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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project) Hardcover – August 5, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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“This compact, meaty volume ought to be on the reading list of every candidate for national office in November's elections. In an age of cant and baloney, Andrew Bacevich offers a bracing slap of reality. The Limits of Power is gracefully written and easy to read… chockablock with provocative ideas and stern judgments. Bacevich's brand of intellectual assuredness is rare in today's public debates. Many of our talking heads and commentators are cocksure, of course, but few combine confidence with knowledge and deep thought the way Bacevich does here. His big argument is elegant and powerful.”—The Washington Post
“Strongly felt and elegantly written… The Limits of Power is painfully clear-sighted and refreshingly uncontaminated by the conventional wisdom of Washington, D.C.”—The Economist
“Andrew Bacevich speaks truth to power, no matter who’s in power, which may be why those of both the left and right listen to him.”—Bill Moyers
—Martin Sieff, The Washington Times
“In this utterly original book, Andrew Bacevich explains how our ‘empire of consumption’ contains the seeds of its own destruction and why our foreign policy establishment in Washington is totally incapable of coming to grips with it. Indispensable reading for every citizen.”—Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback Trilogy
"A clear-eyed look into the abyss of America's failed wars, and the analysis needed to climb out. In Andrew Bacevich, realism and moral vision meet."—James Carroll, author of House of War
“In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich takes aim at America’s culture of exceptionalism and scores a bulls eye. He reminds us that we can destroy all that we cherish by pursuing an illusion of indestructibility.”—Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor USMC (Ret.), co-author of The General’s War and Cobra II
“Andrew Bacevich has written a razor sharp dissection of the national myths which befuddle U.S. approaches to the outside world and fuel the Washington establishment’s dangerous delusions of omnipotence. His book should be read by every concerned US citizen.”—Anatol Lieven, author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism
“In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich delivers precisely what the Republic has so desperately needed: an analysis of America's woes that goes beyond the villain of the moment, George W. Bush, and gets at the heart of the delusions that have crippled the country's foreign policy for decades. Bacevich writes with a passionate eloquence and moral urgency that makes this book absolutely compelling. Everyone should read it.”—Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror
Top Customer Reviews
In the event a reader knows of the prophetic work of the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, you will further appreciate this book. Bacevich is a Niebuhr scholar and this book essentially channels Niebuhr's prophetic warnings from his 1952 book, "The Irony of American History". The latter has just been reissued by University of Chicago Press thanks to Andrew Bacevich who also contributed an introduction.
In essence, American idealism as particularly reflected in Bush's illusory goal to "rid the world of evil" and to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East or wherever people are being tyrannized, is doomed to failure by the tides of history. Niebuhr warned against this and Bacevich updates the history from the Cold War to the present. Now our problems have reached crisis proportions and Bacevich focuses on the three essential elements of the crisis: American profligacy; the political debasing of government; and the crisis in the military.
What renders Bacevich's critique particularly stinging, aside from the historical context he gives it (Bush has simply taken an enduring American exceptionalism to a new level), is that he lays these problems on the doorstep of American citizens. It is we who have elected the governments that have driven us toward near collapse. It is we who have participated willingly in the consumption frenzy in which both individual citizens and the government live beyond their means.Read more ›
According to the author, the US has reached its limit to project its power in the world. His rationale for this conclusion are three central crises we now face: economic and cultural, political, and military, all of which are our own making.
The first crisis is one of profligacy. Americans want more, whether it is wealth, credit, markets, or oil, without consideration for cost or how these things are acquired. There is complete apathy in what policies are being produced as long as they provide plenty.
The political crisis was born of our mobilization in World War II to meet the threat of tyranny, and from the Cold War to meet the challenge of the Soviet Union. Both gave rise to unprecedented presidential power, an ineffectual Congress, and a disastrous foreign policy. Bacevich contends that our legislature no longer serves their constituents or the common good "but themselves through gerrymandering, doling out prodigious amounts of political pork, seeing to the protection of certain vested interests" with the paramount concern of being re-elected. Our presidents have been willing accomplices in keeping the American dream or greed alive by using our military as part of a coercive diplomatic tool to feed and fuel the first crisis.
Bacevich traces the end of the republic to the start of both wars, which gave rise to the "ideology of national security.Read more ›
My wife and I are very progressive (I'm a Democrat; my wife's a Green), but after watching Moyers' interview with Col. Bacevich, we were blown away. We agreed that if Bacevich was running for president as a Republican, we could see ourselves crossing party-lines to vote for him: that's how profound his effect was.
I hope both sides of the aisle listen to him, because Bacevich is absolutely dead-on in what he's saying.
I'm buying this book and telling everyone I know to read it, or at least watch the Moyers interview.
In fact, Bacevich goes well beyond blaming Bush to point the finger, fundamentally, at the American people themselves (ourselves). Far more than a simple "You voted for the guy," Bacevich argues that Americans now understand "freedom" to mean unlimited consumer choice. The American calling to "promote freedom abroad" thus now really means doing whatever is required to ensure Americans never have to face cutting back, doing without, or otherwise living within our means. As one example of the implications of this new, twisted definition of "freedom," Bacevich asks us to consider the military consequences alone of substantially reducing our dependence on imported oil. For one thing, he argues, the whole structure of America's military presence in the Persian Gulf region, including Centcom and the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, would become redundant. Bases could be closed, soldiers brought home, ships mothballed, and "weapons contracts worth tens of billions of dollars would risk being canceled" (p. 173).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If the library does not have it, and you cannot afford to buy it, steal it. You owe it to yourself. Several yellow highliters as well.Published 8 days ago by Quantum Leap
Bacevich is an excellent analyst, and the book is highly worth reading for that reason. His solutions are somewhat more vague, which is to be expected. Whose aren't? Read morePublished 28 days ago by Michael Falls
The book was practically new! One of the greatest books and most truthful analysis ever written about the U.S. military.Published 2 months ago by spock
Essential reading for those with a genuine interest in the current state of America and our place in the worldPublished 2 months ago by Stuart M.
Too bad--Bacevich comes off as thoughtful and articulate when interviewed. This book is pompous and preachy.Published 2 months ago by rogercraine
Political economy—the nexus between policy, philosophy, history, and economics—is never more important than in transition periods when the old rules no longer apply and the new... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Stephen W. Hiemstra ﻦ
In this theoretical essay, the author, a retired Army Colonel and professor of international relations, thinks deeply and hard about what has gone wrong with the 250-year old... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Herbert L Calhoun
Andrew Bacevich is a retired Army colonel and currently a university professor. He reasons and writes clearly. Read morePublished 4 months ago by GrouchyOldman