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On Seeing America's Whole Wars: A Memo to the Publisher of the New York Times

On Seeing America's Whole Wars: A Memo to the Publisher of the New York Times

Andrew Bacevich

March 20, 2018

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

Congratulations on assuming the reins of this nation’s -- and arguably, the world’s -- most influential publication. It’s the family business, of course, so your appointment to succeed your father doesn’t exactly qualify as a surprise. Even so, the responsibility for guiding the fortunes of a great institution must weigh heavily on you, especially when the media landscape is changing so rapidly and radically.


Excellent article! Professor Bacevich is the “Gold Standard” on this subject. His work deserves much greater dissemination!


That’s it - exactly Andrew !

Any realistic chance this new editor will comply?

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I just put forward the name of Yanis Varoufakis as a hope for the modern world (on Chris Hedge’s thread).

I wonder if Andrew Bacevich is at all amenable to running for office?


What should they call America’s forever war? I have a suggestion:

“America’s Peaceful and Benevolent Endeavor to Bring School Shootings to the Rest of the World.” If that is too long we could try:

“Operation Gun Liberation,” or OGL. Easy to remember.


Good essay Mr. Bacevich, and it provides several very good ways to frame a discussion of our never-ending wars with anybody who might be so engaged.

Just one thing though: maybe you should wait to see if the great white hope is going to throw any punches before you promise to get in his corner. Chances are, he’ll take a dive also. Prepare to be disappointed.

Can you imagine the Times printing this? I can’t. There’s a tried and true Sulzbergian methodology for dealing with troublemakers like Bacevich: utterly ignore them. (God forbid someone should attempt rational discourse about US imperial imperatives.)

I’m a little uncomfortable with the petition or open letter form - when an impression is conveyed that the recipient might heed anything like wisdom. Oh my gosh!

But all Bacevich’s points are pitch-perfect. We’ll call you next time we have an opening for a truth-teller, Andy. Is it alright if I call you Andy-baby?

I bet you really want to call him angel drawers :wink:

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Every American should read this patriot’s essay. Too bad most don’t read. Anyways, fine points, as always. Reminds me of the late and great Chalmers Johnson.


Whatever happened to “winning hearts and minds” notion for ending conflict?
Oh. Love of money and fascist racism currently set the agenda.

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It’s really quite simple and it has nothing to do with any of the prattle put out by the government. The oligarchy, who fund, Congress makes money off of war so the more, the better. They don’t need a real reason, just enough of a reason that the dupes in the US can understand without thinking or reading. Things like “we fight them over there so we don’t have to over here” or “Saddam and Gaddafi were naughty to their people so we have to get rid of them” and in the process kill more of their people than they could ever have hoped to on their own. Why would anyone in the administration or Congress do anything to harm the funding stream that channels money into their campaigns and their own pockets?

Run up the deficit with phony war spending and channel today’s dollars into the pockets of the oligarchy leaving an impossible debt to the future. When the house of dollars collapses, and it’s going to, the oligarchs have already invested the dollars they stole from in the future into something that will weather the economic storm.

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A possible name for the current hostilities could be “Viet Nam v. 2.” So far this version of Viet Nam is more successful than the first, since domestic protest is almost non-existent and the profits are potentially higher (the value of middle eastern oil is greater than that of southeast Asian heroin). Domestic protest ruined the Deep State’s first Viet Nam war due to our government’s tactical and public relations blunders. The major problem was that they tried to draft a citizen army, and the citizens understandably didn’t want to fight. Also, the Deep State tried to drum up popular support for the war by publicizing it, just as they had done in WW 2. That brought the horrors of the war to the TV sets of virtually everyone in America, and Americans didn’t like what they saw. Today, Viet Nam v. 2 is being fought by our professional army, along with lots of mercenaries and proxies, and the complicit, milquetoast media coverage is vague, cleansed, and sparse. Obviously the Deep State learned a lot from the previous Viet Nam, and may finally achieve their goal of endless war.


Great, incisive questions, Mr Bacevich.
If I may be so presumptuous, I’d like to answer them, on the behalf of those who gain from these misadventures.

  1. What exactly should we call the enterprise in which U.S. forces have been engaged all these years?
    An exercise in the futility of planetary suicide.
  2. What is our overall objective in waging that no-name war?
    The war is itself the objective.
  3. By extension, what exactly is the strategy for bringing our no-name war to a successful conclusion?
    Conclusion? Are you crazy? We’re making a fortune, and keeping the rabble down.
  4. Roughly speaking, in what year, decade, or century might this war end?
    End? Whaddya mean, end?
  5. What can we expect the no-name war to cost?
    Everything. And I mean everything.
  6. Finally, what are the implications of saddling future generations with this financial burden?
    Future generations? Dream on. The way we’re running this planet, don’t expect more than a couple of those.

It’s kind of like figuring out what the Democratic Party stands for. As Philip Henslowe in Shakespeare in Love famously observed: “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

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Andrew , your heart is in the right place and I salute you for the thoroughness of your missive to the NYT but aren’t you passing over the key element is all the machinations of the MIC. The " event" which precipitated the chaos which now ensues. Yes, the false flag instigated by our own govt and buried by the same NYT to whom you plead. The murderous military and the torture and the killing and imprisonment of whistleblowers , all of which are ignored by the NYT, should be the focus of your article. We will never get a financial accounting from the MIC. They are in the business of war.Peace doesn’t pay. That is why JFK and JFK, jr are dead and Bush 1 and 2 are still polluting the earth.

Wow. Classic Bacevitch. I suggest we call these unending wars ‘Mine!’ as this term suitably expresses the root reason for them, which is simply the toxic over-expansion of the normal human urge to establish the safety of one’s personal physical and psychical space. This over-expansion of the urge towards ownership of objects, environments, physical and psychic space is best exemplified by the behavior of 3-year-olds, who at their state of mental development, begin to realize that not only are they not the entire world, but that there are other people in the world with their own needs. The child gets instinctively grabby.

At this developmental moment, the job of the parent is to acclimate the child to the notion that collectively, everyone can get their own needs met. But there is that moment when the child fears his needs won’t get met, so he begins to grab everything around him – food, objects, people, air-time – and demand that all these cater to his own private nourishment and security needs. Psychologists of religion call this the internalization of the “scarcity model” way of thinking, wherein there will never be “enough” of something so you’ve got to dominate everyone and everything to “get yours.” Monotheistic religions counter with the theology that if you know God, you’ll always have enough. The secular concept of “sharing” is also a solution here.

There’s a wonderfully informative You-Tube video with 61 Million views of a 3-year-old explaining to his mother why he should be allowed to have all the cupcakes in the house irrespective of any guiding moral justification.

That’s pretty much the current state of American Foreign Policy – the United States is entitled to all the resources on the planet – there aren’t enough for everyone and if you try to grab our cupcakes we will smash you.

The interesting thing about the video is that you can see on the face of the 3-year-old boy that he really doesn’t completely believe that he deserves all the cupcakes – you can see his hesitancy and wondering expectancy about what his mother will say about his proclamation. He wants to see if he can gaslight her with his con, and in so doing injects no small amount of male privilege inculcated in him, likely by his primary male role model. Yet in his quest to garner a justification to procure all the cupcakes for himself, he is completely self-absorbed and 100% devoid of empathy for anyone else’s concerns. In his fear of being deprived of cupcakes, it never occurs to him that there’s no way he could eat all the cupcakes himself.

This false fear of a possible lack of nourishment is what drives all the U.S. Foreign Aggression. Notions of interdependence can terrify people (particularly men) who were socialized early in life to believe that it’s a dog eat dog world and that’s the start and end of everything.