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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

Written by Andrew J. Bacevich

Narrated by Eric Conger


The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

Written by Andrew J. Bacevich

Narrated by Eric Conger

ratings:
4/5 (19 ratings)
Length:
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 3, 2008
ISBN:
9781427206879
Format:
Audiobook

Description

The Limits of Power identifies a profound triple crisis facing America: the economy, in remarkable disarray, can no longer be fixed by relying on expansion abroad; the government, transformed by an imperial presidency, is a democracy in form only; U.S. involvement in endless wars, driven by a deep infatuation with military power, has been a catastrophe for the body politic.

These pressing problems threaten all of us, Republicans and Democrats. If the nation is to solve its predicament, it will need the revival of a distinctly American approach: the neglected tradition of realism.

Andrew J. Bacevich, uniquely respected across the political spectrum, offers a historical perspective on the illusions that have governed American policy since 1945. The realism he proposes includes respect for power and its limits; sensitivity to unintended consequences; aversion to claims of exceptionalism; skepticism of easy solutions, especially those involving force; and a conviction that the books will have to balance. Only a return to such principles, Bacevich argues, can provide common ground for fixing America's urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.

A Macmillan Audio production.

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 3, 2008
ISBN:
9781427206879
Format:
Audiobook

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Reviews

What people think about The Limits of Power

3.9
19 ratings / 15 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    We Americans are in denial. as long as they insist that the power of the USA is without limits, they will continue to guzzle imported oil, binge on imports, dream imperial dreams. We will ignore the necessity of settling accounts, the budget, debt, and consumption as politicians (both parties) erode military might on unnecessary and winnable wars. We will continue to allow officials responsible for failed policies to dodge accountability. Are we willfully self-destructive? It often seems so. Bacevich analyzes the more dangerous national myths that currently (mis)guide American policy.

    "The United States today finds itself threatened by three interlocking crises. The first of the crises is economic and cultural, the second political, and the third military. All three share this characteristic: They are of our own making."

    Concerned about the direction the US is headed? You need to read this book.
  • (3/5)
    This is a good book that people should read if they are interested in a critical outline of the US foreign policy.The author is not afraid to show his positions right in the first lines, so don't expect a journalistic review of happenings or a scientific listing of evidences. The author wants to make a point: that the US foreign policy has been running to the wrong direction for a long time and the recent screw ups (Afghanistan and Iraq wars) are a continuation of what's being done for a few generations.The basic argument is that the ideology of freedom has lead to exaggerated consumerism by the american people and to a feeling of "more is better". Since the US is not self sufficient in oil and other goods, it has been acting as an expansionist empire in order to sustain the "american way of life", specially since the post-WW2 golden era.Bacevich discusses many bad consequences of the "global dominance" policy and makes one prediction: that this will end up badly for the US and its citizens.Now, while I like reading a book where the author has strong convictions, I take them with a grain of salt. He makes many bold statements, like predicting how the future will look like, but without mentioning historical evidence or references to explain why. As a history professor, he could have made use of stronger historical references to illustrate his argument that the "more is better" behavior and the consumerism are bad things in the long run. At the same time, he found time to discuss less important issues, like the psychological profile and personality of Paul Wolfowitz. I'm not saying I was expecting a scientific thesis, but that he just didn't convince me. Andrew Bacevich says things look bad and will get worse, and not just from a military point of view. The "more is better" can't work in the long run, he says. But one could argue that from a historical perspective the US economy is still in a very good shape. Also, moral and ecological issues aside, the strategy of acting as an expansionist empire is proven to be very successful, unfortunately, at least for some time. Even for several decades or centuries! I missed a more detailed discussion of this particular subject.So if you want to see what's wrong with the US military operations and its foreign policy, you should read this book. It discusses many issues that are just plain wrong in the US, so it's really interesting (although the author doesn't always cite his sources or references, specially not for the White House tales, which really bothered me).But whoever liked this book and would like to jump to something more dense, those should read "Tout empire périra" by Jean-Baptiste Duroselle. It describes a remarkable theory of how international empires are created, how they expand and why they always disappear. - A quick look at Amazon.com doesn't show any translation to English, but you may want to search again. It's really worth it. I read the Brazilian Portuguese version 6 years ago at the university - when the US was still an unquestionable hegemon - and it's still one of my preferred books of International Relations.
  • (4/5)
    Status quo, according to an old joke, is Latin for “the mess we’re in.” Andrew Bacevich—a retired U. S. Army colonel turned historian of international relations—dissects the status quo in this brief, erudite book and concludes that we are, as a nation, very deep in a very serious mess of our own making. Bacevich argues that, between 1960 and 1980, the United States abandoned fiscal discipline and personal responsibility in favor of a culture of mindless consumerism, creating an insatiable thirst for cheap oil. Determination to secure the nation’s supply of foreign oil encouraged overseas adventurism, and changes in American military culture – the end of the draft and the delusion that technological change had fundamentally altered the nature of war – isolated politicians and the public from its consequences. The distrust sown between politicians and generals during the Vietnam era broke the traditional civil-military power structure, and placed decisions about war and peace into the hands of Presidents and their circles of unelected, unaccountable national security advisors. Iraq and Afghanistan are, Bacevich argues, merely the latest results of pernicious transformation for which Democrats and Republicans bear equal responsibility.The argument of this book is thus – in effect – that of Bacevich’s The New American Militarism, tightened and streamlined, with incandescent anger allowed show, more clearly, beneath the generally measured tone. Where that book dug deeply into the historical roots of America’s shift to a permanent war footing, this one sketches them briefly and then moves on. What that one covered in a series of thematic chapters, this one knits into three broad sections devoted to crises cultural, military, and political. Figuratively, where that was an entire course, this is a set of three impassioned lectures.Even more than in The New American Militarism Bacevich is writing a jeremiad here, and the book shares the limitations of that genre. It is better on defining the problem than articulating a solution, and its indictment of post-JFK American culture ("vulgar and soft") feels more rooted in a conservative's disdain for the 1960s than in the specifics of American social and cultural history. These issues do not, however, diminish the book’s power, or blunt its timely message. The Republican administration that took the nation to war in Iraq and Afghanistan was, as the book was published, yielding to a Democratic one. Six years into that new administration, Bacevich’s picture of a systemic crisis that transcends partisan politics seems alarmingly relevant.
  • (2/5)
    This book contains some good questions about where we are as a nation and what we are making priorities by how we spend our money and how we excercise force with our military might. This was written before president Obama took office. Several things that were blamed on Republicans or neo-cons are still things that are practiced by the current administration. But there was some discussion on how some things have stayed the same. The government keeps getting bigger and Americans seem to keep on believing that we are an exceptional nation that makes the rules that the rest of the world needs to follow. We are spending and consuming our way into oblivion.

