BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Sometimes seems as if it were only a bad dream vaguely remembered from last night's restless sleep, but it was actually nine years ago this month that Iraq's capital of Baghdad erupted in 'shock and awe' and the American invasion began of a country that had not attacked us. When the last combat troops pulled out this past December, what one neo-conservative advocate of the invasion had predicted would be a "cakewalk," had killed well over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians, cost nearly 4500 American soldiers their lives, maimed many others, and incurred costs that could reach more than 3 trillion dollars before the last invoice comes due.

And we never did find those weapons of mass destruction.

Yet here we are, nine years later, and once again the drumbeat sounds for war in the Middle East. This time the bull’s eye is Iran, and many of the bloodthirsty cries come from the same lusty throats that agitated a decade ago for invading Iraq. Now the neo-con armchair warriors call for hitting Iran before it builds a nuclear bomb to drop on Israel – a scenario that remains in doubt.

Add to this potential nightmare Afghanistan, where the U.S. is still fighting more than ten years later, and where events just go from bad to worse. At times like these I turn to someone whose grounded realism makes him my favorite go-to person for separating fact and reason from fear and fantasy. You've seen Andrew Bacevich at this table before. A West Point Graduate and Vietnam veteran, he retired from the army after 23 years and is now an esteemed professor of history and international relations at Boston University and a frequent contributor to publications both left and right. His book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism became a bestseller. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War was a tough-minded critique of our bloated and costly national security complex. He's the editor of this new book of essays: The Short American Century: A Postmortem, recently released by Harvard University Press. Andrew Bacevich, welcome back.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Thanks very much for having me.

BILL MOYERS: The headlines from Afghanistan get uglier and uglier every day. The rampage of that soldier, the burning of the Koran, Marines urinating on corpses, NATO helicopters firing into and killing civilians, the corruption, and vast sums of corruption and the money that's passing through Kabul. Do you see these as isolated episodes, or a pattern that is undermining the mission and making success impossible?

ANDREW BACEVICH: I don't know that there's a pattern in the sense that one incident is related to another in any way. But cumulatively the effect is to make mission success all the more remote. And ought to, I think, cause us to ask whether the game is worth the candle. Where is this thing headed? Now, I think there's a general acknowledgement that in the very best case, the Afghanistan war is not going to end in anything that resembles what we once might have called a victory.

The best case is that we're going to be able to extricate ourselves. Ourselves, we and our NATO allies, without the place immediately falling into chaos.

BILL MOYERS: At what point will it be evident that the relations between the United States and the Afghan people are so poisoned that they’ll want us out?

ANDREW BACEVICH: I think it's where we are. I think it's where we were a couple months ago. I'm struck by the comments of Karzai, President Karzai of Afghanistan, who is pretty clear I think, that it's time for us to get out. His estimation of the ability of Afghan forces to assume responsibility for security in the countryside may or may not be correct. But he is the leader of a nation state that we say is sovereign, and it seems to me that we should take seriously his argument that it's time for us to leave.

BILL MOYERS: The British had to get out, the Russians had to get out, what can we learn from their experience as they left?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, what we ought to have learned is that it's folly to imagine that you can use a foreign army to determine the fate of Afghanistan. We are replicating their experience in tragic ways.

BILL MOYERS: Is a gradual withdrawal still possible? Could it be successful?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, it would have to be gradual in the sense that we have an enormous quantity of forces there, enormous amounts of equipment. And I think that actually that's the-- that should be the business of the commander. I mean--

BILL MOYERS: On the ground, the commander on the ground?

ANDREW BACEVICH: General Allen. Were I the commander in chief I would call General Allen on the phone and say “You know, you know what your job is now? Your job is to expeditiously but responsibly withdraw U.S. Forces from Afghanistan. Please call me back in two weeks and tell me what your plan is to make that happen.” And I would respect his plan, a plan of a military professional, as to how long that would take. And it would take some considerable number of months. Not years, months.

BILL MOYERS: Suppose you're not the commander in chief here, but you are the commander in chief of the Taliban, and you hear that the President of the United States has called his ground commander and said, “Find a way to get out.” What do you then? Do you just sit back and wait until that happens?

ANDREW BACEVICH: You do. You bide your time. I mean, they have a political agenda. And I have no doubt that they aspire to regain political control of that country. I also think that the future of Afghanistan is something for Afghans to sort out on their own.

BILL MOYERS: Then what will have all of our soldiers died for there?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, that is a very difficult question. It's a difficult question, I think about, in the context of Iraq. And I think the answer to the question is that they died for their country. Soldiers don't get to choose the wars that they fight. They are sent to serve. They are sent with an understanding that they may be called upon to sacrifice. And the value of the sacrifice is inherent in the act of sacrifice and is independent, I think, of questions about the merit of the policies that sent the soldier into harm's way in the first place.

BILL MOYERS: Is there a Plan B as you look at the strategic situation there, or look at what the administration is doing?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think Plan B, and it's not necessarily one that I fully agree with, is already taking shape. Or maybe we should call it Plan C. I mean, Plan A was “shock and awe.” Plan A was the George W. Bush administration's belief that the concerted application of American military power could fundamentally transform the Islamic world.

That what really-- that's the real genesis of the Iraq War. Iraq was going to be the place where the Bush administration demonstrated our capacity to fundamentally change countries in the Islamic world. It didn't work. And we ended up by 2004, 2005, with an insurgency that we could not control. That's when Plan B followed. Plan B following the 2006 elections, was the notion that even if we can't liberate the greater Middle East and democratize it, perhaps we can at least control it and we can control it by adopting counterinsurgency tactics.


ANDREW BACEVICH: Petraeus, period. The surge in Iraq. Which some people think succeeded. It did certainly succeeded to a degree in Iraq by reducing the level of violence. And Plan B by 2009, with President Obama now having succeeded George W. Bush, Plan B then was applied to Afghanistan during the McChrystal era.

The notion that “comprehensive counterinsurgency,” that was the phrase that General McChrystal used, that “comprehensive counterinsurgency” could pacify Afghanistan. Could replicate in Afghanistan the achievements supposedly made by Petraeus in Iraq. But that didn't work. Matter of fact, McChrystal himself flamed out. Petraeus came back for a second effort at applying counterinsurgency, and achieved only limited success.

BILL MOYERS: Why don't--

ANDREW BACEVICH: I don't think anybody today thinks that counterinsurgency is going to pacify Afghanistan.

BILL MOYERS: Why didn't it work?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Again, one would refer to Afghan history here, that this is simply not a place that accommodates foreign invaders who think they know how to run the place better than the local population. But what I would want to emphasize, I think, is that by last year, I think Obama himself had given up on the notion that counterinsurgency provided a basis for U.S. strategy and had, indeed, begun to implement Plan C. And Plan C is targeted assassination.

Plan C is relying on drones, unmanned aerial vehicles with missiles, and also commandos, special operation forces, in order to conduct military operations, in essence on a global basis, identifying those who could pose a threat to us. And without regard to congressional authority, without regard to considerations of national sovereignty, to go kill the people we think need to be killed. Plan C is already being implemented.

BILL MOYERS: Most people seem to accept it as an alternative to failure in Afghanistan, and as a way of keeping American soldiers out of harm's way.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, and also they accept it because of course, it doesn't cost us anything. We are not, the people are not engaged in any serious way. The people are not asked to sacrifice. The people are asked only to applaud when we are told after the fact that an attack has succeeded. For example, the raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

And I would applaud, and do applaud, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But I also have this question to ask. And that is, what is the political objective of a strategy of targeted assassination? How many people do we think we're going to kill? How long are we going to kill people in Yemen or in Somalia or in Pakistan before we get to some point where we can say, “Yes, now our political purposes have been achieved, and therefore the war can end, that Plan C will have run its course?” And my fear is that we'll never, we'll never run out of targets. And that describes where we are.

BILL MOYERS: That's Option C, right?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Option C is where we are. And I think that the reason-- but the reason Option-- we should critically scrutinize Option C is that permanent, open-ended war cannot be good for the country. Permanent, open-ended war, in essence, is an abdication of strategic thought. Are we so unimaginative, are we so wedded to the reliance on military means, that we cannot conceive of any way to reconcile our differences with groups, nations, in the Islamic world, and therefore bring this conflict to an end? And there may be some people who would answer, “No, there is no way.” Well, I-- woe betide our nation, if indeed there is no alternative but endless war.

BILL MOYERS: But being a realist, as you are, I'm confident that you think as I do that somewhere, even as we speak, there are terrorists plotting how they can inflict harm on the United States.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Let me emphasize. There is some value, there is some utility in Plan C. That there are people out there who are plotting. Whose minds cannot be changed. And we do need to identify them and do whatever is necessary to ensure that they cannot harm us. But, those groups, those individuals exist within a milieu, a political context, a culture.

