BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company…

ANDREW BACEVICH: Let's look at what US military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved. Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic? I mean, if the answer is yes, then let's keep trying. But if the answer to those questions is no, then maybe it's time for us to recognize that this larger military project is failing and is not going to succeed simply by trying harder.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. They said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could turn the smoking gun into a mushroom cloud, and they were wrong. They said Iraq had ties to Al Qaeda, and they were wrong. They said the war would be a cakewalk, and they were wrong. Over and again they were wrong, yet 11 years, thousands of lives, millions of refugees, and trillions of dollars later, the very same armchair warriors in Washington who from the safety of their Beltway bunkers called for invading Baghdad, are demanding once again that America plunge into the sectarian wars of the Middle East.

A chorus of kindred voices fills the echo chamber: the same old faces, the same old arguments, never acknowledging the phony premises and fraudulent intelligence that led to disaster and chaos in the first place. A headline at the website ThinkProgress sums it up: “The People Who Broke Iraq Have A Lot of Ideas About Fixing It Now.”

Among the most celebrated of these hawks is Robert Kagan, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. A darling of the neocons, he's been a foreign policy adviser to John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton. In 2002, he and William Kristol wrote that for the war on terrorism to succeed, Saddam Hussein must be removed. When George W. Bush set out to do just that, Kagan cheered him on, and then, in 2006, called for a surge in American troop levels to prevent Iraq's collapse.

Now Robert Kagan is stirring controversy again with this lengthy article in “The New Republic,” “Superpowers Don’t Get To Retire: What our tired country still owes the world.” He calls for America to return to muscular, global activism.

Kagan's much-discussed article brought a sharp riposte from another scholar and historian who sees the world and America's role differently. Andrew Bacevich has seen the horrors of war too closely to advocate more of the same policies that failed in Vietnam and Iraq. A graduate of West Point with 23 years in the military, including time in Vietnam, he teaches history at Boston University, writes best-selling books on foreign policy, and articles and essays in journals both liberal and conservative, like this critique of Kagan in “Commonweal” magazine titled, "The Duplicity of the Ideologues." Welcome back.


BILL MOYERS: So what do you mean, the duplicity of ideologues?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, Kagan's essay, which does deserve to be read, simply because of Kagan's stature in Washington, gives us a falsified, sanitized, and in some respects, illusory account of recent American history.


ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, his notion of American history, particularly since 1945, is one that we might term an extended liberation narrative where the United States devoted itself, in the wake of World War II, to promoting liberal values, democracy everywhere, fighting against evildoers, and he concludes that this success is being squandered by Barack Obama and those who are unwilling to continue this crusade.

Now, that narrative is only sustainable if you leave a lot of important facts out, or if you distort those facts. So we get no mention of overthrowing Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. We get no mention of the CIA overthrowing the president of Guatemala. We get virtually no mention of the Vietnam War, which he dismisses as sort of an unfortunate incident of no particular significance. And perhaps most egregiously, he utterly ignores the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he served as a cheerleader for. And which to a very large extent, account for the problem that we're dealing with today in the greater Middle East.

BILL MOYERS: This week, one of his allies, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Elizabeth wrote a long essay in “The Wall Street Journal.” They say, "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is ‘ending’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as though wishing made it so.

His rhetoric has now come crashing into reality. Watching the black-clad ISIS jihadists take territory once secured by American blood is final proof, if any were needed, that America's enemies are not ‘decimated.’ They are emboldened and on the march."

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I'd say rarely has a major American newspaper published an op-ed that was so thoroughly shameless. Again, what is the cause? What was the catalyst of the instability that racks Iraq today? The simple answer is the one that Cheney and his daughter don't want to mention: the unnecessary, misguided, and frankly immoral war launched by the United States in 2003. We destabilized Iraq. In many respects, we destabilized the larger region. And misfortune of Barack Obama is that he inherited this catastrophe, created by the previous administration.

BILL MOYERS: Even Cheney once thought that it would be a serious mistake to occupy Baghdad. This is Dick Cheney in 1994 reflecting on the first Iraq war-- when he was Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush.

BRUCE COLLINS on C-Span,1994: Do you think the US, or UN forces, should have moved into Baghdad?

DICK CHENEY on C-Span,1994: No.

BRUCE COLLINS on C-Span,1994: Why not?

DICK CHENEY on C-Span,1994: Because if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. It would have been a US occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government in Iraq, you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim-- fought over for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It's a quagmire.

ANDREW BACEVICH: I think the contrast between what Cheney said in 1994 and what he says 20 years later is actually very illustrative of this point. And that is that what passes for foreign-policy debate today, is just nakedly partisan. Back in 1994, he was in the business of defending George Herbert Walker Bush. Now he's in the business of defending George W. Bush. But basically attacks Barack Obama, blaming Obama for any difficulties that we're having. And the point about naked partisanship I think really applies in a somewhat larger stage. When you look at the people who get invited on the Sunday talk shows, or whose op-eds appear in “The New York Times” or in “The Washington Post” or other prominent organs of opinion, they are people who are participating in this partisan debate.

There is very little effort to look beyond the Bush versus Obama, Republican versus Democrat, to try to understand the larger forces in play that have brought us to where we are today. And the understanding of which could then make it possible for us to think somewhat more creatively about policy than simply having an argument about whether we should, you know, attack with drones or attack with manned aircraft.

BILL MOYERS: What are those larger forces at work? Because Robert Kagan says, quote, “world order shows signs of cracking, and perhaps even collapsing." And that these changes signal a transition into a different world order, which the United States should attempt to lead.

ANDREW BACEVICH: When Kagan uses phrases like world order, he's describing something that never really existed except in his own imagination. But again, the point is worth reflecting on. Kagan believes, many people in Washington believe, perhaps too many people in the hinterland also believe, that the United States shapes the global order. That there is an order for which we alone are responsible.

