segunda-feira, setembro 30, 2013

Quatro milênios de literatura de horror

Direto da edição de hoje do Weekly Standard, reduto neocon, mas também atento à cultura high-profile:


The Horror, the Horror

Thirty-eight centuries of supernatural lit.

OCT 7, 2013, VOL. 19, NO. 05 • BY MICHAEL DIRDA
In Unutterable Horror, his deeply knowledgeable, lively, and unabashedly opinionated history of supernatural fiction, S. T. Joshi suggests that a taste for ghost stories and weird tales is far more than a slavering hunger for blood and grue. The most important supernatural fiction doesn’t merely aim to make our flesh creep. Through it, ambitious writers—and their readers—are able to explore the full range of human experience. Like many classical tragedies, these unsettling stories typically introduce a sense of wrongness, followed by growing dread, and gradually build to a moment of supreme crisis and terror. And yet their final effect is often a cathartic sense of pity. There, but for the grace of God, go you or I.
Vincent Price strangling Basil Rathbone in ‘Tales of Terror’ (1962)
Nothing human is alien to supernatural fiction. Transgressive by definition, it ventures into the dark corners within all of us, probing our sexuality, religious beliefs, and family relationships, uncovering shameful yearnings and anxieties, questioning the meaning of life and death, even speculating about the nature of the cosmos. It’s no surprise that almost every canonical writer one can think of has occasionally, or more than occasionally, dabbled in ghostly fiction: Charles Dickens, Henry James, Somerset Maugham, Elizabeth Bowen, John Cheever, even Russell Kirk, to name just a few outstanding examples. The genre’s best stories are, after all, more than divertissements. They are works of art that make us think about who and what we are. 
And, yes, they are also scary. Sometimes really scary. 
In some ways, the first chapters of Unutterable Horror are largely backstory. Joshi mentions ghost stories from antiquity (in Petronius and Pliny), dramatic works like Euripides’ Medea, and such Elizabethan classics as Macbeth and Dr. Faustus. But he begins in earnest with the late 18th century, arguing that only when people had ceased to believe in witches and ghosts and the devil could they begin to play with them as elements of fiction. Still, like most modern readers, Joshi doesn’t think much of the period’s Gothic novels, which run to rationalized endings, verbosity, and an overuse of the same dramatis personae—evil monks, Byronic aristocrats with dark secrets, terrified virgins. Only M. G. Lewis’s exuberantly sexy and flamboyant The Monk (1796), Mary Shelley’s endlessly interpretable Frankenstein (1818), and the long, multi-layered Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Robert Maturin earn the Joshi stamp of approval. 
In the 19th century, Joshi rightly praises James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), a book somewhat reminiscent of, and indeed better than, Robert Louis Stevenson’s more famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). It is, in truth, one of the most disturbing novels ever written and should be far better known. Joshi dutifully points to the European influence of E. T. A. Hoffmann—best known for “The Sandman,” the story upon which Freud built his theory of the uncanny—but judges much of Hoffmann’s work incoherent and lacking “aesthetic rigor.” Instead, our own Edgar Allan Poe takes pride of place, partly for the variety of his revolutionary storytelling and partly for the inspired artistry he brought to it.  
Up to this point, one can make no serious objections to Joshi’s history (though, in my view, he undervalues E. T. A. Hoffmann). However, hackles will rise when Joshi dismisses Sheridan Le Fanu’s fiction (except for “Green Tea”) as inartistic, ineffectual, and long-winded; discovers little merit in the many women writers of Victorian ghost stories; offers faint praise for such moving tales as Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Captain of the ‘Pole-Star’ ”; fails even to mention Vernon Lee’s “Amour Dure” (my own favorite ghost story); and condescends to Dracula (1897) as a second-rate farrago.
Often, Joshi’s negative critiques focus on prolixity, an inattention to (a favorite term) collocation—by this he means the pleasing flow of sentences—and the generally shambolic character of so much 19th-century fiction. But as anyone who has ever looked at a Biedermeier interior or skimmed the menu of a royal banquet knows, the Victorians reveled in excess. A little too much was just enough for them. One needs to adapt to a slower narrative rhythm to appreciate Dickens, Wilkie Collins, or even Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose Zanoni (1842) and A Strange Story (1862)—both well analyzed here—are foundational works of occult fiction.
