“We oppose militarism. It means conquest abroad and intimidation and
oppression at home. It means the strong arm which has ever been fatal to free
institutions. It is what millions of our citizens have fled from Europe.”
—Democratic National Platform, 1900
Mention militarism, and names that come to mind probably include men on horseback such as Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte, not such desk-bound keyboard jockeys as Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol. Yet these and other neoconservative writers have helped foster an intellectual climate conducive to the emergence of what Andrew J. Bacevich calls “a peculiarly American variant of militarism” in the post-Cold War era. Bacevich’s new book features no villains or conspiracies, however—only a fortuitous convergence of social, political, geographic, and economic forces that has produced “the new militarism.” The neoconservative intellectual network is presented as merely a single contingent that, in combination with the military establishment’s “never again” reaction to America’s ignominious rout in Vietnam, created a post-Cold War faith in all things military, leading not just to the invasion of Iraq but...