Friday, July 27, 2012

Andrew Bacevich on "The Revisionist Imperative: Rethinking Twentieth Century Wars"

Andrew Bacevich in January of this year gave an address to the American Historical Association on "The Revisionist Imperative". It was published in The Journal of Military History 76/2 (Apr 2012) under the title, "The Revisionist Imperative: Rethinking Twentieth Century Wars." It's also available online at the Marshall Foundation website.

Part 1 01/07/2012:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Bacevich in this lecture argues that we need to focus on two extended conflicts that reach across the last century and one of them into the current one. The first encompasses the two world wars and the Cold War:

Enshrined today as a story of freedom besieged, but ultimately triumphant, the familiar story began back in 1914 and continued until its (apparently) definitive conclusion in 1989. Call this the Short Twentieth Century. ...

The Short Twentieth Century, geographically centered on Eurasia, pitted great powers against one another. Although alignments shifted depending on circumstance, the roster of major players remained fairly constant.

That roster consisted of Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan, with the United States biding its time before eventually picking up most of the marbles.
The second involves the oil heartlands:

The less familiar alternative recounts a story in which freedom as such has figured only intermittently. It has centered on the question of who will dominate the region that we today call the Greater Middle East. Also kicking into high gear in 1914, this story continues to unfold in the present-day, with no end in sight. Call this the story of the Long Twentieth Century. ...

From time to time, the Long Twentieth Century has also pitted great powers against one another. Yet that struggle has always had a second element. It has been a contest between outsiders and insiders.

Western intruders with large ambitions, preeminently Great Britain until succeeded by the United States, pursued their dreams of empire or hegemony, typically cloaked in professions of uplift or "benevolent assimilation." The beneficiaries of imperial ministrations – from Arabs in North Africa to Moros in the southern Philippines – seldom proved grateful and frequently resisted.
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