12 March 2010


I just started reading Andrew J. Bacevich's 2008 book The Limits of Power, and I am enthralled. At last in the wilderness of unrestrained consumption, political corruption and military adventurism comes a rational, persuasive voice of restraint and common sense. Bacevich examines our current national (and global) crises through the lens of unadorned history, so that the reader may understand the roots and underpinnings of our common assumptions about what's materially possible vs. what's ethically defensible. His prose is clear and accessible, his reasoning sound, and his conclusions inescapable -- we change our assumptions, or we perish as a culture. Far from being a baseless, alarmist tract, this book is straightforward and eminently credible. I recommend it highly.

A quote from the book jacket: "The Limits of Power identifies a profound triple crisis facing America today: 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; the nation'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 us all, Republicans and Democrats ..... Bacevich, uniquely respected across the political spectrum, offers a historical perspective on the multiple 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 American exceptionalism; skepticism of easy solutions, especially those involving the use of force; and a conviction that, at the end of the day, the books will have to balance."

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, and is a retired U.S. Army colonel. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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