And it seems to me that the strategic imperative is to understand that milieu, to understand the grievances that ultimately gave rise to this animosity expressing itself in terrorist activity. And as a realist, and somebody who's not given to optimism, it seems to me that there are indications that we can engage or have some hope in positive change.

And here I'm alluding to the Arab Spring. Now, there are some neoconservatives who believe that somehow we are responsible for the Arab Spring, that the Arab Spring is a natural outgrowth of the Iraq War and the George Bush Freedom Agenda. That's nonsense. The origins of the Arab Spring come from within Arab nations.

They will determine where the Arab Spring leads and where it leads in Egypt is going to be probably different than where it leads in Libya, and where it leads in Tunisia. But, the Arab Spring, it seems to me, does demonstrate a determination on the part of people in the Arab world, and a capacity on the part of people in the Arab world to exercise their right to self-determination.

They are not content to live in the world as they've been condemned to live throughout the period of European imperialism followed by American imperialism. So change is afoot. And there's at least some possibility that that change may make possible some reconciliation between ourselves and them.

I think the harder, deeper problem is the retarded development of nations in the Arab world. Meaning that the people have been denied opportunity. They've been denied opportunities to exercise freedom. But I think that we have to concede that an element of that harder, deeper problem is the West's involvement and presence in the Arab world, or more broadly, the Islamic world.

That presence, those activities, have never been motivated by British concern, French concern, or American concern, about the well-being of the people who live there. That presence has been motivated by imperial ambition, by desire to have access to oil, by geopolitical calculations relative to the Soviet Union back in Cold War days.

We have made it harder. We have made it deeper. And I think the beginning of wisdom, in terms of finding a way out, is to acknowledge that we have contributed to the difficulties we face.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think there is a growing awareness and perception of that reality? Because after 9/11, when some people said, “Well, it's blowback, it's a consequence of our policies in that part of the world for so long.” They were practically drawn and quartered.

ANDREW BACEVICH: I think the historical record is actually-- is unambiguous. The problem is that prior to 9/11, we were largely ignorant of the historical record. We have been a prisoner of a particular narrative of the 20th century that has focused on a series of events, World War I, followed by World War II, followed by the Cold War. In that narrative, the Islamic world has never been anywhere except on the periphery.

Let's take the case of the Suez Crisis of 1956. When I was a kid growing up, 1956 was the year of the Hungarian Revolution. Because when I was a kid growing up, my perspective was very much shaped by events of the Cold War.

And Hungarians, freedom fighters, rising up against their Soviet occupiers was a big deal. Well, it was a big deal. Well just about at exactly the same moment in 1956, there was another very important episode that I paid very little attention to, called the Suez Crisis. What was the Suez Crisis all about? Well what the Suez Crisis was all about is Colonel Nasser, the dictator of Egypt nationalizing the Suez Canal.

That is to say, claiming for Egypt control of this crucial asset on Egyptian soil. And in consequence of that, Great Britain, the imperial power that had controlled Egypt for decades, and France, another European imperial power with interest in North Africa, and Israel, conspiring to concoct a cockamamie war intended to reclaim control of the Suez Canal, supposedly on behalf of the international community, but really aimed to overthrow Nasser, thereby restoring British imperial control of Egypt.

Well, that didn't work out too well. But as an episode indicative of the true nature of the interaction between the West and the Arab world, I think that speaks volumes. And I would bet that if we walked outside this studio and asked a hundred of our fellow citizens, “Tell me about the Suez Crisis,” probably two out of a hundred would be able to identify it.

If we walked down the street in Cairo and said, asked, a hundred Egyptians, “Tell me about the Suez Crisis,” I'll bet you a hundred out of a hundred could identify it. So one of the things that I do believe that is happening at least on college campuses, and this could be a leading indicator of shifting consciousness more broadly-- what's happening on college campuses is greater awareness of sensitivity to, even empathy for, that story in which the Suez Crisis forms one episode.

BILL MOYERS: Let me go back to when we were talking about Option C and withdrawal from Afghanistan and the administration's position. Part of what I hear you saying, confirming what the administration has more or less made clear, that part of the strategy of Option C is to reserve the right to attack anyone who it determines poses a direct threat to American national security, anywhere in the world. So my question to you is, is Iran a direct threat to America?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Oh no. You know, I have a friend who sent me an email, this is six months ago, roughly my age, and he said he never imagined that he would live in a world in which the biggest threat to the United States of America was Iran. I mean, threats used to be powers that somehow more or less were our equivalent. Countries that had big armies. Countries that possessed empires. Countries that had thousands of nuclear weapons. Countries that possessed the ability to destroy us in a heartbeat.

Well, Iran can't do any of those things. Iran doesn't possess any of those things. So whatever threat Iran poses is very, very limited. And certainly does not constitute any kind of a justification for yet another experiment with preventive war.

BILL MOYERS: But suppose that Iran develops the capacity and builds an atomic bomb. Does that change their equation if you put a big stick in the hand of a small boy, is he more of a threat than he had been before?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Don't think so. General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, three or four weeks ago, made a comment, that as far as he was concerned the Iranian government should be viewed as a rational actor. I think that's exactly right. Now, there are representatives of the Iranian government that spout truly vile rhetoric, sometimes directed against us, perhaps even more often directed against Israel.

But rhetoric and behavior are not necessarily the same thing. I see little evidence over the history of the Islamic Republic of irrational behavior, of a regime that courts its own destruction. Now, we once thought that the Soviets were people we couldn't deal with. That the Soviet possession of a nuclear weapon constituted an immediate threat, an intolerable threat.

Back in the early 1950s, there were voices in this country proposing preventive war against the Soviet Union. Cooler heads prevailed. And the United States embraced a strategy of deterrence, directed against the Soviet Union, and it worked. And we've managed to survive these several decades since Hiroshima and Nagasaki without having had any further use of nuclear weapons.

BILL MOYERS: It’s been like living with a snake under the bed though, you know that.

ANDREW BACEVICH: It does, it does. I mean, this is-- we don't live in a perfect world. In a better world, we would eliminate nuclear weapons. Well, we're the ones who invented them, we're the ones who used them, we're the ones who once defined power in terms of the size of your nuclear arsenal. So, it seems unlikely to me that we are going to lead the way to the elimination of nuclear weapons. So we're going to have to live with the snake under the bed. And I believe it's better to live with that snake under the bed than to undertake another war.

BILL MOYERS: If you were Iran, would you want the bomb, a nuclear weapon, because Pakistan on one side of you has nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and Israel on the other side of you has nuclear weapons. And you live in a neighborhood where there are a dozen or more American military installations. So is it rational that you might want a nuclear weapon?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Of course it is. I think were I in a position of authority in Iran, I would counsel the secret development of a nuclear weapons program to the point where we possess the ability to create an actual weapon quickly, without in fact having done so. To possess a somewhat shadowy but nonetheless real nuclear capability. But not an actual nuclear arsenal. I think that that would give my enemies pause, but would not give my enemies a pretext to launch a war.

BILL MOYERS: If you were developing that capacity and you got to the point where you could take the next step if you needed to, wouldn't you be almost inviting-- Israel or the United States, who have made it clear there's a red line you cannot cross, to come in?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I mean, what I would want to do is to make it more difficult for the Israelis and the Americans to determine whether or not I had actually crossed that red line. And I would make that calculation based on my reading of the American thinking. My reading would be that President Obama is not eager to have a war. Now, President Obama has, perhaps to his own misfortune and perhaps ultimately to our misfortune, has gone way out on a limb in declaring that an Iranian bomb is indeed unacceptable. I don't want to invite him to contemplate the bomb. I want him to contemplate the problem of me potentially having a bomb. And much the same I think applies to the government of Israel.

But, you know, again, when you look at it from an Iranian perspective, and I have to emphasize, it's always important in these matters to look at things from your adversary's perspective, they do have serious security threats. They have every reason to view the United States of America as hostile.


ANDREW BACEVICH: Because of the history of U.S./Iranian relations.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, the Eisenhower administration, overthrew the democratically-elected leader of Iran and installed--


BILL MOYERS: --a monarch.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Same thing with the Suez Crisis of 1956. Let walk outside the studio and ask a hundred of our fellow citizens, “Tell me about what happened between the United States and Iran in 1953,” and none will know. Let's go to Tehran and ask them, and a hundred out of a hundred Iranians will say, “That's when the C.I.A. and British MI-6 collaborated to overthrow a democratically-elected government and to reinstall the shah on his thrown.” An action undertaken with absolutely no concern about the well-being of the Iranian people, but in pursuit of near-term strategic interest.

BILL MOYERS: Like you, I am confident that President Obama seems to want to avoid war. But he also has said, as you have said, that an Iranian nuclear bomb would be unacceptable. Which suggests he would act to stop them before they build one, or take it out after they do. And I ask you, has he backed himself into a corner with that position?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think he has. Now, I think I can understand why the president would be as adamant on that score. Because the president doesn't want Israel attacking Iran.

