Andrew Bacevich, in his new book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, takes apart the saccharine platitudes of the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus, ideas one is considered “crazy” or a “kook” for challenging, and finds that it is these platitudes themselves that are crazy, ahistorical, without foundation, etc. Bacevich, a contributing editor of The American Conservative, considers why these ideas persist, and why they are foisted on the American public with such vigor. Why should the U.S. still have troops in countries all over the world, where the conflict that brought them there no longer even exists? He asks simple and obvious questions like that, the kind of questions that get conventional thinkers — i.e., the vast bulk of the political and media classes, not to mention a good chunk of the government-school-educated public — reaching for the matches to burn the heretic.
From the book:
Cui bono? Who benefits from the perpetuation of the Washington rules [what I am calling the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus]? The answer to that question helps explain why the national security consensus persists.
The answer, needless to say, is that Washington benefits. The Washington rules deliver profit, power, and privilege to a long list of beneficiaries: elected and appointed officials, corporate executives and corporate lobbyists, admirals and generals, functionaries staffing the national security apparatus, media personalities, and policy intellectuals from universities and research organizations. Each year the Pentagon expends hundreds of billions of dollars to raise and support U.S. military forces. This money lubricates American politics, filling campaign coffers and providing a source of largesse — jobs and contracts — for distribution to constituents. It provides lucrative “second careers” for retired U.S. military officers hired by weapons manufacturers or by consulting firms appropriately known as “Beltway Bandits.” It funds the activities of think tanks that relentlessly advocate for policies guaranteed to fend off challenges to established conventions. “Military-industrial complex” no longer suffices to describe the congeries of interests profiting from and committed to preserving the national security status quo.