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5 Local Warehouse American Studies- Military Industrial Complex and National Security

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

by

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism Cover

ISBN13: 9780805088151
ISBN10: 0805088156
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From an acclaimed conservative historian and former military officer, a bracing call for a pragmatic confrontation with the nation's problems.

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.

Review:

"In this caustic critique of the growing American 'penchant for empire' and 'sense of entitlement,' Bacevich (The New American Militarism) examines the citizenry's complicity in the current 'economic, political, and military crisis.' A retired army colonel, the author efficiently pillories the recent performance of the armed forces, decrying it as 'an expression of domestic dysfunction,' with leaders and misguided strategies ushering the nation into 'a global war of no exits and no deadlines.' Arguing that the tendency to blame solely the military or the Bush administration is as illogical as blaming Herbert Hoover for the Great Depression, Bacevich demonstrates how the civilian population is ultimately culpable; in citizens' appetite for unfettered access to resources, they have tacitly condoned the change of 'military service from a civic function into an economic enterprise.' Crisp prose, sweeping historical analysis and searing observations on the roots of American decadence elevate this book from mere scolding to an urgent call for rational thinking and measured action, for citizens to wise up and put their house in order." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

This compact, meaty volume ought to be on the reading list of every candidate for national office — House, Senate or the White House — in November's elections. In an age of cant and baloney, Andrew Bacevich offers a bracing slap of reality. He confronts fundamental questions that Americans have been avoiding since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, first of all: What is... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich delivers precisely what the Republic has so desperately needed: an analysis of America's woes that goes beyond the villain of the moment, George W. Bush, and gets at the heart of the delusions that have crippled the country's foreign policy for decades. Bacevich writes with a passionate eloquence and moral urgency that makes this book absolutely compelling. Everyone should read it." Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror

Review:

"Strongly felt and elegantly written, The Limits of Power is painfully clear-sighted and refreshingly uncontaminated by the conventional wisdom of Washington, D.C." The Economist

Review:

"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

Review:

"Bacevich is the real deal. A quiet, cool voice of sanity with his spare, rigorous and unfailing honest analyses of America's role in the world and deepening strategic predicaments. This book should be essential reading for every National Security Council staffer in the next Washington administration, be it Republican or Democratic. In any sane political system, Mr. Bacevich would be immediately recruited to run intelligence and research at the State Department or policymaking at the Pentagon. The Limits of Power is destined to stand as a lonely classic signpost pointing the way to any future hope of renewed international and political security for the American people." Martin Sieff, The Washington Times

Review:

"In this utterly original book, Andrew Bacevich explains how our "empire of consumption" contains the seeds of its own destruction and why our foreign policy establishment in Washington is totally incapable of coming to grips with it. Indispensable reading for every citizen." Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback Trilogy

Review:

"A clear-eyed look into the abyss of America's failed wars, and the analysis needed to climb out. In Andrew Bacevich, realism and moral vision meet." James Carroll, author of House of War

Review:

In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich takes aim at America's culture of exceptionalism and scores a bull's eye. He reminds us that we can destroy all that we cherish by pursuing an illusion of indestructibility." Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor USMC (Ret.), co-author of The Generals' War and Cobra II

Review:

"Andrew Bacevich has written a razor sharp dissection of the national myths which befuddle U.S. approaches to the outside world and fuel the Washington establishment's dangerous delusions of omnipotence. His book should be read by every concerned US citizen." Anatol Lieven, author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism

Synopsis:

From an acclaimed conservative historian and former military officer, a bracing call for a pragmatic confrontation with the nation's problems

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 Americas urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.

Synopsis:

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 Americas urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.

About the Author

Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of The New American Militarism, among other books. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the recipient of a Lannan award and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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OneMansView, May 21, 2009 (view all comments by OneMansView)
Sharp rebuke of citizens, politicians, and generals (3.5 *s)

This somewhat tedious and not entirely consistent polemic, written by a retired colonel, excoriates the United States, especially the imperial Bush II presidency, for its zeal in imposing American economic and political ideals on noncompliant parts of the world through high-tech military means, which can supposedly be accomplished quickly and precisely with few complications. Of course, recent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the complete fatuity of those martial actions. But the author also contends that our hyper-consumeristic society, in which freedom has morphed into self-indulgence, virtually requires that the world satisfy our appetites for oil, credit, etc, and basically gives tacit approval of political and military aggressiveness to secure the world for our needs.

