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The operative questions becomes this:  if neither the CIA nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff had existed when Osama bin Laden launched his attack, if Congress had not created the Department of Defense or the National Security Council back in 1947, would the United States find itself in any worse shape than it is? That is, if President Bush had had to rely upon the institutions that existed through World War II - a modest State Department for diplomacy and two small cabinet agencies to manage military affairs - would he have bollixed up Iraq any more than he has?  To frame the question more broadly:  When considering the national security state as it has evolved and grown over the past six decades, what exactly has been the value added. And if the answer is none - if, indeed, the return on investment has been essentially negative - then perhaps the time has come to consider dismantling an apparatus that demonstrably serves no useful purpose.

Those words appear on P. 101 of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew J. Bacevich, West Point Grad, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, and one of the most cogent critics of the nation in which we live.

I am no expert on military matters.  Unlike Bacevich, I am not a retired career military officer, and my own military service was strictly stateside, in music and computers, during the 1960s.  Thus I may seem an unlikely person to be writing about this book.  Further, my abilities as a book reviewer may well not be sufficient to give an appropriate sense of how important this book is.   What I can do is let Bacevich speak for himself, and I will do that.

One day I came home and opened up a package to find a copy of the book and a note from the author's representative.  I'm used to this when the books are about education, a field in which I do claim some expertise.  I was somewhat surprised, but then remembered that I had in this diary written favorably about a Boston Globe op ed Bacevich had penned.  And I know how highly respected Bacevich is by people who deal professionally with matters military and of international relations.

I read the book several weeks ago, but felt that anything I might say about it would be lost in the frenzy of the buildup to the election.  Now, as the new administration begins to take shape, it seems more appropriate to offer a few words.  

Most of what you will read will be from the author, and not from me.  Let me start by saying that Bacevich writes clearly enough that even the non-expert can fully grasp the import of his words, the thrust of his thinking.  He provides an overarching framework, derived from the work of Reinhold Niebuhr.  As Bacevich writes in his introduction, which is entitled "War Without Exits,"  

The United States today finds itself threatened by three interlocking crises.  The first of these crises is economic and cultural, the second political, and the third is military.  All three share this characteristic: they are of our own making.  In assessing the predicament that results from these crises, The Limits of Power employs what might be called a Niebuhrean perspective.  Writing decades ago, Reinhold Niebuhr anticipated that predicament with uncanny accuracy and astonishing prescience.  As such, perhaps more than other figure in our recent history, he may help us to discern a way out.

 He gives a brief introduction to the work of Niebuhr, in which he notes

As prophet, he warned that what he called "our dreams of managing history" - born of a peculiar combination of arrogance and narcissism - posed a potentially mortal threat to the United States.  Today, we ignore that warning at our peril.

 Niebuhr was no fuzzy idealist, and he examined all the negative possibilities that flowed from the nature of man - after all, he lived through the destruction of the Second World War  - and he wrote from the perspective of one who was strongly rooted in his own sense of Christianity.   Bacevich notes

Realism in this sense implies an obligation to see the world as it actually is, not as we might like it to be.  The enemy of realism is hubris, which in Niebuhr's day, and in our own, finds expression in an outsized confidence in the efficacy of American power as an instrument to reshape the global order.

As I read those words I could not help but think of the arrogance, cultural as well as military and economic, that so undergirded this administration's actions in Iraq.  And of course I immediately thought back to the assertions of Wilson at the end of the Great War that we could make the world safe for democracy.  Bacevich notes the arrogance of our assumption that "American values and beliefs are universal and that the nation itself serves providentially assigned purposes."  We hear it not only in the rhetoric of politicians who believe that God is calling them to particular service, but as an inherent part of the common belief that America has the right to attempt to remake the world in our own image, that is, in the false image through which we idealize our own history while ignoring our many failings.  Or as Bacevich puts it in one cogent sentence:

Hubris and sanctimony have become the paramount expressions of American statecraft.

 Let me offer, using ellipses, several other cogent sentences from the introduction:

Whether the issue at hand is oil, credit or the availability of cheap consumer goods, we expect the world to accommodate that American way of life . . .

Simply put, as the American appetite for freedom has grown, so has our penchant for empire . . .  

The actual exercise of American freedom is no longer conducive to generating the power required to establish and maintain an imperial order . . .

So far I have only offered from the introduction.  Let me skip to the very end, the conclusion of the book.  Bacevich calls us, all of us, the American people, to account,  warning that we remain in denial of the costs of how we live, including such direct challenges as this:

The United States ranks among the world's worse polluters - here we confront one unfortunate by-product of American freedom as currently practiced. Acting alone, American cannot curb climate change. Yet unless the United States acts, the chances of effectively addressing this global threat are nil.

 Of course this relates to national security, and Bacevich makes explicit, as have others, the national security implications of our dependence upon upon foreign sources of energy, and the implications that flow therefrom:

No doubt undertaking a serious, long-term, national effort to begin the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy promises to be a costly proposition.  Yet whereas spending trillions to forcibly democratize the Islamic world will achieve little, investing trillions in energy research might actually produce something useful.

Bacevich warns of an American tendency that is very applicable after the recent election - that we the American people are reluctant to "settle accounts" and that we remain too passive as our leaders continue dysfunctional and destructive actions and we do not insist on accountability.  We will

tolerate stupefying incompetence and dysfunction in the nation's capital, counting on the next president to fix everything that the last one screwed up.

 And our insistence upon living standards as the norm by which we measure things leads us to "venerate freedom while carefully refraining from assessing its content or measuring its costs."

Costs - accountability - accepting limits - all ideas that seem very alien in much of our culture.  Bacevich wrote before the recent crises exploded first in the housing market and then in the financial markets, or should we say they exploded in both only with the lack of oversight we did not notice how intertwined they were?

There are only three paragraphs in the book after the sentence I have just quoted.  Let me offer them now, and only then further whet your appetite for this important book by offering a sampling of some of Bacevich's other insights.   Here is the end:

    "The trustful acceptance of false solutions for our perplexing problems," Niebuhr wrote half a century ago, "adds a touch of pathos to the tragedy of our age." That judgment remains valid today.  Adamantly insisting that it is unique among history's great powers, the United States seems likely to follow the well-worn path taken by others, blind to the perils that it courts through its own feckless behavior.
    For all nations, Niebuhr once observed, "The desire to gain an immediate selfish advantage always imperils their ultimate interest.  If they recognize this fact, they usually recognize it too late." Both parts of this dictum apply to the United States today - and in spades.  To extend however slightly the here and now, Americans are increasingly inclined to write off the future.  So they carry on, heedless of the consequences even for themselves, no less for their children or grandchildren.
     Thus does the tragedy of our age move inexorably towards its conclusion.  "To the end of history," our prophet once wrote, "social orders will probably destroy themselves in the effort to prove they are indestructible." Clinging doggedly to the conviction that the rules to which other nations must submit don't apply, Americans appear determined to affirm Niebuhr's axiom of willful self-destruction.

By now I hope I have convinced you of the importance of this book.  It is wide-ranging in its examination of our history, our present, and what the future may hold.  I believe it serves as a clarion call, especially at the moment a new administration prepares to take office in the midst of a major crisis.  I am not sure we could have expected people to take seriously the ideas Bacevich offers in the midst of a heated political campaign, and certainly it would be near impossible for a candidate for the presidency to openly espouse the ideas Bacevich propounds - the opposition would tear such a candidate apart for belittling America, for demeaning our greatness.

But perhaps now, as it becomes apparent that many of the goals for which Obama advocated during the campaign begin to slip away in light of the financial limitations we face due to the crises, perhaps now we can have an honest conversation about how our willful self-blindness has helped create the many levels of our current mess.  Perhaps now a book written without knowing the specifics of our current world-wide financial crisis but which in many ways anticipated something like that can find an appropriate audience.

Perhaps I have already convinced you to read this this book, and to insist of others that they do likewise, in which case you need read no further the words I offer.

But just in case I have not, please allow me to offer a few more selections from Bacevich, whose words make the case far better than do mine.

Pick the group: blacks, Jews, women, Asians, Hispanics, working stiffs, gays, the handicapped- in every case, the impetus for providing equal access to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution originated among pinks, lefties, liberals, and bleeding-heart fellow travelers.  When it came to ensuring that every American should get a fair shake, the contribution of modern conservatism has been essentially nil.  Had Martin Luther King counted on William F. Buckley and the National Review to take up the fight against racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, Jim Crow would still be alive and well.

Crediting the United States with a "great liberating tradition" distorts the past and obscures the actual motive force behind American politics and U. S. foreign policy. It transforms history into a morality tale, thereby providing a rationale for dodging serious moral analysis.  To insist that the liberation of others has never been more than an ancillary motive of U.S. policy is not cynicism, it is a prerequisite to self-understanding.

Reinhold Niebuhr once observed that "the most significant moral characteristic of a nation is its hypocrisy." In international politics, the chief danger of hypocrisy is that it inhibits self-understanding.  The hypocrite ends up fooling mainly himself.

