What do you feel when at sporting events or other public gatherings crowds join in a call to “support the troops?” If you’re like me, I always have some misgivings. On the simplest level, the gesture seems pretty meaningless. What am I or anyone else in that crowd actually doing to support the troops? And when they add some clichéd phrases about fighting for our freedoms, a voice in my head always asks, “Yeah, how? Where?” In Iraq, Afghanistan, operating a drone that’s flying over Pakistan or Yemen?
Today’s guest ANDREW BACEVICH has thought long and hard about such things, and has written a series of fairly short, very readable books that pursue questions that too many ignore or pretend don’t matter.
The United States has been “at war” for more than a decade. Yet as war has become normalized, a gap has widened between America’s soldiers and the society in whose name they fight. For ordinary citizens, as former secretary of defense Robert Gates has acknowledged, armed conflict has become an “abstraction” and military service “something for other people to do.”
In his latest book, BREACH OF TRUST, Bacevich takes stock of the separation between Americans and their military, tracing its origins to the Vietnam era and exploring its implications, which include a nation with an appetite for war waged at enormous expense by a volunteer army and a huge number of privatecontractors unable to achieve victory.