The US certainly had some international military presence before WWII, but the author contends that the expansion of the executive branch to include national security bodies, precipitated by the rise of the Russians and Chinese Communists, was transforming to the nature of US governance, especially in a willingness to intercede internationally. The secretiveness of the NSC, the CIA, the Pentagon, etc and the marginalization of Congress permitted policy positions that were frankly based on paranoid delusions of the extent of Communistic power and capabilities, best exemplified by Paul Nitze’s NSC 68 report in 1950, which to this day still has immense influence among neo-conservatives. Parallel to the development of these formal structures has been the reliance of presidents since JFK on a select group of Wise Men or advisors, who operate independently of accountability or need to comport with reality. Many global misadventures lie at their feet.

The author, in more than a little axe-grinding, suggests that recent top military commanders have been mostly incompetent. There is also a fuzzy debate about whether generals have been excessively constrained by civilian tampering – by the Wise Men. One can wonder if – and it is a big if – the US had been militarily successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, would this book have been written.

While the author dates the exaggeration of our enemy’s capabilities back to Nitze, its current manifestation is best demonstrated by neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz, the principal advocate of preemptive war. The author is not entirely consistent in his claims that the US foreign policy has been characterized mostly by pragmatism before Bush II, but now is ideologically driven, given the continuity of a national security apparatus prone to distorted views. What he does make clear is that the high tech capability of our military has made its use become very appealing since the Clinton years, the thinking being that a problematic foreign regime can be carefully excised through precision bombing without collateral civilian damage. The miscalculations in Kosovo alone should have given the Bush II administration some pause.

The author’s views on freedom are extremely limited. There has always been the notion that material prosperity is an element of freedom, but the run-up of huge personal debts and national trade imbalances of recent years has created dependencies being played out globally. However, in a democracy, freedom has to be gauged on the ability or even desire of citizens to have a voice in political affairs. But in the national security state, citizens are propagandized rather than allowed to provide input and oversight. The author makes no call for citizen empowerment. In fact, American reliance on an all volunteer army, in the author’s eyes, calls into question American interest in civic affairs.

This book is one of several written by the author over the last ten years that criticizes the US turn to establishing an empire through military means. The author is certainly correct that it is not possible financially or from a manpower standpoint to dominate the world militarily, not to mention the philosophical problems. He invokes the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr throughout the book to condemn American arrogance and sanctimony in its thinking that empire can be established almost benignly. He points out that war always has unintended and devastating consequences, yet we seem to be at a point where we cannot stop ourselves on our self-destructive path. There are limits to power.

As far as solutions to counteract our national hubris, or belief in American exceptionalism, the author can suggest only indirect measures such as eliminating nuclear weapons, achieving independence from foreign oil, and controlling global warming. But there are no suggestions as to how to start the process. He is definitely not a democrat (little ‘d’), so he does not call for citizen empowerment to put us on the correct path. In fact, he criticizes the American belief that electing candidates that espouse change can work, when there is no underlying movement by voters to alter their ways of life. The forces for continuity are subtle and significant. Basically the book is more or less a continuation of the author’s, shall we say, need to scold the US, the imperial Presidency and especially the military, for its hubris in attempting to dominate the world. It’s doubtful that this latest book breaks much new ground and some may find the curmudgeonly tone a bit off putting.
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Tack Goodell, August 18, 2008 (view all comments by Tack Goodell)
The Limits of Power is a devastating analysis of the US, its government, its leaders, and its national security policies -- not to mention its profligate population. Andrew Bacevich has topped my heroes list for several years. One hope this slim volume will give his views a wider audience -- possibly even reaching into the Obama campaign. His riviting Bill Moyers interview was a good start. I put the book down just as the violence in Georgia began to surface. It's amazing how a full dose of Professor Bacevich brings greater clarity to such a fiasco.
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(13 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)
Eileen Schulte, August 17, 2008 (view all comments by Eileen Schulte)
My comment comes from having heard the author talk on Bill Moyer's PBS program. He considers himself a conservative, but his views are in accord with mine, who am not. He considers that for the years since World War II the United States has been and is acting like an imperialist power, in the same ways past empires have done. He speaks very thoughtfully of the need of our country to realize that democracy in the U.S. form is not a prescription for democracy worldwide. I am very eager to read this book.
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(7 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780805088151
Subtitle:
The End of American Exceptionalism
Author:
Bacevich, Andrew J
Author:
Bacevich, Andrew
Author:
Bacevich, A. J.
Author:
Bacevich, Andrew J.
Author:
Conger, Eric
Publisher:
Macmillan Audio
Subject:
POL040000
Subject:
Government - General
Subject:
Power (Social sciences)
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Political Process - General
Subject:
Public Policy - General
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - General
Subject:
Government - U.S. Government
Subject:
United States Politics and government.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series:
American Empire Project
Publication Date:
20081014
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
5 CDs, 6 hours
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
5.77 x 5.33 x 0.8 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » Covert Government and Conspiracy Theory
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » International Studies
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Foreign Policy
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Politics