. . . American grand strategy since the era of Ronald Reagan, and especially throughout the era of George W. Bush, has been characterized by attempts to wish reality away.  Policymakers have been engaged in a de facto Ponzi scheme intended to extend indefinitely the American line of credit.  The fiasco of the Iraq war and the semi-permanent U. S. occupation of Afghanistan illustrate the results and prefigure what is yet to come if the crisis of American profligacy continues unabated.

Although the text of the Constitution has changed but little since FDR's day, the actual system of governance conceived by the framers - a federal republic deriving its authority from the people in which the central government exercises limited and specified powers - no longer pertains.

The imperial presidency would not exist were it not for the Congress, which has willingly ceded authority to the executive branch, especially on matters touching, however remotely, on national security.  As the chief executive achieved supremacy, the legislative branch not only lost clout but gradually made itself the object of ridicule.

. . . the problem with the first lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan - that the Pentagon needs to get better at waging "small wars" - is that it overlooks far more fundamental matters.  Rather than transforming the armed forces of the United States into a imperial constabulary, the imperative of the moment is to examine the possibility of devising a nonimperial foreign policy.

Far from producing a stampede of eager recruits keen to don a uniform, the events of 9/11 reaffirmed a widespread popular preference for hiring someone else's kids to chase terrorists, spread democracy, and ensure access to the world's energy reserves.  In the midst of a global war of ostensibly earthshaking importance, Americans demonstrated a greater affinity for their hometown sports heroes than for the soldier defending the distant precincts of the American imperium. Tom Brady makes millions paying quarterback in the NFL and rakes in millions more for endorsements.  Pat Tillman quit professional football to become an army ranger and was killed in Afghanistan.  Yet, of the two, Brady more fully embodies the contemporary understanding of the term Patriot.

And finally this:

America doesn't need a bigger army.  It needs a smaller - that is, more modest - foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers missions that are consistent with their capabilities.  Modesty implies giving up on the illusions of grandeur to which the end of the Cold War and then 9/11 gave rise. It also means reining in the imperial presidents who expect the army to make good on those illusions.  When it comes to supporting the troops, herein lies the essence of a citizen's obligations.

There is so much more I could quote, but I would prefer you read the words of Bacevich in the context in which he intended them.  That is, I strongly urge you to read the book.  I do not expect that you will agree with all that he offers - I certainly do not.  I would hope that you would use the book as an occasion to engage with some serious ideas and issues.  That is part of our obligation as an active citizenry, which if it ceased to function would indicate the death of the Republic, the liberal democracy for whose leadership we have been working so hard these past few months.  

We have won an election, but our work is only beginning.  Being informed is part of our continuing task.  I believe this book will help with that process.  


UPDATE - several commentators have suggest that I add links for Bacevich's recent appearances on TV, so here they are

Book TV on C-Span

Bill Moyers'Journal on PBS

and again,


Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:22 AM PST.

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  •  I have no idea of the audience for this (383+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
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    but felt this was a good time to offer it.  While I hope it does spark some discussion, I do not control that.

    Do with it what you will.


    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:23:18 AM PST

    •  Such an important diary that should be on the rec (56+ / 0-)

      list, but probably won't make it there. Unfortunately.

      This is the pessimism I experience with our American thinkers like Bacevich. Look who came before him (and who's still here):

      Noam Chomsky
      Martin Luther King
      Howard Zinn
      Henry David Thoreau

      That's just right off the top of my head. There's many more.

      Do we listen to them? More often than not the answer is no.

      American exceptionalism in some ways is embedded in the fabric of the very beginnings of our history. I don't expect it to fade any time soon.

      "The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

      by grannyhelen on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:10:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can' be greedy - I am on list (37+ / 0-)

        with diary posted yesterday that is still there :-)

        it is the book that is important.  I will put links to this diary in open threads to ensure that a few more people learn about the book.   I do what I can.

        But thanks for your kind words.


        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:12:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  minor typo in your first sentence (4+ / 0-)

          missing "j" in "joint".


          •  in fact, there are several typos (5+ / 0-)

            it looks like you scanned the book with faulty OCR, a few missing characters in that sentence.

            •  no I typed (24+ / 0-)

              but I am dyslexic

              I will go back and check again.


              do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

              by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:25:05 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Typos notwithstanding (14+ / 0-)

                This is a fantastic diary, and very timely. Obama's election, and the general welcome this received on these shores, prove that America is an aspiration apogee of the kind of social mobility the rest of the world aspires to.

                But America has gained so much power by being an aspirational place for more backward societies, and squandered it by assuming that it's model must be imposed on other countries.

                So being exceptionally democratic does not make the US a complete exception. Quite the opposite, American thrives by being a beacon, and not a fist.

                So let's separate, as you and Bacevich do, hubris from pride - leadership from dictatorship

              •  Hey teacherken (19+ / 0-)

                great diary. I've read Bacevich before and have always been impressed with his analysis, and what seems to me missing from so many intellectuals and apologists, his integrity.

                I was surprised by two quotes. The first was a pleasant surprise:

                Pick the group: blacks, Jews, women, Asians, Hispanics, working stiffs gays, the handicapped- in every case, the impetus for providing equal access to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution originated among pinks, lefties, liberals, and bleeding-heart fellow travelers.  When it came to ensuring that every American should get a fair shake, the contribution of modern conservatism has been essentially nil.  Had Martin Luther King counted on William F. Buckley and the National Review to take up the fight against racial segregation in the 1950s and 1950s, Jim Crow would still be alive and well.

                I had always thought of Bacevich as essentially a conservative--even though he rails against the neocon order--I had thought his heart lay more closely to Ike Eisenhower than to Franklin Roosevelt.  Perhaps I am wrong, a pleasant surprise.

                Second quote, more problematic:

                And our insistence upon living standards as the norm by which we measure things leads us to "venerate freedom while carefully refraining form assessing its content or measuring its costs."

                Although I think I agree with the gist of what he is saying, the problem is his use of the word 'freedom' in this context, as somehow being a result of greater consumer choices. I've often railed against this use of the term--which has become almost an implicit usage by neoliberals. A greater choice of consumer goods does not necessarily  equal greater freedom. In fact, it can mean quite the opposite. If I am forced to work two jobs merely to afford the health care for my family, a roof and food enough to eat, how does being allowed to walk down a grocery aisle and choose between a variety of soup products actually mean more freedom? I have no freedom not to buy, do I, since biologically, I will always eat?

                Those things that constrain Americans most financially and socially we have a limited choice in. And that choice becomes narrower as conservatives have ruled, not greater. If I want to choose to have an abortion, marry a gay man (or woman) or smoke weed, name me the conservative candidate who would get me there. If freedom only applies to 'free trade' it's a very small handful of folks who are benefitting. True, I can now buy a Sony camcorder from Best Buy at half or less of what it might have costs me five years ago. But I must work two jobs to keep myself afloat otherwise. Is that more freedom or less?

                By increasing our buying power in opening up trade barriers, we've decreased our job opportunities and our actual industrial base. Does that mean we have more 'freedom' now or less?

                I guess I would argue that we jettison the term 'freedom' entirely. It's too liquid and abstract. In Bacevich's original phrase, I think he means a greater array of consumer choices--and what he's actually railing against is a consumerist culture that sees the purchase of material items as a 'good' in and of itself. But correct me if I've gotten this wrong.

                DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

                by DelicateMonster on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:38:13 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  We need an entirely separate discussion (14+ / 0-)

                  of what certain words mean to us.  I have found this true in discussions about the purposes of education, school, teaching.  It certainly comes up when we use words like freedom and liberty.  We presume an agreement on meaning which might in fact not exist.

                  do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

                  by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:41:52 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Bacevich online interview, too (4+ / 0-)

                    I posted a couple of interview links way at the bottom.
                    But here's the one from Bill Moyers PBS Journal.

                  •  For 4 decades now, "freedom" has largely been (13+ / 0-)

                    defined by an array of consumer choices.  The countercultural ethos of the late 60's lived on in the form of advertising slogans.  Sadly, the reformist impulses of the early and middle part of that decade largely died during the Nixon years.

                    Personally, choosing between various investment options on my 401(K) in lieu of having a defined benefit plan didn't strike me as liberty even when the market was rising.  I sure as hell don't view it as freedom now.  There's also the little matter of some animals being more equal than others on the issue of "freedom to fail."  The utterly ad hoc nature of the process in which the feds choose to rescue and not to rescue further undercuts this argument.

                    I'd also like to note that there was a time in which the Brits thought that the sun never setting on their empire was a situation that would last in perpetuity.  The Dutch, the Spanish, and the Romans obviously felt similarly at various times.  The dangerousness of what Studs Terkel called "The United States of Alzheimer's" is being conclusively proven now.

                    The dirty little secret that no one addressed in this year's campaign is that assumptions of American hegemony are now, as Ron Ziegler would say, "inoperative."  I hope like hell that Obama is ready to face that fact come 1/20/09.