Obviously, one must grant a critic his aesthetic criteria and allow Joshi to be true to his. Yet should this admirer of (and recognized authority on) Ambrose Bierce and H. L. Mencken be quite so derisive when books and authors fall short of his high standards? The correction of taste shouldn’t preclude charity, or a recognition that commercial entertainments and jeux d’esprit have their place in our lives. Moreover, the most high-minded critical principles can sometimes be too confining—think of F. R. Leavis’s overstrict determination of “the great tradition” in English fiction—such that they seem to shortchange the full range of literary art. If Dracula is such a mishmash, which it certainly is, why do people continue to read it with such fascination and pleasure?
As an outspoken atheist, Joshi also tends to undervalue work by professing Christians. In his view, the best supernatural fiction tends to be written by bold materialists; authors who actually believe in a spiritual realm can only produce bland, anodyne spooks and a “benign supernaturalism.” He even calls Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843a “wretched piece of sentimentalism.” Moreover, Joshi prefers fiction that works out logically, that carries an explicit meaning. Unresolvable ambiguity is an annoyance. Thus he argues, quite cogently, that the ghosts are real in The Turn of the Screw (1898). 
The first volume of Unutterable Horror draws to a close with high praise for a group of Americans: Edith Wharton, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman for their well-made ghost stories; Robert W. Chambers, mainly for his disturbing collection The King in Yellow (1895); and F. Marion Crawford, best known for his nautical classic “The Upper Berth.” 
As may be clear by now, Joshi really shines when he writes about those authors he truly cares about. In the second volume, then, he comes triumphantly into his own, especially in the sections dealing with M. R. James, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, and Algernon Blackwood. If you like supernatural fiction at all, these are likely to be, as they are for Joshi, the titans. James is the master of the antiquarian ghost story (and Le Fanu’s early champion), Arthur Machen and Lord Dunsany wrote exceptionally beautiful prose, and the pantheist Blackwood produced what are, for many, two of the best eerie tales of all time: “The Willows” and “The Wendigo.” 
In general, Joshi is surprisingly sympathetic to the restrained English tradition of ghostly fiction, represented by Walter de la Mare and L. P. Hartley, in particular. He rightly applauds the former’s complex meditation on personal identity, The Return (1910), and the latter’s macabre humor, as in the punning title of the famous story, “A Visitor from Down Under.”
As the world’s leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft, Joshi naturally writes enthusiastically and convincingly about that Poe of the 20th century. He argues that, as with Poe, there may be an occasional floridity in Lovecraft’s stories—a stylistic trait much exaggerated by his critics—but on the whole, they are tightly constructed to achieve maximum emotional effect. To Joshi, Lovecraft is particularly important for his cosmic vision, most strongly delineated in At the Mountains of Madnessand The Shadow Out of Time (both 1936). While he didn’t actually believe in his Old Ones or Cthulhu, Lovecraft employs them as heuristic devices to drive home the fundamental unimportance of self-important humankind. 
In general, Lovecraft’s two best-known contemporaries and fellow contributors to Weird Tales, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard, are treated as less than full-fledged writers of horror fiction. The first is primarily a poetic fantasist, the latter the author of fast-paced adventure stories (his best known creation being, of course, Conan of Cimmeria). To Joshi, Smith stands, first of all, as the world’s finest writer of weird poetry. It almost goes without saying that he has edited Smith’s complete poems, just as he has recently edited those of Smith’s mentor, George Sterling, in three volumes. But then Joshi—who has some 200 books to his credit—is arguably even more important as an editor, textual scholar, and bibliographer than as a critic. 
As he continues his march through the last century’s horror fiction, Joshi does increasingly revert to summary judgment, to the presentation of one plot précis after another, and to occasional snide remarks (Daphne du Maurier’s work “is not entirely to be despised”). Lovecraft’s acolytes—August Derleth, Donald Wandrei, and Robert Bloch, among others—are viewed as largely derivative of the Master, while the many writers of pulp horror (such as the prolific Seabury Quinn and England’s Dennis Wheatley, author of The Devil Rides Out, 1934) are waved away as unworthy of attention. 