In order to try to restrain any inclination on the part of the government of Israel to engage in a preventive war against Iran, one which almost inevitably we would be drawn into, the president is trying to provide these very clear-cut assurances that-- assurances to Israel and its supporters, that we won't permit this bomb from coming into existence. But yes, in making that commitment to try to restrain Israel the effect is, I think, to limit his own maneuvering room, should an Iranian nuclear program become more visible and make visible progress.

BILL MOYERS: So practically, as a military man, what are his options?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think his options-- number one, he should go to church and pray. But I think more seriously, they're putting their chips in the economic sanctions basket.

BILL MOYERS: We did that against Iraq as well.

ANDREW BACEVICH: We did. These sanctions are serious. These sanctions seem to be inflicting real pain on the Iranian economy. Whether or not the result will be to persuade the Iranian government to change its behavior, I think very much remains to be seen. I mean, your comment about Iraq is suggestive of a larger record in which economic sanctions tend not to produce the results anticipated.

BILL MOYERS: And they tend to punish ordinary people. Go and see “A Separation,” that marvelous movie made by Iranian film-- made in Iran. And you see that they're just like us in going about their daily activity, trying to get their kids to school, trying to get domestic help, and--

ANDREW BACEVICH: And it's not the people in the palaces or in the government buildings that are going without.

BILL MOYERS: Would an attack on Iran be a huge roll of the dice?

ANDREW BACEVICH: We should now appreciate the extent to which any war is a roll of the dice. That anyone who pretends to predict how a war is going to play out is-- doesn't know what they're talking about. So yes, this would be a big roll of the dice, maybe more than most. Because you and I don't know what intelligence is available about Iranian nuclear sites. I'm not sure the extent to which the intelligence community actually is confident in their intelligence.

BILL MOYERS: We weren’t in the build up to invading Iraq.

ANDREW BACEVICH: But identifying the targets, choosing the weapons that can destroy those targets with absolute assurance, I think operationally would be a very difficult thing. And then whether or not the Iranians would simply passively accept this or contrive to find some way to strike back against Israel, against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who knows what they would do.

But it seems to me that passivity would unlikely to be their response. And then beyond that even, I think, proponents of attacking Iran acknowledge that the result wouldn't be to destroy an Iranian nuclear program, it would be to deflect it, to postpone it, to cause it some difficulties. That a year later or two years later, the problem would be back again.

BILL MOYERS: You were very clear a moment ago, very unequivocal in saying that you didn't think Iran was a direct threat to us. But what about Israel? Is Iran a direct threat to Israel? Which is only 1,000 miles from those potential nuclear facilities in Iran.

ANDREW BACEVICH: You know, I think honesty requires us to say that were we Israeli Jews, we might evaluate us this threat somewhat differently. I'm not an Israeli Jew, I'm an American. And I believe that the basis for deciding when and where the United States rolls the dice to go to war needs to be informed above all by a calculation of what serves the interest of the American people.

You know, it's very difficult to read Israeli intentions. Israel has a tradition of risk-taking on matters of security. We-- when we alluded a few minutes ago to the Suez Crisis is a good example of that. Contriving this war in order to overthrow Nasser because they perceived Nasser to be a looming threat to the well-being of Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Took a great risk with The Six-Day War.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Took a risk when they invaded Lebanon in1982.



BILL MOYERS: Bombing the nuclear facility in Iraq in 1981.

ANDREW BACEVICH: So it would not be out of character for Israel to attack Iran. That said, Israel is in a circumstance right now where I think it perceives itself and perhaps accurately perceives itself as increasingly isolated in the world stage. Isolated, and therefore evermore dependent upon the United States as patron, partner, supporter, source of security assistance, a couple billion dollars per year.


ANDREW BACEVICH: Israel cannot afford to alienate the United States. And so as Netanyahu and his advisors sit down to evaluate what to do about this perceived Iranian threat, part of their calculation has to be whether or not attacking Iran would put the relationship with the United States in jeopardy.

They cannot afford to rupture that relationship. And quite frankly, were Israel to attack Iran, and were the United States as a consequence to be dragged into another war, and were that war to go badly, then it seems to me the risk to the U.S./Israeli friendship would be very great.

BILL MOYERS: What if this is as The New York Times suggested recently, just a big bluff?" Because since Netanyahu and the pro-Israeli forces groups in this country have been making this such a big debate, you and I are not talking about the Palestinians. And the issue of Palestinians, off the table. Issue settlements, off the table.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Peace process has disappeared. I don't think the Israeli government is inventing a war scare in order to distract attention from the question of the Palestinians. But I think that that's a side benefit. I very much am of the school that says that one, not the only one, but one of those grievances that informs and inflames relations between the United States and the Islamic world, is the fact that the Palestinians still don't have their own state.

I believe that we have a vital national interest in creating that state. Of taking that grievance off the table. And it is absolutely true that amidst all the warmongering about Iran, Israel these days pretty much gets a pass. And there's very little impetus made to advance the peace process. Indeed, the peace process has more or less been lost in the shuffle.

BILL MOYERS: How do you think Obama's handling the pressure from the pro-Israel groups in this country that are pressing for a more aggressive posture toward Iran?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think that he's trying to provide reassurances that we've got Israel's back.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. And whenever an effort is made to delegitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now. When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.

BILL MOYERS: And yet look at this. Let me show you some print ads, sponsored by an organization called the Emergency Committee for Israel.

Here's one of them, "Why does the Obama administration treat Israel like a punching bag?" "Enough with the cheap shots. It's time for the Obama administration to stop blaming Israel first." And this organization is headed by Bill Kristol, the ardent propagandist for invading Iraq ten years ago who once said that the war would be over in two months.

And Gary Bauer who's a right-wing Christian who works with the Christian Zionists to make sure the United States supports Israel 1,000 percent. Bauer has said, as this ad suggests, "I'll be brutally honest: I don't trust the president on Israel." And yet the president keeps assuring them that he can be trusted. And his actions seem to back that up, do they not?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, they do to me. But I mean, I think this is-- this is partisan politics. These-- Gary Bauer and William Kristol act, in essence, as agents of the Republican Party. They are committed to President Obama's defeat in November. And I think the question of Israel is useful to them as a vehicle for mobilizing support for the Republican candidate, whoever that's going to be.

BILL MOYERS: Driving a wedge between Obama and American Jews and maybe between American Jews and Blacks who have been a strong, long coalition for--

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, but also, I mean, garnering the votes of Christian evangelicals. There's many more Christian evangelicals in this country than there are Jews. And so to argue that this Democratic president is weak on Israel is a way, I think, to try to draw votes for the Republican candidate, whoever it's going to be.

I don't mean that Kristol and Bauer aren't themselves committed to the security of Israel, but I think that in a campaign like this, especially when it occurs during an election year, there's something more going and here than simply a concern about Israeli security.

BILL MOYERS: You write in your new essay that President Obama's strategy seems to be to “thicken” America's global presence throughout the world. The horn of Africa, the Arab Peninsula, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, the Pacific.

And that as you said earlier, this strategy militarily involves unmanned missiles, drones, and targeted assassinations. Will the new generation accept that as a necessary instrument of American power without putting us at the risk in order to continue to maintain influence in the world?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, my students won't.

BILL MOYERS: I should've known.

ANDREW BACEVICH: And it's, I guess it's hard to tell the extent to which that kind of critical thinking is going to become pervasive. What I'd say though, is that whatever's bubbling on college campuses in terms of different perspectives on contemporary history, probably won't take unless that different interpretation at least is echoed or endorsed by the broader public media.

That in a larger sense, I think there needs to be a different conversation about what the history of the 20th century has been all about. And frankly, that's, the book of mine that you have sitting there, in a sense, that describes the purpose of that project.

The conceit of the book is that the failure of President Bush's Freedom Agenda and the Great Recession that we're still dealing with, together signify that the post-war period of American dominion has ended. And the question that the contributors to the book are invited to answer is, well, if the American century is over, what was the American century all about? What can we learn from it?

And I want people to begin to grapple with what that new era is all about. It's not going to be about one superpower imposing its will on the entire globe. Well, if the so-called unipolar moment has turned out to be a fiction, then where does that leave us?

I mean, we need to be able to see the world and ourselves and the consequences of our actions in very real terms. Nowhere more so than when it comes to the exercise of military power.

The Iraq War was, from start to finish, maybe not from start to finish, the first two weeks maybe looked brilliant, the remaining 8.9 years were a disaster. An expensive disaster, an unnecessary disaster. And as people, we need to take that on board. We need to acknowledge that in order to avoid replicating those kinds of errors.