                    Some men see things as they are and ask why. I see things that never were and ask why not?

                    by RFK Lives on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:09:31 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  For a smart, succinct, and enjoyably interesting (5+ / 0-)

                      analysis of the issue of "freedom" and what it means today, you must check out all of Adam Curtis' BBC documentary series, especially:

                      The Trap: What Happened To Our Dreams Of Freedom? Pt  1; Pt 2; Pt 3


                      Century Of The Self  Pt1; Pt2; Pt3; Pt4

                      His other films, The Power Of Nightmares, Pandora's Box, The Mayfair Set, and The Living Dead, are all highly recommended socio-political-historical-economic-psychological examinations of "our world" since WW II.
                      Essential viewing.
                      Far better than most documentaries which cover the same material.

                      Of course it hurts - you're getting screwed by an elephant.

                      by sean oliver on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:23:36 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  He will get the opportunity (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      Perhaps you have noticed the economic summit this weekend started as a G7 meeting and became a G20 meeting in the blink of an eye.

                      Welcome to the new world order. Really.

                      It's a great opportunity if it is taken. It's time for Obama to suck in his gut and lead, and for Dems to open their eyes and think.

                      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                      by koNko on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:51:30 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  How the word "freedom" is used (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    No deep reflection is necessary to understand that in the American colonies circa 1776, "freedom" referred to a happier and specifically wealthier existence without the irritating control then exerted by a monarch on the other side of the ocean. Under the guise of taxation and trade restrictions, King George exacted heavy tribute from the colonies. The authors of the Declaration of Independence realized that British military forces might be incapable of enforcing their king's edicts. In effect, they called George's bluff, and created a new country whose connections with Great Britain no longer constituted a burden.

                    After America's Revolutionary victory, the word "freedom" began to be cross-applied in support of various causes, not least of which was opposition to slavery. In chorus with the French Revolution of 1789, the cry for abolition was raised. And what could more quintessentially represent the idea of freedom than the liberation of a person unjustly "bound to service," and counted as only three fifths of a human?

                    Slavery was banned in the cold North, where forced labor generally brought more trouble than economic benefit anyway. Soon the southern states began to agitate for freedom from Yankee economic domination. The Southern war to succeed from the Union was waged for the same general reasons the American Revolution had been fought: to throw off an outside power which limited their wealth and profit. The Southern struggle for economic independence failed, leaving behind the deep bitterness of a freedom found and then lost again.

                    Speaking now as a sort of time traveler from the mid twentieth century, I can relate that the idea of freedom in that era was most poignantly evoked in Jack Kerouac's poetic novel, On the Road, and most materialistically in the General Motors jingle, "See the USA in your Chevrolet." It is no coincidence that both contexts refer to the quite literal freedom of movement granted by ownership of a motor car along with access to cheap fuel and adequate roads.

                    Today in the U.S. the much-abused word "freedom" arguably retains legitimate meaning only for the vast numbers of indentured illegal immigrants and legally enslaved prisoners.

                    For the rest of us Americans, reluctant citizens of a too-close future, we for whom freedom has mainly referred to the privilege of "gliding down the highway" in a vehicle gulping vast quantities of ancient sunlight, we now risk rage and disappointment at a level difficult to imagine.

                    Since Ponzi's  recent demise (following a long illness), we are confused and angry. Searching for mental relief, we find the usual scapegoats oddly out of reach, while the usual TV incitements to buy, buy, buy, can no longer so easily soothe or excite us.

                    Our future will not be pleasant, but time must have its way. Shocked and at a loss, we find that even in America, nothing can halt its forward movement.

                    Our descendants may revel in the freedom of living simpler lives among smaller human populations, but we ourselves can draw little personal satisfaction from watching the approaching end of the world's greatest excesses, by which I mean, us.

                    "This document is totally non-redactable and non-segregable and cannot even be meaningfully described." *

                    by dratman on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:56:28 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  thanks 4 the comment old friend (0+ / 0-)

                      haven't been seeing you around here that much recently.  Good to see you back.

                      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

                      by teacherken on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:11:58 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  I'd love a diary redefining freedom (0+ / 0-)

                    This seems like a really good moment, with all these crises around us, with a change in administration, to collaborate on basic principles.

                •  My brother-in-law (who passed away in June) (6+ / 0-)

                  was a classmate of Bacevich at West Point and a great admirer.  And my brother-in-law was CONSERVATIVE (all-cap emphasis intended).  

                  This diary has me intrigued and I'm going to go do some more reading.  Wiki says:

                  In March 2007, he [Bacevich] described George W. Bush's endorsement of such "preventive wars" as "immoral, illicit, and imprudent."[1][2] His son died fighting in the Iraq war in May of 2007.[1]

                  Obviously a complicated man and one whose thinking may have been evolving.  I look forward to reading more.

                  •  I saw Bacevich on Bill Moyers, (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ladybug53, My Spin

                    and I remember that he was very reluctant to reveal that his son had been killed in Iraq.  It could have been because it was too painful for him, but I also got the sense that he didn't want that sad fact to influence the way people understood his arguments.

                    "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

                    by Nespolo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:54:07 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Freedom and the imbalance of power (8+ / 0-)

                  My own personal journey of bridging the desire for freedom and the need for being a responsible family or group member, has brought home to me the purpose of the system of checks and balances our founders built into the Constitution.

                  It's very basic: Individual freedom is a desired state of being which 'should' only be limited by social responsibility. Social responsibility necessarily limits the expression  of individual freedom under certain conditions, the condition of the social good--the "common good or wealth".  

                  All the ills we're discussing here about America, as a Power, and Presidents/Chief Executives, as Powers, originate in this one conflict.  Power can and will be misused in human systems.  Individual, executive, imperial power will/can be used to dominate and control others for private advantage.  At the same time, concerns for the good of the whole can suppress and smother individual freedom and excellence by giving undue focus to the need for preserving the social order, which results in bringing the full range of individual differences down to the lowest common denominator.

                  Both these principles, these characteristics of human nature are necessary for our survival--human survival--the survival of life on earth.  Yes,! These are the principles of competition and cooperation, of opportunism and altruism. Humans are the only species on earth who have the power of discernment and choice--and the ability to misuse that power in such a way as to upset the balance of life on our planet.

                  When individual excellence/achievement/ambition, or imperial exceptionalism/dominance/avarice get out of hand, the social, the living system of nature is put at risk.  When a repressive social order, such as that of Lenin and Stalin is over-built and forced onto the people--when all individual freedom and opportunity are squelched in lieu of the so-called good of the state (whole), then the 'living system' is also out of balance. It is the imbalance of individual/national exceptionalism vs the survival of the whole/planet that plagues us today and is the premise of this discussion.

                  Systems growing out of balance become dysfunctional at greater degrees until they push past the "tipping point" and collapse into chaos and disorder.  It's up for grabs then who or what controls the next form of order and rule--and the results of the collapse limit the conditions under which that new order is established.

                  We are in a grave set of circumstances.  Only a wise and benevolent leader and an awake and aware, educated public, or citizenry can take the reins and guide our ship of state, our planet earth through this maelstrom and into a sustainable future.  At least now, I have hope.

                  Find your own voice--the personal is political.

                  by In her own Voice on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:34:16 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes: the middle way. What to call it? (4+ / 0-)

                    The left crashed on the rocks of the Soviet system, and now the right has crashed on the rocks of deregulated financial systems. What's left? The rest of us. I'm very curiously watching what will arise out of this wreckage. It would be nice if the paradigms get reformulated a little, so it's no longer just left and right.

                    I recall the refrain of a protest song from the contra/sandinista era: No hay centro, only left and right. (Am I remembering it right?)

                    But now it seems as if that's been turned inside out: no hay left and right. Only "left center" and "right center."

                    •  The "middle way" -- yes that was the advice (5+ / 0-)

                      of Daedalus to his son, Icarus, upon gifting him with the wings he'd fashioned for him.  Held together with wax, they would not be sustainable soaring at great heights (too near the heat of the Sun).  Father cautioned son not to fly too high, but to go the "middle way" across the tumultuous waters or be at risk of falling into their grasp to be tossed and torn apart.

                      We all know Icarus, in his hubris,i n his greedy desire for exceptionalism, did fly too high and so fell to his fate.

                      Aristotle, too, cautioned us that "the secret of happiness is in the moderation of all things."  I'm thinking he meant a functioning system has checks and balances that allow it to run homeostatically.  Alas, systems do wear out and lose energy--they fall into collapse and restructure themselves according to a new and more efficient and effective order.  Different principles come into play during such a first order change as that.

                      We are going through such a first order change--not sure we have learned which principles will guide us through. Perhaps they will be new ones. A challenge for the evolution of our knowledge and ability to govern ourselves sustainably, I'd say.