In contrast, Joshi lauds the fecundity of the young Ray Bradbury’s imagination, especially in his early stories collected in The October Country (1955), while also noting that his “understanding of the psychology of adolescent boyhood is perhaps unmatched in literature,” as is his “ability to evoke the aching nostalgia of long-lost childhood.” Both of these qualities are brought to the fore in SomethingWicked This Way Comes (1962), “a novel of genuine terror.” 
Joshi also admits the effectiveness, however slick at times, of shockers and contes cruels by the multi-talented Gerald Kersh (no one ever forgets “Men Without Bones”), Roald Dahl, and the various writers for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, chiefly Richard Matheson (author of the last-man-on-earth classic I Am Legend, 1954). In the pages devoted to Shirley Jackson, Joshi displays both his forthrightness and critical acumen in finding The Haunting of Hill House (1959) “a bit diffused and unfocused,” preferring Ramsey Campbell’s 1996 The House on Nazareth Hill as the best of all haunted-house novels. Nonetheless, he aptly sums up Jackson’s virtues:
Her work as a whole is pervaded with an abiding sense of the weirdness that can emerge from the commonest elements of ordinary life. Her penetrating understanding of human character, and especially of human loneliness even in the midst of crowds, and the rapierlike satire that she frequently directed at the bountiful instances of greed, stupidity, smallmindedness, hypocrisy and other lamentably common human foibles render much of her work chillingly terrifying even when nothing overtly bizarre occurs.
As readers will recall, a horror boom swept the 1970s and ’80s, initiated by Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby(1967), William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist (1971), and Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home (1973). (The first two Joshi picks at; the third he pronounces—to borrow his own favorite adjective—an imperishable masterpiece.) Toward Stephen King and his voluminous body of work Joshi is largely unsympathetic: “I do not wish to suggest that King is a total failure on purely aesthetic grounds. He has had some modest successes.” Joshi then names The Running Man (1982) the writer’s best book. Clive Barker he finds undisciplined and overly prolific, except in The Damnation Game (1985), which “stands as one of the finest horror novels of the past 50 years.”
The horror boom faded partly because film usurped print as the preferred medium for Grand Guignol excess. Today, maintains Joshi, Ramsey Campbell is, by a long measure, the greatest living writer of supernatural fiction. I suspect most people, except Stephen King fans, would agree with this judgment. But up until his death in 1981, Robert Aickman claimed that honor. His beautifully composed “strange stories”—“Ringing the Changes,” “Bind Your Hair,” “Into the Wood,” and many others—elude clear-cut interpretation, yet remain profoundly disquieting. 
Two of the finest recent writers of supernatural fiction have regrettably fallen silent: the reclusive Thomas Ligotti and T. E. D. Klein, the former editor of Twilight Zone magazine. But I envy anyone who has yet to discover the elegant work of Reggie Oliver, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Mark Valentine, Laird Barron, Barbara Roden, R. B. Russell, Simon Strantzas, Richard Gavin, Ian Rogers, Jeffrey Ford, Simon Kurt Unsworth, and Glen Hirshberg, among many others. You may have to search for their books, though, most of them having been published by specialty presses such as Tartarus, Ash-Tree, Centipede, Night Shade, PS, Tachyon, Prime, Hippocampus, Swan River, Chizine, and Subterranean.  
All these authors and publishers are well worth your attention.
If you are attracted to supernatural fiction, and ours is an era when the fantastic flourishes in art, literature, and film, then you will want to read Unutterable Horror (although you will need to pardon the unconscionable number of typos in these otherwise handsome volumes). A good general rule, however, is this: Trust Joshi on the books he praises, but look for yourself at those he dismisses or disdains. 
That said, if you can’t quite face an 800-page, two-volume work, you should go back to Lovecraft’s groundbreaking monograph Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927). There are many editions, but the one to get is annotated by Joshi. Of course, if you’ve never read any horror fiction at all, the place to start is still the classic 1944 anthology Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, compiled by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser (later, Cerf Wagner). This should be followed by David G. Hartwell’s The Dark Descent: The Evolution of Horror (1987) and The Weird, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s wide-ranging 2012 compendium of “strange and dark stories.”
Keep a light on.