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism Used Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages Metropolitan Books - English 9780805088151 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this caustic critique of the growing American 'penchant for empire' and 'sense of entitlement,' Bacevich (The New American Militarism) examines the citizenry's complicity in the current 'economic, political, and military crisis.' A retired army colonel, the author efficiently pillories the recent performance of the armed forces, decrying it as 'an expression of domestic dysfunction,' with leaders and misguided strategies ushering the nation into 'a global war of no exits and no deadlines.' Arguing that the tendency to blame solely the military or the Bush administration is as illogical as blaming Herbert Hoover for the Great Depression, Bacevich demonstrates how the civilian population is ultimately culpable; in citizens' appetite for unfettered access to resources, they have tacitly condoned the change of 'military service from a civic function into an economic enterprise.' Crisp prose, sweeping historical analysis and searing observations on the roots of American decadence elevate this book from mere scolding to an urgent call for rational thinking and measured action, for citizens to wise up and put their house in order." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich delivers precisely what the Republic has so desperately needed: an analysis of America's woes that goes beyond the villain of the moment, George W. Bush, and gets at the heart of the delusions that have crippled the country's foreign policy for decades. Bacevich writes with a passionate eloquence and moral urgency that makes this book absolutely compelling. Everyone should read it."
"Review" by , "Strongly felt and elegantly written, The Limits of Power is painfully clear-sighted and refreshingly uncontaminated by the conventional wisdom of Washington, D.C."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Bacevich is the real deal. A quiet, cool voice of sanity with his spare, rigorous and unfailing honest analyses of America's role in the world and deepening strategic predicaments. This book should be essential reading for every National Security Council staffer in the next Washington administration, be it Republican or Democratic. In any sane political system, Mr. Bacevich would be immediately recruited to run intelligence and research at the State Department or policymaking at the Pentagon. The Limits of Power is destined to stand as a lonely classic signpost pointing the way to any future hope of renewed international and political security for the American people."
"Review" by , "In this utterly original book, Andrew Bacevich explains how our "empire of consumption" contains the seeds of its own destruction and why our foreign policy establishment in Washington is totally incapable of coming to grips with it. Indispensable reading for every citizen."
"Review" by , "A clear-eyed look into the abyss of America's failed wars, and the analysis needed to climb out. In Andrew Bacevich, realism and moral vision meet."
"Review" by , In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich takes aim at America's culture of exceptionalism and scores a bull's eye. He reminds us that we can destroy all that we cherish by pursuing an illusion of indestructibility."
"Review" by , "Andrew Bacevich has written a razor sharp dissection of the national myths which befuddle U.S. approaches to the outside world and fuel the Washington establishment's dangerous delusions of omnipotence. His book should be read by every concerned US citizen."
"Synopsis" by ,

From an acclaimed conservative historian and former military officer, a bracing call for a pragmatic confrontation with the nation's problems

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 Americas urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.

"Synopsis" by ,

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 Americas urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.

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