Zippidy Doo Da

I'm not stupid, I'm from Texas!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Limits of Power

Been reading Andrew J. Bacevich’s “The Limits of Power.” He first came to my attention when he was a guest on Bill Moyers Journal. Bacevich is a retired army colonel, a West Pointer with a PhD from Princeton who now teaches history and international relations at Boston University.

Bacevich has been a critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, and of post WWII foreign policy in general. This book gives an overview of the National Security State we’ve developed over the past sixty years, shows us its pitfalls and encourages us to find a better path, away from our imperial presidency, dysfunctional congress, and over-reliance on military power.

As Bacevich recounts the history of American post-war military actions, the results are generally ambiguous or even negative. Think about it. The red scare-inspired Korean War left a ticking time bomb. 58,000 dead Americans in Viet Nam made no positive contribution to peace or quality of life. Central America or the Caribbean? At one point Bacevich quotes Marine General Smedley Butler, who fought in Nicaragua and called himself a “gangster for capitalism.” And Southwest Asia? He says “Bush would hardly be the first U.S. president for whom the axiom ‘America fights for freedom’ served simultaneously as core conviction and convenient rationale.”

“The real point is that whether the United States has been attempting to liberate or to dominate, events in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest that the effort is not working. Armed force wielded by the United States will neither free the peoples of the Greater Middle East nor put this country in a position to control the region. We are playing a losing hand.”

In this book he speaks of a “crisis of profligacy.” In his conclusion, he says “For the United States the pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence –on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people, whether they admit it or not, is that nothing should disrupt their access to those goods, that oil, or that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part through the distribution of largesse at home (with the Congress taking a leading role) and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad (largely the business of the executive branch).”

Let me wrap this up with a line from his introduction to this book:

“History will not judge kindly a people who find nothing amiss in the prospect of endless armed conflict so long as they themselves are spared the effects. Nor will it view with favor an electorate that delivers political power into the hands of leaders unable to envision any alternative to perpetual war.”


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