    He discusses how the military sees war currently and how the view has changed since WWII and since Vietnam and how the nation's view of what war means has changed. This included discussion on how we have rejected the draft as a means to create a citizen army and how we now depend on a professional fighting force. It is easier politically to send a professional force into war than it is to convince the country that drafting people away from their normal lives is appropriate.

    The military does not plan to win wars. We win battles and topple regimes but we stayed in Iraq and Afganistan this time with no military plan to win. He was fairly critical of Gen Tommy Franks (commander who was in charge of invading Iraq and Afganistan) and his failure to plan beyong beating the convential forces we attacked.

    In his summation chapter he deals with two ideas I didn't feel he really discussed earlier on that I disagree with. One was nuclear disarmement. He wants the US to totally get rid of all our nukes and states "Furthermore, the day is approaching when the United States will be able to deter other nuclear-armed states, like Russia and China, without itself relying on nuclear weapons." He goes on to talk about how precision munitions are better. He also makes an offhand comment about how America was not justified in using the atom bomb to end the war with Japan. I completely disagree. More nations are getting access to the bomb and giving up this option leaves us at the mercy of their threats unless we strike as soon as they threaten.

    The other idea was that we needed to end our dependence on energy sources outside our borders and to do this we need to end global warming. I'm not convinced these two things tie together really well.


    A retired army Colonel, the author's son was US Army Lieutenant killed in action in 2007. There are many negative comments about the direction our country is going. Some of these come off as reasoned and some of them are reasonable. However, I have to wonder how much of his view on this subject is informed by the fact that his son died fighting to support our efforts in the middle east.

  • (5/5)
    This short book by Andrew Bacevich deserves close attention from everyone concerned about the direction our country has been traveling. He dissects root causes and incompetence ruthlessly and reasonably, which is just what a new Administration and Congress need to read.
  • (4/5)
    Every American needs to read this book, and read it soon. Bacevich, a retired Army Colonel and now History Prof in Boston, puts forth the case that we, the American people, have allowed our present economic, military and political status to come about through our own non-involvement and obsession with consumption at any price. It is a convincing argument and although I was somewhat dismayed that the conclusion settled for hopelessness with a touch of condescension, the book as a whole is a grand charge for change....and not change from DC...but changing our ways of living before we drown in our own profligacy.