Michael Dirda is the author, most recently, of Classics for Pleasure and the 2012 Edgar Award-winningOn Conan Doyle.

segunda-feira, setembro 09, 2013

Gandhi em mangá

Por que ninguém pensou nisso antes? Depois do excelente March, sobre o movimento dos direitos civis nos EUA, eis que descubro uma biografia de Gandhi em quadrinhos japoneses. Não é um excelente meio para introduzir as pessoas à vida de grandes figuras históricas?

Andrew Bacevich sobre o problema na Síria (legendas em inglês inclusas)

Andrew Bacevich on Taking Action in Syria | Moyers & Company |

Aqui vai a transcrição:

Bill Moyers
September 6, 2013
Andrew Bacevich on Taking Action in Syria
PHIL DONAHUE: Welcome. I’m Phil Donahue.
Bill Moyers is away this week and I am pleased to be sitting in for him. Our subject is Syria.
What began there two and a half years ago as part of the Arab Spring has turned into an all-out civil war. Now has come the shocking evidence of poison gas attacks. A fatal escalation that has led President Obama to ask Congress to authorize the limited use of military force. And if we take action, where and when does it stop?
Historian and analyst Andrew Bacevich is here asking those questions. A graduate of West Point and Vietnam veteran, he served in the military for 23 years before becoming a professor at Boston University. His books include The Limits of Power and Washington Rules. His latest, Breach of Trust.
Andrew Bacevich, welcome…
ANDREW BACEVICH: Thank you very much.
PHIL DONAHUE: Well, I'm pleased to have this chance to chat with you for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t know who else has more cred than you.
What would a 23-year graduate of West Point offer us now regarding the dilemma in which Obama finds himself, regarding Syria?
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I mean, if I could have five minutes of the president's time, I'd say, "Mr. President, the issue really is not Syria. I mean, you're being told that it's Syria. You're being told you have to do something about Syria, that you have to make a decision about Syria. That somehow your credibility is on the line."
But I'd say, "Mr. President, that's not true. The issue really here is whether or not an effort over the course of several decades, dating back to the promulgation of the Carter Doctrine in 1980, an effort that extends over several decades to employ American power, military power, overt, covert military power exercise through proxies, an effort to use military power to somehow stabilize or fix or liberate or transform the greater Middle East hasn't worked.
“And if you think back to 1980, and just sort of tick off the number of military enterprises that we have been engaged in that part of the world, large and small, you know, Beirut, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and on and on, and ask yourself, 'What have we got done? What have we achieved? Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more Democratic? Are we enhancing America's standing in the eyes of the people of the Islamic world?'
"The answers are, 'No, no, and no.' So why, Mr. President, do you think that initiating yet another war, 'cause if we bomb Syria, it's a war, why do you think that initiating yet another war in this protracted enterprise is going to produce a different outcome? Wouldn't it be perhaps wise to ask ourselves if this militarized approach to the region maybe is a fool’s errand.
"Maybe it's fundamentally misguided. Maybe the questions are not tactical and operational, but strategic and political." You know, I have to say, I'm just struck by the fact that Secretary of State Kerry has become the leading proponent for war. It's our secretary of state's job apparently--
PHIL DONAHUE: He threw his medal-- he threw his medals back.
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, that's why it's doubly ironic. 'Cause the Secretary of State is the war promoter. And that our secretary of state happens to be a guy who came into politics basically advertising himself as the guy who because of his--
PHIL DONAHUE: Understands war?
ANDREW BACEVICH: --Vietnam experiences, understands war, understands the lessons of Vietnam, and is therefore going to prevent us from doing dumb things. On the contrary, he's the lead cheerleader to go through another dumb thing.
PHIL DONAHUE: President Obama would say to you, "These are children being grossly and painfully killed."
PHIL DONAHUE: "How can you watch these videos with the foam coming out of the nostrils. And we've got to do something."
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, the attack is a heinous act. Now does the fact that they were killed with chemicals make it more heinous than if they were killed with conventional ammunitions? I'm not persuaded.
I mean, I think the issue, one of the issues here, to the extent that moral considerations drive US policy, and I would say as a practical matter they don't, but let's pretend that they do to the extent that moral considerations drive US policy, there's a couple of questions to ask. One would be, "Why here and not someplace else?"
