Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. Bacevich’s dense text may not be ideal for an “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. “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 An immediate. Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism ( New York: Metropolitan Books, ), pp., $ Andrew Bacevich’s latest .

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As such, perhaps more than any other figure in our recent history, he may help us discern a way out. Menu Skip to content.

In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, few questioned that assumption. Inthe Pentagon was prepared for any number of contingencies in the Balkans or Northeast Asia or the Persian Gulf. In an earlier age, Americans saw empire as the antithesis of freedom. Niebuhr once wrote disapprovingly of Americans, their “culture soft and vulgar, equating joy with happiness and happiness with comfort. Freedom is the altar at which Americans worship, whatever their nominal religious persuasion.

In the years that followed, Americans became inured to reports of U. Of perhaps even greater significance, it is both counterproductive and unsustainable. In some respects, this must be cause for celebration. As Bacevich puts it, President Reagan told Americans what poaer wanted to hear. In practice, freedom constantly evolves and in doing so generates new requirements and abolishes old constraints.

Certainly, the president and his advisers, along with neocons always looking for opportunities to flex American military muscle, bear considerable culpability for our current predicament. This book challenges that supposition. Whether the issue at hand is oil, credit, or the availability of cheap consumer goods, we expect the world to accommodate the American way of life. The End of American Exceptionalism Author: Bacevidh transformation has produced a paradoxical legacy.


The resulting sense of entitlement has great implications for foreign policy. Niebuhr speaks to us from the past, offering truths of enormous relevance to the present.

Andreew his penultimate chapter, Bacevich chronicles the debilitating effects that a culture of entitlement and a narrow mindset among policymakers have on the U. Iraq has revealed the futility of counting on military power to sustain our habits of profligacy. In many ways, the condition of the military today offers the most urgent expression of that dysfunction. In assessing the predicament that results from these crises, The Limits of Power employs what might be called a Niebuhrean perspective.

Reprinted with kind permission from Henry Holt.

Everyone should read it. We teeter on the edge of insolvency, desperately trying to balance accounts by off on our presumably invincible armed forces. In effect, Americans now confront a looming military crisis to pkwer along with the lmits and political crises that they have labored so earnestly to ignore.

As individuals, our appetites and expectations have grown exponentially. Of perhaps even greater difficulty, the combination of economic, political, and military crisis summons Americans to reexamine exactly what freedom entails.

Realism and humility formed the core of his worldview, each infused with a deeply felt Christian sensibility.

A political elite preoccupied with the governance of empire paid little attention to protecting the United States limihs. The decision makers who wield executive power seem oblivious to the impending dangers that their policies have engendered. After all, these small events left unaltered what many took to be the defining reality of the contemporary era: If anything, the reverse is true: He reminds us that we can destroy all that we cherish by pursuing an illusion of indestructibility.

The status of the United States as “sole superpower” appeared unassailable. Yet especially since the s, the reinterpretation of freedom has had a transformative impact on our society and culture. Today, as illustrated above all by the Bush administration’s efforts to dominate the energy- rich Persian Gulf, empire has seemingly become a prerequisite of freedom. When it came to defending vital American interests, asserting control over the imperial periphery took precedence over guarding the nation’s own perimeter.


The United States today finds itself threatened by three interlocking crises. Yet even as they celebrate freedom, Americans exempt the object of their veneration from critical examination. 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.

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.

The Limits of Power

American power has limits and is inadequate to the ambitions to which hubris and sanctimony have given rise. Except in the eyes of the deluded and the disingenuous, it has long since become a fool’s errand.

Moreover, the basic nature of war is also here to stay. 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.

Bill Moyers Journal . THE LIMITS OF POWER | PBS

In an immediate sense, it is the soldier who bears the burden of such folly. The common understanding of freedom that prevailed in December when the United States entered the war against Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany has long since become obsolete. The connection between these two tendencies is a causal one.