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

Host: Bill B.

Date: October 23, 2008

Judges Score:

Food & Drink:

Other Sources:

Terri Gross interviews the author on Fresh Air:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94505191

Post-fight analysis:

Despite having a sometimes lumpy flow to its writing, The Limits of Power was roundly well-received by Fight Club members, as it makes points with which each fighter seems to have identified. Lessons learned: modern American foreign policy may be more about feeding an insatiable American consumer appetite than about liberating or protecting subjugated peoples; much of the subjugation those people suffer actually is caused directly and indirectly by those serving our appetites; said another way, the force behind our foreign policies and thus our military excursions is classic imperialism, not altruism; it’s not the fault of our combat forces, however, our general and admiral corps should take more responsibility for seeing the bigger picture; people of the world would probably respect us more if we set a good example of how a fortunate nation acts; we need to rid the world of nukes, including our own; the Bush Doctrine of pursuing preventive war is realistically and morally untenable; and finally, the belief is false that we are exceptional by some divine right – the truth is that our nation was founded upon exceptional ideals toward which we have struggled and toward which we ought to aspire with renewed effort.

Col. Bacevich is truly insightful. His credibility is obvious as a veteran, a military academic and an American who has found part of his family and soul sacrificed on the altar of our indulgence. In addition, he is courageous in expressing his insights with bold language into the faces of lauded men in powerful positions and to Americans themselves. Unfortunately for all of us, solutions to the problems he points out, as he admits, would require changes within Americans themselves and could be brought about only by leaders the likes of which we have not seen since different eras in our nation’s history.

5 Responses to “#17 – The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”


  1. 1 Matt H. November 1, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Awesome book! I had understood many of the different military doctrines over the last 20 years but didn’t understand how they all tied back to NSC 68 – the only way to project domance in the world is through military domance. Bacevich and John Stewart have both done a great job recentl in bringing back to reality this idea of “American Exceptionalism” – America is only exceptional is how we were created (unlike every other nation) as a democracy not that we “ARE” exceptional? Reagan and most recently Palin’s have used the “city on a hill” depiction… as a shining example for the rest of the world of what they should be. We SHOULD be a shining example of freedom, democracy, respect for ourselves and for others but we SHOULD NOT be using force to recreate the world in our image!

  2. 2 Matt H. November 1, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    As I read the book and thought about the discussion about America’s eternal search for “Military Dominance” I thought about a recent 60 Minutes episode that I had seen on Sadr city, the creation of walls, and the work with American drone aircraft in Iraq. Watch the 60 Minutes episode.

  3. 3 bobbyjones November 3, 2008 at 9:16 am

    It was a good brawl. And an even better recap written by the host. As I prepare to cast my ballot tomorrow, I take to heart the admonition that we must renew our commitment and redouble our efforts to live up to the exceptional values upon which this nation was founded. What are these exceptional values?

    Bacevich touches on this, but for the best definition you have to turn back to Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 in his work Democracy in America:
    The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven. Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people.

    Also, check out “American Exceptionalism:A Double Edged Sword” by Seymour Martin Lipset:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/americanexceptionalism.htm

  4. 4 bobbyjones January 30, 2009 at 9:37 am

    How about “Wired for War” by PW Singer…not only are we outsourcing our security to military contractors, we’re using unmanned drones and robots to do the jobs that are too dirty, dangerous, or dull.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1594201986/bookstorenow96-20

  5. 5 Bill B. May 28, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Interesting review of this book by MinnPost writer Eric Black and excerpts from a May 27, 2009 interview with Bacevich by Minnesota Public Radio “Midmorning” host Kerri Miller:

    http://www.minnpost.com/ericblack/2009/05/27/9104/the_end_of_american_exceptionalism


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