I mean, just weeks earlier, the Egyptian Army killed many hundreds of innocent Egyptians. And we sort of shook our finger at Egypt a little bit, but didn't do anything. So why act in Syria? Why not act in Egypt? I think that that needs to be sort of, that needs to be clarified.
And the other question will be, "Well, if our concerns are humanitarian, why is waging war the best means to advance a humanitarian agenda?" If indeed US policy is informed by concern for the people of Syria, let's just pretend that's the case even though I don't think it is. If it's informed by concern for the people of Syria, why is peppering Damascus with cruise missiles the best way to demonstrate that concern?
I mean, a little bit of creative statesmanship it seems to me might say that there are other things we could do that would actually benefit the people of Syria, who are suffering greatly, who are fleeing their country in the hundreds of thousands. Who are living in wretched refugee camps. Why don't we do something about that? Why wouldn't that be a better thing to do from a moral perspective than bombing Damascus?
PHIL DONAHUE: How do we explain media's submission to these warlike -- let me just give you one -- Nicholas Kristof, of the Times: "Since President Obama established a 'red line' about chemical weapons use, his credibility has been at stake: he can't just whimper and back down." Whimper. I mean, who wants a whimperer for president? And there's an awful lot of macho in this. And by the way, why can't the president just say, "Hey, I really shouldn't have said 'red line.' That was a mistake, it was a moment, I'm a human, sue me, I'm rectifying that now and I'm going to take a more--"
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think, one point there is that in many respects, this crisis is being driven by domestic politics. I think the president did make a mistake in drawing that red line. I suspect the president actually understands he made a mistake.
And then when Assad called its bluff, as it were, the president finds him in a … the president finds himself in the position where yes, he's got to do something to restore his credibility. Well, when you think about it's not going to restore any credibility. I mean, when you think about it, is credibility worth going to war for?
When you think about it, if indeed American credibility in that part of the world is kind of low right now, is it because the president drew a red line and didn't act? Or could it be because of the folly of American wars in places like Iraq? I mean, will bombing Syria make the memory of Iraq go away?
Well, the memory of Iraq has already gone away in the eye-- in-- for most Americans. But is it going to cause people in the Arab world or the broader Islamic world to forget Iraq and all the chaos that we created? I mean, I'm struck by the fact that we're having this sort of national hoop-dee-doo about Syria on the front page of the paper. If you turn back to page five or page seven, you'll get the latest dispatch out of Baghdad. "Bombs going off in Baghdad, killing 65." Is there any relevance to that continuing story coming out of Iraq to the prospect of Syria? Seems to me there ought to be. I mean, the last time we persuaded ourselves that we needed to act in Iraq, we produced a disaster.
Now some number of Americans paid for that disaster in terms of soldiers killed, lives shattered. Far, far greater numbers of Iraqis paid for that disaster and are still paying for that disaster. So the conversation about Syria is far too narrow. It needs to be expanded to include some of these other military misadventures that we have undertaken.
And I think it needs to be expanded to include fraudulent relationship between the American military and American society. Which allows our political leaders to go off on these wild goose chases while the American people basically stand by mute.
PHIL DONAHUE: One of the conservative talking heads in the shout shows on cable said that going to, "If Obama goes to Congress, he will show weakness. I mean, it's only in the Constitution. He will show weakness if he obeys the Constitution. Everything is turned upside-down here now.
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think if there's one iota of good news here, I think it is that he's gone to the Congress. Now the president didn't go to the Congress because he realized that he's a constitutional lawyer and suddenly was becoming a strict constructionist.
He went to the Congress because he was sitting out there on this limb all by himself, even without the Brits, and decided that it was a lonely place to be, that he wanted to see if he could induce the Congress to come out and join him. But that said, whether he intends it or not, he is setting a precedent, a precedent that says that maybe when we do attack some country, the Congress ought to be consulted.
And what, and the significant of that I think is three, four, five years from now, when Obama's successor has some great idea that he wants to go bomb somebody or invade somebody, I hope there will be some questions asked that will say, "Hey, wait a second, Mr. President. Back in 2013, before Obama acted, he thought he needed to ask the Congress. Why doesn't that apply to you?" So I think that's the one little bit of good news out of this—
PHIL DONAHUE: Yeah, except Obama made the point emphatically that I don't need your approval. I can go alone anyway--
ANDREW BACEVICH: He did. He did.