                      Find your own voice--the personal is political.

                      by In her own Voice on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:38:14 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                •  The last time I read the WSJ (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BMarshall, koNko, cgirard, muckrakers

                  with any consistency, was the day they ran an article comparing "living standards" in various Asian countries. How did they measure living standards? Possessions: hot & cold running water, # of rooms, and, get this, # of televisions. Asinine.

                  I hope you don't mind my correcting you on one point, Delicate: you do have the freedom not to least not to buy at a supermarket. Most cities now have food coops, farmer's markets, cooperative produce groups... even community gardens. And if you have a patch of land that gets some sun, you could even grow food on your own soil.

                  But I agree with your general point: we don't really even have freedom to buy. Just try finding actual food in a supermarket. My local Shaws, which is actually not half bad, has about 10' of shelving dedicated to flour. Flour! The most basic of foodstuffs. Whereas they've got about 200' of shelf space for carbonated, flavored, colored water mixed with high fructose corn syrup, the most extraneous of "food" items, but I suppose more profitable for ADM than ground grains.

                  Compared to any small independent grocer in India, US supermarkets are impoverished of real food.

                  •  Freedom starts with ... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    Freedom from hunger and disease.

                    Until you gent there, it tends not to exist in any form other than freedom to live a miserable life.

                    America got a good start in an unexploited land of bounty and sometimes make the mistaken assumption that you just capture freedom as an idea, give people a chance and the rest just follows. Sadly, this is not the case.

                    It's true that many undeveloped or developing countries have social values and quality of life sometimes missing from advanced societies, but it tends to be in pockets. The surrounding poverty can be pretty mean at times.

                    I never had a completely full stomoch until I immigrate to the USA and I didn't know what my soul was missing until I returned to China to repay my debt for that privilige to my familly and society.

                    I suppose the trick is to get hit in the head every few years to wake up, and then to look around at what we do/don't have and could have, materially and spiritually.

                    I like the concept of one world, we have a lot to share and would all be better off for doing so.

                    Definately, rural societies eat better one they reach a sustainable level, and the trend in developed societies to get more local/fresh food has much merit.

                    Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                    by koNko on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:10:55 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  KoNko, you're right... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      first, food, water, security.

                      Then we can talk about what kind of foods.

                      There's considerably more wisdom in your post than mine. Thanks for hitting me on the head.

                      •  Not a hit on the head. (0+ / 0-)

                        Just a counter-point.  In fact, I agree with your comments, only make the point that until countries/regions get beyond the subsitance level, it's very difficult to make social and political progress. Sometimes people in developed countries take that for grated.

                        See you.

                        Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                        by koNko on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 07:05:29 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  sounds like we need a discussion of Maslow (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      as in Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs:


                      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

                      by teacherken on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:15:43 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Indeed. (0+ / 0-)

                        And at some point, I hope we can put the environment on a higher priority since we have a basic conflict between Air and Self-realization in the world today.

                        I often refer to Maslows hierarchy of needs to explain some things, including our household budget.

                        Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                        by koNko on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 07:09:22 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

      •  It's just one side of the gold coin though. (5+ / 0-)

        I think it's critical that we have these leaders to hold a mirror up to our nation so that we can get a good look at what we really are, and not just what we think we are or wish we were. It's just like on Real Housewives of Atlanta, when Kim's famous friend Dalls Austin told her in the recording studio when she realizes just how horrific she really is as a singer -- "You have to hear yourself so that you know what to improve." (It was hilarious and pathetic at the same time.)

        The other side of the coin, however, has to present a positive and aspirational vision of where we can actually go as a nation. I'm excited by the Obama administration, and while I do NOT expect all things to come about under his administration (one or two terms), I see that it's still in America's blood to rise above and lead the world, to be a shining example (even as others may be shining examples of other things themselves).

        Keep the big picture. Keep perspective. And we'll keep our country.

        Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

        by TX Unmuzzled on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:32:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Part of one side of the gold coin .... (7+ / 0-)

          I haven't read the book, but I do know that, even in holding up a mirror to America's soul, there are limits to where popular discourse can go.

          Reinhold Niebuhr once observed that "the most significant moral characteristic of a nation is its hypocrisy." In international politics, the chief danger of hypocrisy is that it inhibits self-understanding.  The hypocrite ends up fooling mainly himself.

          The biggest piece of unresolved hypocrisy in international affairs is the the question of Israel and Palestine. Unless we can honestly ask "What right do a bunch of Europeans have to occupy Arab villages and create an apartheid state? How do we promote a multi-religious, multi-racial democratic middle-east?" and proceed even-handedly towards a peaceful reconciliation, there is little prospect of finding solutions. This is an issue that touches on both sides of the coin -- facing up to what we have done, and what we plan to do.

          I don't want to turn this into an I-P diary -- on the other hand, if we restrict ourselves to talk about issues we all agree on then it can hardly be called an "honest discussion". So, I do want to point out the focal issue at the center of the ugly American international enterprise of Wars over Oil, Support for Dictatorships, Racism & Judeo-christian supremacist ideology, ... but please ignore me if this is a distraction.

          I look forward to reading the book.

          "We will learn an enormous amount in a very short time, quite a bit in the medium term and absolutely nothing in the long term." Grantham on 2008 Crisis

          by Bronxist on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:46:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  We can be aspirational and even provide an (8+ / 0-)

          example to the world without engaging in exceptionalism - it's a fine line, admittedly, but it can be done.

          Trust me, I love much of what this country stands for and its potential. I stop short at saying that this love of country means that it must be the model for the world to use, that it is always right and that it should be the underlying justification for spreading American-style democracy and culture top-down at the point of a gun.

          "The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

          by grannyhelen on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:41:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  OUTSTANDING diary on outstanding book. (8+ / 0-)

        Thanks for posting.

        I do have an objection though.

        When the author speaks of AMERICAN FREEDOM, he really means: slash and burn CONSUMER CULTURE.

        •  "Investing trillions in energy research" (9+ / 0-)

          No doubt undertaking a serious, long-term, national effort to begin the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy promises to be a costly proposition.  Yet whereas spending trillions to forcibly democratize the Islamic world will achieve little, investing trillions in energy research might actually produce something useful.

          I think a new way of looking at this might be that society needs to transition away from Veblen's idea of "exploit", where resources are limited and the nation that controls the resources controls the world.  It's very much the ideology of empire, colonization and exploitation.

          If instead energy research focused on harnessing sustainable, renewable sources (eg, sun, and wind (a sun product) to name a couple), that would benefit the US as a nation, sure.  But it would benefit the world by reducing the fixation on scarcity and the constant scramble for scarce resources.  It would no longer be a zero sum game.

          Changing the way we view energy, in other words, might just change the impetus (and the need that drives many) to consume.

          •  Beyond greed and scarcity (3+ / 0-)

            was the original title of Bernard Lietaer's book, The Future of Money.  He does a great job of addressing this principle from an economic perspective--specifically for how our currency and exchange could be structured so as to foster and sense of abundance as opposed to scarcity--influencing the balance of cooperation along with competition.

            Find your own voice--the personal is political.

            by In her own Voice on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:44:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Exceptionalism is not a bad thing. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tchrldy, bvig

        It has only been perverted by the Neo-cons to spread their plans. I believe the world needs a model for their own country. Sure we elect our Bushes every now and then but this country is it.

      •  Lincoln's exceptionalism (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grannyhelen, divineorder

        According to Lincoln, we were "the last best hope of earth." If the Union was not preserved, and the slave not freed, democracy would fail everywhere.  I often wonder if the Civil War was a necessary evil.

      •  Also recommended: Emmanuel Todd, (5+ / 0-)

        whose After the Empire argued much the same case back in 2003. Todd also talked about a profound economic shock (connected with peak oil, trade imbalances, and overdependence on foreign capital) that would quickly lower US living standards by 25% in just a few years.

        •  Also, Discovering America As It Is (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko, James Kresnik

          It's by a former Soviet dissident from Lithuania:

          Now that questions are being raised as to whether our empire is the next to collapse, it's an interesting viewpoint, even if you don't agree with his very socialist views and approval of some aspects of Soviet times.

          A good review is here:

          He's quoted:

          "My feelings towards American extreme capitalism are the same as toward Soviet/Russian communism: I wish it the same demise. I long for the day when the world can supercede it, regarding it, too, as one of humanity's very mistaken directions."

          His basic arguments can be read in his essays here:

          •  Very well put. (0+ / 0-)

            And an excellent choice of quotes.

            Any system based more on idology then practicality is bound to fail.

            Granted, political moevement don't get to critical mass witout a strong dose of belief, but reign of true believers tends to be self-limiting and it's better to kick them out of the way before they take down the house.

            Hope newly empowered Dems will keep that in mind!

            Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

            by koNko on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:17:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I guess I don't see anything wrong with the (0+ / 0-)

        concept per se.

        Any group of anything has a leader (usually several).

        We've filled that role for probably 80 years give or take before 2002 when we started to take a hiatus from it unfortunately.

        The reaction of Obama winning tells me the world STILL wants us to take that role and still sees us as potentially being "exceptional."