Where does this kind of thinking come from? I mean, I think in many respects, what we see here is the contemporary expression of the whole notion of American exceptionalism. That we are chosen. We are called upon, called upon by God, called upon by providence, to somehow transform the world and remake it in our own image. Now, Robert Kagan wouldn't state it as bluntly as I just did. But that is the kind of thinking that I think makes it very difficult for us to have a genuine and serious foreign policy debate.

BILL MOYERS: So the other side would argue, as they are, that well, look at the beheadings and the murders, the brutality and cruelty that the radical Islamists are inflicting upon their adversaries, and the people of Iraq. Isn't that an evil to which we are the only ones can respond?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, first of all, it is an evil to which we contributed by our folly in invading Iraq back in 2003. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq under the previous order. That'd be the first point. And the second point I think would be: let's be practical. Let's be pragmatic. If indeed we are called upon to act, let us frame our actions in ways that actually will yield some positive outcome.

I'm personally not persuaded that further military action in Iraq is actually going to produce an outcome more favorable than the last one. If what we have here on our hands in Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere in the Middle East is a humanitarian catastrophe, then let us become serious about asking ourselves, what is the appropriate response? What can the richest and most powerful country in the world do to alleviate the suffering of innocent people who are caught up in this violence?

And my answer to that question is not air strikes. My answer to that question is, well, if indeed we have a moral responsibility to come to the aid of suffering Iraqis and Syrians, then we better start opening up our wallets to be far more generous and forthcoming in providing assistance that people need.

You know, we live in a country where if you want to go bomb somebody, there's remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost, even though the costs almost inevitably end up being orders of magnitude larger than anybody projected at the outcome. But when you have a discussion about whether or not we can assist people who are suffering, then suddenly we come very, you know, cost-conscious.

BILL MOYERS: What form would that assistance take, given the hostilities on the ground there, and the murderous internecine, tribal, sectarian conflicts going on there? How do we help people who are at this moment suffering as a consequence, as you have indicated earlier, of polices we pursued?

ANDREW BACEVICH: People flee these conflict zones. They flee into neighboring countries where they end up in pretty squalid refugee camps, mostly run by the United Nations. Let's double, triple, quadruple the support that we provide to maintain those refugee camps. Or let's go beyond that. Let us welcome at least some number of them to America, where they will have safety and freedom. I mean, if we're serious about caring about the well-being of these people, that's one practical way to respond to their plight.

BILL MOYERS: So do we conclude from that that you don't believe there is anything practical we can do on the ground to separate the warring forces or help the government forces in Iraq prevent this violence? Is the only option murderous genocide and optimum paralysis?

ANDREW BACEVICH: We have been engaged in the Islamic world at least since 1980, in a military project based on the assumption that the adroit use of American hard power can somehow pacify or fix this part of the world. We can now examine more than three decades of this effort.

Let's look at what US military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved, in Somalia has achieved, in Lebanon has achieved, in Libya has achieved. I mean, ask ourselves the very simple question: is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic? Are we alleviating, reducing the prevalence of anti-Americanism? I mean, if the answer is yes, then let's keep trying. But if the answer to those questions is no, then maybe it's time for us to recognize that this larger military project is failing and is not going to succeed simply by trying harder.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, the events that are unfolding in Iraq at this very moment promote a debate within Washington revolving around the question, what should we do about Iraq? But there is a larger and more important question. And the larger and more important question has to do with the region as a whole. And the actual consequences of US military action over the past 30 years.

BILL MOYERS: As you know, Iraq has formally asked the US government to launch air strikes against those Jihadist militants. How do you think that's going to play out?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I don't know. My guess would be that this will substantially increase the pressure on the president to do just that. And my question would be if we launch air strikes, and if the air strikes don't have a decisive effect in turning the tables on the ground, then what? I mean, this is always, I think, a concern when you begin a military operation that you have some reasonable sense of what you're going to do next if the first gambit doesn't succeed.

BILL MOYERS: Many people are saying that Barack Obama is feckless, lacks will, or strength, and that he's enabling the defeat of our interest in the Middle East by pulling the troops back and by being indifferent to what's happening there now.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, he's not indifferent. I mean, I’m not here to defend the Obama approach to foreign policy, which I think has been mediocre at best. That said, the president has learned some things. I think the most important thing the president learned from his predecessor is that invading and occupying countries in the Islamic world is a pretty dumb idea. It leads to complications and enormous costs. So we see him reticent about putting so-called boots on the ground. That said, the president certainly has not been reluctant to use force in a variety of ways. Usually on small-scale drone strikes, commando raids, and the like.

Where I would fault the president is that he hasn't been able to go beyond learning the negative lessons of the Bush era to coming up with a positive approach to the Islamic world. Shortly after he was inaugurated he went to Cairo, gave a famous speech, speech proposed that there was going to be a new beginning, turn the page, a new beginning of US relations with the Islamic world.

Who would not endorse that proposition? I mean, I certainly do. But it has come to nothing. Nobody in the Obama administration, either in the first term or in the present term, as far as I can tell, has been able to figure out how to operationalize this notion of a new relationship between ourselves and the Islamic world. One can give Secretary Kerry credit for trying to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Were we able to broker a peace that created a sovereign, coherent, viable Palestinian state, that actually could be the one thing we could do that would seriously change the tenure of US relations with the people of the Islamic world. But that effort has failed.

BILL MOYERS: But you seem to think that the other thing we could do is end our estrangement with Iran. What do you think would come from that?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Neither Iran nor the United States has an interest in a massive, bloody, protracted civil war in Iraq. Both the United States and Iran have an interest in greater stability in this region. And I think that it would be at least advisable to explore the possibility, whether this common interest in stability can produce some sort of an agreement comparable to Nixon's opening to China. When Nixon went to China, that didn't make China our ally. It didn't have the immediate effect of bringing about a political change in China. But it did change the strategic balance in ways that were favorable to us and frankly favorable to the rest of the world.

