|The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project)
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“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
An immediate New York Times bestseller, The Limits of Power offers an unparalleled examination of the profound triple crisis facing America: an economy in disarray that can no longer be fixed by relying on expansion abroad; a government transformed by an imperial presidency into a democracy in name only; and an engagement in endless wars that has severely undermined the body politic.
Writing with knowledge born of experience, conservative historian and former military officer Andrew J. Bacevich argues that if the nation is to solve its predicament, it will need the revival of a distinctly American approach: the neglected tradition of realism. In contrast to the multiple illusions that have governed American policy since 1945, he calls for respect for power and its limits; aversion to claims of exceptionalism; skepticism of easy solutions, especially those involving force; and a conviction that Americans must live within their means. Only a return to such principles, Bacevich eloquently argues, can provide common ground for fixing America’s urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.
- Amen to Limits
Excellent study, though I have to take exception on some key points, most notably Mr. Bacevich's take on Reagan and Afghanistan. He writes: "Reagan's policy toward Afghanistan...a seemingly brilliant success that within a decade gave birth to a quagmire...The billions that Reagan spent funneling weapons...to the Afghan mujahideen were as nothing compared to the $1.2 trillion his administration expended modernizing US military forces." Partly true, but the author allows himself to be carried away into inaccurate history.
First, it was not Reagan who spent billions funneling the weapons, but a liberal congressman named Charlie Wilson. Reagan merely gave political support to the program. Secondly, it in no way led to a quagmire. It led to the departure of the Soviet Union, which led to anarchy in Afghanistan, which led to the Taliban taking control, which led to O. bin Laden taking up residence in Afghanistan. To suggest that Sept 11 and our subsequent invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is due to Reagan and Wilson's support of people who were defending themselves against Soviet invaders is facile. The 19 hijackers were not successful because of any calisthenics they did in the desert at an al Qaeda camp. They did the bulk of their training and planning in Germany and the US.
More to the point, our involvement today is not and need not be a quagmire. And this speaks of a missing theme, the absence of which I noticed often in reading Bacevich's otherwise very good book. Our military is not a police force. Our military is not a relief organization. Our military is not a nation-building agency. Our military is the best in the world at attacking and defending against other militaries. Saddam and his army are vanquished. The Taliban were run out of power a long time ago. It's time for us to go. Yes, bin Laden escaped, but that is no reason for us to stay. Hunting him now would seem to be a good task for the CIA, working together with the Pakistani intelligence service. Similarly, how much better it would have been for the US military to leave Iraq immediately after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Yes, much had to be rebuilt, but why not let the Iraqis do it among themselves in 2004 instead of 2011? Why not support Hamid Karzi in the way we supported the mujahideen, ie., from a safe distance?
Bacevich correctly identifies the solution in his title: our power is great, but there are limits. The problem is political megalomania which sees no limits to what our military can accomplish. The story has been remarkably similar in this respect in Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan, but people like Lyndon Johnson and GW Bush continually hearken back to Japan and Germany as the model. If Barak Obama is as astute as he appears, he'll follow the lead of President Eisenhower in Korea, and not President Nixon in Vietnam.
- Right on.
Like other thinking military leaders, it appears that his fresh voice was squelched causing Col. Bacevich to look elsewhere for employmnet. The speak truth to power was definitely not in favor under the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld era, when the focus was "produce only intelligence to please." If it doesn't please, and is not in comic-book format, you are dismissed.
I am proud of the fact that the author served. I am also proud that he could walk away and teach as he does now....more info
- The decline of America has been predicted many times before.
First it was communism and Sputnik. Remember? America was never going to be a great power again. Then it was Korea and Viet Nam. And America was never going to be a great power again. Remember? Then it was the Japanese industrial revolution and we could not make anything anymore, and, of course, America was never going to be a great power again. *sigh* It get's kind of old does it not?
Reality: At the dawn of the 21st century, there are no genuine competitors to the title of "super power." France, hardly a true ally, even calls the United States a "Hyper Power," (to their great dismay). Most nations have dismantled their militaries with the exception of Great Britain. Canada is a laughing stock. France and Germany can barely meet their UN peacekeeping duties. All of Europe together could not solve the unrest in the Balkan wars, and needed American assitance.
