…so I’m reading all the books that TG bought me from my Amazon Wish List, and this morning I picked up Andrew Bacevich’s ‘The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.’ I just finished Niebuhr’s ‘The Irony of American History‘ which Bacevich wrote the preface to, and had finished that book mulling over the notion that Bacevich had flatly misread Niebuhr, and that Niebuhr’s book was more in the spirit of Ellul than of Chomsky.
So, anyway, I pick up Bacevich’s own book, and the opening words are:
War Without Exits
For the United States, the passing of the Cold War yielded neither a “peace dividend,” nor anything remotely resembling peace.
And it was like getting slapped. WHAT THE F***?? How can someone make the claim that there was no peace dividend – we’ll talk later about whether there was peace – in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism as a strategic enemy? Did he ever look at the Clinton budgets?
Here’s a handy graph, based on data from Truth and Politics.org (I have superficially checked their numbers and they seem right).
Note that it shows that the percentage of US Gross Domestic Product spent on defense declined from 6.1% in 1983 to 3.0% in 1999-2001. That’s 3.1% of GDP that was freed up from the Reagan peak; from the fall of the wall in 1989, the decline is only 2.6%. To put that in perspective, the entire health sector today comprises about 17% of GDP – so we’re talking about a savings in defense spending of almost 20% of the entire healthcare budget.
Now I know it’s strong to accuse someone of lying. But I don’t know how else to interpret such a willful misstating of elementary fact in support of one’s argument. And while I’ll go on and finish the book, I have to say that I don’t understand how every critic in America didn’t confront Bacevich with the same question.