BILL MOYERS: What is it, about how we go to war? We poured blood and treasure into Vietnam and Iraq and wound up with exactly the opposite consequences than we wanted. And we keep repeating, hearing the same arguments and claims that we should do it again.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, war itself is evil. But war is an evil that should command our respect. War is something that we should not take lightly, that we should not discuss frivolously. And I think that that's one of the great failings of our foreign policy establishment. That our foreign policy establishment does not take war seriously. It assumes that the creation of precision guided weapons makes war manageable. Removes from war the element of risk and chance that are always inherent in warfare. So these are people who, quite frankly, most of them don't know much about war and, therefore, who discuss war in frivolous ways.

BILL MOYERS: And yet, there's this still almost religious belief in force as the savior.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think your use of religious terms is very appropriate here. Because there is a quasi-theological dimension to their thinking related, again, to this notion that we are called. We are chosen. We are the instrument of providence. Summoned to transform the world. And therefore empowered to use force in ways not permitted to any others. I mean, the ultimate travesty of the immediate period after 9/11 was the Bush administration's embrace of preventive war that became then the rationale for invading Iraq in 2003. But it was a general claim. A general claim that the United States was empowered to use force preventively. Before the threat emerges. Not simply--

BILL MOYERS: Pre-emptory strikes.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Not simply in self-defense. And we should note that as far as I can tell, President Obama has not repealed that notion. Indeed, has used it himself in order to employ force in lesser ways in various situations.

BILL MOYERS: So is it duplicity or self-delusion?

ANDREW BACEVICH: It depends I think on who we are talking about here. For somebody like Vice President Cheney berating Barack Obama for somehow surrendering American leadership and in the course of doing that simply ignoring the record of the administration in which he served-- that's duplicity. That's malicious partisanship.

But I think when you talk about people like Robert Kagan, they believe. They believe what they believe. They subscribe to a worldview that to my mind is utterly misguided. But they are genuinely committed to the sort of propositions that are on display in his “New Republic” article. I mean, it's just a question of why those propositions continue to be treated seriously when they should not be.

BILL MOYERS: Andrew, let’s continue this conversation online, but thank you very much for being with me.


BILL MOYERS: At our website, more with Andrew Bacevich. And historian and essayist Eric Alterman on how pundits use the press to keep peddling the same propaganda.

That’s all at I’ll see you there, and I’ll see here, next time.

Chaos in Iraq

June 20, 2014

The escalating bloodbath in Iraq has triggered renewed debate on how muscular America’s foreign policy should be. Speaking about the crisis on Thursday, President Obama said that the US is ready for “targeted and precise military action” against advancing Islamists if needed, adding that “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq.”

This week, Bill speaks with combat veteran and historian Andrew Bacevich about the events unfolding in Iraq and what they say about America’s role in the world.

While some neoconservatives lament that our “world order shows signs of cracking, and perhaps collapsing,” thanks to Obama’s inclination to engage less in other countries, Bacevich sees things differently.

“We have been engaged in the Islamic world at least since 1980, in a military project based on the assumption that the adroit use of American hard power can somehow pacify or fix this part of the world. We can now examine more than three decades of this effort.

Let’s look at what U.S. military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved, in Somalia has achieved, in Lebanon has achieved, in Libya has achieved. I mean, ask ourselves the very simple question. Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic? Are we alleviating, reducing the prevalence of anti-Americanism?”

After the full broadcast interview, Bill so enjoyed his conversation with Bacevich that they kept talking, delving topics such as the Vietnam War, our evolving relationship with Iran and neoconservatives views on US foreign policy. Watch the extended interview »

Producer: Gina Kim. Segment Producer: Robert Booth. Editor: Sikay Tang.

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  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed this interview with Andrew Bacevich. He displays a level of common sense and integrity that used to be the hallmark of American leadership, but now one will be hard put to find within miles of money corrupted Washington.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm – why don’t we put folks in office who would listen to guys like this?

  • Anonymous

    Because the Corporates don’t want people who would listen to common sense, they want people who will listen to elitist sense.


  • Anonymous

    “Armchair Warriors”, that’s funny. I haven’t heard that since I was in the Air Force and stationed in Vietnam in the mid sixties. An all too appropriate term for that bevy of draft dodgers in Washington. They have no idea what our all volunteer army has to go through !

  • Anonymous

    The brutality between these sects of Islam is hard to understand. Each is very
    certain that their particular beliefs are correct and anyone who differs is
    completely wrong and may need to be eliminated. People are not allowed to
    discuss contrary views and strictly so. They then become more certain. In the
    U.S. we have choices of religions and can discuss differences of cherished
    beliefs with more openness. Every subject needs to be examined for validity in
    open inquiry and speech. Isolation can allow invalid and actually dangerous
    ideas to be the only ones which is a form of brain indoctrination. Americans
    have difficulty understanding why there is so much hatred and killing between
    the 2 sects in Iraq. Isolated communities of beliefs has led to this brutal

  • Anonymous

    I know why the corps don’t, but why don’t we, the people?

  • Anonymous

    True. And yet the mass murder and overwhelming number of casualties are the direct responsibility of the “open society” Americans?

    How do we reconcile calling “them” “brutal”–when the mass murder of Arabs and Muslim women and children continues to spiral way out of control–as conducted, steered, long-planned, and masterminded by the Americans?

  • Anonymous

    Whack Tikrit and Baghdad with tactical nukes, dust the ISIS and the rest of the whacks and bring in Disney to build it back as a civilized country. Obama just has to decide to be a Leader, instead of an appeaser of islamofasciism and catalyst for a North American caliphate.

  • Anonymous

    Aquifer: It is probably because too many of “you”, the “other” people, have been brought up from the cradle with the drug of American exceptionalism and that will probably be the last addiction you kick … perhaps just before you knock that “pursuit of happiness” malarkey on the keister. All the while, we, the outside onlookers and beneficiaries/victims of your providence, will stand by in trepidation. And we will wish you all the luck in the world …. getting over yourselves.