Economy? We have the highest per capita production of any nation (Opps...someone forgot to tell you that). Our GDP is greater than all of Europe combined. We are far and away the wealthies nation on earth. Even in Iraq, the tide has turned in our favor (you know that because you don't see it on the news anymore. What happened to the nightly coverage?)
Sadly, there are always ready and anxious readers who slather at the possibility of America's downfall. Remember the book "The Decline and Fall of Great Powers?" About 20 years ago, and the author, John Kennedy (no relation to any political figure), had a great following! Surely America was done for! Many slathered and hoped, but it was not to be. One has to sense the disappointment. What a shame!
And here we go again. *yawn* What these anti-Americans never get right is that America is the most adaptable country in the world. We re-invent ourselves routinely because we are free to do so. As long as America is free, our people (not the government) will adapt to new realities faster than any other country in the world.
PS: Someone should tell all the immigrants from all over the world that we are near collapse. They still seem to be under the delusion that America is the last best hope.
Joseph M. Vottis...more info
- Truth tellers are never late!
When I was 19 (I'm 40 now)and in college in the West, I had told my girlfriend that from what I had seen on the other side of the World (Africa in this case) there was a direct correlation between how we indulged in our desires and immediate demands, and the chaos seemingly far away that plagued other parts of this one planet. All that to say that on 9-12, I was already yearning for the truths Andrew Bacevich reveals, to be told. It would have been the proper seizing of the great opportunity, that the tragedy of the day before had provided. So when I showed signs of impatience in the following months, my father said:" People are still traumatized!".
Now, my hope is that trauma has subsided enough for a critical number of Americans to explore unwanted reflections of Self from the mirror. For indeed, Mr. Bacevich has provided a compelling, deep, honest reflection that can serve the emergence of a very noble way to live amongst one another....more info
- A watered-down wakeup call
Bacevich uses history from primarily the last half-century to point out the flaws with the way our country has been operating.
I applaud the effort, and understand these short books are more of a motivational device for readers. As such, I feel the book serves its purpose. I wish, however, that Mr Bacevich would have chosen to dig beneath the veneer of events as presented by the mainstream media.
On one hand, he questions the handling of many popular events, but never the reporting of said event. It left me with the same bad taste the 7:00 news would. I guess my only point is that if you can't trust the leadership to accurately inform you of their decisions after an event, how can you trust them to accurately report on the event itself?
With the exception of a brief discussion of fact manipulation prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bacevich has left most of the truths "in the closet" - perhaps to not be labelled as a conspiracy theorist? Anyway, the book is still a good wakup call attempt, focusing more on military actions as opposed to something like The Revolution: A Manifesto which focuses more on the political side....more info
- Litany of Denunciation
Andrew Bacevich's latest book unleashes a philippic against American foreign policy. Had the author criticized the hubris and sanctimony animating America's penchant for global social engineering, his message would offer a healthy antidote to the blunders of the last eight years.
This splenetic book ranges much farther afield than that, however. Bacevich diagnoses a terminally ill patient, the American republic, proffering a prescription that promises a beguiling cure and omitting the inconvenience of historical context - namely, that the world is round, that it contains other actors whose actions affect us, and that the United States cannot retreat from its turmoil and struggles. Let us examine his diagnosis of the patient.
According to Bacevich, since the 1960s Americans' pursuit of freedom has produced an orgy of material self-indulgence and individual autonomy at home and a quest for empire abroad to satisfy our appetites. This behavior has resulted in an eclipse of citizenship, unsustainable debt, an overextended military, an imperial presidency, and constitutional degradation. Hence the paradox of our time: "While the defense of American freedom seems to demand that U.S. troops fight in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the exercise of that freedom at home undermines the nation's capacity to fight. A grand bazaar provides an inadequate basis upon which to erect a vast empire."
The "unnecessary," "counterproductive," "unsustainable" Iraq war manifests the intersection of our multiple crises.
Since the Founding, American acquisitiveness has fueled an inexorable, ruthless expansionism. The United States never liberated others, absent a threat to its own security or economic interests. Thus, the Civil War only `incidentally' freed the slaves. World War II only `incidentally' saved European Jews. Bacevich appears to believe that Jefferson's "empire for liberty" has been a malign force in modern history. He concedes that America's pragmatic, opportunistic foreign policy has not differed from that of all states and that it did enable the emergence of a great power; yet he labels "pernicious" a strategic tradition that from the start (italics mine) squandered national wealth and power.
