Friday, August 29, 2008

Andrew Bacevich

Bill Moyers interviewed Andrew Bacevich about his new book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. From the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: It's been a long time since I've read a book in which I highlighted practically every third sentence. So, it took me a while to read, what is in fact, a rather short book. You began with a quote from the Bible, the Book of Second Kings, chapter 20, verse one. "Set thine house in order." How come that admonition?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I've been troubled by the course of U.S. foreign policy for a long, long time. And I wrote the book in order to sort out my own thinking about where our basic problems lay. And I really reached the conclusion that our biggest problems are within.

I think there's a tendency on the part of policy makers and probably a tendency on the part of many Americans to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere, beyond our borders. And that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are at home.

BILL MOYERS: So, this is a version of "Physician, heal thyself?"

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, yes, "Physician, heal thyself," and you begin healing yourself by looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing yourself as you really are.

BILL MOYERS: Here is one of those neon sentences. Quote, "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," you write, "is that nothing should disrupt their access to these goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part of through the distribution of largesse here at home, and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad." In other words, you're saying that our foreign policy is the result of a dependence on consumer goods and credit.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Our foreign policy is not something simply concocted by...[read on]
Read the full transcript or watch the interview.

Read "Illusions of Victory under Bush," adapted from The Limits of Power; learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University; he 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.

The Page 99 Test: The Limits of Power.

--Marshal Zeringue