Saturday, August 10, 2013

Recommended Reading for Thoughtful Americans: "The Limits of Power" by Andrew J. Bacevich

Andrew J. Bacevich
I have wanted to read the book "The Limits of Power" ever since hearing Andrew J. Bacevich at the Wisconsin Book Festival a few years back. An idea he expressed there that made my jaw drop was that America's empire building was the activity of citizens uninterested in reforming their own nation.

Referring to the work of United States theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (author of the serenity prayer), Bacevich felt expansionist militaristic activity represented almost an addict's way of denying the reality that there are "limits to power."

His book was just as compelling as the talk I had originally heard. I admired his ability to dissect American thinking from within America.

Bacevich urges readers not to look to their politicians with blame for their dependence on foreign oil, necessary military expansion to access it, and demands that the world conform to America's way of thinking. He argues the politicians have just sold Americans what they want to buy: a foreign policy based on grandiosity without the budget or wherewithal to achieve it.
“History will not judge kindly a people who find nothing amiss in the prospect of endless armed conflict so long as they themselves are spared the effects. Nor will it view with favor an electorate that delivers political power into the hands of leaders unable to envision any alternative to perpetual war.
Rather than insisting the world accommodate the United States, Americans need to reassert control over their own destiny, ending their condition of dependency and abandoning their imperial delusions. “ - page 13
I found this to be deeply inspiring, deeply patriotic reading. Bacevich asks Americans to ask more of themselves. Bacevich's book made me want to read everything else he has written. He has a new book soon to come out called "Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country."
 
"The Limits of Power" is part of a whole series of titles called "The American Empire Project" devoted to asking Americans to consider whether empire is the highest expression of the American idea. More titles can be found at www.americanempireproject.com
 
If you would like to hear an interview with Andrew J. Bacevich from when the book was published, click here for part one. To learn more about this public intellectual who attracts interest from both sides of the political aisle, click here. 
 
Andrew J. Bacevich believes Americans are still in denial and not ready to face that we are choosing a life of dependency on foreign oil and credit. He says there is nothing in the preamble to the Constitution to try and "remake the World in our image" and our perpetual war to 'spread freedom' actually detracts from freedom at home.
 
While Americans view our projection of military power as a strength, Bacevich actually argues our perpetual war is a way of delaying our acknowledgement that we have chosen to squander our power (and our moral authority, when we choose global preemptive war) for our generation and generations to come.
 
An example from the book of what Americans should be working on vs. what we are working on:
For the United States, abolishing nuclear weapons ought to be an urgent national security priority. So too should preserving our planet. These are the meta-challenges of our time. Addressing them promises to be the work of decades. Yet ridding the world of nuclear weapons is likely to prove far more plausible and achievable than ridding the world of evil [something Bush said he would do - an example of American foreign policy grandiosity]. Transforming humankind's relationship to the environment, which will affect the way people live their daily lives, can hardly prove more difficult than transforming the Greater Middle East, which requires changing the way a billion or more Muslims think. -page 178
What do you think? Is American engagement with the world attempting that which we can not pay for or even accomplish (eliminating evil, establishing Western democracy in countries that don't have it)? What's your view? How would America go about changing our priorities, especially when continuing with perpetual war and lack of reform benefits those in power?
 
 
 
You may also be interested these other posts:
 
 
 
 

3 comments:

Backto Bodrum said...

Thanks for the suggestion. Surely this is not a popular view in the US.

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

My guess would be Bacevich would consider that denial. However, the sooner Americans come to the realization that we have "limits to our power," the less limited we'll be, because we'll have made ourselves so much more sustainable as a nation.

 
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