Bacevich could never be accused of understatement. He claims that the national mobilizations of World War II and the Cold War left the traditional republic of checks and balances deader than a doornail. To describe the regime today as a republic would be "like calling Adolf Hitler a dictator or the weapon dropped on Hiroshima a bomb." Instead of providing "enlightened governance," our dysfunctional political system "poses a clear and present danger to those it is meant to serve."
Plenty of blame exists to spread across the political spectrum. Bacevich harbors special rancor for the post-World War II bipartisan consensus supporting the baleful "ideology of national security" that destroyed the "Old Republic:" 1) the abiding theme of history is freedom to which all men aspire; 2) the United States embodies freedom; 3) America has a providential mission to ensure freedom's triumph; 4) for the American way of life to endure, freedom must prevail everywhere.
Both parties and all so-called Washington "Wise Men" since 1945 have subscribed to this "reductive and insipid ideology." The path to postwar perdition was inevitable. This "meretricious conception of security" gave birth to the Bush Doctrine, culminating in the Iraq "shipwreck."
So, down with all "Wise Men," for starters!
Presidents would do better, the author disdainfully asserts, to pick advisers by lottery. "...presidents would be better served if they relied on the common sense of randomly chosen citizens rather than consulting sophisticated insiders."
Having followed him this far, the reader will be unsurprised by Bacevich's summary indictment of the war on terror as an abject failure and his contention that the Afghan/Iraq wars demonstrate the hopeless disrepair of all our institutions, the illusoriness of our military capability, and the bankruptcy of an American way of life dependent on oil wars. We don't need a bigger army. We need a smaller, i.e., non-imperial, foreign policy.
It is difficult knowing where to begin in appraising this vituperative screed. Bacevich seems to view the American republic as fatally flawed from the start, but he never provides his standard of judgment. At one point, he sardonically dismisses a "mythical Old Republic," so it seems doubtful America ever enjoyed "enlightened governance."
If Jefferson's "empire for liberty" has been a baneful force in history, would the author have preferred the Anti-Federalist (utopian) small, agrarian republic? Does Bacevich think the world would be better off had North America been parceled into British, French, Spanish, and Russian fiefdoms? What would the world have looked like, if the "empire for liberty" had not existed to defeat the totalitarian threats of the twentieth century? What, by the way, does Bacevich think the Civil War and World War II were about?
If the United States, like all great powers, only fights for its vital interests, why is Bacevich in high dudgeon that politics ain't bean bag, and foreign policy ain't missionary work?
Bacevich's litany of denunciation, unburdened with sustained analysis or historical context, covers the map and is replete with non-sequiturs, post-hoc fallacies, and reductionism. He finds, for instance, a causal connection between the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the National Organization for Women (NOW)! "SAC helped make possible the feminine mystique and much else besides." The "malignant" Reagan legacy of SDI's spurious promise of a technical solution to global military supremacy ignores the existence of an aggressive Soviet Empire and the moral case for shifting deterrence from mutual assured destruction to defense.
Reagan set the stage for our Persian Gulf imperium to control oil, and Bacevich almost takes grim satisfaction that we now confront jihadists Reagan once supported. The author neglects to mention that the Afghan intervention hastened the demise of the Soviet Empire. Bacevich fails to recognize that foreign policy always entails trade-offs and that blow-back sometimes happens. No better illustration of this exists than the Allied cooperation with Stalin in World War II, although it eventuated in Soviet domination of East Europe for half a century. Churchill grasped the choice at the moment, as he explained to his private secretary, Jock Colville: "I have only one purpose, the destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby. If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons."
Bacevich does not elucidate what his "non-imperial" foreign policy means, so the reader must draw inferences. He regards Reinhold Niebuhr as "the most clear-eyed of American prophets" and thinks C. Wright Mills correctly analyzed America with his theory of a "power elite," but he condemns the way Washington's "insipid" "Wise Men" have drowned out "principled dissenters" like paleoconservatives, libertarians, pacifists, and neo-agrarians.
Who are these unsung strategists?
The anti-Semite Pat Buchanan who believes World War II was a mistake? Ron Paul? Reverend Jeremiah Wright? Washington "Wise Men" haven't a clue about "sound strategy," but Bacevich's assessment of Iraq violates a cardinal maxim of sound strategy - start with where we go from here, not where we wish we were or should have been. This is not the place for a discussion of Iraq, but several distinguished scholars propose how to make the best of the hand we've been dealt in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.8 They are "wise men," however.
