Published on Feb 25, 2016
Andrew J. Bacevich, Sr. (born July 5, 1947) is an American historian specializing in international relations, security studies, American foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history. He is a Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at the Boston University Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. He is also a retired career officer in the Armor Branch of the United States Army, retiring with the rank of Colonel. He is a former director of Boston University’s Center for International Relations (from 1998 to 2005), now part of the Pardee School of Global Studies.
Bacevich has been “a persistent, vocal critic of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, calling the conflict a catastrophic failure.” In March 2007, he described George W. Bush’s endorsement of such “preventive wars” as “immoral, illicit, and imprudent.” His son, also an Army officer, died fighting in the Iraq War in May 2007.
Bacevich was born in Normal, Illinois, the son of Martha Ellen (Bulfer) and Andrew Bacevich. His father was of Lithuanian descent and his mother was of Irish, German, and English ancestry. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1969 and served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, serving in Vietnam from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1971. Later he held posts in Germany, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; the United States; and the Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of Colonel in the early 1990s. His early retirement is thought to be a result of his taking responsibility for the Camp Doha explosion in 1991 while in charge of the 11th ACR. He holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University before joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998.
On May 13, 2007, Bacevich’s son, 1LT Andrew John Bacevich, was killed in action in Iraq by an improvised explosive device south of Samarra in Salah ad Din Governorate. The younger Bacevich, 27, was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.
Bacevich also has three daughters.
Bacevich has described himself as a “Catholic conservative”  and initially published writings in a number of politically oriented magazines, including The Wilson Quarterly. His recent writings have professed a dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration and many of its intellectual supporters on matters of American foreign policy.
On August 15, 2008, Bacevich appeared as the guest of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS to promote his book, The Limits of Power. As in both of his previous books, The Long War (2007) and The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005), Bacevich is critical of American foreign policy in the post Cold War era, maintaining the United States has developed an over-reliance on military power, in contrast to diplomacy, to achieve its foreign policy aims. He also asserts that policymakers in particular, and the American people in general, overestimate the usefulness of military force in foreign affairs. Bacevich believes romanticized images of war in popular culture (especially movies) interact with the lack of actual military service among most of the U.S. population to produce in the American people a highly unrealistic, even dangerous notion of what combat and military service are really like.
Bacevich conceived The New American Militarism as “a corrective to what has become the conventional critique of U.S. policies since 9/11 but [also] as a challenge to the orthodox historical context employed to justify those policies.”
Finally, he attempts to place current policies in historical context, as part of an American tradition going back to the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a tradition (of an interventionist, militarized foreign policy) which has strong bi-partisan roots. To lay an intellectual foundation for this argument, he cites two influential historians from the 20th century: Charles A. Beard and William Appleman Williams.
Ultimately, Bacevich eschews the partisanship of current debate about American foreign policy as short-sighted and ahistorical. Instead of blaming only one president (or his advisors) for contemporary policies, Bacevich sees both Republicans and Democrats as sharing responsibility for policies which may not be in the nation’s best interest.
In March 2003, at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bacevich wrote in The Los Angeles Times that “if, as seems probable, the effort encounters greater resistance than its architects imagine, our way of life may find itself tested in ways that will make the Vietnam War look like a mere blip in American history.”