In post-Cold War foreign policy debates, it has been the voice of the sober realist, pointing out the limits of U. In recent years, Bacevich has been among the most articulate of these realists -- and this is his manifesto. He sees the United States as having embarked on a disastrous career of empire building and military adventurism that is bankrupting and corrupting the country, all the while making it less secure. Well known for his criticism of the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq and "war on terror," in this book Bacevich seeks out the deeper "ambitions, urges, and fears" that drive the United States' long-standing efforts to confront the enemies of freedom and remake the world. What emerges is a rather distinctive and curious argument about the sources of U. It is not, in Bacevich's view, business interests or old-style militarism that drives Washington's outward ambitions.
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Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University and retired U. Diplomacy Cambridge, Mass. In a following book, The New American Militarism New York: Oxford University Press, , he focused on the reconstitution of the military in American life, especially its reinvigorated role in the conduct of foreign policy since the Vietnam War, and he concluded that the military has integrated itself so successfully into official U.
In his latest effort, Bacevich concentrates on the lessons to be learned from U. As Bacevich puts it, President Reagan told Americans what they wanted to hear. Moreover, Bacevich argues, President George W. Meanwhile, from the Carter administration through the Reagan presidency the military was continually building both politically and ideologically for a major effort in the Persian Gulf region. He argues that the country has been on a war footing since the presidency of Harry S.
Truman and that during this time power has become increasingly concentrated in the executive branch. Congress has been moved outside the circle of real power over decisions about military initiatives.
These similarities express four core convictions: the tenet that history has a purpose; the view that the United States embodies freedom; the faith that God has called Americans to advance this freedom; and the belief that only when American values prevail throughout the world will the United States finally be secure.
Unfortunately, because these ideas have become firmly ensconced among the oligarchy of those personally loyal to the president, the range of options in foreign policy has been severely limited.
Bacevich identifies James Forrestal, the first U. He asserts emphatically that the logical culmination of this theoretical school was the doctrine of preventive war that rationalized the invasion of Iraq, an action that in the long run threatens both the domestic and the international integrity of the United States. In his penultimate chapter, Bacevich chronicles the debilitating effects that a culture of entitlement and a narrow mindset among policymakers have on the U.
For him, the upshot is that the soldiers are superbly trained and courageous, but their effectiveness has been severely weakened by the environment created by bumbling leaders, both political and military.
He argues that what many have seen as the lessons to be drawn from the conflicts in Iran and Afghanistan are simply erroneous. He vigorously opposes the argument that high-ranking military commanders should be given more latitude in the field. Finally, he concludes that the all-volunteer army is here to stay. Politicians may argue that the military should make more use of reserves and draftees, but candid professional military people affirm that in their experience citizen-soldiers are more trouble than they are worth.
Moreover, the basic nature of war is also here to stay. The purveyors of shock and awe still have to contend with a determined enemy on the ground. Political leaders have too often confused strategy with ideology, and, in turn, military leaders have tended to mistake operations for strategy.
Bacevich believes that constructive strategy in foreign policy must recognize that the U. He offers the options of containment and selective engagement as promising strategic approaches. They stretch U.
By drawing on critics of U. He maintains that this story reveals a nation with imperial ambitions. Recent events have confirmed much of his argument, often tragically, especially his identification of growing reliance on military action for the solution to international problems.
He remains ominously pessimistic that any elected leader can change the current course of U. Although Americans seem to be intent on saddling the rest of the world with their form of freedom, their domestic profligacy and military adventurism have made them more dependent on foreign resources, such as oil, and more vulnerable to attacks from renegade terrorist elements. The decision makers who wield executive power seem oblivious to the impending dangers that their policies have engendered.
They fail to recognize that the status of the richest, most powerful nation the world has ever seen was achieved not through government direction, but through the hard work of many striving, independent, and unregulated individuals.
Bacevich charges that the overwhelming thrust toward military solutions and imperial ambitions undercuts the very successes these people have attained.
Reliance on government power to impose U. Robert Heineman. Robert Heineman , Alfred University.
We Got Trouble
Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University and retired U. Diplomacy Cambridge, Mass. In a following book, The New American Militarism New York: Oxford University Press, , he focused on the reconstitution of the military in American life, especially its reinvigorated role in the conduct of foreign policy since the Vietnam War, and he concluded that the military has integrated itself so successfully into official U. In his latest effort, Bacevich concentrates on the lessons to be learned from U. As Bacevich puts it, President Reagan told Americans what they wanted to hear.
The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
Andrew J. 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.
The Limits of Power
Andrew Bacevich. Whatever we select for our library has to excel in one or the other of these two core criteria:. We rate each piece of content on a scale of 1—10 with regard to these two core criteria. Our rating helps you sort the titles on your reading list from adequate 5 to brilliant