What, then, is the cure for the terminally ill patient?
All our institutions are broken, elections don't matter (much), and citizens are besotted with self-gratification. Bacevich's facile remedy is: `Patient, heal thyself!' "The onus of responsibility," he declares, "falls squarely on citizens." But how will sick souls recognize that they are sick, much less heal themselves with a painful regimen of self-sacrifice? If who controls political office is irrelevant and all institutions are dysfunctional, what difference does it make? Of one thing we can be certain. The complex domestic and international problems facing us will not be solved by playing the lottery, or consulting the telephone book.
These problems call for "wise men," skilled Washington insiders who know how to work the levers of power to find allies and build coalitions through compromise and politicking to accomplish things.
Andrew Bacevich's message is: `A pox on all your houses.' Do not call him for help.
- Limits of Power - PVM Review
As a Historian and expert of International Relations, I found Andy Bacevich's book, The Limits of Power, to be very much on target with informative and insightful perspectives on current political and military policies, and how Presidential administrations have more liberally interpreted our Constitution to satisfy and justify their assertive foreign policy agendas to promote the U.S. agenda.
Also, the author's views of how the U.S. has shifted from a nation of producers to one of conspicuous consumption, which has been a major contributing factor in our current economic demise, were quite interesting.
Overall, this is an excellent book, easy read, and written in a very unbiased manner. I highly recommend it regardless of your views. ...more info
- This is what I have been waiting for...
This book explains the ways in which America has practiced exceptionalism and how these nationalist attitudes have effected its own citizens. Please read this book, you will not be disapointed....more info
- Trenchant critique embedded in a riot act screed.
Andrew Bacevich is livid. It's tempting to dismiss some of Limits of Power's fury as coming from the death of his son, but it's a mistake to chalk this up to emotion. Bacevich's book deserves to be read in good faith on its own merits.
A lot of this is overheated backlash paleoconservatism, and sometimes Bacevich's polemical flair reaches a wild-eyed pitch that harms the argument, but it's hard to deny his critique is biting. He eviscerates neoconservatism's bedrock fallacy of equating the monopolization of power with the ensuring of security better than anyone else I have read, and his articulation of how this fallacy demands an expansionist momentum that flows ineffably to overreach and blowback is brilliant. He brings a Burkean sobreity, formerly blurred by drunken "unipolarity," back into focus and, as an astute follower of Niebuhr, he reminds us of the reality of limitation. It's both a strategic and a moral book.
Also, it's pretty cool to hear a conservative praise the stern straight talk of Carter's "malaise speech" and tearing into the myth of Reagan. That alone is worth the price of admission....more info
- A Missed Opportunity
Red meat for the blue masses. Although all sides are subjected to significant incoming, the heaviest salvos are directed at the red targets. Justified or not, neither side will listen to a perceived bias. To me this was a missed opportunity. ...more info
- "Limits of Power
I have found this book very readable and
researched. It was a book I did not want to put
down. I think the information should be known
and read by everybody who is interested in the US.
BIll FORST...more info
- Outstanding Geopolitical Writing
Concise and powerful, this book is essential for anyone trying to make sense of the current international position of America. ...more info
- The State of Our American Democratic Experiment
"Set thine house in order." With this biblical passage, Andrew Bacevich begins his short but powerful exposition of the three crises facing the American nation today. In Bacevich's view, these problems are of our own making.
These three crises are economic, political and military, and the underlying reason for all three emergencies "comes from within." The economic crisis is a "crisis of profligacy." Given the choice, Americans have given in to living beyond their means. The gap between requirements and means is ever-expanding, requiring us to look beyond our shores to sustain a frankly unsustainable American way of life. The political crisis of the United States is one of where the government is managed in a wartime-minded national security state whose primary attribute is dysfunction. This is a situation where Congress--more concerned with its reelection than anything else--has willfully abdicated its power to the executive branch, effectively ending the democratic republic.
The third crisis stems from the first two but is one that has metastasized since the onset of the Global War on Terror, the military crisis. In sum, we have too much war for too few warriors, and those few warriors are led by mediocre generals who no longer understand nor grasp the lost art of strategy. Bacevich scours the military establishment and their widely held belief that Americans have reinvented war and warfare. Nothing about war's nature has changed, he argues, and American leaders are drawing all the wrong lessons from our current conflicts.
