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Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  714 ratings  ·  108 reviews
The bestselling author of The Limits of Power critically examines the Washington consensus on national security and why it must change

For the last half century, as administrations have come and gone, the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained unchanged: American security requires the United States (and us alone) to maintain a permanent armed
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Larry Bassett
I am a pacifist. That makes life easy for me. I do not have to decide which wars I support. It also makes me just as powerless as the jerk who thinks the solution to a problem is to bomb the enemy “into the stone age.” My “War is Not the Answer” is meaningless to the vast majority of Congress and probably meaningless to the majority of people in the world.
The era of American statecraft during the era that began with the U.S. entry into World War II and that culminates today with the Long War d
Evil Cat
Washington Rules which have been in place since World War II:

The Credo.

"To lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world." Or, stated another way by Henry Luce, editor of Life magazine in Feb. 1941 "To accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

The Sacred Trinity.

The minimum essentials of international peace and order required the United States to maintain a global military p
Heads up. The war in Iraq has officially ended but The Long War has not. Iraq and Afghanistan are but two fronts in an ever-expanding military campaign.

From page 193: "'Our conflicts tend to be timeless,'" Gen. Sir Rupert Smith wrote in his book The Utility of Force, "'even endless.' Sir Rupert thereby put his finger on one key element of the gradually emerging conventional wisdom in the U.S. military: An officer corps that had once resolved to avoid protracted war at all costs now (post 9/11)
This is rather a companion piece to William Pfaff’s recent book, The Irony of Manifest Destiny, both works providing incisive and devastating critiques of America’s current foreign policy and blindness to more constructive alternatives to our current futile and destructive course. Bacevich’s book is clearer and more lucid but less carefully argued and nuanced in its argument. Both cannot but depress the concerned reader and citizen. Neither leaves one with much cause for optimism or hope for sig ...more
Andrew Bacevich has paid his dues to the flag as a West Point graduate, career army officer and father of a son killed in Iraq. He writes books critical of American foreign policy, in this case a set of "Washington Rules" which dictate the creepy way that we behave around the world which has been consistent since the end of WWII and has been supported by all Presidents from Harry Truman to Barrack Obama.
Here are the Washington Rules:
1. The world must be organized (shaped) or chaos will reign.
Dec 07, 2010 Naeem rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Naeem by: Martin
The main contribution of this book is the continuity that Bacevich shows in US foreign policy from Eisenhower to Obama, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, from Westmorland to Petraeus. The "Washington Rules" are designed to police the world regardless of which party is in power or which president is in the white house. This is what he wants us to see.

Bacevich is a former colonel turned academic. His interpretations of various generals, various policies, and various wars have the ring of an insider's i
A brief history of the national security state since 1945, with a strongly amti-interventionist view.

Briskly written and heartfelt, this book by a retired West Pointer is a non-leftist indictment of armed missionary folly.

An important book.
An expose of the Military Complex that President Eisenhower warned America about. This is a serious book that is well documented and written by a form Colonel of the US Army. It should be required for all high school students.

The book is part history, part political and part economic. I particularly enjoyed the historical section where Bacevich discusses the creation of Strategic Air Command and the CIA. He explains how they grew out the end of World War II and during the cold war to proportions
This is one of the most devastatingly effective critiques of the United States foreign policy and defense strategy that I have ever read. More remarkably still, it's written by a career Army officer, who retired in the early 1990's as a full colonel. Andrew Bacevich is clearly a man with many regrets about the system he worked for much of his career to support.

