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Bacevich at Progressive Historians

Jeremy Young, primus inter pares of Progressive Historians , had breakfast with noted military writer, Iraq war critic and professor, Colonel Andrew Bacevich and has a a review of Bacevich’s lecture at Indiana University:

Generally, one doesn’t think of columnists as being engaging speakers, so I was pleasantly surprised when Bacevich proved the exception to the rule. He held forth for about forty-five minutes before a crowd of about 200 people, packed into a room that seated about 75. Bacevich’s main argument was that in the aftermath of 9/11, the administration had developed what he termed the “freedom agenda,” which rested on three assumptions: that American military power was invincible, that the greater Middle East was ripe for transformation, and that it was possible for Americans to instill democracy in the region at a minimal cost. Subsequent events, of course, have proved all three of these assumptions wrong. Today, Bacevich argued, America’s military and foreign policy strategy has failed — and worse, the Bush Administration has no comprehensive, moral strategy to replace it.

….I asked Bacevich what he thought our future defense spending priorities should be. His response was that we should focus on beefing up our navy, and secondarily on maintaining our air superiority, while cutting budgets for the army and marines. For those of you who read this blog, that’s suggesting a combined 2GW/3GW force to meet a 4GW threat — a clear no-no in strategic theory. When one of my fellow grad students pressed Bacevich on the navy question, he admitted to being a Mahanian and said we needed a strong navy to deter pirates!

Read the rest here.

Bacevich has a sense of humor. Multibillion dollar platforms to take out jerry-rigged Somali and Indonesian gunboats manned by illiterate tribesmen?

3 Responses to “Bacevich at Progressive Historians”

  1. Dan tdaxp Says:

    What’s odd is that an anti-piracy focus for the NAVY is essentially water-based COIN, which is the opposite of a carrier-based force.

  2. Moon Says:

    Being a Former Naval Person, I’ll admit being afflicted with Mahancy myself.  I truly believe that piracy and guerre de course are underappreciated threats to global commerce.  "Conventional" piracy isn’t too much trouble, it’s maritime chokepoint vulnerability that makes me quiver (thinking here of Hormuz and Malacca).  Supertankers and container ships are significantly juicier targets than were the merchants underway the last time there was an oceanic guerre de course (the Second War, of course, both Atlantic against us and Pacific by us).  Every week that goes by, I am taken that al-Qaeda has not yet opened a maritime front, Hormuz and Malacca both being roughly within their region of influence.  Perhaps they are preparing something spectacular and simultaneous, requiring years of planning and rehearsal?  Certainly the USS Cole was just a proof of concept, a teaser of what’s to come, eh?
    I’m having trouble fitting blue and brown water commerce protection into the xGW framework, perhaps I need to tinker on it some more.  If Bacevich is suggesting clipping *back* the Marines, isn’t he tacitly suggesting a turn *away from*, not to, 3GW, "…From The Sea", OMFTS and all that?  Again, I don’t think protecting friendly seaborne commerce or denying enemy seaborne commerce dovetail with xGW taxonomy.  (Standing by to be corrected on this point though.)
    tdaxp, carrier-based airpower can be critical to protecting/escorting friendly seaborne commerce (as well as to attacking/raiding that of the enemy!)  Carriers don’t replace small boys in that mission, but certainly augment and amplify them.  I will admit though that a Nimitz class carrier is overkill for the mission.  (I deployed on CVN-65.)

  3. Eddie Says:

    "Another questioner, an elderly professor of Arabic who’s been teaching at IU for over forty years, movingly lamented that Bacevich hadn’t mentioned the role of American cultural hegemony in failing to understand the underlying motivations of radical Islamists. Bacevich’s reply was surprisingly curt and can best be summed up as: yes, Americans are narrow-minded and parochial; no, we can’t change that, so we should just deal with it."

    How refreshing to hear the realistic truth to an admittedly silly question anyway.

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