Monday, February 02, 2009

The problem is you

Andrew Bacevich is one of the great influential critics of American foreign policy today. His critiques of American consumerism and foreign policy are not too distant from those of leftie giants like Chalmers Johnson, so the left-leaning find it easy to like him. On the other hand, he says out front that he is a conservative and revives an older tradition of conservatism that opposes growing government power and entangling overseas adventures, so the right can be comfortable with him as well. Too bad the subject of his new book is quite uncomfortable.

His new book is The Limits of Power and it is a wake-up call to the American people. There are many who seem to think that the departure of W means that, economic troubles aside, the US can breath a sigh of relief. While he harshly condemns Bush for his many failures, Bacevich argues that Bush is merely the most fully developed of a tradition of Presidents acquiring more power and using it to pursue adventures abroad in the name of American exceptionalism. He also points to a self-pertuating national security infrastructure and culture that fails to serve the American people and an Empire of consumption that requires a huge share of the world's enegy to be sustained.

What is worrying is that all of the problems he identifies are systemic and are therefore difficult to solve. The economic crisis we are currently facing may give Obama the opportunity to effect major changes in society, but it is sure to be painful regardless. What's more it will likely require a national lifestyle change for which few are ready.

Away from the sadness and back to the book. In this book, Bacevich writes with a sort of peaceful outrage. He is harshly critical, but remains measured and analytical throughout. This does the book and reader as real service as he doesn't fly off the handle or digress into vitriol. If you haven't already, be sure to watch this video interview of Bacevich by Bill Moyers.

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