        There is nothing arrogant about the concept per se so long as we strive to do good in the world and don't believe we are above reproach.

        There is nothing inevitable in the short term (everything is inevitable in the long term) about us declining.

        Everyone likes to think we live in extraordinary times for good or bad, usually, we don't. It is another rise or dip in the roller coaster.

        I think we can be exceptional again but it will take some time to pull us out of the current dip we are in.

      •  Add to that Chalmers Johnson and Kevin Phillips (7+ / 0-)

        Phillips and Johnson arrive at the same conclusion from a different rationale: the USA cannot afford a reckless foreign policy based on imperialism and corporatism forging a wideranging set of missions for our military.  We cannot possibly pay for the 800 military bases that have been put into place to prop up governments that suppress their populace fighting the "giveaway" of natural resources (see Nigeria and Colombia).  We cannot continue to follow the commands of corporations whose path to growth is translated into an imperialist foreign policy.  We cannot continue to contest the self-interests of nations whose nationalist leaders oppose corporations seeking to exploit a country's natural resources (see Bolivia and Ecuador).  We cannot continue to look the other way when corporations buy into sweetheart deals with military governments (see Burma and formerly Chile and Argentina and Brazil and Indonesia).  We cannot continue to destroy the aspirations of the people of the Middle East so we can maintain the the flow of oil to our country.

        The major problem of developed countries, such as our own, living beyond our means, is the need to obtain the natural resources of people in lesser developed countries.  We do this by our foreign policy which is shaped by corporations, the Washington think tanks, the corporate media, the lobbyists, and the elected representatives who believe in and comply with the Corporatist philosophy so ingrained in our political system.

        Our only choice is to become self-reliant by developing our own energy systems and to create a self-sustaining economy.  

        In the last two years, the greed of the financial services industry has shattered its investment banks.  We have a short time to gain control of this industry and put it to work on a healthy basis to finance changes we need in health, education, reforestation, agriculture, and sustainable energy systems.

      •  very wordy, ............ (0+ / 0-)
      •  All these people historically and/or currently (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hoya90, cgirard

        were made out to be crackpots.  Amiable and interesting, maybe entertaining, but crackpots nonetheless.

        We need to start looking at these labels and start challenging them.  What did Ross Perot do to be labeled a crack pot?  Basically, he withdrew for 30 days to establish huge state of the art security for his family and actually said in public the Bush family threatened his family.

        How crackpot does that sound now?

      •  Who will pay (0+ / 0-)

        for a 600 billion Pentagon budget? I can't imagine anyone lending the money, why would the G20 want anything to do with it. Even the Saudis are forging new Alliances.

        Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

        by ohcanada on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:00:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Wish the Obama team took this to heart (26+ / 0-)

      since Obama has been voicing his belief in American exceptionalism all along.

      I hope, really hope, that that was just the kind of kaka you have to say to get elected, rather than  a rock-ribbed belief.

      You won't have Putin's rearing head to kick around anymore.

      by rhubarb on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:17:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe we send him a copy (7+ / 0-)

        or maybe he reads about it here himself, if he has the time, and tells somebody to grab him a copy to read on the plane...

        Let's get some Democracy for America

        by murphy on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:42:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I beg to differ (14+ / 0-)

        Obama is very aware that the US loses prestige and influence when it goes it alone.

        He's not a believer in American exceptionalism. Quite the opposite. Though he believes that America is exceptional in that his story couldn't have taken place in any other country in the world, he doesn't want to preserve that exception for the US alone, but provide leadership so these values can be more universally recognised, and not imposed.

        •  American exceptionalism means the belief that (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rhubarb, historys mysteries, Philoguy

          the U.S. is so unique and different from other countries that the normal patterns of history don't apply to it, that the U.S. will always be the world's moral leader, "...only in America!", &c.

          •  I wrote a fairly decent (16+ / 0-)

            diary on American exceptionalism that you can read here.

            Among other things I argue that:

            One of the consequences of American exceptionalism in combination with our firm believe in our own innocence—put another way, our inability to do wrong-- is that the U.S. government considers itself exempt from legal and moral standards accepted by other nations in the world. Zinn notes,

            There is a long list of such self-exemptions: the refusal to sign the Kyoto Treaty regulating the pollution of the environment, the refusal to strengthen the convention on biological weapons. The failure to join the hundred-plus nations that have agreed to ban land mines, in spite of the appalling statistics about amputations performed on children mutilated by those mines. The refusal to ban the use of napalm and cluster bombs. Our insistence that we must not be subject, as are other countries, to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

            This brand of anti-internationalism runs deep in the American political tradition, as any casual student of history knows, and its persistence is to be expected. More surprising is the respectability that the movement is winning among academics and policy analysts. What’s most dangerous is that this thinking is not simple Patrick Buchanan isolationism at its core. No - this school does not oppose international engagement per se and thus cannot be classified simply as isolationist. Rather, it holds that the United States can pick and choose the international conventions and laws that serve its purpose and reject those that do not. Call it international law a la carte; exceptionalism with teeth.

            DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

            by DelicateMonster on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:46:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  That's correct--and thanks. (0+ / 0-)

            You won't have Putin's rearing head to kick around anymore.

            by rhubarb on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:48:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brit, grannyhelen, KayCeSF, Amayi

          I think you were on point in regards to Obama's understanding of "American Exceptionalism".

          ...he doesn't want to preserve that exception for the US alone, but provide leadership so these values can be more universally recognised, and not imposed.

          I share your line of thinking and couldn't have expressed it better.

          This is a fantastic diary and I am looking forward to reading the book.

        •  Is it genuinely true (4+ / 0-)

          that Obama's story couldn't have happened in any other country?  People really believe this?  Maybe such people should learn a bit about other countries.

          •  Well actually it is true (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brit, Philoguy, In her own Voice, cgirard

            if you want to get literal. Because, you know, how can you be raised by a Kansas mother without, you know, having a mother living in the state of Kansas or a grandmother in Hawaii?

            The Kenya pa could have happened in Kenya, true. But if he were raised with the family norms of true Kenyans and not with the family norms of true Americans which suggest abandonment and divorce are necessary adjuncts to the aggrandisement of the indiviual over everything else in life, especially those things that might be considered 'collective' type organizations, like families, say, then he might not have abandoned his family in pursuit of some individualistic and ultimately selfish goal and Obama might have had a father figure who stayed at home, made millions off the oil industry, say, and taught him how to drink properly and as a consequence his life might have turned into a dramatic wreck, like say George W. Bush's narcisstic mess.

            Luckily, that didn't happen. His father left him and his mother was from Kansas who taught him hard work and discipline and other socialistic stuff about support for the community. He took those lessons, applied them through out his life and thus became President.

            You know, actually when you look at it this way, the US is like the last place on earth I would have expected Obama to actually make it...

            The miracle isn't that it could only have happened here. The miracle is that it happened here at all.

            DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

            by DelicateMonster on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:52:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well said, I just take exception (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DelicateMonster, cgirard, VincaMajor

              to the arrogance of such a suggestion...  As if, for example, it's somehow not possible for people to make it against the odds in Europe.  It's a rather odd notion that people seem to have about the world and opportunity.  I also feel that this arrogance and provencialism helps to keep in place a lot of ugly things in America, as we don't look to the tremendous successes of other countries in areas like education, various social services, the work week, vacation, wages, and child care because we're already convinced that our system is the best and we have nothing to learn.  Likewise with how we hold and finance our elections.

              •  Absolutely (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Philoguy, divineorder

                Hell, a CEO makes 400 times what one of his worker's make and we don't bat an eye here. Presumably 99.99% of us are still thinking we'll one day be that CEO and we want as fat a paycheck as possible.

                I think it's called the 'American Dream' because it's utterly illusory like a dream. Or maybe it's because the only folks deluded enough to allow themselves to be manipulated into the worst kind of anti-progressive crap by the dream of a lotto ticket like win are Anericans.

                DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

                by DelicateMonster on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:03:56 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Unlike Newt and Buchanan, O never says he (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          succeeded alone.  He always states he comes from a community.  He talks about standing on the shoulders.....  He didn't promote yes I can it was yes we can.

      •  Obama's Election is the (4+ / 0-)

        prime example of "American Exceptionalism" in a positive incarnation - in stark contrast to the toxic forms of American Exceptionalism attempted by Bush/Cheney.

        Bacevich's book will hopefully be obsoleted by a new progressive era ushered in by Obama's sweeping victory.

        11/4 Changed Everything - Now, Henceforward, and Forever.

        by Sam I Am on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:05:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  As described ... (7+ / 0-)

      Seems that Bacevich is leaving an elephant in the room. How much of the discussion relates to our borrowing from tomorrow for today? A lot, I suspect. Related to that is Global Warming, where externalities are in no small part a tax on the future. Does Bacevich include this in the discussion?

      •  he does talk about energy (11+ / 0-)

        let me repeat two passages quoted in the diary, inserting two paragraphs I did not include.  This material comes from pp. 180-181.

