About 500 people filled Campbell Hall on Monday night to listen to Andrew Bacevich present a lecture on Iraq: “Managing the consequences of failure.”
Bacevich is a professor on International Relations and History at Boston University. He is the editor of the recently released collection of essays The Long War- A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II and the author of The New American Militarism.
As a historian, graduate of West Point and veteran of the Vietnam War, Bacevich has extended knowledge of world history and the tragedies that continue to reoccur in the world because of poorly made decisions.
The main question we should ask, he says, is not what to do about Iraq, but how to deal with the implications of Iraq. He says that the presidential campaign is going to be focused on the war itself, and not on what we should do in terms of foreign policy.
He stresses that the strategies of the Bush Administration on the Global War of terror are coherent, but widely unrealistic. These strategies are: first, that American power is irresistible; second, that the greatest Middle East is ripe for transformation; and third, that Democracy will triumph around the world and the U.S. will be the leading power.
Unfortunately, he says, America is far too limited in power. The type of power that we believe to be our right hand is military power. We use our highly developed technology to go into Iraq and Afghanistan to fight and these unconventional forms of war exhaust our capacity.
The big problem in American war policy, according to Bacevich, is that we have too much war and not enough warriors.
After World War II, it became a voluntary act for participants to get involved in the military, which made it much more difficult to pick up young people, especially after what they now see going on in the Middle East. Bacevich says that this fight with the Middle East began as a war for Democracy, but has become a process to prevent Democracy from falling apart. Unfortunately, the new president will inherit the same policy and the ongoing war.
Yes, things have gotten a little better in Iraq and the violence against American soldiers and the death of civilians have decreased compared to the past five years, but why has it changed? According to the lecture, the US is paying the Sunnis to not attack the Shiites or the soldiers. It is almost like paying the crips to not attack the bloods; this cannot continue for long.
Bacevich also comments that the new president will inherit the cost of the war, which is approximately $2 billion per week. The value of our currency is simulaneously getting weaker and our oil prices are so high that it has gotten to the peak of $100 per barrel. Unluckily, the US economy is run by oil and our political power relies on the military, but both of these are not sufficient.
So, Bacevich asks, what are some strategies the new president could take? What principles should inform US policy?
He says that first, we should not assume that Islamic radicalism is the most important thing that we should deal with. We should preserve the army instead of wasting it, acknowledge the lesson that the military base is finding, rethink the use of force.
He says that we should look back into what has worked and what hasn’t and stop performing certain actions, not because they are immoral, but because they don’t work. Usually what is immoral goes hand in hand with what does not work.
Secondly, Bacevich stresses that we should align ends with means. We cannot transform the Middle East and we should be realistic about it. â€œLet Islam be Islam,â€ he says. Christianity eventually found it’s way to modernity, and so will Islam, but on their own.
After all the damage has been done and as Islam tries to figure out where they stand, there will be much violence and escape goating, and most likely the escape goat will be the US.
Therefore, Bacevich advises that we should re-invent containment and find new ways to protect ourselves from any impulse coming from the Islamic world.
Finally, he says, we need to exemplify the ideals that we profess. Instead of telling people how to live their lives, we need to repair our own democratic institution.
After several questions were asked by different people from the audience about his opinion on various issues, one of the Global Studies professors asked Bacevich which candidate he will vote for during the elections.
He said Obama, because he is clearly the anti-war candidate. It will be a step towards a new US foreign policy. After this, many people clapped in favor of his opinion and his overall well delivered speech.