Saturday, October 22, 2011

 

"Washington Rules" & Fulbright

I just finished reading Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Col. Andrew J. Bacevich (US Army, ret.). The 2010 book is Bacevich's contribution to Metropolitan Books' American Empire Project.

The "Washington rules," according to Bacevich, consist of a "credo" and a "trinity" and together they form "the basis for an enduring consensus" that underpins bipartisan American militarism in Washington, DC (15). Bacevich writes: "In the simplest terms, the credo summons the United States--and the United States alone--to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world" (12). The "trinity" represents:
an abiding conviction that the minimum essentials of international peace and order require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism. [emphasis in original] (14)
The Pentagon's annual budget: "lubricates American politics, filling campaign coffers and providing a source of largesse--jobs and contracts--for distribution to constituents" (228). The Washington rules, Bacevich argues:
deliver profit, power and privilege to a long list of beneficiaries: elected and appointed officials, corporate executives and corporate lobbyists, admirals and generals, functionaries staffing the national security apparatus, media personalities and policy intellectuals from universities and research organizations. (228)
To the monetary and political benefits of adherence to the Washington rules, Bacevich adds the "psychic" appeal:
For many, the payoff includes the added, if largely illusory, attraction of occupying a seat within or near what is imagined to be the very cockpit of contemporary history. Before power corrupts it attracts and then seduces. The claims implicit in the American credo and the opportunities inherent in the sacred trinity combine to make the imperial city on the Potomac one of the most captivating, corrupt, and corrupting places on the face of the earth. (228-9)
There are a lot of good reviews of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War online and so I won't spend any more time on the book except to share two quotes from Senator J. William Fulbright that Bacevich includes. The first is from Fulbright's 1966 book, The Arrogance of Power:
[Power] tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations--to make them richer and happier and wiser, to make them, that is, in its own shining image. ... Once imbued with the idea of mission, a great nation easily assumes that it has the means as well as the duty to do God's work. The Lord, after all, would surely not choose you as His agent and then deny you the sword with which to work His will. (111)
From the 1966 book also comes this quote:
'Maybe we are not really cut out for the job of spreading the gospel of democracy,' Fulbright suggested. 'Maybe it would profit us to concentrate on our own democracy instead of trying to inflict our own particular version of it' on others. 'If America has a service to perform in the world,' he continued, 'it is in large part the service of her own example. In our excessive involvement in the affairs of other countries we are not only living off our assets ... we are also denying the world the example of a free society enjoying freedom to the fullest.' (113)

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