Rich Rants, But Praises UML-Bound Andrew Bacevich of B.U.

What to say about political and cultural commentator Frank Rich in today’s NYT? He’s on a tear against Left, Right, and Center. The only satisfaction he finds in our messed up world today is Jonathan Franzen’s new and already-blockbuster novel “Freedom,” which Rich says nails the psyche of the time like “The Great Gatsby” and “Bonfire of the Vanities” did with theirs.

The heady intoxication of freedom is everywhere in “Freedom,” from extramarital sexual couplings to the consumer nirvana of the iPod to Operation Iraqi Freedom itself. Yet most everyone, regardless of age or calling or politics, is at war — not with terrorists, but with depression, with their consciences and with one another.

I haven’t read “Freedom” yet, but I took a second look at it in the window of Barnes and Noble on Merrimack Street. The reviews I’ve read have been figurative standing ovations. I had just been in there buying Jane Brox’s latest, “Brilliant,” so I let Franzen wait there until I finish Jane’s book.

Rich has high praise for the blunt clarity of Andrew J. Bacevich’s  analysis of what went wrong in the two wars of the “9/11 decade,” as Rich frames it. Here’s what he wrote about Bacevich:

Of all the commentators on the debacle, few speak with more eloquence or credibility than Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University who as a West Point-trained officer served in Vietnam and the first gulf war and whose son, also an Army officer, was killed in Iraq in 2007. Writing in The New Republic after Obama’s speech, he decimated many of the war’s lingering myths, starting with the fallacy, reignited by the hawks taking a preposterous victory lap last week, that “the surge” did anything other than stanch the bleeding from the catastrophic American blundering that preceded it. As Bacevich concluded: “The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget.”

Bacevich also wrote that “common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment.” Americans’ common future demands it too. The war’s corrosive effect on the home front is no less egregious than its undermining of our image and national security interests abroad. As the Pentagon rebrands Operation Iraqi Freedom as Operation New Dawn — a “name suggesting a skin cream or dishwashing liquid,” Bacevich aptly writes — the whitewashing of our recent history is well under way. The price will be to keep repeating it.

Prof. Andrew Bacevich, Boston University (web photo courtesy

If you would like to hear more from Bacevich in person, he will be the featured speaker in political science Prof. Jeff Gerson’s annual 9/11 speaker series at UMass Lowell on Friday, Sept. 17, at 12 noon in the O’Leary Library auditorium, Room 222, at 61 Wilder Street on the South Campus. Visitor parking is available in the lot on Wilder Street. For more information, contact

Read Frank Rich here, and get the Times if you appreciate the writing and thinking and attitude.

One Response to Rich Rants, But Praises UML-Bound Andrew Bacevich of B.U.

  1. C R Krieger says:

    I read the OpEd and as usual don’t find anything but, as Paul says, a rant.  History is important for informing the future, but the important question is what direction should we be taking?  Some see in the aftermath of a US drawdown in Iraq a stronger Iran, flexing its muscles from Afghanistan to the Sinai, including with Hezbollah.  And, within a year or so, armed with a few nuclear weapons.  And dominating Iraq.  Others not so much, noting that the Shia of Iraq don’t like the Shia of Iran that much and besides, Turkey is the big Sunni in the neighborhood and given its rejection by Europe may be looking to become the dominant power in the MIddle East.  I don’t know but I think we should be thinking about those things.

    As for Professor Bacevich, I had a start, as I thought he was coming up here, which didn’t seem a likely outcome.  But, it is just for a presentation.  I hope he comes and gives a good talk, as he is a thoughtful person, albeit one I disagree with on some issues.  I congratulate Prof. Jeff Gerson for booking him.  I wish him better luck than I had.  When George Anthes was still on WCAP in the morning I was the designated “Co-Host” and had read Professor Bacevich’s latest book and contacted him about being on the show.  He agreed to call in.  Unfortunately, WCAP was a financially lean operation and it would have to be on the interviewee’s dime, so I called back and said I would bring my cell phone down for him to use so it didn’t cost him anything.  At that he said he smelled a set-up and said he would not call in.  Very unfortunate.

    Regards  —  Cliff