BILL MOYERS: So what does it mean if the United States is no longer the sun around which everything else orbits?

ANDREW BACEVICH: It means that history has moved on. It means that the 21st century is in all likelihood, to the extent that we can foresee the future, and we must all acknowledge that our capacity to do so is very limited, but to the extent that we think we can glimpse the future, the 21st century is going to be a multipolar order. There are going to be some number, bigger than one, some number of powers who together will either create order or replicate the catastrophes that occurred in the first half of the 20th century, when the last multipolar order collapsed.

China's going to be one of those powers. Probably India is going be one. In its way, in its peculiar way, Europe is going to be one of those powers that we have to reckon with. To some degree Russia, maybe Brazil. And emphatically, the United States of America. But we are not going to call the shots.

BILL MOYERS: You have written that all this debate about American exceptionalism conceals a flight from reality.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think it does. We began the 21st century with a balanced budget. For the past few years now, we've had a trillion dollar deficit. We began the 21st century, with a military that we were not only persuaded was the best in the world, but with a military that we were certain could win any fight quickly, achieve victory.

We've been engaged in war for more than a decade now and we have no victories that we can claim. We began the decade with an economy that seemed to be cooking on all cylinders. And that for the past several years now has been in deep recession with large numbers of Americans, we're still what, over 8 percent unemployment without work, millions losing their homes. What does this signify? What do these bits of evidence signify? Well, they signify something. And what they signify is not that the American century continues or that chance about American exceptionalism constitute the basis for sound policy.

BILL MOYERS: Let me play for you the press conference that President Obama gave in 2009 during which he was asked a question about American exceptionalism, and here was his answer.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world […] Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

BILL MOYERS: That qualified response landed him in burning water with the right. It's become a big campaign issue.

ANDREW BACEVICH: And in many respects, I think he's backed away from that. Politically, I think he regrets that statement, that somehow suggesting some level of equivalence. I wish the president had stuck with his guns. I think he's exactly right.

I believe in American exceptionalism, if American exceptionalism implies that there are certain qualities that make the United States of America a special place, a wonderful place-- a place worthy of a patriot's love.

But it does not follow that other countries, other cultures somehow have to exist in a subordinate position relative to the United States. And it certainly should not imply that we somehow have the answer, the recipe to explain the direction that the world is going to go in.

BILL MOYERS As you know, there are people who believe the world will be a darker and more dangerous place if the United States takes down that umbrella of military power, money, influence, that it has held up all of these years. What happens if the United States retreats?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I don't know that it's retreat. I don't know that it's -- I'm not sure that the umbrella metaphor works all that well. I mean, I'm not an advocate of disarmament. I don't wish us to have the weakest military in the world. I actually think we ought to have a very strong military.

But I think, you know, the fact of the matter is, the world is changing. The world of the American century, as it was once styled, simply no longer exists. And grown-ups will acknowledge that and will adjust accordingly.

We cannot say what the post-American century is going to look like. What we can do is to devote ourselves to ensuring that it's not going to replicate the catastrophes that occurred in the first half of the 20th century.

BILL MOYERS: What's the message you want to communicate with this book?

ANDREW BACEVICH: That if there was an American century, it's over. That the combination of the failure of President George W. Bush's Freedom Agenda and the onset of the Great Recession, as we call it, has opened up a new era. And we need both to contemplate on the significance of the era past, and to begin to think about the uncharted territory in which we are headed.

BILL MOYERS Andrew Bacevich. Thank you very much for being with me.


Andrew Bacevich on Changing Our Military Mindset

Nine years after Baghdad erupted in “shock and awe,” we’re once again hearing in America the drumbeat for war in the Middle East. Now, the bull’s-eye is on Iran. But what we need more than a simple change of target is a complete change in perspective, says Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran-turned-scholar who’s become one of the most perceptive observers of America’s changing role in the world.

This week, on an all-new Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers and Bacevich explore the futility of “endless” wars, and provide a reality check on the rhetoric of American exceptionalism.

“Are we so unimaginative, so wedded to the reliance on military means that we cannot conceive of any way to reconcile our differences with groups and nations in the Islamic world, and therefore bring this conflict to an end?” Bacevich tells Moyers.

Bacevich also answers the question of whether Iran is a direct threat to America with a definitive no. “Whatever threat Iran poses is very, very limited,” he tells Moyers, “and certainly does not constitute any kind of justification for yet another experiment with preventive war.”

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  • Anonymous

    As I listened to Prof. Bacevich’s analyses, I wondered about what those voices on the right have to say about his opinions and solutions.

    Could anyone recommend a conservative site to which I might repair to get their take?  (Preferably one whose primary concerns are not with Obama’s place of birth and religious affiliation, or other such nuttiness.) 


  • Sergio

     Try the Cato Institute or The Ludwig Von Mises Institute.

  • MrFreeze

    The idea that President Obama would be pondering anything written by those who concocted “the Project for the New American Century” is incredibly disturbing to me. They are the very architects of most of the follow committed by the U.S. in the last decade.

    This was a great program. Too bad most Americans can’t us for what we are: one of many players in the world no more worthy of success or adulation than other nations. 

  • MrFreeze

     ….are the architects of most of the folly committed…. sorry

  • Aemantariq

    If you want to save innocents, don’t kill innocents. Don’t make the world fool by the name of war on terror or natioanl security.

  • Anonymous

    I have admired this intelligent and thoughtful man for several years.  I’m impressed by the way his thought has developed and deepened over the course of his last four books.

    He lost a son in the Iraq war, and watching him interviewed and reading his essays written around that time was a painful experience for me.  How much more painful it must have been for him.

    Reading his work made me much more open to the existence of thoughtful and reasonable conservatives.  My defenses no longer go up even before I start listening to the conservative perspective.  I now seek out those writers who, like Bacevich, responded to the Bush-Cheney phenomenon, not with hysterical defensiveness but with purposeful self-reflection.

  • Gérard St-Onge

    Magnificent interview, intelligence, nuance, self-reflecting wisdom.
    thanks for reassuring on the possibility of the triumph of intelligence over rhetoric partisan discourse

    Gérard St-Onge, rivière du loup. Québec

  • R-F-Fisher

     Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed, over 4,500 of Americas finest young men killed in action and $3,000,000,000 (that’s 3 Trillion with a ‘T”) spent doing what, somehow protecting you and I??  And that’s not enough,, Iran is next????

    Today our Military Industrial Complex is encouraging (with lots of $$$) our Current Leaders in Washington, and for strictly political reasons 3 of the Republican Presidential Candidates are all talking about bombing Iran ASAP????  For God sakes,, WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH??  
    Remember,, it’s about MONEY and not any threat that we face here in America.  Think about that for a second! Do you feel threatened when you go to the grocery store for milk and eggs???  Not hardly!  So why are we fighting these wars? A lot of folks are getting rich as we protect our access to the Oil in the Middle East, period.

    Here’s another way to look at it.  If America, with all the Trillions it has spent on these wars, our young men giving of their lives, destroying many families, just to protect the access to Oil in the Middle East so you and I can have fuel for our cars,,,, WHY ARE THE OIL COMPANIES “”GOUGING”” US AT THE PUMP??????  
    We as tax payers are giving of our wealth, (and children’s futures), our young sons lives,, just so these Big Oil Giants have Oil to sell to you and I!! — SHOULDN’T WE BE GETTING A DISCOUNT ON THAT OIL????
    Just thinking out-loud!

  • Jean Anderson

    Andrew Bacevich is an American treasure.  His grasp of history, his wise worldview, combined with his directness and integrity are enormously reassuring.  I can’t thank him enough, or Mr. Moyers for bringing this clear thought to an otherwise barren television landscape.


    Professor Bracevich has my vote for Secretary of Defence.  With his knowledge of history applied to mapping out our future he would bring to the table not only rationality but common sense.  By avoiding the pitfalls of our failures it would open up new avenues of exploration for a more sustainable future rather than one dominated by perpetual war.

  • Anonymous

    Bill,  your question asking” What if the US is no longer the sun around which the world orbits?” begs the question:  If the US press were blind, would that explain why are we making consistently wrong decisions?  Our press is broken. Why? Google’s ‘intentional’ advertising sucked the money out of display advertising.  There is no money funding the press, and the press is not strong enough to halt corruption (Is Murdock’s business model corrupt only across the Atlantic.)
       Yes the world is changing, but America has cancelled its strength, not just by languishing in the graveyard of empires for a decade, and defiling Mesopotamia, but having inconsequential discussions about irrelevant wedge issues, in our newspapers, electronic media, and in our chambers of legislature, where far from deliberating, we have serial statements to the record in empty houses to make points to funders who consistently vote bucks for war.   It is all deal making, nothing more.  Nearly zero public deliberation.
      We, citizens never are asked if we are for, or against these wars that are impoverishing our future.   A declaration of war would set both reason and goal.   Are we going to fight against a tactic, terror, until we are all enslaved to debt?
      I feel a broken press leads to broken decisions, and until the American citizenry develops an ethic of paying for a ‘free’ press, and not expecting commercial interests to inform them gratis……. we will all get what we pay for.   Little pertinent information, a media that is a distraction/amnesia engine and quite a lot of war.
       I do not pretend that the press is the only problem we face.  But without a functioning and deliberative mainstream  in my view, any pretense of democracy is lost.

