Bacevich points out that this country adopted as universal truths an understanding of its own participation in World War II that was largely false (wars are winnable in some defined sense) and foolish (the U.S. is the bearer of virtue to the world). I find it useful to look at the history of my lifetime as governed by these false paradigms. We are still surprised when our wars don't fit these preconceptions. For example, even those of us who adamantly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq never anticipated that all that military might could not win some kind of "victory" in that unfortunate country. Nor would we have believed that six years later a new administration would for practical purposes be negotiating with the Iraqis about how to get out.
Bacevich denounces the national security state; for the sake of imperial hegemony, we have acquiesced in the imperial presidency.
This volume was published before President Obama's election, but it is easy to see the new guy being slotted into the familiar roles. In this system, Congress exists merely to perpetuate "democratic" theatrics. He writes
The failure of the Democratic Congress elected in 2006 on an antiwar mandate to do anything useful to end the Iraq war proves the point for this author (and for many of us).
But Bacevich doesn't just blame "the national security elites" -- those I usually call "our rulers." He blames the people of the United States for demanding that nothing disturb our accustomed standard of living.
Obviously, Bacevich wrote this before the financial pyramid scheme that underlay it imploded. I'm sure he wasn't surprised. Much of the book is a chronicle of the sheer incompetence that follows from official Washington's detachment from realities, especially in the author's area of professional expertise, the management, care and feeding of the military.
This is a conservative jeremiad, a prophecy of deserved doom, ringing largely true from the left end of the political spectrum as well as from the right. I highly recommend it. Alternatively, listen to or read what Bacevich has to say in an interview with Bill Moyers last August. We're not used to such blunt honesty in our politics, even in the era of "change."