Volume 15, No. Bacevich Metropolitan Books, , pgs. Andrew Bacevich has written a powerful but flawed criticism of American foreign policy. Both an academic historian and a professional soldier, he is exceptionally qualified to undertake such a critique.
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Bacevich thinks our political system is busted. To accommodate this hunger, pandering politicians have created an informal empire of supply, maintaining it through constant brush-fire wars. Yet the foreign-policy apparatus meant to manage that empire has grown hideously bloated and has led the nation into one disaster after another. In the dog days of the George W. The nation does seem to be in serious trouble.
Figuring out how it got that way is important, and a root-and-branch rethink may be necessary to set things right. You can guess which one Bacevich thinks Americans went for. As its citizens were growing soft, the United States government was mutating as well. These bodies, and a compliant Congress, enabled a huge expansion in executive power.
Image Credit Matt Dorfman Still, this new setup might have been fine, Bacevich argues, had it worked the way it was supposed to. Frustrated presidents from John Kennedy on turned to informal kitchen cabinets for advice, shutting out the newly established security system.
And things quickly fell apart. As a story this all sounds plausible, but it unravels slightly on closer inspection. First, while Bacevich no doubt would describe himself as a realist, his nostalgia for the enlightened republic Americans supposedly enjoyed before World War II involves a large dose of myth-making. They make it hard to take the argument seriously. The same goes for his emphasis on the similarities between the policies of recent presidents.
And special interests will no doubt continue to warp policy no matter who wins office. Unfortunately, Bacevich is not very good at offering suggestions. Given the sweep of his attacks, the alternatives he comes up with are surprisingly small-bore: America should live within its means, pursue a more modest foreign policy, act to abolish nuclear weapons and combat global warming — all sensible ideas but hardly the sort of grand transformation he says the country needs.
But surely what we require today, more than broad condemnations of American consumerism, are very specific solutions to very specific problems.
We Got Trouble
Prophetic indictment of the house of cards and hubris that is American exceptionalism. Unflinching and stunningly articulate analysis of the structural flaws in the dominant American narrative. Oct 10, Ed rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to understand How we, the U. Recommended to Ed by: PBS Shelves: essays-politics-science-religion , reviewed , non-fiction Written by a true conservative, ex-military officer and current Boston University professor, this book concisely explains how the actions of citizens, government and the military over the last 45 years have pushed the U. S into the position it finds itself in today. In the Chapter titled "The Crisis of Profligacy", Bacevich skewers Americans for surrendering their true freedom for the illusory freedom of materialism.
The Limits of Power
The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism