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  1. #1
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    Default The Andrew Bacevich collection

    I felt this article by Andrew Bacevich from this month's Atlantic Monthly would generate some interest given the debate surrounding LTC Yingling's article.

    From the article:
    In fact, however, empowering groups of soldiers to join in the debate over contentious issues is short-sighted and dangerous. Implicit in the appeal is the suggestion that national-security policies somehow require the consent of those in uniform. Lately, media outlets have reinforced this notion, reporting as newsworthy the results of polls that asked soldiers whether administration plans meet with their approval.

    On matters of policy, those who wear the uniform ought to get a vote, but it’s the same one that every other citizen gets—the one exercised on Election Day. To give them more is to sow confusion about the soldier’s proper role, which centers on service and must preclude partisanship. Legitimating soldiers’ lobbies is likely to warp national-security policy and crack open the door to praetorianism.

    The Appeal for Redress does not pose an immediate threat to the republic. It’s been signed by only a tiny minority of U.S. soldiers, and the movement could simply peter out, becoming little more than a minor historical curiosity, rather than a harbinger of something larger. Yet in either case, it offers further evidence of advancing constitutional decay.
    There's also an interview where Bacevich really fleshes out his thoughts that can be found here.

  2. #2
    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    I am not certain whether the comments made in the article apply to the argument made by Yingling. Whether officers ought to have a special voice in policy making (from the standpoint of them speaking as citizens) is not the same as what they have to say regarding the standards and policies governing generalship in this country.

    For example, it is very much the purview of an officer to question the practice of ignoring peer and subordinate review in such matters as promotion and command screening. That is, the policies created to govern the institution are matters for which they do have a particular and special voice.

    When those policies, furthermore, influence foreign policy decisionmaking, then there is a need for officers to speak up, because they are the only ones who understand the implications of such things. Your average civilian Schmuckatelli doesn't spend much time paying attention to the big picture -- you can be certain that they don't understand much about such intricacies as what goes into such issues as officer promotion generally, and general selection specifically.

    At the end of the day, Yingling's article was about a subject of professional concern, and therefore one about which he is qualified and entitled to comment.

    JSR

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Andrew Bacevich's Son KIA

    Just a note, Andrew Bacevich of Boston University lost his son this past weekend in Balad. Bacevich senior is a graduate of West Point, Vietnam and Gulf War veteran, and critic of the war since 2003.

    My sympathies to the Bacevich family.

    Tom

    More at

    Son of professor opposed to war is killed in Iraq
    By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff | May 15, 2007

    Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich has been a persistent, vocal critic of the Iraq war, calling the conflict a catastrophic failure. This week, the retired Army lieutenant colonel received the grim news that his son had been killed on patrol there.

    First Lieutenant Andrew J. Bacevich , 27, of Walpole, died Sunday in Balad of wounds he suffered after a bomb explosion, the military said yesterday. The soldier, who graduated from BU in 2003 with a degree in communications, is the 56th service member from Massachusetts to be killed in Iraq.

  4. #4
    Council Member sullygoarmy's Avatar
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    Prayers for the family. Sad news to hear.
    "But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet withstanding, go out to meet it."

    -Thucydides

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    Default Sympathy

    My personal sympathy to the Bacevich family.

    John

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Sad News..

    .. for any parent and for our country. Have said several Hail Marys for the Bacevich family and especially for 1st Lt Andrew J. Bacevich. God speed.

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Prayers on the way....
    Example is better than precept.

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    That is indeed very tragic news, as all the other sad news of this huge waste of life in IRAQ.

    We have to face it: No matter how much we will achieve in the next 1-3 years in IRAQ, in the end it will not be worth having toppled Saddam AT THIS PRICE! (And I don't refer to the billions of dollars that we buried there... And if we don't achieve significantly more than within the last 4 years, we transformed IRAQ into something worse than before...)

    And I can't get the point of the Marcus Flavinius Quote in this respect.
    In my opinion it refers to a Imperial Non-democratic Power that suppressed other people and reflects a military that doesn't obey the will of the population. All that doesn't apply to what the US is standing/should stand for.

    BRUZ

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Perhaps, Bruz, the quote means something special to the user. In any case, this isn't the thread to attack sig lines.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BRUZ_LEE View Post
    That is indeed very tragic news, as all the other sad news of this huge waste of life in IRAQ.

    We have to face it: No matter how much we will achieve in the next 1-3 years in IRAQ, in the end it will not be worth having toppled Saddam AT THIS PRICE! (And I don't refer to the billions of dollars that we buried there... And if we don't achieve significantly more than within the last 4 years, we transformed IRAQ into something worse than before...)

    And I can't get the point of the Marcus Flavinius Quote in this respect.
    In my opinion it refers to a Imperial Non-democratic Power that suppressed other people and reflects a military that doesn't obey the will of the population. All that doesn't apply to what the US is standing/should stand for.

    BRUZ
    Show a little class and respect the right of the professor to oppose the war as well as his son's right to fight in the same war for which he paid the ultimate sacrifice. Perhaps you will be better served on Democratic Underground where they would more than happy to enjoy your sadistic flash card talking points. This Council is hallowed ground when it comes to the quick and the dead in uniform as well as for their families. A thread devoted to the death, pain, and suffering of an individual and family members is not your opportunity to get on a soap box. You weren't born in a tent on some commune in Southern California so stop acting like one.

  11. #11
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BRUZ_LEE View Post
    That is indeed very tragic news, as all the other sad news of this huge waste of life in IRAQ.

    We have to face it: No matter how much we will achieve in the next 1-3 years in IRAQ, in the end it will not be worth having toppled Saddam AT THIS PRICE! (And I don't refer to the billions of dollars that we buried there... And if we don't achieve significantly more than within the last 4 years, we transformed IRAQ into something worse than before...)

    And I can't get the point of the Marcus Flavinius Quote in this respect.
    In my opinion it refers to a Imperial Non-democratic Power that suppressed other people and reflects a military that doesn't obey the will of the population. All that doesn't apply to what the US is standing/should stand for.

    BRUZ

    To avoid direct and indirect fire, how about introducing yourself in the introduction thread like you were supposed to in the first place...
    Example is better than precept.

  12. #12
    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    Bacevich was a professor of mine, back when we were both at SAIS. He is probably the best teachers (or least the first among very few equals) I have ever had -- challenging, and willing to be challenged, and utterly engaging in the classroom. Really, phenomenal -- when I think of myself as teaching some day in the future, I imagine that I will channel much of what I learned from him. We've stayed in contact over the last ten or so years since I left.

    I recall exchanging emails with him in the fall, telling him my husband was about to deploy -- he replied that his son was about to as well. We commiserated. I was very curious how he would approach this end of war and deployment, that it would have to be a very strange place for him to be. Just after the SMH conference, I emailed him, all full of piss and vinegar -- I happen to love the annual meeting of the geeks, always have a great time! In the midst of that exchange, however, my husband's unit (a small MTT) took some casualties, a Lt. KIA, the Doc seriously wounded, and a LCpl wounded. It was rather devastating, because the first two were part of the original team of 11. So, at the end of this very upbeat message I had started I had to include this paragraph about what had happened -- it would have been very strange to send the message as originally written. It's always been my academic/scholarly desire to know and understand as much about war and combatants as possible, but after getting caught up in all that attends the reality of such an event, I wrote: "Oh boy, I didn't actually want to know _this_ much." I mention all of this, because his consoling message came back to me the Thursday before his son was killed. Truly surreal.

    I had the chance to travel to Mass. for the wake. It was quite difficult to do the same terrible thing for the second time in three weeks, to stand beside another casket holding so much wasted promise, but it's also the sort of thing you can't _not_ do either. After the first one, I learned how important it is to the grieving family for people to show up. It's truly humbling when such a small gesture as that is met with such gratitude. And, because I had not had a chance to do so at the previous funeral, but had been amazed at their turnout, I took a moment to thank the police officers, who take such care to come out for their "cousins in arms" at these times.

    I'd like to get off the casualty circuit, but I won't get my hopes up.

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    Default I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty.

    27 May Washington Post commentary - I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty. By Andrew J. Bacevich.

    Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.

    Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.

    This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops -- today's civic equivalent of dereliction of duty...

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    At the risk of sounding harsh, domestic opposition to a war DOES assist the enemy. I don't think that should be the issue at hand, however. More appropriately, the issue should be, does assisting the enemy serve a "greater good" of stopping a war we shouldn't be fighting or cannot win at an acceptable price.

    I respected Bacevich a lot more before he threw out the "People shouldn't have the right to oppose my opposition to the war" b.s. that one hears from the Dixie Chicks, Streisand, et al.. In the marketplace of ideas that is a reprehensible tactic that I despise.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Agreed. People have just as much right to oppose his opposition as he does to take the position to begin with. Both forms of expression are protected. His is no better than theirs. This is one thing that many elements in this country (on both sides of the fence) have a great deal of difficulty coming to grips with.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Default Tough call

    Since I saw Colonel/Dr. Bacevich's piece early this morning I debated long and hard about whether to post a response. Any critical response is likely to cause hurt to someone who has lost so much. Nevertheless, he has stepped into the public debate and chosen to use his son's tragic death to support his argument and, therefore it is appropriate to respond.

    First, it is unconscionable to accuse Colonel Bacevich of being responsible for his son's death. But it is also appropriate, as 120 points out, to note that opposition to the war does undercut the troops and their effort. Again, as 120 states, is there a greater good served by this opposition? In this case, I think not, at least, not in the terms that the debate has taken.

    This is not the first US counterinsurgency that Colonel Bacevich has opposed. He was the lead author of the famous (infamous) Four Colonels Report on the US effort to support COIN in El Salvador. In that report, he was wrong both as a military observer and analyst. This was a case where we and our allies got it right yet Bacevich argued that we were doomed to lose. The central argument was that we had sent in our second team, something that turns out to have been totally inaccurate as veterans of the El Sal MILGP built a better track record of promotion and responsible position than any other similar group in the contemporary Army.

    Since leaving the Army Dr. Bacevich has been a professor of International Relations at Boston University. There, he has written on the American Empire - a position that is both highly polemical and questionable in empirical terms. Some of that line of reasoning appears in his Washington Post commentary which comes out sounding very much like Marine Major General Smedley Butler in the 1930s. IMO Dr./COL Bacevich's argument has about the same level of validity. One need only ask how the major oil companies have profited by the war in Iraq.

    In short, while I certainly sympathize with his loss, I am saddened to see the discussion take the form it has.

  17. #17
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    In short, while I certainly sympathize with his loss, I am saddened to see the discussion take the form it has.
    Agreed, John T. I posted earlier when I first heard of the loss, offering appropriate sympathies.

    Best

    Tom

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Agreed. People have just as much right to oppose his opposition as he does to take the position to begin with. Both forms of expression are protected. His is no better than theirs.
    Actually I disagree with this position. It may seem minor.

    "He" has the right to oppose the war.

    "You" have the right to support the war.

    If you oppose his opposition you add nothing to the debate and define your argument by his opposition. This fails to provide discourse and into the vacuum of errant ideas only fallacious logic will fall. The debate will quickly turn to an attack of the person rather than a discussion of the ideas.
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    Great post John T.

    Selil, interesting thought, but I would contend that opposing Dr Bacevich's opposition was meant in terms of being "pro" Iraq War, not necessarily the doctor himself. I do find it interesting that his families story is special, and roughly another 3,398 and are not.

    This begs a further question that was raised regarding supporting the enemy. While commentary and honest discourse do lend aid to the enemy in a very abstract and tangential manner. However, in the U.S. today, the discourse has dropped to an irrational level below polemical tracts and muckraking articles of our history. This does give "aid" to an enemy. Not direct aid, but definately indirect aid. Since most guerilla warfare theory defines insurgency/guerilla warfare as a protracted conflict utilizing guerilla tactics to defeat the political will of a militarily superior enemy, then I would argue that the fact that beyond normal discourse gets mass media exposure, the guerillas/insurgents are aided.

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Actually I disagree with this position. It may seem minor.

    "He" has the right to oppose the war.

    "You" have the right to support the war.

    If you oppose his opposition you add nothing to the debate and define your argument by his opposition. This fails to provide discourse and into the vacuum of errant ideas only fallacious logic will fall. The debate will quickly turn to an attack of the person rather than a discussion of the ideas.
    That is too simplistic to include "my" viewpoint. I oppose the war. But I oppose losing the war, more than I oppose the war. I think that vocal opposition of the war is counterproductive in this case. Therefore I oppose Bacevich's point of view. Bacevich attacks my point of view as illegitimate.

    Frankly, I think my argument is the better one, though it runs counter to what many believe.

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