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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bacevich on "How We Became Israel"

In the late-90s I decided to get my Masters in International Relations at Boston University because of the opportunity to study under Andrew Bacevich. At the time Bacevich was relatively unknown in the broader political culture but I had been reading him for years in a number of smaller publications and appreciated his bracing anti-imperialism as well as his middle-America disposition and Catholic sensibilities. It was a wonderful experience to study under him and I eventually had the chance to work as a research assistant for his landmark book American Empire. Bacevich still teaches at Boston University, but he is a visiting professor this year at Notre Dame. One of the undercurrents in his writing and speaking for years has been his ability to compare and contrast American and Israeli defense policies. That unique blend of expertise is on full display in an important article now up at American Conservative. To my knowledge it is Bacevich’s fullest articulation of his view that America is dangerously mimicking Israel’s style of defense strategy. His focus is not on whether or not Israel’s strategy has been good for Israel, nor is it on the effects of the United States’ strong commitment to Israeli security; rather than those things, Bacevich zeros in on the way that American political and military leaders have embraced as our own Israel’s (seemingly) unique stance to the wider world. It is an important article, an urgent one perhaps, and it concludes with this:

The process of aligning U.S. national-security practice with Israeli precedents is now essentially complete. Their habits are ours. Reversing that process would require stores of courage and imagination that may no longer exist in Washington. Given the reigning domestic political climate, those holding or seeking positions of power find it easier—and less risky—to stay the course, vainly nursing the hope that by killing enough “terrorists” peace on terms of our choosing will result. Here too the United States has succumbed to Israeli illusions.

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