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An Invitation to Collective Suicide: From ISIS to War World IV


An Invitation to Collective Suicide: From ISIS to War World IV

Andrew Bacevich

Assume that the hawks get their way -- that the United States does whatever it takes militarily to confront and destroy ISIS. Then what?


Americanism, like any religion, keeps the flock well fed (for the most part--except for the needed cannon fodder inducement) and well distracted. It is served to others by the tip of the spear. Oh how wonderful it is to be a`citizen (subject) of Empire.


Bacevich misses a couple gigantic realities.

This is, right now, spiraling way beyond any fantasy of USA against Iraq, or Syria, or ISIS, or even "The West" against Islam. With Russia intervening, whatever scenarios Bacevich is spinning here are far too limited in scope. And from the US policy planning level, this has ALWAYS been about far more than just "defeating Al Qaeda" or "regime change in Syria" etc. Much more to be said, but the limited scope of Bacevich here is astonishing. Surely he knows there are far bigger "games" being played by the boys with the toys.

Much more importantly, the Earth is now the major player, whatever fantastical imaginings militarists might spin. If "we" writ large, humanity, do not find a way to END WAR, and focus all our attention, intelligence, resources, and decades stretching far further into the future than Bacevich scratches, on getting human population, society, economy in harmony with the ecology, this war is going to end much sooner than Bacevich apparently can imagine, in complete dis-integration of not just the war machine or the USA, but the ecology and civilization.


I persevered through this piece in the hope that Bacevich would reach the conclusion that he did. As a counterpoint to Mr. Cohen, the subject of this piece, I submit this letter I'm sending to my local newspaper:

To the Editor:

The New American Century, that utopian dreamland of radical neocons, will probably be remembered historically as the age of the scam, and the era of stupidity. The scam of course is everything that has been done pursuing the war on terror. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran were all identified by the neocons for regime change and takeover before the twin towers fell, and when they did fall the scam became fully operational.

By destroying the existing civil governments and crippling much of the infrastructure in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, US military campaigns have provided the space for radical Islamist armies to flourish. Sadam Hussein and al Qaeda were enemies, and Muammar Gaddafi warned before he was killed that it was actually radical jihadists in Libya that were being supported by western nations. Creating this vast theater of operations for the jihadists was not a miscalculation, but done purposely to create the conditions that now exist.

Part of the opening act of this scam was an immediate tax cut for the wealthy and a vigorous partisan attack on the domestic functions of our civil government, all the while throwing mountains of money at anything remotely connected to the scam war on terror. Before 9/11 the military industrial establishment was angry that the end of the cold war resulted in shrinking their share of taxpayer largesse, and so devised a plan to permanently put them at the head of the tax revenue handout line: never-ending war, otherwise known as mass murder for profit, or by its popular name - the War on Terror.

Whether seen as a miscalculation or purposeful, all but the most willfully blind should now admit that everything that the US government has done in the Mideast since 9/11 has only increased terrorism, conflict, violence, and instability. Those facts are obvious, but others not widely acknowledged should be made equally understood. Saudi Arabia, our close “ally” is at the heart of Islamic extremism and they are also the single largest purchaser of US war material. In fact many of our Persian Gulf “allies” (and arms purchasers) have been aiding and abetting the radical Sunni jihadist armies.

Current terrorists are the bastard children of our permanent war economy, and are now dupes or accomplices as ground troops in our war to conquer and control Syria. If the citizens of this country should wake from our stupor and demand change more terrorist attacks will undoubtedly happen here to remind us that the threat is real. Indeed it is, but those really behind the threat are using radical jihad as cover.

Establishment media is useless. One local TV station now has several regular muckraking features meant to further denigrate civil government, but they will never look in-depth at the trillions of dollars of taxpayer money transferred to political crony war profiteers, much of it for fraudulent or non-existent work and all at highly inflated cost. This will become the era of stupidity if this naked scam is not confronted and stopped.


A few disclaimers. Though the newspaper's 500 word limit is generous, it is hardly enough to wade through every aspect of this scam. Also, I have in the past sent letters explaining strictly on moral, ethical, and humanitarian grounds why our entrenched militarism is so wrong. I thought maybe this time I might convince a few by pointing out the colossal scam being perpetrated.


