The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War

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The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War

By Andrew J. Bacevich
Oxford University Press, 2005
288 pp. $28.00
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The faux-Ciceronian toga party so beloved of West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd is a perennial staple of American political discourse. We have lost the sacred wisdom of the Founders, warn generations of American doomsayers, and their virtue has departed with it. Soon, Liberty herself will flee. It is perhaps heartless to begrudge Bacevich the use of a literary form he so clearly enjoys. Still, it is a pity that he does. Lively insights and the elements of a useful and important reading of the recent history of U.S. strategic thought peep through this book's vast, drifty expanses of oratorical bromides like crocuses in a snowbank. Bacevich argues that militaristic thinking wedded to utopianism is turning the United States into a crusader state, threatening liberty at home and promising endless adventures abroad. His account of modern militarism grounds such thinking in the Pentagon's response to defeat in Vietnam, and his fine grasp of the modern history of American strategic thought gives weight to his analysis. Lurking in here, too, is the germ of a less conventional critique: a serious Catholic attack on contemporary evangelical culture, with its easy acceptance of gross materialism and an unthinking patriotism that verges on chauvinism. Unfortunately, with all the toga shaking, these themes never quite get the systematic and thoughtful treatment they deserve; more matter with less art would make a better book.