PHIL DONAHUE: We are the only country with the capacity to do what we're about to do in Syria. Do you believe that?
ANDREW BACEVICH: There's no question that in terms of the capability to project power, to put ordinance on targets, to mask military power in every dimension, at land, sea, air, cyberspace, our capabilities are beyond anybody's capability to match. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily yield wise policy. It doesn't even yield military victory.
Again, when you think back on the actual history, the military history of the United States in the Middle East over the past several decades, victory has been exceedingly hard to come by. We're always stronger by many measures than the adversary. But somehow or other, being strong doesn't translate into political objectives being achieved quickly or economically.
What actually happens is that the projection of American power leads to unexpected complications. And gets us more deeply imbedded in a set of circumstances that we can't handle. There are enormously deep and powerful forces of change that are, have come to the surface and are transforming that part of the world.
We have claimed, presidents have claimed, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now this president, have claimed that we possess the capacity to somehow direct or control these processes of change. Even though the truth is, we don't have that capacity. The truth is, we are largely irrelevant to what's going on in that part of the world. But if we reach out and, you know, use our military powers to drop some missiles here and there, we can sustain the illusion that we have some kind of relevance. But we don't. PHIL DONAHUE: In your book, your commentary about a loss of the citizen's army is especially germane to what's happening now with Syria. It's easier now to go to war is one of the points you make. And as now we think about Syria, how do those two come together?
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I’d back up from Syria a little bit. And I think I'd want to tell a story that begins really back at the end of the Vietnam War. A war that divided the country, a war that in many respects shattered the United States military. And part of the response to that war was that the American people decided to jettison the longstanding tradition of the citizen soldier.
Richard Nixon endorsed that when he ended the draft and declared the creation of an all-volunteer force. And for some considerable period of time, this seemed like a smart move, a good thing for the country. It let citizens off the hook, also gave us highly capable and well-trained and well-disciplined soldiers. What only became evident after the Cold War ended, however was that this new professional army really was no longer America's army. It was Washington's army. And Washington began to--
PHIL DONAHUE: As in Washington DC?
ANDREW BACEVICH: As in Washington DC. And Washington began to do with that army whatever they wanted, regardless of whether the people had signed up to the enterprise. And this greater pension for war I think really reached its zenith after 9/11 with President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, as so many people have said, a country totally uninvolved in 9/11.
And this was the ultimately testing time for this great, professional army of ours. And I'm sorry to say it failed the test. We were supposed to win quickly, economically, easily. We didn't win. And instead, we ended up with a protracted war. Part of a series of post 9/11 wars where -- bringing us to where we are today where Syria may well be yet another one of these wars waged by Washington with its army while the people are left sitting on the sidelines.
PHIL DONAHUE: And making no real sacrifice – was it one percent of our citizens?
ANDREW BACEVICH: Yeah, it's interesting. You know, sort of the inverse of the complaint of the Occupy Movement. You know, the Occupy Movement said there's the one percent of the rich people who are screwing the 99 percent. And when it comes to basic military policy, we have the 99 percent screwing the one percent. It's the one percent who gets sent off to fight these endless wars.
PHIL DONAHUE: So it's going to be easier then to have another one and another one. We haven't even, it seems to me, we haven't even looked at ourselves regarding the wars that we've had.
ANDREW BACEVICH: That's one of the most troubling aspects of this whole thing. It staggers me that the American people have so quickly put the Iraq War in the rearview mirror. Indeed, won't even look in the rearview mirror.
Because if they did, they could see in the rearview mirror the smoking ruin that we left behind. Instead, there is this preoccupation to deal with the next crisis, which as we speak, is Syria. Six months from now, it'll probably be something else.
PHIL DONAHUE: I imagine that so few people sacrifice, for example, in the Iraq War. In your book, in one line, you take the breath away by revealing that you lost your son. And I know you certainly have no responsibility to get into this, and I do not mean to labor it. But is it possible for you to share your own, with us, your own thoughts?