At what point would the MIC and its Washington vassals be satisfied, call off all the fighting, bring all troops home and surrender to a greatly reduced military budget? Yeah, right. Victory? This is the great lie forever sown by the warrior class to justify the present war, even as they plan ahead to the next war. The goal of war in the warrior mindset is always more war. No better example of this principle exists than American history.


$600 billion DOD annual budget. That, pretty much, describes the motivation for perpetual conflict. The MIC enjoys the spoils of war while the rest of us duck and cover.


Reading this thing is like a long walk through a noisy mental hospital. So much talk of war strategy without once asking the critical questions of who the supposed "enemy" is and why they fight us. Cohen's mindset assures perpetual war, with its assumption that anyone with a different culture or set of values is a threat, and the way to deal with any such threat is The Final Solution--genocide. So the Vietnam War was fought "to allow South Vietnam to survive"? No, it was fought 1) to keep the flow of money into the MIC and 2) to avert the threat that a country would do well under a non-capitalist government. The pretense of concern about atrocities under communist governments, like the similar worries on Cohen's part about the loss of rights under sharia law, is belied by the fact that those most supportive of the War on Terror, or World War IV, or the Modern Crusades, are also those interested in installing a very similar Christian theocracy here.


I haven't finished the article, but what's so blatantly clear to me is why there is so much emphasis on sports in U.S. culture, and the role played by sports announcers. THAT is the narrative that Mr. Bacevich follows. The main emphasis being which team did what and who won or lost. It's all conditioning so that any broader narratives are... how shall I say it, "entirely off the field."


Dear Mr. PK -
Actual US military spending is more on the order of $ 1.4 trillion per year. There is some really dishonest accounting going on.


I think Andrew Bacevich gives Mr. Cohen far too much credit. He is a useful nut serving those who benefit from the business of war. Smedley Butler still makes the most sense. war is a racket.


I so appreciate the intellectual firepower, analysis, and pragmatic insight Bacevich always brings to any debate. However, I will offer the rare (for me) criticism of his writing here: He tells us what is wrong with Kristol's and Cohen's prescriptions, but offers none of his own. What would he have us do? How would he suggest we protect western civilization from the evils of Islamist extremism? Or any extremism, for that matter?


The truth if the matter is this not a stumbling in to a world war nor is it a war on Islam or the nations of the Middle East.

The United States of America and NATO allied states are doing all they can to provoke a China and Russia into a war.

They will continue to assert "Russian aggression" as they do so.

Russia and the West have had conflicting narratives of what happens in Syria and the Middle East and what happens in the Ukraine. If one looks at the evidence , Russian pronouncements on the same have generally been verified as factual while those of the West are lies and distortions.

A Russian newspaper recently printed an article claiming a US AWACS plane in the air near where the Russian plane shot down and claims they provided data to the Turkish aircraft on the Russian flight patterns, whether it was using its passive defenses (used when expecting enemy aircraft) and in fact selected which plane was to be shot down.

Now obviously the US would deny this and parrot the Turkish claims that it self defense and Turkey did not even know the nationality of the aircraft but whose claims have been more reliable?

Even as Russia shows images of trucks carrying oil into Turkey from Syria and Iraq the USA claims Turkey a solid ally in the war on ISIS


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"The truth if the matter is this not a stumbling in to a world war nor is it a war on Islam or the nations of the Middle East. The United States of America and NATO allied states are doing all they can to provoke a China and Russia into a war. They will continue to assert "Russian aggression" as they do so."

Ding Ding Ding! New American Century! Full Spectrum Dominance! US Space Command! Vision 2020! These effing documents are available for anyone to read.


Only once Russia defeated the Nazis did the Allies send their forces in. Then they claimed victory and they still do.
Putin's Russia is defeating the enemy and now the 'Allies' want to march in and claim victory.
England has sent their air force in and their citizens will applaud the fraud as their leaders claim victory. .
The West's collective behaviour can only be described as indicative of a mentally retarded population. .