        Not included:  

           Clime change likwise poses a looming threat to America's well-being - and the world's.  Here, the ;oint of concurrence between the national an international common good seems self-evident:  it lies in mmoving aggresively to reduce the level of emissions that contributes to global warming.

        Then comes this, which I did quote:

        The United States ranks among the world's worse polluters - here we confront one unfortunate by-product of American freedom as currently practiced. Acting alone, American cannot curb climate change. Yet unless the United States acts, the changes of effectively addressing this global threat are nil.

        Then I skipped this paragraph:

            Preserving the environment means reducing the global consumption of fossil fels while developing alternative energy sources.  In addition to saving the planet, leadership in this area will enhance national security.  Among other things, reducing oilo imports could reduce the flow of dollars to the Islamists who wish us ill, something that ought to be the very cornerstone of a strategy of containment.  Perfect security is an illusion.  Yet when it coms to keeping security problems within tolerable limits, self-sufficienty has a vlue greater than eve the largest army.

        and that is immediately followed with this:

        No doubt undertaking a serious, long-term, national effort to begin the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy promises to be a costly proposition.  Yet whereas spending trillions to forcibly democratize the Islamic world will achieve little, investing trillions in energy research might actually produce something useful.

        There is more, but that should give the sense.  His primary point of view is the issue of security and democracy.  He sees a driect connection with balancing budgets, curbing consumption and paying down debts.  Our approach to energy and the environment are clearly part of his overall view, even if not the primary focus.

        Hope that helps.

        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:58:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Greed (0+ / 0-)

        Is not healthy for the earth and other living things.

        Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

        by koNko on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:18:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Another, similar book was written by Gen Odom (12+ / 0-)

      Check out America's Inadvertent Empire written by Gen. William Odom in 2004.

      Both men, highly critical of the Iraq War before it began, had sons on active duty. Gen. Odom's son was injured in Iraq, and Bachevich's son was killed in Iraq.

    •  thank you! I'll be picking up a copy of this book (7+ / 0-)

      Regarding the need to shrink bureaucracies, hell yes. It's my experience that they inevitably become bloated, packed with careerists who are less interested in problem-solving and creative projects than in ass-covering and climbing the bureaucratic ladder. Every few years, we need to take clippers to bureaucracies and pare them down to their essentials, making sure the people left are smart and genuinely committed to improving the service/product. That goes for all bureaucracies, public and private.

      I'm a teacher, too, and for over thirty years I've been frustrated by the way educational administration gobbles up resources that would be better spent improving the teacher-student relationship, which is where learning actually takes place. Education administration is a parasitic industry that is not only diverting resources from improving teaching and learning but is actually clogging decision-making with too many administrative layers. It's huge, a waste of taxpayer's money, and actually detrimental to education.

      So based on what I've seen in education, I'm assuming that the same can be said of governmental bureaucracies. In a time of lean resources, in particular, we need to hack away at all the deadwood in DC.

      I digress. :) Sounds like an interesting read and I thank you for the recommendation.

    •  Bacevich is a good writer. (6+ / 0-)

      I have his The New American Militarism and, as a lifelong student of history, I agree with almost all of his perspectives.  (The few with which I disagree are trivial details not worth mentioning.)

      And I agree that we cannot hope to stabilize our economy when our idea of "national security" includes protecting every oil well and pipeline on earth ... because that requires a military we cannot afford to sustain.

    •  Reminders of many things forgotten (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, rilkas, wa ma, divineorder, cgirard

      Wow.  I'd forgotten Niebuhr; Bacevich's reference to Niebuhr's work is important in so many ways.  Definitely have to run out and get this book after reading your essay, teacherken.

      Niebuhr's growth as a theologian and philosopher grew in tandem with the city of Detroit.  I think we've forgotten how important that city once was in so many ways, just as we may have forgotten Niebuhr.  Perhaps it's time to dig through the metropolitan rubble for the nuggets of lasting truth, just as Bacevich did with Niebuhr's work.

      When Bacevich suggests a smaller, more tightly-focused military, I hear something else: might this not apply to our American automotive industry as well?  To what else might this apply?

    •  Let's hope, Ken, that your title (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "misunderestimates" Bush's successor.

      "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

      by nailbender on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:45:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  If this is your tip jar (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder, cgirard

      Teacherken, consider yourself tipped.

      I heartily agree with the sentiments expressed, and I speak as an ex-Air Force brat and former military troop.

      Comments for this diary are awesome also. Great discussion. Thanks for posting this.

    •  minor proofing correction (0+ / 0-)

      In the blockquote beginning "The United States ranks among the world's worse polluters" the last sentence contains an error (changes/chances . . . could be original, could be transcription).

      Excellent review of a very timely book . . . it should be the bible of the new administration.  So far that's not in evidence . . . only time will tell . . .

    •  remember brooks interview w/Obama (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      when he talked about Niebuhr as someone who has influenced his thinking .... ?  just found a link
      i frankly feel that we have to (hopefuly) separate obama's campaign rhethoric regarding building up a larger US Army and moving the war to Afghanistan from his core philosophies, which are also influenced so greatly by the Kennedy School of Government (Sewell and Power) who advocate a more huminarian involvement in global affairs and are intensively opposed to US imperialism

      "Imagine better than the best you know." Neville Goddard.

      by boatsie on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:22:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Teacher ken, I debated with Bacevick on this one (0+ / 0-)

      at our school two weeks ago.

      I have a lot of love and respect for Professor Bacevick. Heck, I'm contemplating on taking a class with him next semester.

      But we had a Great Debate discussion on this, and I did pose the question? Which country's standing, and money, and what they have in the world right now, would you rather have?

      America still produces a quarter of the world's GDP, the military, despite the horrendous last decade, is still the most powerful, and the diversity of the country is still contributing factors.

      I think exceptionalism gets lumped in too much with "dominance" and "infallibility", and I think that is the case here.

      •  Counterpoint (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But we had a Great Debate discussion on this, and I did pose the question? Which country's standing, and money, and what they have in the world right now, would you rather have?

        None. We're living in a multilateral world which is the state of the world most of human civilization.

        America still produces a quarter of the world's GDP, overwhelming bulk of the world's polution and debt...

        the military, despite the horrendous last decade,

        ...century, maybe longer...

        is still the most powerful,

        ...insanely expensive, counterproductive, overused and overrated...

        and the diversity of the country is still contributing factors.

        We are diverse, however, America has not achieved a culture with full and equal protections for all citizens. Yet, we spend enormous amounts of good will and capital imposing our society and values upon others, when being a good example would more than suffice.

        I think exceptionalism gets lumped in too much with "dominance" and "infallibility", and I think that is the case here.

        Exceptionalism, in any society, inevitably decays into a rubric of dominance and infallibility.

        The sea will be there/and all the small things will drown/Inevitable

        by James Kresnik on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 04:46:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The people do, but the meaning of the word (0+ / 0-)


          Exceptionalism and preeminence gets lumped into "full dominion" and infallibility, and that isn't what exceptionalism means. In fact, really, expectionalism is even technically a word.

          Exceptional means unusal, and its second entry means unusally good.

          The people of society lumps great times (see the Roaring Twenties, Great Britain in the latter stages of the second millenium, the Roman Empire, and to get Biblical, the peoples of Israel and Judah) and think that things will last forever. Only those who don;'t understand that one day, everything can vastly change, is when exceptionalism definition gets conflicted and mangled.

          America is the full paradigm of how there never was, and never will be, a perfect country.

          But that does not mean however that most countries wouldn't mind what they have, and trade for what America has though in terms of the grand scheme. However, most here in the States certainly wish to have a sensible health care and actual attention to the "proletariat" (middle class) class of the country.

      •   At what cost to the world has (0+ / 0-)

        production of GDP, military, power come?

        At what loss of habitat, dignity, extinguished species, human life, human rights has this dead end life style in the US risen from ?  


        •  I'm not coming from the premise of saying (0+ / 0-)

          "all is great and well" in this country. All of those other factors you mention have damaged this country and shows that in genereal, there will never be a perfect country.

          Even the "best" feature the worst of life. That's human beings for you.

          But in terms of the resources still left here, and the ability to still have an influence when leadership is sound and tactically adapt in world issues and domestic governing, America still is in a position that a lo of countries would certainly trade for in the grand scheme of things.

          Just look at the elections here, and compared that to interest here in Gordon Brown getting elected, or Nikolas Sarkazy getting elected, or anyone else in the world? The interest here in this country wasn't there for those elections because America's influence in the world is still vastly important.

    •  Wonderful review, teacherken (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, sravaka, Randtntx, cgirard

      On a most important subject, and what looks like an excellent book.

      The national security state has grown to immense power. They will not surrender that power if asked. All of American history since 1963 -- really since Eisenhower's military industrial complex speech in 1960 -- speaks to this truth.

