The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
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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.

Customer Reviews:

  • American policymakers must re-learn how to distinguish strategy from ideology
    With The Limits of Power, Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University and retired U.S. Army colonel, continues his critical examination of American foreign policy since World War II. In American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002), Bacevich argued that American foreign policy since the end of World War II, regardless of the party in the White House, has been geared toward achieving U.S. global dominance. In a following book, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), he focused on the reconstitution of the military in American life, especially its reinvigorated role in the conduct of foreign policy since the Vietnam War, and he concluded that the military has integrated itself so successfully into official U.S. dealings with the rest of the world that it has come to be seen as essential to effective foreign policy.

    In his latest effort, Bacevich concentrates on the lessons to be learned from U.S. military commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he reaches conclusions that, not surprisingly, differ from those of many public leaders and pundits. In his view, the war in Iraq exposed clearly for the first time the hypocrisy of the "morality tale" (p. 19) that had been the staple of American foreign policy since World War II. Sprinkled throughout his critique are the thoughts of the prominent Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), who expressed a deep concern about Americans' tendency to parade their power and prosperity before the rest of the world and to believe that they could use these assets to spread their worldview to others, if not to impose it on them. In this respect, Niebuhr's views provide a prescient framework for Bacevich's analysis....

    American policymakers must, says Bacevich, recover the "lost art of strategy" (p. 165). Political leaders have too often confused strategy with ideology, and, in turn, military leaders have tended to mistake operations for strategy. Bacevich believes that constructive strategy in foreign policy must recognize that the U.S. military has both limited resources and limited impact. He offers the options of containment and selective engagement as promising strategic approaches. In contrast, the choices of preventive war and Vice President Dick Cheney's one percent doctrine simply cannot be sustained consistently for any length of time. They stretch U.S. resources beyond their limits and negatively affect the nation's international standing.

    The value of Bacevich's work lies in his ability to look beyond the conventional rhetoric of academic, political, and military leaders. By drawing on critics of U.S. foreign policy and considering a wide range of events, he has constructed an alternative narrative of the American past. He maintains that this story reveals a nation with imperial ambitions. Recent events have confirmed much of his argument, often tragically, especially his identification of growing reliance on military action for the solution to international problems. He remains ominously pessimistic that any elected leader can change the current course of U.S. policy.

    The broader picture to be derived from Bacevich's analysis is perhaps even gloomier. He is suggesting that American leaders' failure to understand the limits of their power threatens to bring the entire American ethos crashing down. Although Americans seem to be intent on saddling the rest of the world with their form of freedom, their domestic profligacy and military adventurism have made them more dependent on foreign resources, such as oil, and more vulnerable to attacks from renegade terrorist elements. The decision makers who wield executive power seem oblivious to the impending dangers that their policies have engendered. They fail to recognize that the status of the richest, most powerful nation the world has ever seen was achieved not through government direction, but through the hard work of many striving, independent, and unregulated individuals. Bacevich charges that the overwhelming thrust toward military solutions and imperial ambitions undercuts the very successes these people have attained. Reliance on government power to impose U.S. values and concepts of freedom on the rest of the world has undermined the military's effectiveness, made the United States heavily dependent on foreign natural resources, and left Americans less secure in their own country. Bacevich clearly believes that the men and women of the armed forces deserve better--indeed, that all Americans deserve better.

    From a review by Robert Heineman (The Independent Review, Spring 2009)
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  • Insightful and compelling
    'The Limits of Power,' by Andrew Bacevich is a thoughtful and well-developed argument against American empire. Bacevich argues that American foreign policy ought to be guided, in part, by the restraints of what we can actually do with our circumscribed resources. In line with his previous books (e.g., "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War") he warns of the dangers of a military-driven foreign policy....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.
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  • Important but Flawed
    In defense of this book, I agree with the main contention, that America cannot afford to go from war to war, not to mention that even if we could afford it, it would not change the fact that these wars have simply not been successful and will likely (Afghanistan comes to mind) not produce better outcomes in the future.