  • EU_Guy

    Has anybody ever confronted Cheney during an interview with the clip from 1994 shortly before or after invading Iraq?

  • M. Blaisdale

    The religious wars in Europe from the 16th through 17th centuries were as shockingly brutal as anything going on in the Near East today.

  • Raimondo Briata

    We inherited the imperial legacy of the Brits and the other corollary 19th century powers in their colonial grab for raw materials…In my view the Middle East should gradually be allowed to go back to it’s old Ottoman configuration. Turkey, our ally, should be allowed to exert soft power and control and Israel will be present as a sentinel, our eyes and ears. We should absolutely never put infidel boots on the ground, as history has taught over and over again. Saudi Arabia will gradually return to its rightful spot of guardians of the holy sites, and not have and unbalanced unnatural hegemony over the region because of our influx of dollars. Iran will be kept in check as it has historically by Turkey. This is the best long term solution. A policy of light diplomatic engagement without a draconian presence. After all the Arab World was relatively adept at reigning itself for centuries avoiding the massive bloodshed Europe went through.

  • Anonymous

    You do have a point – but i think there is more to it than that … we have gotten into the trap of treating politics as a team sport instead of a way of getting what we say we want, e.g. in the way of decent jobs, education, healthcare, etc ….

  • JonThomas

    As I am sure you are aware, I expect that your comment is largely rhetorical… It has a lot to do with who gains favor with the monied interests, and therefore, the political parties.

    Gain favor with monied interests and the parties, and you become a ‘serious’ political contender. Become a ‘serious political contender’ and you receive the attention and promotion of the media.

    Receive the attention and promotion of the media, and you get public recognition.

    Get public recognition, and you have a chance at being elected by ‘the people’.

    The recent loss by Eric Cantor exemplifies this entrenched party dynamic.

    The media was absolutely stunned. Why? Because it was a rare, absolute failure of their ability to gauge and affect the outcome. That election was supposed to have been ‘bought and paid for’… look at the amount of money spent, and who was behind the spending.

    The ad buys, the schmoozing, and the public recognition were all supposed to swing the results to the ‘favored’ incumbent.

    The media attention was aimed to favor Cantor.

    The campaign, as usual, did not work from the bottom – up, but from the top – down. The media professionals ‘assumed’ that their narrative of what is supposed to be important to the people was fed, taken in, and absorbed. They did not realize that the challenger was a person who, because of his own ‘true-beliefs’, and his being, not above, but from the voters’ ranks, was tapping into the will, and sentiments of that district’s voters.

    The media misread the voters’ disillusionment with the status quo. Under a veil of arrogance, the media, even FOX News, did not appreciate how much their message was falling on deaf ears,and was being seen as ‘out of touch’!

    Here’s the secret… humans are wired, and nurtured, to accept authorities. Whoever fits into your perspective of what constitutes ‘legitimate’ authority is to whom you will be inclined to surrender your adherence. The aim is to provide candidates, and focus the narratives, to fit into your preconceptions of who, or what constitutes legitimacy.

    On a deeper level, there is a purposeful, and organic effort toward indoctrination, socialization, internalization, and assimilation.

    The true irony involved in the Cantor example, is that the primary medium used to program the narrative and adjust the thinking of voters inclined toward accepting the Right Wing patriarchal authority (the chosen candidate of the party and monied interests,) FOX NEWS… is exactly who helped cause the breakdown of the indoctrination process.

    [I don’t use ‘patriarchal’ so much as a term for ‘male,’ or as – ‘vs. matriarchal’ – but rather as the culturally defined, and accepted archetype for the legitimately-perceived focus of, and source for… trust. It’s an archetype of whom we look up to for a role model… the ones we trust for guidance, leadership, discipline, and direction.]

    By fomenting sectarian division, FOX News helped foster the dissatisfaction with the aforementioned status quo.

    It would be an enlightening in-depth study, but essentially, Cantor’s campaign, with the paid-for help of professional media consultants (including PR, Image, and policy professionals,) the final product… that carefully-crafted narrative of who Cantor was, and what he stood for (being a reflection of what media consumers were already supposed to have been programmed to expect and look for in the embodiment of the perfect candidate) was geared as if he was in competition with someone from the so-called ‘left’.

    This is why the right is having difficulty in national elections. FOX has taken the lead in a fomenting division in order to create the ‘US’… the WE, vs. the evil ‘them’. However, they have to be careful, if they draw the division between what constitutes ‘evil’ too strictly, then they alienate too many voters nationally… it’s a fine, and extremely distinct line of – “You are either with us, or against us.”

    However, when the very targets of your programming efforts begin to take your message to heart, but then go even further, looking to really draw the distinction of what is acceptable, from what fits into the narrative, of evil, look out!!

    Just like teenagers, who after internalizing your values of -cleansing the evil – begin to think for themselves, and see hypocrisy emanating from their perceived authority figures, rebellion is at hand!

    Regardless of what you or I think of their choice, or of that district’s predilection for a candidate, the real story is that the voters went ‘off book’ and thought for themselves.

    One might hope that this would become a trend, and ‘the People’ could really begin to think for themselves… but alas, the people who participated in that primary election were the ‘true believers’, who (again, regardless of their political preference) are always engaged in elections.

    Because of the ‘economies’ of scale, and the shear practicality involved in communication and dissemination of information, voters are still at the mercy of corporate, therefore monied, vested interests.

    Will social media and the internet lead to change? I doubt it… but I might be surprised. Net-neutrality is the current battlefield of that front.

    Other countries handle their systems differently. A bottom – up form of party representation can be found in such examples as proportional representation. In such a system, people aren’t being programmed to focus on a particular candidate as much as choosing a message that most closely matches their values and beliefs at any given time.

    The media, and campaign processes are also controlled to prevent (as much as possible) systematic conditioning. The shortening of the electoral seasons, government funding of campaigns instead of private funding, et al… are examples of efforts to reign-in excessive manipulation and influence. None is perfect, and power usually finds a way to corrupt.

