers were nearly always successful, said Bacevich. He then proposed a National Term of Service, in which every 18 year old must in some way serve their country prior to beginning their education. This can be done through the military, or even the Peace Corps, as long as they serve in some way, he said.

Bacevich continued in commenting that the U.S. should withdraw support for foreign nations, as “we are no longer responsible.” The U.S. should first focus on its own demilitarization before attempting to help foreign neighbors, said Bacevich.

“Military Power is poison, one not without its occasional utility, but poison all the same,” said Bacevich, “and never to be regarded otherwise. In our time, oblivious to the potential consequences, we have lost sight of that.”

Watch for more on Bacevich's stance on war

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