Bacevich on the Big Questions

Andre Bacevich has a brilliant op-ed in the Boston Globe. I'll quote two paragraphs:

Bush's harshest critics, left liberals as well as traditional conservatives, have repeatedly called attention to this record. That criticism has yet to garner mainstream political traction. Throughout the long primary season, even as various contenders in both parties argued endlessly about Iraq, they seemed oblivious to the more fundamental questions raised by the Bush years: whether global war makes sense as an antidote to terror, whether preventive war works, whether the costs of "global leadership" are sustainable, and whether events in Asia rather than the Middle East just might determine the course of the 21st century.

This is absolutely right. At the moment, we're constructing our political spectrum almost entirely along questions like "what do you think of the surge" which, though important don't really speak to the big theoretical questions in play. You might think that a 16 month timeline for withdrawal is too hasty, but also be fundamentally opposed to preventive war and I'd say that'd be better than having the reverse positions. But we're not really talking about this stuff. More Bacevich:

The burden of identifying and confronting the Bush legacy necessarily falls on Obama. Although for tactical reasons McCain will distance himself from the president's record, he largely subscribes to the principles informing Bush's post-9/11 policies. McCain's determination to stay the course in Iraq expresses his commitment not simply to the ongoing conflict there, but to the ideas that gave rise to that war in the first place. While McCain may differ with the president on certain particulars, his election will affirm the main thrust of Bush's approach to national security.

The challenge facing Obama is clear: he must go beyond merely pointing out the folly of the Iraq war; he must demonstrate that Iraq represents the truest manifestation of an approach to national security that is fundamentally flawed, thereby helping Americans discern the correct lessons of that misbegotten conflict.

Exactly. This is a major theme of Heads in the Sand and I thought all throughout the primary season that Obama was the Democrat most likely to be able to do what's necessary. Thus far he hasn't really, for reasons that are a little bit his fault and to a large extent just the fault of the broader politico-media complex for being frighteningly indifferent to the big-picture questions.

But there are the issues we need to be talking about. There are light-years of difference between the proposition that "circumstances might arise in which we need to deploy military forces to pursue a counterterrorism objective" and "9/11 means we should define our role in the world as a highly militarized quest for coercive world domination." But thus far both the unpopular Bush and the somewhat popular McCain have managed to elide the difference.