ANDREW BACEVICH: It’s probably not. I have tried to make it a rule that that's a private matter and I try to keep it private. But I was watching your film, your wonderful documentary. One of the things that makes it so powerful is the way the young soldier and his family opened them up, opened themselves up to you. That's what made the film. On the other hand, because of my personal experience as I watched that, I said to myself, "I could never bear to do that." Just couldn't bear to do it. It’s got to stay private.
PHIL DONAHUE: If I lost somebody in a war, I guess -- I felt it was the most sanitized war of my lifetime. I think if you're going to send your young men and women, as we say quaintly, "in harm's way," show the pain. Don't sanitize the war.
ANDREW BACEVICH: I agree. And you know, in one, in the sense, one way we may sanitize the war by putting restrictions on you know, what can be filmed and all that. Be we also sanitize the war in the way the waging of war is consigned to certain sectors of society. If Harvard, Princeton, and Yale--
PHIL DONAHUE: Sent their guys to war.
ANDREW BACEVICH: ---were there, this inclination to turn away from the ugliness would be unsustainable. That's why, you know, one of the things I tried to emphasize in the book is to contrast the post-9/11 wars with World War II. The so-called "good war." The last war that we actually won, outright. A war that was fought by citizen soldiers.
Not by accident, a war in which our leaders, from President Roosevelt on down said that this will be a people's war, there will be sacrifice across the board, it will be fought with the people's army, even citizens who are not in the army will participate in their own way, their taxes will go up, not down, like after 9/11.
Their pension for consumption will be curbed for the duration, not indulged, as was the case after 9/11. So part of the argument is that a war waged by citizen soldiers that engages the energies and the attention of the American people is, in fact, more likely to result in success, victory, political objections achieved, than has been our experience with a professional army, which in many respects is qualitatively superior. But it doesn't win.
PHIL DONAHUE: In my own encounters with dissenters, and they're out there, they're out there in great numbers, and we all wonder why there aren't more -- I've seen a lot of empty seats. And I've seen a lot of blowback, a lot of criticism, you know the story, unpatriotic, you don't understand, geopolitical. I'm curious to know how you've dealt with this and how much personally.
I'm thinking of you as that young, good-looking cadet, and when you entered West Point, how proud your parents must have been, how proud you were, and I'm sure proud today what over the years-- how did your brain evolve here? Where you've become one of the leading voices in dissent and honest analysis of America's foreign policy.
ANDREW BACEVICH: I mean, life's a journey. You know, we are born in a set of circumstances that shape us initially. I was born in the Midwest, grew up in the Midwest.
PHIL DONAHUE: You're Catholic too.
ANDREW BACEVICH: I was born in a Catholic family, a seriously Catholic family. I continue to be a Catholic. It was in the '50s and '60s prior to Vietnam when I was a kid, the overhang of World War II was still very prominent. Both of my parents were World War II veterans. So it was a patriotic environment in which patriotism was clearly connected to military service. And at a time when patriotism didn't necessarily encourage questions.
And when I graduated from West Point, became a serving officer for a period of time, in a sense, I continued to be in that environment. When I got out of the army, at the end of the Cold War, never having expected that the Cold War was going to end.
I mean, I viewed it from my youth as, it's just a permanent fact of international relations. I expected that now that this protracted emergency has ended, that we would become different. The emergency's over. We're going to become a normal nation now. And therefore, we're going to stop doing some of the things that we said we had to do during the Cold War.
I think the eye-opening thing for me was that rather than becoming a normal nation, we continued the pattern of behavior that we had engaged in during the Cold War only more so. We became more committed to military power. We became more persuaded that through the use of military power, we could achieve our purposes in the world and could advance the well-being of the American people at home.
And I found that shocking. And since then, I have becoming absolutely convinced that that was a fundamental error. We are the strongest military power in the world. And in some measures, we may be the strongest military power that the world has ever seen. But that's not been good for the country. Now I'm not a pacifist. I don't want to have a weak military. I want to have a strong military.
But I want to have a military that is, in fact, is configured and used to advance the well-being of us, with no pretentions that we can somehow shape the world to do our bidding. Rather, a military that is configured with an acute awareness of the things we need here at home, of our shortcomings. It's fascinating to me to hear President Obama say that over and over again.