    Having said that, as others have pointed out, the self-righteous tone of the book comes across more often than not as score settling and filled with self-poisoning venom. For instance, on page 105, he describes Forrestal's wife as "a floozy and a drunk". This description may or may not be accurate, but why is it necessary? It adds nothing to our understanding of the subject matter Unfortunately, it is not unrepresentative of the tone of most of the book.

    On page 155, the author in criticizing the moral character of the country uses as proof the "gaping disparities between rich and poor in our society". How would the author have us alleviate this gap? Spread the wealth? Tax only the rich? Perhaps he prefers outright socialism? This is one of the off-handed holier-than-thou statements that litter the book and detracts from the main point with which I agree. There is also an endorsement here of global warming which in conjunction with the implied call for socialism makes me highly suspicious of the core beliefs of the author. Although he rants about the deficits caused by military spending, he heaps no similar criticism on the monstrous deficits caused by the government's social programs and the unintended consequences of that spending.

    Finally, after lambasting the government and the military leadership for 99% of the book (again, not without cause), I kept waiting for the Bacevich solution. How do we deal with the threat or challenge of militant Islam for instance? All of a sudden the author's rant goes virtually silent. His stratgey for this is limited to one very vague paragraph where he supports "containment", with "surveillance of Islamist activity combined with sustained, multilateral police efforts to prevent terrorist attacks and root out terrorist networks. It should also deny Islamists both the sanctuaries and the wherewithal...to puruse their agenda"

    Let's examine this "policy" a bit more closely. What happens if no other country wants to help out with this multilateral effort? What happens if France for instance is so heavily influenced by its own Islamist population that it refuses to help and other countries cannot afford or simply refuse to help? How do we deny Islamists the "sanctuaries" the author mentions. Isn't that the rationale for going into Afghanistan for instance? Do we simply scold countries that harbor terrorists? I don't have the answer, but it's not at all clear that the author has a clue as to how to deal with the threat and this after he has relentlessly excoriated the policy, strategy and intellect of others throughout the entire book. He comes up empty-handed.

    In conclusion, I gave the book three stars because I believe his main thesis is correct and this would be a five star book if that were the only criteria. Unfortunately, the tone of the tirade, the socialist slant and the lack of any real plan on how to deal with the challenges posed by militant Islam caused me to pull two stars....more info
  • McArthur Was Right
    General Douglas McArthur was right when he said, at the end of World War II: "It must of the spirit if we are to save the flesh...."

    We Americans have not a real problem, but real "problems" today,and most of them stem from the way we have come to define "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness..."

    In this day and time, "the pursuit of happiness" has come to mean "give us what we want when we want it..." And that attitude has caused seemingly unsolvable economic, political and military problems. Our system of government has strayed and our whole national psyche seems to be geared toward "give us what we want when we want it..." And it can't go on forever.,

    This is not a book bashing the Republicans or the Democrats. It is a book taking a realistic look at some of the very real problems facing our country today. And they won't be solved simply or overnight. Consider the following passages from the book (hardback version):

    Pae 172-73-"At four-year intervals, ceremonies conducted to install a president reaffirm this inclination (to gloss over our real problems). Once again, at the anoited hour, on the steps of the Capitol, it becomes "morning in America." The slate is wiped clean. The newly inaugurated president takes office, buoyed by expectations that history will be soon be restored to its proper trajectory and the nation put back on track. There is something touching about these expectations, but also there is something pathetic, like the battered wife who expects that this time her husband will actuallly keep his oft-violated vow never again to raise his hand against her..."

    And from pages 170-171: "...to imagine that installing a particular individual in the Oval Office will produce decisive actions on any of these fronts is to succumb to the grandest delusion of all..."

    The real problem is our present-day definition of "the pursuit of happiness." It has to change.

    And McArthur was right, "It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh (the country)..."

    This is an important, though alarming book.

