I first interviewed Andrew Bacevich, the soldier turned scholar, after he spoke at the Hope Club, an old-line gents’ establishment in Providence, Rhode Island. That evening he outlined a dozen or so “theses,” as he called them in honor of the 95 Luther is said to have nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517. He was in essence reading a rough outline of the manuscript then on his desk. It was a powerful presentation, and we met again in a Boston restaurant to talk shortly thereafter. This was roughly a year ago.
Historians so inclined will have a blast when their turn comes to dissect the Obama administration and its people. I do not mean the old-line “presidential historians,” story-telling hagiographers such as Stephen Ambrose or the insufferable David McCullough. Obama will have to wait a while for somebody of this set to embalm him to take what place he might among our mythologized tenants of the White House.
As of this past week Americans voters have their choices in November—all three of them. I do not see them as nearly as clear or simple as a lot of people might have imagined even a little while ago. The exception is the third of these alternatives, the right to remain silent—a phrase ordinarily used in another context but perfectly correct in this one. This position seems to have just gotten a great deal clearer, if not simpler.
Two remarks a few days apart lead straight to the question posed in this space after last Friday’s tragic events in Paris. Why? Why does the Islamic State wage war? Why does this war now reach into a Western capital? The question is why, the argument being we will get nowhere in resolving a crisis that can no longer be described as the Middle East’s alone until we ask it and attempt answers.
You can look at the Russian economy two ways now and you should. So let’s: It is an important moment in the destruction of something and the construction of something else, and we had better be clear just what in both cases. The world we live in changes shape as we speak.
Am I misjudging our time, or have we entered some accelerated cycle of American subversions, and then another cycle of coverups and disinformation that do not quite come off? In less than a year, the Obama administration has mounted four covert coup operations, all variants of the classic Cold War model, all costly of human life, all assuring us the contempt and animosity of many people for years to come.
The conflict between democracy at home and empire abroad has beset this nation since the Spanish-American War, a brief interlude of imperial display in the spring of 1898. Empire did not win merely the day: It won the century, the one America named after itself.
As of this writing, early Thursday morning, some Syrians are scheduled to pay with their lives for America’s “credibility.” The bombarding of an already war-ravaged country is acknowledged as “symbolic,” intended simply to “send a message.” This is an obscenity as great as the one Washington purports to answer. Another Middle Eastern society will come further unstitched, and those doing the unstitching will have nothing on offer to replace it.