And then to see President Obama not act on that inclination. He seems to understand at some level that this militarization of US policy, and this militarization of the American mentality, that there's something wrong there. And yet as ostensibly the most powerful man in the world, he's done next to nothing to reverse it. And my guess is that, you know, 50 years from now, if people are -- when historians are evaluating his presidency, that'll be one of the things that he's really going to get marked down on.
PHIL DONAHUE: I don't understand that either. We were so, the liberals were so thrilled, when he was elected. And he's, he hasn't closed Guantanamo, habeas is gone, we have people in cages, for over, almost 15 years now, no letters home, nothing.
ANDREW BACEVICH: Some of them no charges.
PHIL DONAHUE: No, not even charged. We're peeking in windows, listening in on mail, listening in on phone calls, reading mail. I mean, the Bill of Rights has just collapsed. And the American people are standing mute.
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I'm a conservative, not a liberal. And I think that part of the problem was -- although I voted for President Obama -- I think part of the problem is that you weren't listening. He said: "The Iraq War is a stupid war. Elect me. I will end the Iraq War. Oh, by the way, elect me, and I will expand the Afghanistan War."
And those are actually two promises that he fulfilled. My guess is that the people who were most enthusiastic about Obama, when he was running for president the first time, they weren't listening to that second half of the equation. He was never a dove. I mean, he, the Democratic Party, the mainstream of the Democratic Party is as militarized as the mainstream of the Republican Party.
I’m not blaming Obama for that. That was Bill Clinton's doing.
If you go back and look at the way Clinton portrayed himself back in 1992, before he won, he made it very clear that hawkish Democrats had regained control of their party. And indeed, if you look at Bill Clinton's performance in office, I mean, I think we've forgotten about this. Here's a guy who intervened in more places, more times, under more different circumstances than any of his predecessors.
So we've got two parties that despite their differences, in some respects, we've got two parties equally committed to the proposition that it is imperative to maintain global military supremacy, not simply strength, and who believed that somehow or other the adroit use of this military power is going to be able to bring peace. I don't know. And both parties are equally wrong.
PHIL DONAHUE: I know you're a New Englander. And you in your book "Breach of Trust" you make an observation that I don't I no one else would make, certainly not in the Boston area. You saw the United States military establishment use the Red Sox to promote pride, pride in the military, all good, all the time.
And they actually recreated a homecoming of a woman, Navy, who at first appeared on the big Jumbotron waving at her family. And of course the place erupted in cheers and the next thing you know from behind, a flag, she appeared real. And they were witness to well something that had to make you cry. She ran to embrace her family, and then the jets flew over. What's wrong with that?
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, it's the Red Sox exploiting the military and the military exploiting the Red Sox. But both of them together in a sense are manipulating the American people. And they're encouraging the American people to think that to go to the ballgame on the 4th of July and sing the national anthem and clap for their troops that are on the field.
And then to react emotionally to this contrived reunion all of that is intended to persuade the American people that they have acquitted their responsibility to the troops. That when we say, "We support the troops," and we all say, "We support the troops," that that suffices. I go to the ballgame, I clap, I get teary-eyed, and then when they say, "Play ball," I buy a beer and basically forget about the episode.
And my argument in the book is that that's not good enough. My argument in the book is that in many respects, that's, well, it's an exercise in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." Grace you award yourself without having earned. Grace that enables you to feel that you are virtuous when in fact you are complicit in wrongdoing. And I think that actually describes the relationship between the American people and the American military.
Now some people will be offended to hear me say that. But my argument would be that our first obligation to those we love, to those we care about, is to protect them, to preserve them, to keep them out of harm. And therefore, if indeed we love the troops, if indeed we regarded them as the ultimate manifestation of what is good about our country, then we would all want to make sure that they were only sent in harm's way when absolutely necessary.
We would insist that they should not be abused. Now since 9/11, they have been abused. Particularly the American Army and the United States Marine Corps have been abused. And I think that that's wrong. I think that it's undemocratic, I think that it's immoral and I think that the American people need to be called on it.
PHIL DONAHUE: Andrew Bacevich, Professor of History, Boston University, graduate of West Point, Army veteran, thank you very much for this very informative hour.
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