    Yet, this is America where there is always hope. Yet, hope alone won't solve our problems. They are not going away of their own accord, and they will be solved only by some fundamental changes in our expectations from government and from ourselves....more info
  • Provocative, and worthwhile
    Depending on who you talk to the United States is on the decline,has its best days ahead of it, or somewhere it between.Bacevich makes a compelling argument that the United States is actually on the decline in many ways. From the financial meltdown, to the mismanaged war policies, the United Stats is in trouble, and potentially stands to decline as a world power.

    Strafor's George Friedman seems the think the U.S. will be a power for some time, or at least doesn't think the situation is as dire--he has a good argument as well--I digress. Who's right? Is Friednman right that the U.S. going to be a power for some time to come. Is the situation as dire as Bacevich say it is? Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between. Stay tuned. ...more info
  • how American culture got to where we are today
    This is a remarkable book that is prophetic in its expectation that the United States would suffer the economic collapse that occurred in Oct., 2008 (the book was published shortly before that event). The author castigates America for its "more" mentality and its conspicuous consumption. While citing his predecessor critics, including as far back as de Tocqueville, the author makes his own argument that American culture needs to find some sense of self-sacrifice to replace a persistent drive for self-satisfaction. He speaks of reliance on shattered myths, willful blindness to the state of the world, and extraordinary naivete. His writing is very readable -- great use of language in a concise and relatively short treatise....more info
  • Excellent analysis of American policy
    This book should be read by anyone in politics and anyone who votes. The author details his analysis about why the United States is in trouble now.
    In short, we don't listen to what we don't want to hear.
    Americans were told by Jimmy Carter that we must conserve and restrain our consumption (especially of oil) otherwise we will be spending all of our resources making sure (militarily) that we can get it, which ends up reducing our freedom as a nation.
    We have gone from a nation of producers to a nation of consumers, and this onesidedness of our relationship to the rest of the world has hurt this country and left it to the mercy of others.
    Which means we need more military intervention, just to keep our standard of living as it is, and as it is demanded by our people. Politicians, (except for the all to honest and henceforth unelectable Jimmy Carter) lull us into thinking we can have it all. Reagan started this and it has evolved with the help of presidents, and congress, both republican and democrat, into a mess we have today.

    Highly recommended book. BTW it is a non partisan analysis, something hard to find nowadays....more info
  • The Limits of Power
    ...damned depressing truth.... the word "Profligacy" and banana republic will bubble up to the top of the next election rhetoric....more info
  • If you only read one book about the present crisis in the US, read this one
    I first heard of this book through a streamed interview that the author gave on the Bill Moyers show. That interview was impressive, and I'm not someone who is easily impressed, least of all by Americans.

    But the book is something else entirely. The author explains the history of the present in about 196 pages, and boy does he make a truly excellent job of it! His written style is fluent, succinct, concise, intelligent but never boring or dry. He is a Professor of International Relations at Boston University, and his students must love him! Not only that, but he is a West Point graduate who served in Vietnam, and subsequently served in the US Army for 22 years.

    He survived Vietnam, but ironically and very poignantly, he lost his son, a 1st Lieutenant, in Iraq. The book is dedicated to his son's memory. And it is an immensly worthy dedication. He writes with intelligence, passion and clarity. He shoots from the hip but, like the Zen archer, hits all his targets without fail; at the same time he doesnt hit anything he's not aiming at. Though it is an academic work, there is an almost spiritual profoundness and power about it, together with an almost military realism. He knows what he is about, and is not afraid to say it, no matter whose toes get trodden on.

    If I had a million pounds (2 million dollars) I would buy every copy of this book I could find, and distribute it for free on every university and college campus in the US. It is that good an investment, and that important.

    This is the same review as I wrote for Amazon.uk, with this addition.

    Prof. Bacevich writes about Limits of Power from the perspective of constitutionally legitimate and legitimised power, which is both legally and in practical terms limited.

