The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril

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THE AMERICAN WAY OF WAR: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril, Eugene Jarecki, Free Press, Glencoe, IL, 336 pages, $26.00.

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The U. S. is under attack argues Eugene Jarecki in The American Way of War, the print version, more or less, of his award-winning 2008 documentary Why We Fight. According to Jarecki, "the republic" is being attacked not by terrorists, People's Liberation Army cyber-warriors, or South American Marxists but, ironically, from within, by the military-industrial juggernaut erected to protect it and the venal politicians elected to lead it.

This argument is hardly new; in fact, Jarecki spends considerable time tracing its genealogy, from the founding fathers forward to such critics as Chalmers Johnson, whom he cites liberally from Sorrows of Empire (2003). A.J. Bacevich (not mentioned here, oddly) made a similar case convincingly in The New American Militarism (2005); and very recently, President Bush's former ambassador for counter-narcotics to Afghanistan, Thomas Schweich, decried the overweening influence of DOD in all aspects of government. "We no longer have a civilian government," Schweich wrote in the Washington Post: "Our Constitution is at risk."

Unfortunately, Jarecki's predecessors have been received like Cassandras. Even supposed liberals have allowed a reflexive militarism to color their worldview, as the congressional rubberstamping of Iraq II demonstrated. The American Way of War is a well-meaning attempt at intervention. However, applauding an attempt is one thing; being persuaded by it another. In general, I found myself "persuaded, but." Jarecki's description of America's seduction into militarism is credible, and his description of "front-loading" and "political engineering," tactics deployed by defense contractors to subvert political stewardship, is as enlightening as it is depressing. A long look at Eisenhower, unlikely coiner of the pejorative "military-industrial complex," gives more than pause, and two other veteran voices, retired colonel Lawrence Wilkerson and Pentagon watchdog Chuck Spinney, add color and ballast to Jarecki's claim that it is working a slow coup d'etat. …