  • Piksnilderf

    When gas prices under W peaked at over $4gal.,
    oil was around $145 per barrel.
    Gas prices under Obama have reached almost $4,
    oil price around $105 per barrel.

    I’ve heard some thoughts on this issue, but the one that seems most likely is the simple one you present- oil corps have simply decided to gouge us- because they can.

    I’d like to hear from someone else’s opinion if they have a more plausible explanation.

  • Piksnilderf

     Are you suggesting that  a permanent World  War as long as the world exists called “War on Terror”, is a BAD IDEA?

    Say it isn’t so.
    Manufacture, sale, and distribution of weapons in all forms is America’s most lucrative business.

  • Kenneth McBride

    After ten years of war, a war crime in Iraq and a tragic quagmire in Afghanistan with thousands of Americans killed and wounded, trillions of wealth expended, you would expect that Americans would be loathed to engage in another war! However, we hear again the same drumbeat for war with Iran by the neoconservative misinformation chorus that another potential “Mushroom Cloud” threatens!
    Israel holds the U.S. in disdain, for it believes it has unlimited support of the American Israeli lobby, the religious right and the neoconservative Republicans in Congress. This is evident by Israel‘s obstruction of the Palestinian peace process or to constrain Israeli settlements in contested Palestinian areas. Israel has stated they will not warn the U.S. in their forthcoming preemptive attack on Iran, which should surprise no one. Let us not forget Israel’s vicious attack on the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) on 8 June 1967 killing 34 Americans.
    President Obama is being held hostage by Israel, American Israeli lobby and the neoconservative Republicans as he approaches a final strategic decision concerning Iran. Iran is an Islamic theocratic regime supportive of terrorism and merciless oppression of its own people. However, President Obama promised to negotiate with Iran in combination with international sanctions in contrast to his Republican political opponents. It is far better to negotiate with Iran than attend the funerals of U.S. military personnel at the Arlington National Cemetery or visit the tragically wounded at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. In regard to shared national sacrifice, we continue the immoral and morally corrosive policy of asking less than 1% of our young to bear the burden of war without any sacrifice of the majority, not even taxes to pay for the wars, while another 1% realizes unprecedented wealth.
    Israel seems willing to accept diplomacy by the U.S. with Iran only as long as it fails! Israel hopes to provoke the Iranian government into an act of violence against the West, those the Iranians view are strangling its trade, undermining its industry, assassinating its citizens and imposing bellicose ultimatums. Obviously, it would be best for Iran and the world community if Iran did not pursue nuclear weapons, which has not been confirmed, but the same applies to Pakistan, India or North Korea! Whatever forces of moderation exist in Iran will disappear when the first cruise missile or smart bomb strikes Iran! The Iranians will prove to be a different enemy than the Iraqis with long term asymmetric warfare possible on a global basis, not restricted to the Middle East but to include Europe and North America. NO WAR WITH IRAN!

  • Anonymous

    I  hope the Obama administration is or will tap into the brillant, visionary thoughts Prof.  Bracevich brings to some of the most important issues of our day.  He would have my vote for Secretary of Defence as well as a previous poster here.

  • Charles

    If you want to see more information on the Suez Canal, watch the British drama, The Hour on BBC America.  It is a major part of their story line.

  • Rkf0513

    Much of what Mr. Bacevich has to say is interesting and insightful, except for his answer to Bill Moyer’s question regarding Afghanistan: “What will all our soldiers have died for then?”.  Bacevich states that the value of a soldier’s sacrifice is inherent in the act itself and independent of the policies that put him or her in harm’s way.  

    Really?  If that were true we should have more wars so that more soldiers can participate in Bacevich’s virtuous sacrifice. That response sounds like a man who can’t speak the raw truth if he wants to keep his cushy job at Boston University and his prestigious place in society.  I think he just handed Bill Moyers a steaming pile of horses–t.   And Moyers completely fails to call him on it – just sits there and swallows it.  Come on, Bill.  My respect for you just took a hit. 

  • z

    A great piece. I don’t necessarily agree with absolutely everything Prof. Bacevich had to say but it reminds us how completely wrong Kagen, Chrystal, the rest of the Neocons, and pretty much all of today’s wigged out Republican/Tparty and their candidates are and have been on just about everything.

    The question for me is how can the rightwing be proven so wrong on so many issues from foreign matters to economics and social issues time and time again, over and over again doing the same thing and having it turn out wrong each time and yet nearly half the American people – more or less – continue to vote for them?

    How can it be after just 3 years from the collapse of the American Economy largely and clearly the result of Rightwing policies of mindless tax cuts, lack of regulation, unfunded wars, excessive religious influence, and the marginalizing of education, can they be promoting exactly those same policies only more so, and actually getting support. If the great recession weren’t reminder enough there is also the Great Depression when similar policies led to collapse.

    In any rational, fact based world populated with informed and thoughtful population the Republican/Tparty (actually the renamed Democratic party of the Civil War era South) would be laughed out of town.

    Please, Prof. Bacevich that is what I want to understand. Not why the middle east is mired in ancient ways perpetuated by intractable religious inspired ignorance and hate, but why America finds itself in much the same condition.

    BTW: its fairly clear Business understood at least 20 years ago that the next century was not going to be the American Century. You can calculate on a napkin where the business opportunity of the future is by just looking at the population. Unfortunately, “business” is like the rats abandoning a sinking ship: they have no regard for those left behind, and so it American Business, its leaders and our politicians, and yes, even our people made it all the worse.

    Like the Holocaust, no one cared what industry was destroyed, what business lost, or what jobs gone until it was their own, and then it was too late.

  • Charles

    What would LBJ say?  He would never accept the defeatist attitude of Mr. Bacevich.  In addition he would be quite disappointed in your commentary.
    Fortunately, Barak Obama is not Jimmy Carter, and Mitt Romney is not Ronald Reagan. 

  • Svankleef05

    Andrew Bacevich lost a son in Iraq. 

  • DMNolan

    He didn’t say that sacrifice was a desirable outcome. He implied that we can respect their service without agreeing with the policy decisions that sent them into combat. And, that his opinion and your idea of the “raw truth” needn’t coincide for him to be correct.

  • Terry5135

    Well, one could quibble about this or that, but overall this guy seems to have a really good handle on the reality of things, particularly the 21st century. Still, though, I always wonder with these discussions why central fact of war is simply never discussed – that is, that war, as Smedley Butler put it, is a racket.  It’s just never part of the basket of aspects of war that’s open for discussion, and yet seems to be central and vital to all wars. War is profitable.

  • Anonymous

     LBJ was not facing a suicidal opposition in the Republicans of his term, the current GoP is happy for the country to fail to secure victory in the polls.
    Also LBJ like most of the west feared communist encroachment in the cold war, his fear for Vietnam was a withdrawal would signal weakness to the Soviets. 

  • Unsanitorial

    Does  the  “same” apply to Israel’s nuclear warheads?

  • Unsanitorial

    Is M&C broken?

  • Unsanitorial

    There are plenty of retired officers who know all Andrew knows but are not in a position to say it.
    In fact, many active  duty commissioned officers would agree but are muzzled by oath. Consider the   report on Afghanistan and the complaints of Lt. Col. Daniel Davis who swears commanders and defense dept. spokespersons lie to us.

    Is Moyers naughty infotainment?

  • Unsanitorial

    The Federal Government can’t regulate a global market. Maybe our military needs to storm some corporate headquarters. But you do know they pay more for car fuel than we do in Europe.

  • Unsanitorial

    That sounds like you’re supporting terrorism says NSA.

  • Unsanitorial

    Do they write for recreation or do they serve a constituency? I think they’re on commission. If that is so Obama is a Peronist, and Michelle is a mighty tall Evita.

  • Unsanitorial

    But don’t expect much.
    For these sites Capitalism is religion.

  • Erin

    He was my pick for Obama’s Sec of Defense!  And Karen Kwiatkowski was my choice for Sec of State.  Now THERE is a guest.  She is a Tea Party candidate currently running against Bob Goodlatte in Virginia.  And it’s no suprise that she is not getting the same press – in fact none – that was enjoyed by Christine O’Donnell, Michelle Bachmann and Sharon Angle.  All you have to do is read what the woman says – and see why the phpny MSNBC and Fox News ignores her. 