    However, the very existential nature of the present crisis in terms of impending shortages of primary resources, could very well lead the 'powers-that-be-' in the US in particular, and in the Western world in general, to adopt forms of govermental authority that are less legitimate, but that would become 'legitimised' by the existential nature of the crisis. If this were to happen, the Limits of Power that Prof Bacevitch writes about, might very well become redundant.

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  • Eye-opening
    It made me re-think some of the events of our nation's history which
    I remember from my own lifetime. Inspired me to be more aware of
    those things which are happening and evaluate them with a rather
    different perspective.
    Presidents Carter, Reagan, Nixon, Kennedy: just what were they up to?
    A.J. Bacevich gives ideas about those and other leaders which have
    helped me understand the news more clearly....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
  • Well worth reading
    Surprisingly non-biased thoughts on why the US is in the pickle it's in, both on the home-front and as viewed from beyond our borders. Thought-provoking, well-written, very much worth reading....more info
  • If you only read one book this year...
    ...then read this one. Mr Bacevich has written an incredibly thought-provoking book on where the US lies currently in it's trek along the "great experiment." I like to fancy myself a student of history, especially US history and have been troubled for quite some time about where my country is on its time line. I try to be optimistic and hope we are still on the rise but its difficult not to compare us with the fall of previous empires. Mr Bacevich has cleared up my thoughts considerably.

    This book will appeal to people of all political parties. The author spares nobody in uncovering reasons for our current predicaments. He doesn't lay all the blame on GW Bush like so many authors do (but still plenty) but rather traces our current situation all the way back to the beginnings of the Cold War, JFK, Carter, Reagan, etc. Everybody has leant a hand in putting us on the current path. But at the same time he offers clear clues on how to extricate ourselves from that path. He examines the economic, political, and military aspects of history since the end of WWII and charts the rise of American Exceptionalism to the detriment of our actual desired identity.

    The book is relatively short (less than 300 pages) but sure packs a whallop. Every sentence focused my mind and it seemed like every page offered a eureka moment as it brought yet another aspect into focus. If you are like me and have scratched your head at finding the US in the predicament we are, then you owe it to yourself to read this book. Enjoy!...more info
  • Defining American Mores
    This author is a credentialed historian, unquestionably a patriot, and a self-proclaimed conservative. In The Limits of Power, he has articulated clearly an understanding of the forces and attitudes which have led to our abandonment of moral responsibility as individuals, as a government of checks and balances, and as a nation within the community of all nations. The book deserves wide attention, particularly among elected officials, even though the author's remedies are less than novel or inspiring....more info
  • Effective review of the policies and decisions that got America to the brink of disaster
    Well crafted and historical perspective give understanding to how we got to this point in history of American politics. Jam packed and frequent trips to the dictionary make a second read almost necessary...more info
  • exceptional
    An insightful, thought-provoking book that should be required reading not only for the presidential nominees, but for every American citizen who cares deeply about our country....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
  • 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.


