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Friday, April 27, 2012

Military Analyst Calls For More Accountability With Soldier Misconduct

Military analyst Andrew Bacevich at Here & Now studios at WBUR in Boston. (Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

By: Alex Ashlock

On the show today, we have Sacha Pfeiffer’s conversation with military analyst Andrew Bacevich, about military accountability. Bacevich, who teaches history and international relations at Boston University and served in Vietnam as an Army officer, believes when soldiers break the ethical rules of battle, such as posing for photos with the enemy dead, generals should be punished just like sergeants.

“I’m not upset that the people at the bottom [of the chain of command] get leaned on,” he said. “What I am upset about is that more senior officers seem never to be held accountable for these sorts of events. And if we are going to get this problem under control, we are going to have to concentrate the minds of the generals and there are times when the best way to concentrate their minds is to fire a couple of them.”

With the war in Afghanistan now well past the 10-year mark, Bacevich says the best way to end misconduct by American forces on foreign soil is to bring them home.

“The longer these post 9/11 wars go on, the more they cost, the more difficult it becomes to explain exactly what we are trying to do, the more I am persuaded that our first obligation to the men and women who we profess to admire so much is to get them out harms way as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

We also asked Andrew Bacevich about comments from NATO officials this week. Danish General Knud Bartels expressed “cautious optimisim” about the progress of the war in Afghanistan during meetings in Brussels.

“The optimism is expressed with regard to a definition of success that becomes ever lower as time passes along,” Bacevich said. “The definition of success I think now both in Washington and for NATO as a whole, is if we can get out around 2014, without having Afghanistan collapse instantly into chaos with the Taliban taking over that we’ll declare that a victory.”

A summit of NATO leaders is scheduled for May 20-21 in Chicago to discuss the war in Afghanistan.


  • Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University and editor of the book, “The Short American Century
  • Quentin Sommerville reports on the challenges for NATO in Afghanistan

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Flghtmedic

    Yes, I believe there needs to be accountability of commanders both here in the States and on the battlefield for the actions of their subordinates.  But, and this is a big but. It depends on a number of factors, such as what did they do when they found out the infraction, if they found out? What is the command climate? Do they seek out wrongdoing or are they just waiting for it to end up on the internet, etc? The problem is that if we remove commanders for every major infraction of subordinates then, guess what? We have no leadership! Every leader then  should have been removed, fired or resigned on their own at some point in their career. From George Washington to Barrack Obama and every leader of every agency or organization within the U.S. who has ever served should likely have been removed if the “man at the top” is responsible.

  • it

    I hope George Zimmerman makes a good living from here on suing people like Alex Ashlock for defamation of character for using phrases like “Treyvon Martin was murdered” (15:47). The facts of that case are finally coming out and this was not a cold blooded murder. That “gated-community” was under siege from crime so much that people were moving out. It is so easy for the media to drop words like “murder”, “white” and “gated community” to paint a picture in people’s heads that is not true.

    • it

      …and the story that the disgusting comment by Alex followed shows just how bias or media has become. Of course this war is disgusting, of course we should not be there, but since there is a Democrat President they try to blame the military. Shut the war down and bring our troops home and stay out of Iran, Syrian, Iraq, etc, etc, etc…

  • Don3498

    vietnam vet writes- accountability should not stop at senior officer level but with senior civilian officials whose policy decisions have created existing guagmire

  • Paul

    I can’t believe Zimmerman stalked and murdered that poor, innocent boy.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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