Washington Rules – America’s Path to Permanent War by Andrew J. Bacevich, Metropolitan Books 2010

Ethical Markets Books and Reviews

Review by Alan F Kay, Ethical Markets Advisory Board.

A US Army officer highly regarded in military circles as well as a professor of history and international relations, Andrew J. Bacevich evolved over time — emerging as an honest, intelligent, entrancing and enticing writer and book author.  Chapters in this book come to a close as page-turners, with readers finding themselves attracted to what will surely be even more exciting.

In his early years Bacevich had much to learn.  He grew in competence to handle military requirements that dealt with increasingly complex situations.

Why did America accept America’s path to permanent war under Washington rules, the title of this book?  The wars of WWII brought on enormous, unprecedented losses both in lives and costs, but brought former WWII major enemies of the US, namely Germany and Japan, to settle into post-war peace.  No path to permanent war there.  Why did the US start down that path of permanent war after WWII?  When the Vietnam war ended 35 years ago, no further wars were ever again based on requirements for conscription throughout the US by local draft boards.  But thereafter a far different development occurred: of many mercenaries and other civilians competent for handling overseas functions and recipients of far greater compensation than the troops at war; of far greater services of the needs of high-level quick government trips through otherwise dangerous and confrontational war-zone locations; and, finally, requirements of needed but often incompetent specialists.

After the dubious Vietnam war and its wasted outcome, most Americans believed that the US naturally and sensibly would cut back on warfare substantially.  However the objectives of top military officials turned around and dedicated themselves to achieving the opposite, “full spectrum dominance,” a phrase kept quiet by the military and so almost unknown to the American people.

The US now has military bases virtually in every country in the world and, more costly and amazing, the US now spends more money on its military than all other countries in the world combined.

Even with the elimination of the cost of the draft, the military has achieved an average annual expenditure increase of ten percent, some years much more, and includes even larger amounts that are the result of disinterest or perhaps even inability of certified accountants to account for some enormous expenditures.  How could they disappear without anybody seeing them go?  Military growth arises from the costs of keeping up with the increase of enlistments, training, planning, acquiring and utilizing supplies, research, development, deployment, and the development and acquisition of equipment and weapons costs allotted to the six services: the army, navy, air, marines, coast guard and (not yet fully recognized as a military service) space.  The three major warfare costs of the services are travel, control and killing the enemy.  The services ultimately require much more money than the pro-Pentagon Congress provides.  Their design, development, testing and redesign process often delays completion of preset and accepted dates at the same time that military design and development frequently require a cost per month increase because of unexpected difficulty in making major systems live up to their expectations, even as the completion date itself moves rapidly ahead.