      The only important addition I have to this discussion is to highlight the basic fact that the motive drive behind the hubris of American power is not ethical or moral decay, but reliance on the profit motive. It is the striving for profits and control of markets that lead the U.S. (and other countries both previously and contemporaneously) to expand and operate aggressively.

      Whether it's the crisis domestically and economically, or the interlocking sets of international crises abroad, what really needs to be seriously examined is the inadequacy of captitalism as an economic system. Not only has the market failed, but a system of nation states competing against each other under the auspices of a capitalist market has failed. Worse, the crises thereby engendered threaten all of humanity.

      War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

      by Valtin on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 12:35:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great review (0+ / 0-)

      More time on the Rec list!

      -5.12, -5.23

      We are men of action; lies do not become us.

      by ER Doc on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 12:43:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Whew! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You're more wordy and long-winded than I am!  :-)  Sorry, couldn't make it through the entire piece, but did read the Bacevich quotes.

      I clicked on the Moyers link because I had an inkling of who you were talking about.  The interview Bill Moyers did with Andrew J. Bacevich was one of his finest and I remember it vividy; I also highly recommend everyone view the online video if you missed it when it originally aired (Bacevich's son was killed in Iraq; he nearly loses it at one point in the interview and says he doesn't want to talk about it).  Bacevich has an economy of words that I greatly admire (mostly because I don't have his talent) and he says a whole lot with very few words.  It's a great talent to have in today's sound-byte world.  Bacevich makes one stop and think.  And then stop and think some more.

      I'd add my recommendations to teacherken's for anything written by Andrew J. Bacevich.


      by NonnyO on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 04:08:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I could write volumes (0+ / 0-)

      And perhaps I should get brave and write more diaries on this subject, but one reason I joined Kos and am sticking with it is to chip-away at the myth of American Exceptionalism, which infects the Left in may ways as it does the right.

      To dot the eye, all countries have thier cultural and political illusions and a sense of pride, but the US, because of it's unique place in history and resources that got it trough the first 200 years has tended to view it's self as uniquely good snd shrug off it's failings.

      But the US is an importiant and good country, and it matters greatly that it gets beyond complaining about the growing pains and get on with growth.

      Two events now conspire to provide the US an opportunity to change and get a restart - the election of Obama (a cooly intellegent leader) and the global economic crisis that will produce Globalization 2.0, where the developed nations that have dominated the scene for the past 400 years or so come to terms with the limits of their power and necessity of multinational cooperation that shares power, benifits and costs.

      So perhaps, while not exeptional, the US is lucky, at least as lucky as Donald Trump facing down his bankers.

      Can liberals come to terms with reality and deal with it better than the last crop of Neocons who personified American Exceptionalism? I certianly hope so, and that's why I come here. It's about my daughter's future.

      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

      by koNko on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:36:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  American exceptionalism a most pernicious (44+ / 0-)

    and insidious belief system.  It is irrational and delusional, and leads us to having 737 m ilitary bases in 130+ countries around the world.

    China has "0" such bases.  Do they know something we don't"  Or vice versa??

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:26:13 AM PST

    •  Go back 100 years (37+ / 0-)

      The U.S. resembles the British Empire of the early 1900's, while China resembles the U.S. from the same time period.

      Britain bled itself to death in a pointless war and a war that never would have happened if not for the first pointless war.

      Nations rise and nations fall. We are no different.

      "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

      by wayward on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:43:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Capitalism requires colonialism (12+ / 0-)

        Even if its only economic colonialism.
        there must be cheap labor and cheap resources to exploit.

        If Liberals really hated America we'd vote Republican

        by exlrrp on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:45:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not if you assume that surplus and profit (21+ / 0-)

          are the consequence not of extraction, but of avoiding waste.

          The American economy is foundering because the majority of our resources, production and consumption are going to waste.  It's not just a matter of land-fills accumulating useless and unusable stuff.  It's also a matter of most of the energy we generate being unused and much of our detritus killing both ourselves and other organisms off.

          Think of the tens of thousands being killed on our highways and the hundreds of thousands being injured in the process of being propelled through the environment for no good purpose. We have convinced ourselves that people strapped in metal and plastic coffins zooming around the countryside are free.  But, they're not.  It's an illusion.

          How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

          by hannah on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:10:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  ah, the throw-way culture (16+ / 0-)

            despite our increasing recycling of some goods.  When I was younger there were lots of tinkerers and small repair shops.  Nowadays you have something not working and they want to charge you a 60 dollar bench fee before they even look at it.    Yet another form of planned obsolescence.

            We have several thousand LP records.  That makes us dinosaurs.  I have purchased a turntable that will enable me to turn them into MP3 files so we can transport them, but we will continue to listen to vinyl and not dispose of them.

            We know that conservation could greatly reduce our demands for energy.  We should be funding the upfront costs of converting to more efficient devices -  that includes electronics, furnaces, air conditionser (where really necessary), toilets, hot water heaters etc.  etc. etc.   Many people don't convert because of the up front investment, even if the additional cost is recovered within two-three years.  Our thinking is far too short-term.

            do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

            by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:17:03 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  We are rebirthing a vintage home, built in 1929 (6+ / 0-)

              The object in the end is to have the beauty of a classic home with the efficiency of modern components. We have been doing this in earnest for 8 years. Why so long? Because of the expense and the pitance we get in return for our investment in the way of government rebates and tax credits. I can't afford to put $3500 in the house and get $100 credit back and be expected to charge full speed ahead making the house energy efficient.

              IMO, the credits and rebates should be at minimum sufficient to help make the down payment on the next project. The government covering the upfront costs would be great, but I don't think it even has to go that far except for those people who can't afford to up grade their homes and those programs could create more jobs.

              If the Government would cover half the cost of soy foam insulation in our home I could do it this year in the WHOLE house not room by room as we are now.

          •  I don't assume that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I think that surplus and profit come from efficient use of materials, i.e. extracting and avoiding waste, although there's other important factors to look at as well.
            the point that America wastes its materials, and those of others, is well taken but I don't see how it conflicts with what I said. Capitalism requires cheap and easily exploitable labor and materials,  to survive at the level its played at today---thats why the jobs keep moving from one easily exploitable olace to another. In order to do that, capitalists must politically control the areas they exploit. Thats colonialism, if economic colonialism.
            Thats what I meant

            I don't disagree at all with your 3d paragraph but don't exactly know where it fits in with what I said: I'm definitely not promoting capital;ism

            If Liberals really hated America we'd vote Republican

            by exlrrp on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:26:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]


            We produce about 110 MILLION TONS of plastic WASTE every year in the world. Over 10 million tons finds its way into the middle of the Pacific Ocean in an area the size of the continent of Africa, via a circular current like a toilet bowl. The toxins are getting into the wildlife, and into our own food chain back into our bodies.

            And it goes on year after year after year. The plastic cesspool is 100 TIMES bigger now than just 9 years ago. And we are not stopping.

            The world's systems have gone insane in the hands of shameless capitalists and profiteers. If the world's people really understood, I think things would change quickly.

            How does a toxic soup of broken down plastic accumulate to the size of Africa in the Pacific Ocean and we never hear about it? We should be hearing it on a daily basis and enacting world treaties to put a stop to it.

            Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

            by TX Unmuzzled on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:38:03 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Which is why (8+ / 0-)

          China is setting up factories in Africa.

          I see a nasty pasttern getting ready to repeat itself.

          Just Google "china factories Africa" and get a real eyeful !

          Let's get some Democracy for America

          by murphy on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:44:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  We could have avoided this. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The only thing we've set up in Africa are warlords, crony capitalist regimes, rotten IMF loans and various facilities to extract minerals. Who can blame them? The Africans are looking for infrastructure and a manufacturing base. What do we have for them beyond imported food, imported Mercedes and expensive AIDS drugs?

            The sea will be there/and all the small things will drown/Inevitable

            by James Kresnik on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 04:56:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I want a book on the corruptness bred by (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TX Unmuzzled, bustacap, esquimaux, cgirard

          Capitalism--especially corporate capitalism.

          It has had a lot to do with our exploitation of natural and human resources all over the world.

          It has fed an attitude of entitlement without responsibility which is common across most sectors of our society, and which has bled into the psyche of the world as well.

          Our acceptance of America's "exceptionalism" is an underlying factor, of course.  We think we are unique, and many, sadly think we are "ordained" to be the world's light.

          Wrong. And wrong again.

          Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

          by murasaki on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:54:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Resembles Great Britain at it's height? (9+ / 0-)

        Not so much. The British secured their empire with a smaller army probably than the Americans now station in western Europe. And with the help of several key naval bases, some of which (Singapore, Capte Town, Aden, & Hong Kong) they held until recent times. One, Gibralter, they hold to this day. I don't believe they ever had was the enormous military hoof-print of "permanent" bases.

        What they don't do, and never did, was maintain an enormous standing army. Thus, they could never aspire to the evident American role of global occupying power. The British did let their obsession with sea power lead them into an arms race with Germany that on some accounts led to WW1, which as you say was pointless, and led to loss of their Empire. Which loss, btw, was among American's principle war aims in both conflagrations.