    Sorry that was so long, and although your question seems simple on the surface, there really is a reason, and it’s well understood. It’s usually so intrinsic to the nature of humans it’s just not noticed. Like the grass is green, or that water comes out of the faucet. There are deep processes involved, just not questioned.

    That is how political operatives work. Unfortunately for ‘the people it’s so obvious… that it becomes invisible.

  • Anonymous

    But the amazing part is that with all of the information available in the world these people seem to ignore anything that contradicts their narrow and historic rigidity.

  • Anonymous

    The invasion of Iraq was a huge, terrible mistake. But this killing of Muslims by Muslims is religious motivated evilness.

  • Anonymous

    The Bush talk of a “mushroom cloud” would have been hard to ignore in the lead up to the Iraqi invasion.

  • Charles D

    Fortunately American exceptionalism is not an addictive drug. It can be overcome by anyone with a modicum of empathy. Unfortunately we have politicians and media constantly drumming that myth into our heads and anyone who calls it a lie is immediately ostracized by both major political parties and the media.

    There are many millions of Americans who don’t buy into that myth but they have been led to believe there is no electoral alternative for them. Rather than create one or look carefully at the minor parties who reject exceptionalism and imperialism, they let themselves be seduced into voting for a Democrat because he or she is less awful than the Republican. We have never really had a multi-party democracy and our Constitution is designed to protect property first and humans second. Never in our history have working people had significant political power. Breaking out of that rut will be difficult but it is achievable.

  • Anonymous


    Though we must also understand that “humanitarian intervention” and “Democracy building” and the installation of CIA vetted client dictatorships IS the American religion.

    And it renders FAR more of a death toll than internecine murder and civil war.

  • Anonymous

    JT – I often ask this question to see what other folks would say – and usually get a variant of what i take as your response – indoctrination by a corp (money) controlled media …

    Your observations about the message getting a bit out of the control of it’s promoters is another layer – I do agree that can, and probably does more often than we realize, happen

    There have been multiple analyses of why Cantor lost to Bratt – the 2 I take away are 1) having the most money doesn’t guarantee a win. This sh

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes, and then there was Northern Ireland …

  • Anonymous

    As i noted above – and then there was Northern Ireland ….

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm – sounds like the US ….

  • Anonymous

    Which WH do you have in mind?

  • Anonymous

    And under that Ottoman configuration – present day Israel was what?

  • JonThomas

    Yeah… after writing my novelette there, I didn’t really address your intimated question… ‘what can be done to counter people’s apathy, frustrations, and their feelings of general impotence?’

    Empowering citizens to get involved in the issues affecting their own lives, and for them to recognize that they can create options for themselves, is indeed a task.

    They have to first overcome the general malaise fostered by feeling like little fish in big ponds, or even seeing themselves as pawns in a game far out of their ability to have a say in their own future.

    The remedies, or measures to alleviate the effects of the system I described above are also fairly well known… Education, awareness of the tactics being used against them, options other than the for-consumption-menu presented by the power brokers, knowing the seriousness of what it means to take control of one’s own life and decision making, not being afraid of… being intimidated out of… and the confidence to – have your own opinion, speak it, and follow through with action… are just some of the means by which to oppose the efforts of those who divide and conquer.

    It really is difficult for people to not ‘follow the crowd’. Especially when it’s the job of well paid people to make sure that they do…

    After reading your response (which I appreciated and enjoyed,) one thing that I should probably make clearer is that although I feel that anyone acting in the capacity that the media provides has a responsibility of earnestness (yeah, I know… ‘good luck with that concept’) the media in general, except for the obvious control that power, influence, and money affords… is not necessarily the conspiratorial force to which many simplistic accusations ascribe.

    In other words… of course the media can be culpable (there are many exemplars of compromises in the integrity of media personalities and outlets… such as those described in a recent opinion piece posted on Moyers & Company… ,) but it really is overly-simplistic for people to lay the blame on… “indoctrination by a corp (money) controlled media…”

    As you point out, if a person does have the wherewithal, understanding, and desire participate politically in their own future, then voting for the false dichotomies presented is a bit sad.

    Personally, I don’t even care if people don’t get involved politically, but if they don’t they should have personal compelling reasons for their actions or inaction. They also have to live with the consequences of being either involved, idle, or neutral.

  • Anonymous

    I am a bug on using the vote – I really do think that as frustrations and inequalities mount it will be a question of the ballot or the bullet – and I am much in favor of the former …

    I also think TPTB know that we could use the vote to dethrone their hegemony – that is why they 1) foster rules that function to limit folks and 3rd parties access to the ballot 2) spend so much money to convince us to vote duopoly – heaven forbid we should choose a non-corp controlled party. And, in case they can’t really convince us to actually like those duopoly candidates, to keep us from straying, they propagate the memes that TINA to that duopoly and that, in any case, 3rd parties “can’t win” for a number of reasons, including that money issue … And, as extra insurance, if we still desire them – they label them “spoilers” which is pretty funny when you think about it, considering that the ones who have been “spoiling” it for all but the 1% for some time now are those duopoly members ….

    I take your point on the media – but I do think it is made rather clear, in a number of ways, as to what is covered and how – depending on the interests of the advertisers – and those interests are, by and large those of money …

  • Peter Claudius

    Democracy IS a team sport, and we like to hope that well educated and informed players can still save the game.

  • NotARedneck

    He’s a lying weasel and will scurry down a hole so fast that the interviewer might start to doubt that he was actually there!

  • NotARedneck

    Yes I see a problem. The shrub and is close advisers should still be a decade or two away from parole.

  • Anonymous

    hmmm – voting for someone just because (s)he wears your team logo (D/R) even if (s)he is a schmuck, or a LOTE, at best … just to keep the other “team” from winning, which is what we have been doing for way too long, is a recipe for the mess we find ourselves in – “(S)he may be a schmuck, but at least (s)he’s OUR schmuck!”

    Too often, ISTM we change our principles for our party, instead of the other way around….

