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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (edition 2008)

by Andrew Bacevich

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5312618,991 (3.84)19
Member:Sheila123
Title:The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
Authors:Andrew Bacevich
Info:Metropolitan Books (2008), Hardcover, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
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Tags:To Read, politics

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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew Bacevich

  1. 01
    Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman (proximity1)
    proximity1: The logical consequences of technopoly go hand in hand with an ever-expanding and ever-more-intrusive state surveillance aparatus which their proponents try to justify by assumptions about national security matters. These works, both so important, should be read together or serially for greater effect.… (more)
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This book contains some good questions about where we are as a nation and what we are making priorities by how we spend our money and how we excercise force with our military might. This was written before president Obama took office. Several things that were blamed on Republicans or neo-cons are still things that are practiced by the current administration. But there was some discussion on how some things have stayed the same. The government keeps getting bigger and Americans seem to keep on believing that we are an exceptional nation that makes the rules that the rest of the world needs to follow. We are spending and consuming our way into oblivion.

He discusses how the military sees war currently and how the view has changed since WWII and since Vietnam and how the nation's view of what war means has changed. This included discussion on how we have rejected the draft as a means to create a citizen army and how we now depend on a professional fighting force. It is easier politically to send a professional force into war than it is to convince the country that drafting people away from their normal lives is appropriate.

The military does not plan to win wars. We win battles and topple regimes but we stayed in Iraq and Afganistan this time with no military plan to win. He was fairly critical of Gen Tommy Franks (commander who was in charge of invading Iraq and Afganistan) and his failure to plan beyong beating the convential forces we attacked.

In his summation chapter he deals with two ideas I didn't feel he really discussed earlier on that I disagree with. One was nuclear disarmement. He wants the US to totally get rid of all our nukes and states "Furthermore, the day is approaching when the United States will be able to deter other nuclear-armed states, like Russia and China, without itself relying on nuclear weapons." He goes on to talk about how precision munitions are better. He also makes an offhand comment about how America was not justified in using the atom bomb to end the war with Japan. I completely disagree. More nations are getting access to the bomb and giving up this option leaves us at the mercy of their threats unless we strike as soon as they threaten.

The other idea was that we needed to end our dependence on energy sources outside our borders and to do this we need to end global warming. I'm not convinced these two things tie together really well.


A retired army Colonel, the author's son was US Army Lieutenant killed in action in 2007. There are many negative comments about the direction our country is going. Some of these come off as reasoned and some of them are reasonable. However, I have to wonder how much of his view on this subject is informed by the fact that his son died fighting to support our efforts in the middle east.

( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
We Americans are in denial. as long as they insist that the power of the USA is without limits, they will continue to guzzle imported oil, binge on imports, dream imperial dreams. We will ignore the necessity of settling accounts, the budget, debt, and consumption as politicians (both parties) erode military might on unnecessary and winnable wars. We will continue to allow officials responsible for failed policies to dodge accountability. Are we willfully self-destructive? It often seems so. Bacevich analyzes the more dangerous national myths that currently (mis)guide American policy.

"The United States today finds itself threatened by three interlocking crises. The first of the crises is economic and cultural, the second political, and the third military. All three share this characteristic: They are of our own making."

Concerned about the direction the US is headed? You need to read this book. ( )
  bke | Mar 30, 2014 |
The Limits of Power is Andrew Bacevich’s (justly) acclaimed The New American Militarism distilled, streamlined, and rebalanced. It is a fiercer, angrier book than its predecessor—one that spends proportionally less time outlining the problem and more calling on the nation and its leaders to wake up and implement a solution.

The problem is the same one outlined in Militarism: An unsustainable state of perpetual war driven by a misguided ambition to remake the world in America’s image and so ensure a steady flow of the cheap petroleum to which we, as a society, have become addicted. Here, more than in Militarism, Bacevich points to the decades between 1960 and 1980 as the pivotal moment when the United States abandoned fiscal discipline and personal responsibility in favor of a culture of mindless consumerism, and an awareness of the human cost of war for a fantasy that technology could make it cheap and easy. What we sowed then, we have been reaping ever since, in Beirut and Mogdishu, Kabul and Baghdad. The solution, he concludes, is for the United States to grow up, abandon its delusions, and—recognizing that a perpetual war footing is not sustainable—re-learn the meaning of sacrifice.

Preference for this presentation of the argument over the one in Militarism will be, for the most part, a matter of rhetorical taste. The former book is, to use an oversimplified analogy, condensed lecture course in the history of American foreign policy; this one is a radically extended op-ed essay. The former offers more depth and nuance, this one has a clearer through-line and passion in sufficient quantities to edge it toward “jeremiad” territory. Read Militarism for depth of understanding it promotes, or Limits for material to enliven your next impromptu political argument, or both . . . either way, though, read Bacevich. ( )
  ABVR | Jan 27, 2014 |
This short book by Andrew Bacevich deserves close attention from everyone concerned about the direction our country has been traveling. He dissects root causes and incompetence ruthlessly and reasonably, which is just what a new Administration and Congress need to read. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
Thin gruel. This reads like an extended Op-Ed piece, and serves as a demonstration of the short shelf-life of books in the Current Affairs section. Anyone who has been paying attention for the last two decades will find little that is original here. Libraries full of books have been written on topics that Bacevich skims over. He runs through a jumble of failures in US foreign policy, and his diagnoses are often contradictory: Is the problem American Culture, or a cynical political class? The Imperial Presidency, or the diverging bureaucratic interests of competing government agencies? Incompetent generals, or wrongheaded Wise Men determined to implement unworkable policies? Bacevich frequently concludes some muddled passage with an axiom from Reinhold Niebuhr, for an illusion of intellectual heft. There are also the requisite references to Clausewitz and C. Wright Mills.

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3 vote MusicalGlass | Apr 4, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805088156, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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.--From publisher description.… (more)

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