His doubts began in the early 1990’s when he toured East Germany shortly after the Wall came down. It quickly became clear that this supp
My lengthy review just got axed by the server...

in short: 5 stars for the first and last chapter, which make for fantastic and essential reading for concerned Americans worried that Pres Eisenhower's prophecy has come all too true. In these chapters, Bacevich (retired Army colonel and now prof of international relations) outlines the origins of US foreign policy since WW2, how this policy has been destructive to American values, economies, and international prestige, and what citizens can do to
I don't think I would have selected this book on my own--it arrived as a Christmas present from my in-laws. However, I am glad that I did read it. While I agree with another reviewer that Bacevich does not argue his points as thoroughly as I would have hoped (especially since, as a layperson, I don't have the depth of knowledge to evaluate them), he does outline a clear history as to how we are where we are in terms of our foreign policy and our military interventions. His description of the evo ...more
Mike Hankins
In Washington Rules, former Army Officer Andrew Bacevitch traces the history of the United States from Truman to the present day, arguing that after World War Two, Washington (as in, policy makers and government as a whole) have created a system of "rules" dedicated to American Imperialism. Essentially he argues that America has become militaristic, using force to impose it's will upon the rest of the globe. He vehemently calls for an end to this type of imperialism, wanting desperately for Amer ...more
This is my third Andrew Bacevich foreign policy book and they are all worth reading. In this work he shows the continuity of American foreign policy since the end of WWII through the Obama administration. The presidents change but the posture of America toward the world does not. He explains that our fundamental national credo is America is the savior of the world. We support this credo with the trinity of global military presence (300,000 troops overseas in over 100 countries), global power pro ...more
Jeremy Hickerson
In "Washington Rules" retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich challenges and largely refutes the idea that Presidents of the United States have much effect on our country's use of military force. This is a startling idea and on the face seems false, but he makes a strong case that there is a bipartisan (or maybe non-partisan) consensus in favor of military intervention among the Washington players which is accepted by the American public. Reading Bacevich you come away thinking that even the Cheney ...more
Both historical and polemical, the book focuses on U.S. national security policy, which, no matter the president, has remained fundamentally unchanged since the end of WWII. The book argues that our policy was and is: 1) a worldwide military presence; 2) armed forces configured not for defense but for global power projection; and 3) a tendency for overt or covert interventionism in the affairs of other countries. (The current incursion into Libya is a good example of the policy in practice.)

James Murphy
Bacevich says he grew up only in middle age. At that time in his life, as an Army officer, he began to see that the conventional wisdom about America's military projection might not be entirely true. Apparently this revelation came about by being exposed to the reality of Soviet military preparedness. By seeing how weak they were relative to the U. S. and NATO, he began to think our strength and expenditures toward military development as unnecessary. His argument is that the feverish competitio ...more
I'm in danger of becoming a serious Bacevich acolyte. There are few books I feel everyone needs to read. If you are Christian, sure probably a good idea to read the Holy Bible: King James Version. If you are Mormon, I'd imagine there should exist a certain amount of social pressure to read The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. If you are an atheist, you need to at least be familiar with Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. If you give a crap about our country, this little book, along with Ba ...more
In nineteen-thirty-nine a war broke out that effected the entirety of the human race. America entered this war two years later, in nineteen-forty-one. This war, with it’s world-wide battleground, became known as World War Two. In ‘Washington Rules’ by Andrew Bacevich, America’s global policy is described in a straightforward manner. After WWII, America had just felt a real victory. It had come out as the leading military power of the day, and it sure wanted to stay that way. Bacevich follows th ...more
Matthew Trevithick
I just finished reading Bacevich’s latest book, entitled “Washington Rules: American’s Path to Permanent War.” As always, Bacevich delivers a concise read that is informative and inspiring.

This book opens with Bacevich discussing his own “turning point” in his understanding about America and its involvement with the world in the last 50-60 years. He briefly describes a long walk he took with some fellow soldiers in East Germany after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in the early 1990s. On this wa
Over the past decade, Andrew Bacevich has written and spoken with increasing intensity about a darker side to America's self-proclaimed role as an exemplar of what is good and noble about humananity. He traces our current involvement in "endless war" in the Middle East as part of a continuum of increasingly aggressive policies asserting that U.S. force (primarily military, but also economic and cultural) must be continually augmented, projected and utilized throughout the world, even if it comes ...more
Though it sometimes lacks nuance and occasionally strays into hyperbole or clichés regarding what some might call the "imperial hubris" of the United States, Bacevich's Washington Rules makes the straightforward and compelling case that the American "military-industrial complex," so feared and derided by the libertarian crowd, has been progressively expanding its clout vis-a-vis the civilian authorities since the Second World War, and consequently threatens to swallow up American civic culture. ...more
As someone who identifies with a non-interventionist foreign policy I was initially surprised to find out that Dr. Bacevich was one as well. And quite a forceful one at that.