    I think we have to have a new definition of “team” ….

  • Anonymous

    Andrew Bacevich is a gentleman and a scholar with intelligent views informed by historical lessons. The twisted cabal of Neo-Cons that orchestrated the Iraq War and other failing and deeply destructive foreign policy wouldn’t want us to hear his sensible analysis.

    The destabilization of the Iraq and the Greater Middle East was always the plan. Listen to General Wesley Clark on the subject. The plan was to invade 7 countries in five years. They happen to be the countries mentioned in the interview.

  • Anonymous

    What is not talked about in the current events taking place in Iraq is who is funding them. The terrorist groups who are fighting against Assad in Syria are fully funded by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Oil States as well as Turkey. Since, Assad and his forces have fought ISIS and other groups to a stand still, they have now moved part of their operations into Iraq to further inflame the regional situation so that the US will be required to intervene, something that Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Oil States and neocon supporters of Israel have been advocating for some time. If we really want to stop the assault on Maliki’s government, then we should be attacking Saudi Arabia, rather than the Saudi proxies on the ground. Are we going to send our men to fight against terrorists sponsored and supported by Saudi Arabia and our other allies in the Gulf? As for the Kagans and the other neocons, their motivation for US involvement is not hard to discern because they will advocate anything which they believe will advance Israeli interests in the Middle East, no matter how much it hurts the US. They believe that whatever is good for Israel is good for the US. On issues of Syria and Iran, Israel and the Saudis have worked hand in glove.

  • epazote

    and South Boston

  • Charles D

    Democracy is not a sport and its not a game, it is deadly serious business. Most of the influential people in Washington are quite well educated and well informed, they simply are focused on rallying support for their team and using their education and information to market ideas that will aid their team and/or hurt the other team. That’s not governance and its not democracy.

    Like professional sports, however, government as a sport has players who are at-will employees of billionaire owners, and fans who have no stake and no voice whatever in the affairs of the team or the sport as a whole. Instead of going to the election stadium dressed in our blue or red team colors and cheering, we need to reject the entire game and demand that we choose our representatives, not billionaires, and we hold them accountable for actually governing the country properly, regardless of which team jersey they wear.

  • Bella Rose Gaskin

    the policy to with draw in 2011 was ALL Bush’s doing. HE signed the status of forces agreement with Iraq. There is NOTHING Obama could do but enforce the agreement made and all of the 1st Bush administration stated going into Iraq would lead to this even Cheney but when it came to neo-con profit and ideology it won out over intelligence and practicality and sent us into a war that resulted exactly in this which they knew and predicted. If it is a Humanitarian crisis then the practical result should be humanitarian not military. We need to stop being exceptionalist in world policy and start being humanitarian in Human policy . Just because we have the power of force does not ever mean that we should use it and it has not yielded ANY positive results by using it. IF we stick a pencil in our eye and it hurts common sense states STOP doing it. OUr involvement militarily in the Middle East has done NOTHING positive for our nation or our nations interest. It has hurt us we need to stop.
    This is the result of Bush administration policy whats done is done …two wrongs will never make it right. We need to divest of being the worlds all powerful military force and invest in nation building and get out of the Middle east all together. We because of technology and renewable energy have absolutely NO national interest in the Middle east.

  • Ralph Kingsbury

    The Monroe Doctrine was American Policy in 1823. Any problems occurring because of Russia’s policies after Germanys surrender in 1945 was immediately addressed as the reality of the world changed.
    When will you Bush haters and Obama apologists start addressing reality instead of running around simply shouting, “It’s Bushes fault!” “It’s Bushes fault!”. Obama’s foreign policy has been one failure after another. You gave America another Jimmy Carter.

  • Mike

    I don’t

  • MikeD

    Bacevich calls the Dick Cheney op-ed in the WSJ along with the media flaunting the other neo-cons as “shameless.” This shamelessness comes from impunity, the same kind that Tom Friedman displayed when he told the Iraqis in 2003 to “suck on this.” But I would differ with his characterization of this as “naked partisanship.” This is a completely bipartisan shell game.

    The prosecution and aftermath of the Iraq war is similar to the financial crash of 2008 – bankers trashing the economy, then rewarding themselves with hefty bonuses, confident that nothing would happen to them. What this means is that the too-big-to-fail failures at the top will just keep on failing till everything falls apart.

  • Eric Marsh

    This gentleman brings something to politics that I haven’t seen for quite a while now: intelligence. Hell, I’d consider voting for him for President.

  • Michael L Miller

    There can never be enough bad things said of Bush and Cheney.

  • Grumpy Old Man

    An officer and a gentleman. And a wise one at that.

  • Anonymous

    Actually the sad truth is that foreign humanitarian aid, both public and private, is also basically a US cash cow. It would surprise many to learn just how much money budgeted for both war and aid never actually leave the shores of America. After paying for products and material, which by law have to be American, then salaries, shipping costs, also domestic only, and so on very little actual money leaves. This is in stark contrast to how other smaller nations budget and spend money in aid to others.

  • Anonymous

    I believe you have the right idea but are taking the starting point for a new region back about 5 years too far.

    The hope and plans of the Arabs of the region, (The Ottomans are Turkic tribes from Central Asia) were to unite what is now Sunni Iraq, Syria, Jordan and parts of Palestine as a single Arab State. The outcome for what is now Lebanon and what is now Israel and Palestine were not explicitly determined.
    This is what the British promised the Arabs at the very lowest point in the First World War for Great Britain.

    The single Arab state was to be ruled by the Hashemite family from Mecca. But instead France and England divided the region up into smaller states. Originally one member of the Hashemite family was to be the ruler in Syria and another in what became Iraq.

    The one in Syria was quickly run out and became the King of Jordan. The descendant Abdullah II is now still King.

    The other Hashemite branch of the family ruled in Iraq from 1921 until 1958 when the third and final King there was deposed and executed. .

