Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced By War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 272 pp., $28.
"Today as never before in their history", explains Andrew Bacevich, "Americans are enthralled with military power. The global military supremacy that the United States presently enjoys--and is bent on perpetuating--has become central to our national identity." In other words, the military is no longer a means to an end--namely, safeguarding our physical security--but instead has become an end in itself. Our military prowess defines us as Americans.
While some in the military might welcome the centrality of their chosen profession within the nation's identity, Bacevich--Vietnam veteran, professional soldier and West Point graduate--does not. Instead, as Bacevich warns repeatedly in this book, a failure to reverse American militarism will have dire effects. Ending his opening chapter with a quote from James Madison ("No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare"), Bacevich explains that he seeks "to bring American purposes and American methods--especially with regard to the role of military power--into closer harmony with the nation's founding ideals."
This is a tall order. Bacevich, now a professor of international relations at Boston University, must first convince his readers that Americans have in fact become "enthralled with military power." He must then explain how and why this has occurred. Finally, he must provide an alternative framework for national security. Happily, he succeeds on all counts.