This is not a book that judges the morals and motives of U.S. leaders who stumbled from crisis to catastrophe leaving carnage (mostly for other people) behind. He's asking whatever were they thinking? What they thought they might accomplish? Why the military means employed seemed so utterly incapable of accomplishing much anything except destruction (mostly of other people)? And, so now what?
He's a scathing critic, for example of President Jimmy Carter who he describes as allowing domestic politics to lead him into blundering quagmires in Iran and Afghanistan:
But his real bile is directed toward his own profession, the U.S. military and permanent "national security" establishment. Victory in the Cold War
I appreciated this book. I learned from this book. But throughout I felt (as well as understood even if only incompletely) that far too much was missing. In particular, Bacevich never really integrates the impact of the festering moral wound that was and is Israeli theft of their homeland from Palestinians. That lurks there in the background; this history cannot be written without bringing it to the foreground, despite its adding new layers of complexity.
Bacevich's lumped together region -- his Greater Middle East -- has little texture, few sub-genres, not nearly enough local quirks, and hardly any diverse people in his telling. U.S. readers have access to far more granular and human accounts of what we have wrought. I recommend especially Anthony Shadid's Night Draws Near on Iraq before we facilitated that country's dismemberment and Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan.
But I would recommend this book as well. There are so many vantages from which to condemn the ongoing national war folly ... we need them all.