  • Anonymous

    No, Moyers and Co is not broken, but they were ejected off the airways for a year or two.  And we are the self selected civic minded who attend M&C.   The function of the press is broken to the point that political discussions cannot agree upon the facts.  That is broken.

  • Erin

    “What would LBJ say? He would never accept the defeatist attitude of Mr. Bacevich. In addition he would be quite disappointed in your commentary.Fortunately, Barak Obama is not Jimmy Carter, and Mitt Romney is not Ronald Reagan. “I do not know whether to laugh or to cry.  Bacevich’s son was one of the brave men and women who Andrew said, “died for his country.”  And do you know the Jonah Goldberg’s of the world had the audacity to call his private home phone and leave nasty messages claiming he got his own son killed for his outspoken honesty?  Any other guest would have said that – he did not even mention his son. 

    And yes – Obama is no Jimmy Carter.  Perhaps you should re-read the “Malaise” speech that cost him re-election.  He was right.  Read the speech, and then cue up You Tubes of 9/11…

    Do you know who Barack Obama is?  He is an amalgam of Reagan, both Bush’s and Clinton.  But mostly Reagan.  The ability to deliver a great BS speech that someone else wrote. 

  • Erin

    “If that were true we should have more wars so that more soldiers can participate in Bacevich’s virtuous sacrifice.” 

    What a terrible thing to say?  Do you know that Ron Paul has raised more money from active US military and people working in the defense department than all the other candidates?  And do you know why?  Because they see the waste and fraud and corruption that hinders them from doing their jobs. 

    They care more about doing a good job – then about their jobs themselves. 

  • Erin

    “I hope the Obama administration is or will tap into the brillant, visionary thoughts Prof. Bracevich brings to some of the most important issues of our day.  ”  I would not hold my breath.  We had a big letter campaign for Obama to pick him as Sec of Defense, and did not even get a response. 

    As soon as he picked Clinton for Sec of State – we knew we’d been had.

  • Erin

    “I’d like to hear from someone else’s opinion if they have a more plausible explanation.”  This is a very detailed explanation

  • Erin

    Although it is a Libertarian site – would be your best bet. 

  • ErinErb7_33

    “But don’t expect much.For these sites Capitalism is religion”  Yes… While I think Cato is a joke, Reason and Von Mises are very clear that corporatism and capitalism are not the same thing. 

    Our problem is corporatism – not anything else.  Left right.  Read this article from LaborNotes about the unions.  My whole family are members, and in fact own a union business.  This is very disturbing

  • Unsanitorial

    You’ll love their Austerity.

  • Erin

    “No, Moyers and Co is not broken, but they were ejected off the airways for a year or two.”  And I bet their coverage of the HC debates had a lot to do with that…

    “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions. ”  Thomas Jefferson

  • Svigos

    This man’s knows his History and speaks with logic, empathy and an elevated sense of patriotism – also, with more sombriety tha  I could muster if in his place. On May 13, 2007, Bacevich’s son, 1LT Andrew J. Bacevich, Jr., was killed in action in Iraq by an IED south of Samarra.

  • Anonymous

    Discussing subject A, whatever that may be, is enough to get one thrown off the air?   Read the 1st and 4th amendments if you have the time.  Are they being honored?America  will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose  our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” — Abraham Lincoln,  16th U.S. President (1809-1865)”An  elective despotism is not the government we fought for.” –  Thomas Jefferson

  • Olafbrescia

    Anytime Professor Bacevich is allowed time on the national
    stage – is indeed – a very good day. I too must readily profess I know – effectively
    nothing – of the events surrounding the 1956 Suez
    Crises.. Perhaps when the two of you sit down together – and we get to listen –
    perhaps this is what remains of “American Exceptionalism?”


    Again please except my immense gratitude for introducing Professor
    Bacevich to us all.


    Thank you


    Olaf Brescia

    Sacramento, CA

  • Anonymous

    So, right you are… we live in a corporatist state, now.  And China has been economically cleaning our clock for a couple of decades, along with ‘made in America’ Walmart… and our attitude that cheaper is better, come what may.

    Observe where that sort of thinking has gone, over the course of history.    Read: Debt, the First 5,000 years.

    The Industrial Age and its twin the unions, of which I too was a member… are history.  Replaced by robots, the internet and Google.

    If Progress is our most important product…. where are we going?

  • Dnadanyi

    The narrative of the Democratic party is too complicated. The right simplifies their lies into sound bites, and gives their audience talking points to boot. They are miserly and also do not read and prefer to put their heads in the sand. The 2 reasons they vote the way they do are 1. they believe the Democrats will raise their taxes(many believe they are in the 1% when they are NOT) and 2 the famous southern strategy. They also believe that smaller government means take away the safety net for those lazy jobless people lower on the food chain but that their ss and medicare will be safe-HA

  • Dnadanyi

    Love Greg Palast.

  • Dnadanyi

    Do Canadian citizens have to pay for the truth? They simply did not decimate their laws the way we did.

  • Dnadanyi

    This brings to mind people like Spider Marks and David Kaye and other generals who decided to go with the flow when they all knew that their NEVER were any WMDs. But they played along with W and had their 15 minutes-hope it was worth it.

  • Dnadanyi

    There defiinitely is much more to this story. These oil companies are very scary dudes.

  • Dnadanyi

     Read The Price of Loyalty about the secretary of the Treasury under Bush. Cheney talked him out of retirement and then they threw him under the bus when he told W that he could not afford to privatize SS. He was an honest broker but that is not what they wanted.

  • Dnadanyi

    Blackwater or whatever name they now are and their lobyists will make sure war is a permanent condition.

  • Chris Boese

    Dear Bill Moyers,

    It would be great to get Rachel Maddow on your show, talking about her new book “Drift” about the US turn toward a state of constant war. Kirkus Starred Review too.

  • 19obert63

    Dear Mr. Moyers.

    Thank you again for another interesting and informative
    discussion. All points , contemporary and historical, made by
    Mr. Bacevich and yourself are cogent and sincere, but there is one aspect that I’d like to bring up, although one that expresses an even darker side of reality. 

    There is no question that the military complex controls our government ; yet, I do not question our military leaders or soldiers in their patriotism , as Mr. Baceevich mentioned a soldiers does not question orders, his patriotism, his  duty is to follow  orders. It is the profit making mechanism of the military industrial complex that I question. I don’t think it matters to them if we win, lose, suffer-it is all about the profits of war. The concept of continual war is their game, their objective. A ten year war is exactly what they want and when that is played out , the military industrial complex will go from plan A, to plan B, to plan C-it doesnt matter as long as its bottom line =$$$$$$, not victory, not honor, not patriotism –
    just $$$$$$$$$$.

  • Patrick

    Hell , why not president 

  • Patrick

    you said a lot of folks are getting 
    rich. I believe thats just 1%

  • Unsanitorial

    Thought I saw this Rachel Maddow somewhere else already, then I find out she’s on MicroSoftNBC, has her own damn show with ten times or more the viewership of Moyers. Gets paid millions unlike Bill Moyers who has to finance his own broadcasts.

    It would make alot more damn sense if Rachel Maddow would allow Moyers on her show to tell people about M&C! He’s the more accurate reporter of our demise. She’s more the Whore’s Race (Party Politics) aficionado. But then Romney’s jeans can be a hot topic for some.

  • Unsanitorial

    Why are soldiers so loyal to rich trash?
    Especially when rich trash defile the Constitution

  • Anonymous

    Better still, try to have a look at Peter Kosminsky’s four-part drama The Promise, which was shown by Channel 4 in Britain. The broadcaster has a lot of very good content about the show on its website at Or even the more recent series Empire shown by the BBC. Ah, that Lord Balfour and his blessed declarations ….

  • Anonymous

    May I recommend to the publishers that Mr Bacevich be called upon to write an additional chapter to Barbara Tuchman’s classic “The March of Folly” that can be dedicated to America’s response to 9/11. He can then put both books together in his gift pack for President Obama.

  • Elizabeth

    I am glad to hear someone countering the urgency to bomb Iran rhetoric from most of the same people who argued about the urgency of invading Iraq.  These people live in a different world than most of us. We may not like much of what Iran is up to these days, but bombing Iran or worse, would be an absolute disaster not only for the many Iranians chaffing under the represive regime of the ayatollahs but for the U.S. and Israel.

  • Whabedank

    Mr. Bacevich says that all war is unpredictable and that is true especially when we look at the last American Wars in the last 40 years.  The end results never matched our initial intentions in almost every case.
    A new war in Iran, started by Israel no matter what our President says, will not be a limited war because of something very few people are thinking about.  That is that striking nuclear facilities in Iran will create a large cloud of nuclear radiation which will injure and kill many Iranians and they will be exceedingly angry no matter what our intentions were.  This radioactivity will not be contained to Iran but will contaminate other countries maybe even Russia and will create really bad relations with the US and will lead to another arms race and most likely war.  Can we risk that?  Absolutely not!