Andrew Bacevich's "Limits of Power" takes an unflinchingly hard look at the state of our American democratic experiment. While his predictions are dire and his economic outlook has largely come to pass, he does offer solutions that won't be easy for the American people: we must learn to live within our means, for one. The "Limits of Power" exposes the vacuous shell of our democracy, and insists that only our citizenry that can fix the mess. But it will not be easy.
- Profoundly disappointing "realist" conventional wisdom
Andrew Bacevich is an intelligent man. He has written many good books, and has served his country with honor. If anyone has a right to pen a scathing critique of American Imperialism, it is Bacevich, not the least because he lost a son in an Iraq War that he repeatedly warned against.
But this book is a train wreck. Bacevich sounds not so much like a worldly military officer as a curmudgeon. Congress? A bunch of basically corrupt knaves who believe in nothing, and it doesn't matter which party wins. The public? Coddled hyper-consumers who don't care about citizenship or the stern values that make republics great. Don't get him started on the military: every general since World War II is arrogant, or incompetent, or both. And this is all glowing praise compared to his treatment of George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz.
At times it verges on pure incoherence. Bacevich insists that the Bush Administration's foreign policy was really nothing more than the working out of the foreign policy elite's postwar assumptions -- but then excoriates the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war and infatuation with high-tech military as the most significant US foreign policy development since the Manhattan Project (albeit one that failed miserably). Repeatedly, he quotes Reinhold Niebuhr to the effect that we must avoid moralizing -- and then he lectures the rest of us on our shallowness. He calls American power the "empire of consumption", which, he insists, he doesn't want to praise or condemn, but merely describe -- and does so in a chapter called "The Crisis of American Profligacy." He derides secrecy in the national security establishment but also says that the public doesn't care and can't really be trusted. In all, I have rarely read anything that so sanctimoniously condemns people for their sanctimony.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this book is that its basic critique is essentially correct. America's dependence upon foreign oil to maintain its standard of living HAS tied us up in foreign adventures that we can no longer afford. Our political system does indeed seem unable to plan for the long run or create coherent long-term strategy. We ARE asking the military to do these things that it cannot do, relying on military solutions to political problems, and overlooking the sometimes poor performance of the general corps (although on this last point I should say he really indulges in some cheap shots against Wes Clark, whose strategy, for all its mistakes, did bring down a horrid dictator and gain autonomy for the Kosovars against Serbian brutality.).
But simply to describe this thesis demonstrates the relative lack of insight in the book. Bacevich is not even close to the first commentator to write about these things. Want to know more about the perversities of US energy policy and how it undermines US foreign policy? Try Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Interested in the ridiculousness of neoconservative foreign policy ideology and how it brought us to ruin in Iraq? Read Fred Kaplan's masterful Daydream Believers. Want to get a good sense of how America's relative position is changing in line with new geopolitical realities? Go with Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World.
Unlike these other books, Bacevich doesn't even pretend to offer solutions, or even partial ones. After going on about America's addiction to foreign oil, he makes no concrete suggestions about how to change it. He lambastes the performance of US generals and its intelligence community, but has no ideas about how to make it better. Dysfunctional Washington elite? Must be something in the water: don't ask Bacevich to provide any help. He just suggests that "we need the revival of a distinctly American approach: the neglected tradition of realism." This is just fatuous: used in this way, "realism" is merely a trophy word, without real content. And in any event, whatever "realism" may be, it is certainly NOT "distinctly American."
In sum, this isn't an essay or a book at all -- it is something of a primal scream. And as I suggested beforehand, Bacevich is entitled to one -- not only because of the loss of his son, but because he is a patriot, who has given his life in service to a country that he loves, and he now sees that country going down the tubes. But the rest of us who also love that country need more than an angst-ridden cri de coeur. We won't get it from Andrew Bacevich....more info
- An important addition to understanding our place in the world
A sobering look at our present situation by an author with unimpeachable credentials. He takes no sides. Of course there is opinion in the form of analysis but given his experience it offers much that requires our attention, thought and action....more info
- Make it a requirement
Please read this book before it is too late. It is our duty to educate ourselves, don't miss this one....more info
- 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.