  • Anonymous

    It is my belief that what the players in the region should do is get together and determine that Kurdish Iraq and Sunni Iraq should split from Shia Iraq but then vote and join the Kingdom of Jordan.

    This of course after the Kurdish militia, the Iraqi Sunni tribal militias and the Jordanian Army and Air Force unite to repel ISIS and the other insurgents.

    I truly believe that it would only take the coordinated efforts of the Kurds, Iraqi Sunni tribal units and the Jordanian military to repel the invaders. But I also believe the only incentive big enough to bring them all together to pull it off is full political and economic union afterwards.
    It has been the actions of the past few weeks that have changed the goal lines of what all the players need to succeed going forward.

    The US would only provide air support and humanitarian support within what is now Jordan proper (as they are already there).

    Shia Iraq I believe has had the wake up call they needed and would accept the other two areas joining Jordan in lieu of the current anarchy and infighting with the Kurds. The Iraqi Shia must soon also realize that such a move would be in their short and long term interest to now go it alone.

    The Kurds would agree to join Jordan as well as long as their Kurdish Autonomous Region continued as is (and with the recent additions around Kirkuk).

    The Kurds would find great political cover to continue their economic rise and play for time to see how fortunes play out over the next years.

    Both the Kurds and the Sunni tribal leaders have been close friends of the Hashemites for generations. Especially between Sunni Iraqi and Jordanians.

    To calm the region and bring stability back I believe the Saudi’s and the Iranians would also agree to such a move.

    The threat by this move might be felt by Assad in Syria but then again a more united and decisive Jordanian, Sunni, Kurdish Defense force could close the Syrian/Greater Jordanian border once again.

    A greatly expanded Jordan, with also greatly expanded economic possibilities would no doubt also change various solutions to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

    While it might be a few years off I also see the possibility that what will happen is that a great part, if not all, of Syria will also become a part of a Greater Jordan. This is also true of the Palestinian Territories and surprisingly I also predict that the Egyptian Sinai will also become a part of Jordan as well.

    Of course by this time it will most likely have acquired a new name. But whatever the final outcome I believe that the combined capital should remain in Amman. It is the only capital in the region that has not suffered very long term damage due to fighting.

    And again such a solution would require very little, if any, outside direct support of troops by anyone. Perhaps drones to help close the Syrian Jordanian border but that is it.

    And with a then separate and smaller Shia Iraq the US requirement for more troops for the embassy could also be quickly downsized.

    Just a thought.

  • Hurlco


  • Anonymous

    Why stop at 17th century. 50,000,000 died in Europe in the 20th century… until the U.S. came in, expended 300,000 of our own and then set up shop and sat on them. In fact, we are still sitting on them.

  • Anonymous

    One little fly in your ointment is how long the Turks will accept an independent Kurdistan… especially one sitting on huge oil reserves. Factor in not long.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps I did not make my views crystal clear. I do not promote an independent Kurdistan at this time. This is because of exactly the same concerns you express. I do suggest that the Kurdish Autonomous region of Iraq become, instead, the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Jordan. Thus Erbil Iraq would become Erbil Jordan along with Mosul Iraq becoming Mosul Jordan.

  • Anonymous

    Too much money from Wall Street in our politics.

  • David P.

    I am questioning the productivity of interviews like this. Here is what I would have asked Andrew:

    (1) How is Haliburton going to make money if humanitarian aid is supplied rather than munitions?

    (2) If Haliburton isn’t cashing in, then what is the point? (or have you not been paying attention?)

    (3) Since any money devoted to this cause (or any other cause in today’s fiscal/political climate) must be financed through deficit spending, then how can you develop a sufficient level of fear in the general public to justify this deficit spending without having Haliburton saying that the fear isn’t so great that military intervention isn’t required?

  • David

    Such a reasonable accounting of our problems. What saddens me is the extent to which the average American has tuned out of these national debates. I have friends and family who actually say that these issues don’t affect them personally(!). Or they don’t have time to keep up with all that “political stuff”. The 40 or so minutes it would take to consume this interview would go quite far in enlightening them but my recommending that they see it would be quickly dismissed or just ignored. Now THERE is a problem that needs to be dealt with: how to re-engage Americans in substantive political discussions. Of course, as Professor Bacevich points out, this can’t even begin to happen until Washington and the media change their ways and when those who are so convinced they are right begin to consider the possibility that they can be wrong.

  • Anonymous

    The defense contractors have been the driving forces behind all of our wars; Sikorsky; General Dynamics of Texas pushed for the Vietnam war and the list of companies and wars go on and on. The oil industry has been equally responsible for our wars. The military in all countries are the biggest consumers of oil and gas and the consumption increases in war time. It doesn’t take a heck of a lot to see the forest from the trees when it comes to Iraq. We weren’t interested in Iraq, nor ISIS, because we created it, until they began to attack the oil refineries. Suddenly we are friends with Iran and we are concerned about the internal fighting in Iraq. It is all about oil and we are in trouble.

  • kimsarah

    Before we debate whether we should be there or not, we need to ask and get an answer as to why. Too many assumptions are made that it’s because of the oil, or to spread democracy, or to fight terrorists on their turf. What is the real reason? Is it to enrich the defense contractors? Nobody asking or answering why it is in our best interest to be the world’s policeman. Maybe there is a good reason, and then we can say yes, we should be there. My suspicion is there isn’t a good reason.
    And more delving should be done to show who are the players pulling the strings in these conflicts and what their motives are.

  • kimsarah

    In other words, our leaders aren’t explaining a thing, which forces the rest of us to play the game of speculating. They need to be held accountable.

  • Tim Quinn

    People of this nature do not make it to that position; if they do, they are eliminated

  • Tim Quinn

    they are all tools of the NWO and AIPAC, wake up my sheeples

  • Tim Quinn

    blah, blah, blah

  • Tim Quinn

    CIA, Mi5 motivated

  • Anonymous

    Bacevich, as ever, provides an expert military viewpoint, informed by profound academic endeavors, and a non-ideological reference point, which allows the listener to hear his views without wondering whether or not they’re being ‘spun’ to support on ideological viewpoint or another. One cannot ask for better!