    I believe Israel is prepared to do anything to try and prevent a nuclear Iran and will initiate hostilities even if the US says it would not allow that.  It is no secret that Israel has a few hundred nukes which allows them to do as they please.  They realize that a nuclear Iran changes that and for that reason I believe Israel will do anything to prevent that.  Mr Bacevich said Israel has a history of daring (and I might add -recklessness) military actions so why would they stop now.      

    The only way I think  to stop Israel from initiating a war with Iran is for our President to say that the US will absolutely not support Israel in any way if it acts first with a pre-emptive military attack on Iran.  Of course Pres. Obama would never dare say this thus severely hindering his chances of re-election in November because of the Congressional and Christian support for the state of Israel.    
     There needs to be a limit of what we allow Israel to do but thus far we have put up no barriers and we must before we are dragged into a world war.  

  • Frank Luke

    I was gratified to hear Mr Bacevich on Bill Moyers’ latest show say he wished that Mr Obama didn’t cave to detractors re saying America was an exceptional Nation.

    I love what’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty monument: ” Liberty Enlightening the World”. Mr Obama’s speech could be America’s Manifesto for the 21st Century, that we are an exceptional nation and recognize and stand among the other nations of the world with respect for all. 

  • Frank Luke

    I was gratified to hear Mr Bacevich on Bill Moyers’ latest show say he wished that Mr Obama didn’t cave to detractors re saying America was an exceptional Nation.
    I love what’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty monument: ” Liberty Enlightening the World”. Mr Obama’s speech could be America’s Manifesto for the 21st Century, that we are an exceptional nation and recognize and stand among the other nations of the world with respect for all. 

  • Rkf0513

    Not “terrible” at all, Erin. You seem to have missed my point entirely. Mr. Bacevich suggested there is something inherently noble  in the suffering and sacrifice service men and women make. That they die for and serve their country even if the reasons they are dying are misguided.  I do not agree.  I do agree that many service men and women are of a caliber far above myself and that they possess virtues I do not. The sacrifices they make may be valuable for themselves, for their families, for their fellow soldiers, but if the reasons they re there are not right, it is not for the country.  That simply does not make sense to me. And I have no idea what Ron Paul and his fundraising have to do with this issue. 

  • Rkf0513

    Thank you for your comment. I know it is conventional wisdom to “respect” their service.        But like the “Support Our Troops” stick-ons one sees everywhere, I don’t know exactly what that means or why it is that we seem to single them out for special respect when many others who also serve this country are not.  As I said in my reply to Erin, I think service men and women are deserving of respect.  Perhaps we disagree on why.  

  • ZZA

    I agree with Bacevich that America has made some serious mistakes, but let’s be clear.  Those mistakes began after WWII with Vietnam and the failure of the American labor movement to hold its political handle.  It further subsided with the corruption of the political system and the dominance by militarists and suppliers of military equipment.  This country has become the Roman Empire, a militaristic corrupt empire which sows the seeds of its own demise.  However, America does have great resilience and has the ability to reinvent itself like no other nation on earth.  The election of Obama was a turning point for the good, and if Obama is allowed to serve a second term, he will be able to begin to steer the ship away from the ice berg.    In order to do this Obama needs to appoint at least one more Supreme Court justice to replace one of the five conservatives on the bench.  The SC will then need to rescind Citizens United and Congress can hopefully put into place election reform and financing.  We also will need single payer healthcare to save the budget.

    On Israel:  Israel will attack Iran despite what America hopes for.  A few billion dollars in foreign aid is not going to change their minds, and America will come to Israel’s defense no matter.  Iran is itching to be attacked as well, as it will distract its population from domestic issues.  Iran will then be stronger and join forces with Iraq.   

  • David F., N.A.

    Bacevich said “…I think, proponents of attacking Iran acknowledge that the result
    wouldn’t be to destroy an Iranian nuclear program, it would be to
    deflect it, to postpone it, to cause it some difficulties. That a year
    later or two years later, the problem would be back again.”

    Too bad he didn’t elaborate on this (or maybe he did, but I missed it).  I agree with this, but maybe for different reasons.  We are headed for a perpetual war with Iran. One with no end in sight,  just like Iraq and Afghanistan.  And, I feel, that these never ending wars are designed to put a strain on our economy (plus make people take sides (you are either with us or against us)).  Look at how our CIA lured Russia into a war with Afghanistan.  This resulted in the collapse of their economy.  And this is virtually the same thing happening to us, only it started about 20 years later.  Could this all be part of George H. W.’s “New World Order” which is now more commonly known as globalization (thanks a lot, Luntz)?

    We are all being played.

  • Anonymous


    Killing is our business,

    and business is good.




  • Terry5135

    Ok, I have to say something to these fantasies. The really serious problem in America today is not the neocons, the militarists, and the wacky wight. Oh, those are serious problems to be sure. But the really serious, deeply rooted problem is the arrogance of the ‘Serious’, the ones who wish to be so sensible and fair and detached.  Coming from a long line of democrats, of family who risked lives for union growth, who were always tuned into the reality of the property party vs the people party, I have to say that the deepest betrayal of America of all has been liberals. These deeply arrogant, oh so humble appearing, fact concerned and non-sentimental liberals who in fact are standing on a ground of American exceptionalism and a desire to have their cake and eat it too more so than anyone else in the country. Friendly Fascism may apply to the ruling classes and the media elites, but on the ground, it’s all those good smiling liberal Germans who have yet to discover what it’s like to have their neighbourhoods turned to rubble.

    This notion that America has the ability to reinvent itself more than any other nation, or at all for that matter, is pure imperialist and exceptionalist fantasy. It’s arrogance writ large and delusion writ larger. America has NEVER reinvented itself, so there is absolutely no basis for such a statement.

    And Obama was NOT a turning point for the good. He was the recipe to shut up a burgeoning anti-war movement that most of us didn’t even know about because the media didn’t cover it. He was the palliative, the sedative, to shut up all those riled up liberals who didn’t like America being a torture nation that had no respect for rights. And this continuing fantasy that, oh me oh my, if he can just get a second term, you’ll see how he turns things around, even though the first term is an unmitigated disaster. Howard Zinn said he would be a dangerous president and he didn’t recognize the half of it. Obama is much worse than Bush could ever be, for the very reason that so many fall for the acting job. His evil is smooth, well packaged, and far more insidious which means it can run unchecked.

    But then, how seriously can I take someone who says that Iran is itching to be attacked. These people are not cartoons. No one wants to be attacked. More specifically, no one wants to be attacked by the reigning super  power. And even empires and super powers are hesitant to welcome attack, for all that it would unleash the dogs of war, because there’s usually some semblance of actually caring for their own people left, until they’re so far gone as the Roman Empire went.

  • Terry5135

    Hear, hear! There was a superb video of a news conference held by a young woman and young man – she was a student activist, he was an Iraq Vet – that used to be on youtube. It was removed for “copyright purposes” (quelle surprise), unfortunately. In any event, he made the case that people should NOT support the troops, because then the soldiers, aware that they didn’t have public support, would start to wonder what the hell was going on and begin that process of awareness that brings change.

    Without soldiers, the elites could not wage war for profit. Anyone who forgets this ought to go back to listen again to Buffy Ste. Marie’s song, Universal Soldier.

  • Zora Renee

    With all of these chicken-hawks itching for a fight I say ok – but let US have a draft first with NO DEFERMENTS – then let’s see how quickly we go to another war?!

  • Zora Renee

     You’re kidding right, “liberals” are the problem?  Not the Shrub that took this nation into the totally unnecessary war in Iraq, along with 2 tax cuts tilted toward the weatlthy – all off of the books?!?  Liberals that were called traitors because they marched against this nonsense.  Liberals because they were all over-eager to deregulate & repeated ad nausuem about those “FREE MARKETS”?  Yeah right, stop drinking the FAUX NOISE kool-aid!

  • Terry5135

    I think maybe you have some trouble reading english, Zora, and are way too used to push button responses to your silly dichotomies.

    Liberals are not traitors because they marched against this nonsense. They’re traitors because they STOPPED marching against this nonsense once their own party was elected, revealing that what initially looked like principles turned out to be no more than partisan side taking.

    You really should try reading what I actually said next time.

  • Unsanitorial

    And raise the draft age to 30.
    They can’t trust anyone over 30, said the SDS.

  • Unsanitorial

    War mobilization is one of the most effective means of social control. As time goes by the extraordinary is normalized in citizen experience. 
    Like Afghanistan we have been “at war” (in a virtual way, by media saturation) for more than a decade.
    It is natural for us to accept the curtailments endemic to a garrison state. Be obedient little Johnny Q. Public or a boogeyman terrorist gonna get you. Don’t be asking the wrong questions of a secretive corporate dominated state. It could hurt your credit score.