    ...more info
  • TheLimits of Power
    Andrew Bacevich put the finger right on the extraordinary circumstances and results of our actions over the past decades....more info
  • Greed deteriorating cultures around the world
    The analysis of our country's departure from checks and balances to keep control and power within limits that preserve freedom and basic truth for moality as the on going and speedily increasing of our demise as a nation is vividly presented and documented. Citizen's rights are eroded, freedom is suppressed by control of communication, monopolies, many levels and types of taxation to relieve us of our assets along with complexity that devalues the citizen, plurality focus that erodes our traditions and language, complexity that citizens cannot cope with, co-dependency with government agencies that subjugates us to being managed, cared for, entitlement orientation without reaction to suppress such abuses....more info
  • Limits of power
    I enjoyed reading this thoughtful account of our nation's dilemma regarding its use and exploitation of military force.
    We need a radical change to redirect our international efforts away from attempting to democratize the world and focus on furthering peaceful relationships through non-violent dialogue and smart diplomacy.
    Over the long haul if not sooner, the notion of gaining global power through colonialism will only lead to our own demise and self destruction. I hope and pray that President Obama will provide the leadership and that we the people will have the courage to end our imperialistic ambitions onc and for all. ...more info
  • A good book
    This is a good book about the reasons behind America's ignominious fall from the heights of power. While Bacevich doesn't really put forth any information that can't be found in any of the "Amercian Empire Project" books, he does present it in a different light with slightly different conclusions. America's conspicuous consumption is a MAJOR problem and has been for years, and failure to address that is what has led to our current economic woes and the mindless flag-waving and sloganeering which has consumed this country since September 11, 2001.
    Concerning the negative reviews about this book, it amazes me that when an author questions both major political parties people don't stop and think "wow, maybe I should look into this before snapping to judgement". Instead, they fall back on talking points and empty facts with no deeper analysis of where those facts come from or what they mean....more info
  • The Limits of Power
    I did not expect to see library reject and other library information stamped all over a book in "good" condition. The book, however is well written,worth reading. He does not lay our current problems on a single cause, but uncovers the complexities of many generations which led us to the terrible econimic problems we face. His conclusions are not pretty. ...more info
  • 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
  • Limits of power
    I enjoyed reading this thoughtful account of our nation's dilemma regarding its use and exploitation of military force.
    We need a radical change to redirect our international efforts away from attempting to democratize the world and focus on furthering peaceful relationships through non-violent dialogue and smart diplomacy.
    Over the long haul if not sooner, the notion of gaining global power through colonialism will only lead to our own demise and self destruction. I hope and pray that President Obama will provide the leadership and that we the people will have the courage to end our imperialistic ambitions onc and for all. ...more info
  • Realism 101
    Andrew Bacevich has been critical of all sides when it comes to the use of power from a military prespective dating back to WWII. He provides a very effective explaination of his major point; military power has its limits and the US policy over the last decade begins with a foundation built on an all powerful military. Both civilian and military leadership has been at fault with idealogy replacing strategy as the main driver. His prescription is to limit foreign policy that requires military intervention especially as a first resort. I for one hope the next president has or will read this book! ...more info
  • Great Look At Ourselves
    Bacevich gives a unique take on the current state of affairs in everything from the military to the economy. Being brutally honest and backing up his accusations. Wish more people in Washington would read this book. ...more info
  • The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project)
    Wow what an eye-opener this book is!
    Why didn't we catch on? I ordered three books for others "who want to know". ...more info
  • A critique of American National Security Policy
    The Limits of Power presents an impassioned argument against current American national security and foreign policy. Bacevich offers some vague suggestions for what this failed policy should be replaced with.

    The author is a professor at Boston University, however this is not an academic book. This is clearly an argument intended for a popular audience. He relies on many secondary sources and does not always cite his sources. The Limits of Power is well written and intelligently argued. The author is obviously knowledgeable and well read.

    The primary thesis, or at least the one I found most compelling, is that national security policy making is being consistently done by small groups of "wise men", not by the policy making institutions of our government. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Council are not actually used or consulted when Presidents make policy. These institutions must justify, support and execute the policies once they have been made. Not only is this system badly broken, it is completely undemocratic. Special criticism is doled out to Paul Nitze, the primary author of NSC 68, which formed the basis of Americas cold war policy.

    These poorly conceived policies are then carried out by a military which has failed to produce competent leaders. Bacevich asserts that our generals are mediocre at best, often fail to accomplish their missions and that there is no consequence to that failure. The prime example of this is Tommy Franks, the general who was in command of the invasion of Iraq. Franks apparently did not plan at all for "phase IV", what to do when America wins the campaign and controls Iraq.

    All of this, according to Bacevich, is driven by the profligacy of American citizens. This argument is not very original and is not convincingly presented in my view. It sounded very moralistic. Of course there is considerable basis in fact for this argument.

    The authors recommendation is for a more modest foreign policy. It is not clear from the text what that means or how it would be done. I would have appreciated more discussion of this idea.

    I found this short book to be a compelling and convincing read.

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