There is a curious phenomenon occurring here. By the time you have finished this article, you end up being almost persuaded that endless war is the logical intellectual perception hard boiled that that is. Only at the very end does the author break away from explaining the necessities of continuing an endless (generational) war to mention that maybe somebody should look into an alternative even if only as an exercise.

The language used is effectively war apologetics. We shouldn't want to but when we do we should go all out and not expect to end it for decades?

Why is this article even on CD or Tom Dispatch? Would that the author wrote that we couldn't logically sustain a continuing big scale war (forget the conceit/deceit of debating what number it is) as it would bankrupt us as well as corrupt us. Who says the USA has to be the world's policeman? Where is this presented as a given and the minutia of war described as if it were already decided that we take on this burden?

I have another plan. We get off our fossil fuel addiction and the middle east becomes just so much desert and not the tombs of hundreds of thousands!

We spend that 1.7 trillion shifting from fossil fuel which leaves no incentive to die for Mideast oil.

How about that? How about not explaining in such reasonable terms the decades of death and misery when ultimately it wouldn't be necessary given climate change.

The author talks of generational war...decades of blood for oil when long before then we need to have gotten off oil all together.


Yes. I sometimes think 'American' journalists write (count) words for money. They do not care about the article. Then I read an article like this and drop the sometimes.
'American' depravity is proven by what you have written. It exposes Obama as a baboon and the entire leadership of 'America' as his fractious, self obsessed troop. For this reason very few 'Americans' will read and even fewer will understand what you write so perceptively here. If 'America' had an adult human population POTUS would long be stashed in the trash with his fractious competitors. He and they are still there posing as rulers.
Its hysterical.
It boils down to Individualism; the 'American' way.


I feel you've misinterpreted the article, Wereflea. I totally get where you're coming from, but I think what Mr. Bacevich is doing, in a very academic, longwinded fashion, is explain exactly how completely and utterly absurd and untenable it is for us to take the approach of total war on ISIS. That is what he is trying to get at, in so many words. He's basically said it will cost trillions of dollars, cut out all of our social spending programs, increase taxation on the majority of the population (not the richest of the rich, of course, they're too important for little things like taxes), and submerge us in a military police-state chained by constant surveillance and a significant loss in civil liberties. He's saying it would destroy our nation's soul.

So, by all means criticize him by taking too long to get to the point, or not phrasing his thesis better. But read it again and tell me if he's really arguing that we should, or need to, get involved in endless war. In my view he's trying to say just the opposite.


I agree with you at least technically. He does make the points you raise and I got it the first time. However I asked the readers what they came away with after reading this article concerning the need for war or extended war.

To my mind he spent far more effort explaining war than he does explaining peace. To say we could easily afford 1.7 trillion but adds as an afterthought would we want to is what I take issue with. Consider the balance between the detailed exposition of war including the frequent repetition that it requires a multi generational commitment, that drives home the context that it is inescapable, that only the USA is able to mount the effort and then add a short paragraph saying that we could be changed by it is ridiculous.

For me I came away from this feeling like it was about the reasons for involvement and expansion along with detailed bill of particulars for why it will have to take us generations of effort by the USA to resolve the conflict and then say that there should be other ideas (not detailed) and the potential for discussion about peace at the end of the piece (not detailed either) is bizarre.

A piece mostly explaining the need for extended war and the reasons how we could and why we should does not get to be a piece explaining the need for peace and the reasons how we could and should come to peace in the middle east.

This piece explained the need for an endless war which would be better placed in a war college oriented publication. Yes the prof is relating Cohen's views but why to us?

In effect saying "I am all for peace but let me explain why we need war".

That is what I objected to... the detailed explanation of the need for endless war in the middle east by us.


I think that you may have missed the point - so far the USA has toppled the secular governments of the middle east, not the ones supporting and exporting extremists. In doing so, it has created the ground for the extremists to grow on.

What should you do? I would suggest disbanding the CIA and all other secret government agencies that undermine and disrupt governments around the world. Stop selling arms - especially to the middle east, and other hot spots. I think that the biggest danger to western civilization (other than climate change, which may pre-empt all others) is the militarism of the USA, not the islamic extremists, who would not be a threat at all if the USA had not armed them!