  • Unsanitorial

    You have a good point. Even Obama was startled about how far Fascism had advanced. I guess he could resign to avoid the headshot. Maybe I don’t do the man any favor by awarding him my vote. I doubt he could correct much in a second term. He’s a hostage. Your arguments are similar to those of Chris Hedges (Truthdig).
    Did you reach your conclusions independently? 
    It was the Cold War fascism killed unions.
    They never got enough legislative support.

  • Unsanitorial

    Seems like Shrub can’t be brought to justice because his opponents were also his accomplices.

  • Unsanitorial

    It’s painfully nuanced in its import.

  • Unsanitorial

    Contractor profits exceeded expectations.
    The worse things went the more corporate opportunity. That embassy rivals the Great Wall of China in its flagrant wastage.

  • Unsanitorial

    You have to wonder how much smack Petreaus brought home.

  • Unsanitorial

    Terry Gross already covered it on Fresh Air. Fresh Air needs some Febreeze. Terry bough a new pair of shoes. Hubba-hubba-hubba.

  • Unsanitorial

    “Sport the toops” is kowtowing by the fearful. It’s like a pledge of allegiance to hell knows what.

  • Unsanitorial

    Emperor even!

  • Unsanitorial

    China is the factory floor of “Our Oligarchy”. You are intimidated by the shadows on Plato’s Cave.

  • Alaki101

    Outstanding interview! Brave, truthful, informative and educational for all of us who care deeply about the future of our nation. A must watched/discussed viedo clip for all of our young American generations.

  • David F., N.A.

     Yes, and I’ll bet the Middle East media is also using scare tactics to get their people to see America as the boogeyman too.

    Everyone here in America knows that the multinationals have spent a lot of time and money to literally take control of our government, but hardly no one thinks about how the multinationals have literally taken over other governments around the world.

    So when an Ahmadinejad or Putin steals an electing, just like a Bush, we should all wonder what is really going on.

  • Terry5135

    Did I reach my conclusions independently? I don’t know what that means, really. But for the sake of simplicity, I’ll say yes and no. I had some thoughts that I hadn’t run across or wasn’t aware of having had run across in 2009. And then since then, I’m run across a lot of thinking from a lot of people like Hedges. My thinking gelled and expanded like anyone’s, including Hedges or anyone else. 

    It’s not so much Hedges or even Greenwald, but  certainly there were people who were not public personalities who would have influenced me. And me them, certainly. Arthur Silber was ahead of the entire pack on Obama, by a long shot. But I didn’t know him then.

    More importantly, I don’t know how Obama got into people’s heads to such an extent that even if they think things are going far wrong, they still think he’s a victim. Of course, maybe he is, but then, maybe on the other hand he’s a super fascist himself. Millions of Russians didn’t blame Stalin for their plights. Millions loved him and grieved his death.

    Once Simon Johnson pointed out – I think it was to Bill Moyers, actually, IIRC – that people under King Louis XIV never blamed HIM, when they were mistreated by officials, they were certain the King must not know about these things, because certainly the King would never allow it.

    We’re still those people. And we’re also the Roman citizenry, who believed they lived in a republic for 400 years after it had become a dictatorship.

  • Bill Owen

    Or it sounds like a Father who is trying to make sense out of his son’s death — a death that in his heart, he knows was as pointless as if his son had been killed jaywalking.

  • Bill Owen

    “I do agree that many service men and women are of a caliber far above myself and that they possess virtues I do not.” 
    Substitute bus drivers for ”service men and women” and your comment will still make as much sense, which is none, because it is meaningless.

    Until America stops idolizing killers…

  • Bill Owen

    Slave talk, weakling talk.

  • Anonymous

    Bingo!   But that insight does not repair our dependence upon commercial pablum and neutered PBS reportage leading us into a cul de sac.   How big is  the listenership  of DemocracyNow?   One percent of our population.
      The truth shall set you free…. but not all by itself.
      Thank you for confirming my point.

  • joe shoe.

    It was refreshing to hear someone express a more a truthful version of events right here in our beloved United States of America. The Short American History is a book to be read. I only wish I could have taken some ‘problems of democracy and political science classes’ with Andrew Bacevich: he is cool, calm and collected.

  • Amtak601

    We ought to go back to historical tradition, where the king or prince LED his troops into battle, personally slashing the enemy and getting slashed in return.

  • Marty

    I disagree with Bacevich’s description of the Suez Crisis as “cockamamie” at least in relation to Israel. Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping which violated the 1949 Armistice Agreement. At the same time, Egypt closed  the Straits of Tiran to Israel and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba which is an act of war. Additionally, Israel was subject to border raids emanating from Egyptian held Gaza which over the years had resulted in more than a thousand injured. Furthermore, Egypt was receiving generous supplies of modern Russian weaponry including MIG 15 jet fighters. What is “cockamamie” about Israel going on the offensive at that point?
    Bacevich said the Suez attack “didn’t work out too well”.  But Israel achieved most of its objectives. The Straits of Tiran were reopened to Israeli shipping and  the UN inserted troops which stopped the terrorist attacks from Gaza. Not bad. 

  • Robert Rae

    Why can’t W, Cheney, Wolfie, Rice, Dummyfeld, and Perle be held accountable for these two fiascos? Why can’t they be imprisoned or fined for what they have done to this country’s finances and reputation, and for all the deaths they have caused?

    Money is the best way to hurt them, because that’s all these chicken hawks care about. 

    But I won’t hold my breath waiting for a leader of this country to step up and punish those irresponsible enough to bring about two wars. It won’t stop until loose cannons in our so-called leadership know there will be consequences for their cavalier use of the military around the world.

  • Anne Frank

    Israel is Nazi Germany all over again, complete with genocide based on doctrines of racial superiority and wars of aggression against  neighboring countries.  True, a fanatic Nazi could make excuses for the German invasion of Poland and the Nazi Holocaust:  Zionist fanatics make the same excuses for Deir Yassin, the 1967 aggression, and the continuing extermination of the native Palestinian population and confiscation of their property.

  • Anne Frank

    Those “mistakes” began at least with World War I, if not earlier, when Woodrow Wilson wrote of his horror at realizing he had sold the US down the river to an international shadow government.  Read the USA trilogy by John Dos Pasos.

  • Marty


    It’s unfortunate
    that you respond with such vitriol.  In
    doing so, people will see you for what you are rather than hear what you want
    to say. I invite you to join me and others in intelligent and meaningful debate
    instead of empty rhetoric.

    For example, do you
    see any logical pitfalls in what I said about Israel and the Suez Crisis?

    Or we can discuss the
    new topics that you chose as well. For example, you refer to the Six Day War as
    “the 1967 aggression.” Prior to the war, Egypt
    expelled the UN’s peace keeping force, blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba and Nasser
    announced his intention was the destruction of Israel.  The blockade itself is an act of war as it
    was with the Suez Crisis.

    Israel launched a strike against Egypt ending the blockade. Jordan and Syria
    initiated the attacks against Israel.
    How is any of that Israeli aggression?  Though
    won on all fronts, it immediately extended its hand in peace. The Arab Summit
    responded with the infamous 3 no’s: No peace, no recognition of Israel, and no


    We can discuss this
    or your other concerns. But when you describe Israel with terms like Nazi and
    hide behind your nom de guerre of Anne Frank, you will only be preaching to
    your own choir. 

  • Andreboco

    A little help here on understanding the middle east problem…Ann Frank.

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  • Gretchen Robinson

    The religious and political Right call Obama a despot and worse–every day.

  • Gretchen Robinson

    it’s like a chess game with them, only chess takes more intelligence than what militarists do

  • Albany CA

    The answer is, because Obama made a deal to let them off the hook. Either that, or Obama is the biggest lying coward on the face of the earth. Or maybe both. He is the one who refused to allow his Justice Department an independent decision on what to do with those war criminals. Whatever logic he used, I would bet a lot, it had nothing to do with just moving on.

  • Robert Wilkerson

    I don’t want us to understand it, just stay out of it.

  • Jawed Zouari

    Professor Bacevich sticks to the historical facts and shows great honesty and independence in his analysis, qualities that elude American conservatives and pro-Israeli neo-cons. The irony is that conservatives who claim to be more patriotic than thou have caused irreparable harm to the American economy and society, not to mention America’s credibility around the world.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s understand and stay out.

  • Robert John MacDonnell

    I applaud your courage to speak the truth, a truth that the gatekeepers at “Huffington Post” would ensure would never see the light of day.

  • Anonymous

    He can not do anything without people to back him up. If he tried he would be trown out.
    It happends on other levels of politics, the pres is often a front for the real power, as Bush was. Obama is much smarter and playes around alot of powerplay from all sides, it seems