We Will Not Bleed

Breach of Trust

How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country
Andrew Bacevich
Metropolitan Books, $26, 256 pp.

A U.S. Army officer may or may not have said of the Vietnamese village of Ben Tre that “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” but Andrew Bacevich clearly believes that a comparable atrocity was inflicted on the U.S. armed forces—and on the whole nation—in the post-Vietnam era. Specifically, in this brave and trenchant book he argues that the celebrated all-volunteer force (AVF) that came into being as the Vietnam War wound down in 1973 has turned out to be a disaster for service members and civil society alike. The AVF was hailed at its birth as a win-win blessing that would restore discipline in the demoralized and often openly mutinous ranks while simultaneously defanging antiwar protesters at home. But by extinguishing the venerable tradition of the citizen-soldier, says Bacevich, the AVF has dangerously decoupled the American people from wars fought in their name, breeding an enervating cycle of futile deployments in “needless, costly, and ill-managed wars.”

A recent study by the Congressional Research Service finds that the forty years since 1973 have seen 144 military deployments, contrasted with just 19 deployments in the 27 post–World War II years of the Selective Service draft. That amounts to a five-fold increase in the rate of deployment since the advent of the AVF. Few if any of...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

David M. Kenndy is professor emeritus at Stanford University and the editor of The Modern American Military (Oxford University Press).