For insights into the current military and political policy that keeps the United States in the quagmire of Iraq and Afghanistan, may I recommend Andrew J. Bacevich's concise and timely Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (2013).
Bacevich is a retired Army colonel who served in both the Vietnam and Gulf Wars and is now a history professor at Boston University. He convincingly maintains that the severed relationship between the civilians and the military has led to endless conflict, wasteful spending and ineffective global policy.
He reminds us that no amount of “Support for the Troops” corporate-led cheering makes up for the fact that during “wartime” the civilian population sacrifices nothing (no draft, no rationing, no additional taxes). In other words, one percent of the population does the fighting for the other 99%.
Bacevich traces the current situation back to the Vietnam War and the formation of the All-Volunteer Army, which replaced civilian draftees. ( Military discipline in Southeast Asia had disintegrated to the point that the Army had become an ineffective fighting force.). He maintains that a populace with “skin in the game” is an important part of checks and balances needed for the military.
Referencing hundreds of articles and reports, Bacevich synthesizes the military mindset over the past 50 years—the love of technology, the replacement of the godless Soviet Union with the demonization of Islamic nations and the policy of starting a war to prevent a war—and reminds us as civilians, we are culpable as well:
With his affinity for missile-firing dromes, President Obama established targeted assassination as the very centerpiece of U.S. National security policy. With his predilection for commandos, he expanded the size and mandate of U.S. Special Operations Command, which under Obama maintained an active prescence in some 120 countries...
In the meantime, for the president, the downside of targeted assassination appeared minimal. True, from time to time an errant U.S. Missile might kill the wrong people (to include children) or American commandos might “take out” some bystanders along with Mr. Big. Yet back home, reported incidents of this type elicited a muted response. As far as the American media were concerned, the death of a few nameless Somalis or Pakistanis carried about as much newsworthiness as a minor traffic accident. As a determinant of presidential standing, a U.S. fighter-bomber inadvertently wiping out an Afghan wedding party lagged far behind a slight uptick in unemployment rate.
Breach of Trust is a must primer for those who are willing to examine American military policy and how it reflects our society as a whole.