Speaker: Andrew Bacevich, Boston University


This is where I would radically disagree with George W. Bush, who in the wake of 9/11 not only articulated his recognition of the existence of evil, but basically said, "We are going to go eliminate evil."

My point here is it's not simply that evil exists, but evil is endemic. The existence of evil is a manifestation of the tragedy of history in which we find ourselves.

If you can't eliminate evil, what can you do with regard to evil? You can ignore it, but that's not a wise course. You can do your best to find ways to cope with it, to minimize its effect and the danger that it poses.

In trying to figure out what do we do about evil, rather than beginning with the notion, "Well, I guess we better go excise it; get me a carrier battle group," we ought to step back and try to evaluate where it fits in the pecking order of evil (where Hitler and Stalin are up there at number ten). We should judge the extent to which it demands a response, and then try to be cool-headed in thinking about the range of alternatives which are available.

The first response ought not to be a military response. I am absolutely conceding that there are times, there have been times, and there will be times when you need to opt for war.

This national security consensus has embedded itself in the way Washington thinks, especially since the end of the Cold War. Since the notion that we were the almighty superpower took hold, we have been too quick to reach for the gun and pull the trigger, and we ought not to do that.

Transcript of entire lecture

Lecture based on discussion of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War