  • Danielle Hensley

    Pretty sure that when we invaded Iraq the first time….someone took in the refugees. Why should we not take in the refugees when we made their lives worse? Other continents have to take in refugees, so do we.

  • Anonymous

    It’s refreshing to hear someone speak without ideological motivations and that’s a truly sad commentary when the issue, of all things, is war.
    I think the gravest mistake in judgement of President Obama was the assertion that the country needed to ‘move forward’ after the Bush/Cheney years. This was, without a doubt, a complete abdication of the Office of the Presidency’s responsibility to far greater ideals than ‘moving forward’ or to avoid creating or fostering ideological tensions. What we have seen as a result of this failure has been, paradoxically, an amplification of ideological rhetoric and vitriol by those who clearly, history has shown, lied to Americans to create the basis for war. While we all know this, barring the truly self-deluded, the knowledge is not enough because, for one, it set a horrific precedent that treason (that is what it was) goes unpunished. We also failed to investigate what mechanisms of Govt. allowed the calls for war to even reach the crescendo it did based on faulty intelligence. SImply saying ‘we were lied to’ does not fully answer what flaws exist – we need to know those flaws so we can assure it does not happen again. And yet, President Obama did nothing, nobody was held to account, the Right-wing zealots are now advocating more military action across the globe, 100s of thousands are dead, trillions and trillions lost and we did nothing. It’s disgusting.

  • Anonymous

    Bacevich’s suggestion is to use money to help people rather than for military action. Sounds like that would do a lot of good and be much, much cheaper. How much good could be done with a trillion or so dollars wasted in the Iraq misadventure of Republican president GW Bush?

  • Robert Henry Eller

    Yes. I have been so angry about Obama’s abdication of his responsibilities, the hubris, of “moving forward,” – which is feel good speak for “not having the conversation we absolutely need to have will allow us to ‘heal'” – that my anger has exhausted me on this issue. This has been the only true “failure in Iraq” that Obama can honestly be held to account for – not investigating the whole run up to the Iraq invasion, and the Iraq occupation. Instead, what do we get? Benghazi. Either Obama was naive, or he actually believed that “statesmanship” would be acknowledged and reciprocated.

  • Anonymous

    The Kurds deserve their own state because they are an ethnic group with its own language and traditions. Moreoever, they have formed a successful nation on their own which the US should support, not force back into Iraq which is an artificially created country in the first place. The Turkmen, have a country of their own but the Kurds have a right to self-determination also.

  • Scott Mcdermott

    How about building industry and infrastructure over there? Construction projects, instead of the billions spent on Destruction. We can’t just send money; it would be siphoned, but we *could* send teams of [paid] Americans to go and rebuild the infrastructure we destroyed with bombs. 6-month stints or something, it would be an adventure; unemployed Americans could go to do the labor and management. But just donate, no strings attached, don’t demand anything in return. One makes friends by helping to build, not by killing people and blowing up things.

  • Scott Mcdermott

    I see this all the time too. At first I was appalled, but think about it… everyone has debts, mortgages to pay, jobs to keep and unpaid hours to work, and a debt load to increase with more purchases. They just get more and more in debt, buy more useless, cosmetic things from corporations, and borrow themselves into indentured servitude, until they really don’t have time to pay attention. They are too busy struggling to enslave themselves to the very same corporations that want to go remake other nations in our image, so they can have new markets and new revenues. This is great for them: increase the pool of slaves and debtors, put your corporate men in power, and make a tidy profit in the process as well, building war machines to destroy everything that would interfere with that process. The war is coming when folks wake up, yes, but it’s not going to be in Iraq…

  • Scott Mcdermott

    We haven’t been tribal since agriculture. Top-down hierarchical domination is not tribal at all. If humans could return to more federated tribal cooperatives — not implying conflict or warfare, which does not have to accompany tribal organization — we would be far better off. There is a lot of evidence that there were very peaceful times for our species before the advent of hierarchy, class and central authority. Agriculture allowed accumulation of surplus, and saw the invention of “property” and “ownership,” which appear to be the underlying enabler for all these conflicts.

  • Karl Sutterfield

    “We haven’t been tribal since agriculture” — Styles of social organization have evolved beyond tribes, but our brains haven’t had time to do likewise. That’s why I say “at heart” we’re still tribal: in extremis, we tend to react that way whatever form our institutions take.

    “… conflict or warfare [do] not have to accompany tribal organization” — It’s true that tribal organization doesn’t guarantee warfare, but it cheerfully accommodates it. Remember the 1970s-era bumper sticker, “Hate is not a family value”? Au contraire. Hate is one of the original family values, as demonstrated by two bands of chimps disputing a territorial boundary.

    “Agriculture … saw the invention of ‘property’ and ‘ownership’ which appear to be the underlying enabler for all these conflicts” — Indeed, by providing added incentive to organize raiding parties, agriculture sets an early example of social evolution outstripping the cognitive sort.

  • ~Katherine

    This is the best clearest most even-handed interviewee I’ve heard on this topic. Thanks so much for inviting him and sharing what he had to say. Just the basic overview is a LOT for many people to take in but the unique thing about it is that the presentation is not partisan or polarized, and that is very needed indeed in all public discourse and especially on this subject. Thanks for reposting this in the newsfeed. Great!

  • ~Katherine

    Can you provide links, gltoffic? I’d be very interested in the info about what actually leaves the shores of America in aid. I think some Americans would be very interested in the info (I would) and more important.. the reason.

  • Menagerie

    Tanks and Bombs instead of Schools, Drones and government over-spending on war instead of Infrastructure.
    “A Pioneer Qui Tam Relators Story”

  • Menagerie

    “If You Can Find Money To Kill People You Can Find Money To Help People.” ~Tony Benn
    “A Pioneer Qui Tam Relators Story”