Having not only read this particular selection but also dissecting and writing specific points for future reference. The point behind this book as well as Bacevich's other books is to shed light on our foreign policy, in particular our foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. He criticizes our need to exercise
This book should be read by every U.S. citizen. In this short extended historical essay cum reflection, Andrew Bacevich traces and assesses America's overreliance on military power from the administration of Woodrow Wilson to the present. He analyzes the folly of national and foreign policies that have led us into the business of confrontation, power projection, and war, time and time again. And he asks the devastating question: Why are we squandering U.S. wealth and future on armed misadventure ...more
What are the Washington Rules?

War can break out at any time. We need to be prepared for that.
We reserve the right to have military establishments all over the world.
We don't have to wait for someone to attack us. We reserve the right to pre-emptively attack anyone if we think they will conflict with our interests.

Somewhere back in the '50's, in the aftermath of World War II, it was determined that the US must stand up to anyone and everyone else in the world, militarily, in making the world safe
Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes

During the Clinton administration, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a statement that sums up everything that is wrong with U.S. foreign policy:

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.
This is an impassioned and informed analysis of the persistence of the fundamental assumptions in the US defense establishment, even in the face of defeats and even the dissolution of the principal threat. He sees these rules as perpetuating a defense establishment, high and wasteful spending, and a propensity to intervene in the affairs of other nations that border on imperial expansionism. The story is very critical, although it rings true with the history of the times. Many of the arguments w ...more
A very good aggressive critique of the foreign policy norms of American politics. Bacevich writes extraordinarily well about how America has evolved from a Republic in which a standing army and navy were anathema to most leaders and the public to a nation that casually tolerates lengthy wars and constant interventions abroad, along with a military budget larger than the rest of the world's. There are holes in his logic--he is so busy arguing that America is on the wrong path that he largely fail ...more
Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner
In the parallel universe in which I am president, Dr. Bacevich would be in my cabinet as my Secretary of Peace and Common Sense Diplomacy. That's right. Because in my parallel universe there would be no more Department of Defense, and I am confident that with the aid of a learned man like Dr. Bacevich at my side I would find success.

This is a concise criticism of the military-industrial complex. As Mr. Bacevich himself says, and I am grossly paraphrasing and doing an injustice to his eloquence,
This book took me by surprise. It gives a straightforward and succinct account of the US National Security Policy and Foreign policy since the second world war.

The Author is compelling and persuasive in making his points. He delivers a fantastic critique of the US's continuance involvement in the affairs of several countries all over the world. He in fact gives great amount of detail on the "Military Industrial Complex" and Bureaucratic Imperialism that have contributed immensely in US's presen
Rishi Garg
While this book offers a brief history of various US spy agencies like the CIA or SAC, in addition to occasional compelling character profiles, Bacevich mostly offered critiques of an aggressive US foreign policy without discussing any alternative frameworks within which to pursue foreign policy. While many of his observations are well-taken, I had hoped for an indication of a better path forward in a book so critical of our current approach.
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Chat with Andrew Bacevich on Sept. 24! 1 6 Sep 13, 2010 11:09AM  
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Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War and The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism and The New American Militarism. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York ...more
More about Andrew J. Bacevich...
The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy The Short American Century: A Postmortem

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“I began to appreciate that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high-whether by presidents, prime ministers, or archbishops-is inherently suspect.” 13 likes
“The folly and hubris of the policy makers who heedlessly thrust the nation into an ill-defined and open-ended 'global war on terror' without the foggiest notion of what victory would look like, how it would be won, and what it might cost approached standards hitherto achieved only by slightly mad German warlords.” 11 likes
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