        The purpose of the navy was to secure trade routes. If their trade was forced, or amounted to daylight robbery, in India, for example, at least they did not burn the place down as Americans have done in Iraq.

        You'll pay me the 8s I won of you a-betting?

        by Boreal Ecologist on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:41:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Britain also used colonies to do the figthing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Boreal Ecologist

          The biggest army available was the Indian Army which was used to fight wars from China to Iraq and Iran from the early 19th centuary till the occupation of Iraq, Iran and Japan in 1946-7.

          Lots of the fighting in Africa was done by other africans.

          As you say the important thing was trade and trade routes the informal ecconomic empire over South America in large parts of the 19th Centuary was maintained by bankers and the Royal Navy with the very occasional threat of the Royal Marines having to go ashore.

          The US changed the position it wants to have large numbers of other countries contribute a small number of men and a flag to provide political respectability but it does not actually want allies, it would rather use Blackwater.

      •  the economic situation is similar as well.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Kresnik, In her own Voice

        China is what the US was in the early 20th century, and we are now what Europe was to the US back then.  Hopefully we won't need a world war to sort that out.  Do you think China would be as generous as we were to Europe ... or for that matter, who would survive the next world war, if it occurred?

        Article 6: " religious test shall *ever* be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the U.S."

        by billlaurelMD on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:56:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  According to sources cited by Robert Newman (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        In her own Voice

        … in his History of Oil presentation — the link is to the online video — the First World War was also about the oil in Mesopotamia (then a province of the Ottoman Empire)! So from the standpoint of British military planners who wanted to prevent Germany from completing the Baghdad railway and converting its navy to oil (matching a similar step by Britain) the war was not pointless.

        See the national finals of Dutch children's chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen's 2008 Song Contest December 14 in Hoorn!

        by lotlizard on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:07:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's not irrational. It's a consequence of (20+ / 0-)

      the fact that many, if not most, immigrants from the old world inherit a sense of inferiority because, for whatever reason, they couldn't make it there.  So, there's a sense of having to "prove" that not only is the new world better, but that the old should be taught a lesson.

      Then, every time some event transpires that calls this sense of being better into question, it just re-enforces the initial impulse.

      America is in a constant state of competition with other nations who aren't even aware that's what the agenda is.

      I used to think that "freedom" was just another word meaning the same as "liberty."  Lately, I've come to realize that freedom presupposes a bounded state from which an individual or a people are released.  "Liberty," on the other hand is an ab initio condition.  Man is born into liberty, but must be freed.  And, what he's to be freed from is his sins--i.e. original sin from which man must be saved serves as a justification for keeping him in chains, until he complies with social directives.

      Assuming man is selfish and sinful provides a rationale for making him behave--i.e. for employing coercion like that represented by "there is no free lunch."

      There is something ironic about the recognition of individual interests and rights being used to justify subjugation.
      If one proceeds from the assumption that humans are social creatures by nature, then there's no need to justify their subjugation.  

      But, that would make subjugation morally wrong, wouldn't it?  

      How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

      by hannah on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:01:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  another thoughtful comment from you (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        billlaurelMD, grannyhelen, cgirard

        as usual    Thanks for posting it


        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:06:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It IS irrational in that it demands the (5+ / 0-)

        persisting belief America is DIFFERENT . ..  sui generis, if you will . . . from every other nation-state in the history of the planet . . . whether the difference is laid at the feet of a loving God who blesses our holy nation . . . or ascribed to the fact we are in some undefinable way . . . BETTER than everyone else.

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:45:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  One quibble (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's not like the US is the only nation state founded and sustained by deliberate immigration from other countries.  Canada is the same, and could not be more different in terms of its self perception vis-a-vis its role in the world.

        "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." - Pierre Trudeau

        by fishhead on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:40:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Getting America to see itself (16+ / 0-)

      as it is and not how it wishes it is will be a difficult task.  In fact, any criticism of American policies, no matter how mild, is immediately attacked as unpatriotic.

      I think now may be a time when people are more open to this argument.  I've talked to a lot of people who express a weariness with our endless military interventions while things crumble at home.  Perhaps this economic crisis will be able to convince people that our interventions are just too costly.

      Let our new progressive era begin!

      by Unstable Isotope on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:48:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This stepping back, expanding the point of view (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Kresnik, cgirard

        is perhaps the single greatest challenge for us as individuals. I suspect this capacity may have to be cultivated first by a critical mass of people before the nation, a kind of collective ego, can go there.  

        "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

        by TheWesternSun on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:59:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  We all have the same oil interests. Why should (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, TX Unmuzzled, divineorder

      they pony up for their own extended defense structure when they can just rely on ours.


      "You may already be a wiener!" Anonymous

      by Terra Mystica on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:49:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Teacherken! (20+ / 0-)

    I thought Bacevich was brilliant the first time I saw him on Bill Moyers show.

    I am definitely going to be putting this on my reading list!

    I think the most interesting point and a fairly relevant one for ALL of us, is the ability to be self aware.

    The most successful people in life have this quality.

    From my limited experience, it seems to me that there are 3 really important ones:

    1. Ability to learn and adapt.
    1. Have a real sense of self-awareness. Being honest with own strengths and weaknesses.
    1. Having an antennae of next steps for the future.

    And really I think they hold true for the United States as well.

    "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" - Thomas Paine

    by pinkbunny on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:28:58 AM PST

  •  I reviewed this book a couple weeks ago... (14+ / 0-)

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

    by FrankCornish on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:33:16 AM PST

  •  Keeping in mind that the National Security Act (13+ / 0-)

    of 1947, creating the CIA, the NSA and other foundations of the Cult of National Security, was drafted by, among others, General Reinhard Gehlen, the head of Eastern Intelligence Services for the Third Reich.

    See, also, this link.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:39:57 AM PST

    •  wow ... I wonder if anyone has ever thought thru (5+ / 0-)

      the implications of that.  First I've ever heard of that.

      Article 6: " religious test shall *ever* be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the U.S."

      by billlaurelMD on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:07:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Carl Oglesby has. (7+ / 0-)

        The last time I talked with him,  (in the 90's) he was suing the government to try to get them to release documents detailing the input from the Nazi intelligence services into the CIA.

        Please note also the the Dulles boys (Allen and John Foster) were also the thugs who engineered the overthrow of the moderate secular Mossadegh government in Iran in '53.

        If we had left Mossadegh in power, Iran would most probably now be a secular Islamic state like Turkey, our ally.

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:45:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Bacevich focuses on NSC 68 (8+ / 0-)

      this was " highly classified report" that Paul Nitze drafted for Truman and the NSC in 1950.  Bacevich is writing about the context of the so-called "Wise Men" who dominated national security policy for far too long.  Consider, Nitze not only drafted that document for Truman (as a logical heir to Forrestal 'godfather' of that kind of thinking), but when I was in the Marines in the mid-1906's he was SecNavy, still unfortunately influential in the making of security policy.

      Let me quote what Bacevich says about the document:

      Historians have long seen NSC 68 as one of the foundational documents of postwar American statecraft.  From our present perspective, it is that and more.  NSC 68 provides us with an early sense of what our postwar habit of deferring to Wide MEn has wrought.

      As an example of some of the wrongheaded thinking that ensued, consider this:

      According to Nitze's analysis, the Soviet Union - actually a country leveled by World War II and barely in the recovery phase - arelady enjoyed a clear preponderence of pwoer. Even so, daya  y day, it was "widening the gap between its preparedness for war and the unpreparedness of the free world for wars."

      One more relevant quote:

      Natioanl seucity had to rank first among the nation's priorities, so NSC 68 called for curbing domestic expenditures.  It also argued for higher taxes to make available the resources needed to fund rearmament.  In effect, this "Nitze Doctrine" offered a recipe for the permenanent militarization of U. S. policy.

      the permenanent militarization of U. S. policy -  sound familiar, anyone?

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:30:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think this is a very important book... (11+ / 0-)

    for developing a new foreign policy consensus. Many Conservatives who are more the economic/foreign policy types and not the religious "social" conservatives will embrace this author and this book. It provides a great opportunity and the ability to agree with people on something when you agree with them on little else.

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

    by FrankCornish on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:41:04 AM PST

  •  Thank you, Teacher Ken. I have not heard of (4+ / 0-)

    this book before, which tells you something of the way my life is wrapped in a little regional bubble in north central North Carolina.  I'm grateful for mental stimulation from the larger world.

  •  The end of American exceptionalism... (5+ / 0-)

    ...cannot come too soon.  The book sounds excellent.  Maybe I'll order it today.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:04:13 AM PST

  •  Is American exceptionalism actually... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, Leftcandid

    American paranoia?

    St. Ronnie was an asshole.

    by manwithnoname on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:12:18 AM PST

  •  I think we need a different definition of (12+ / 0-)


    That is, not the current "we are special, we can do whatever we want to anyone we want" but rather, an acknowledgment that every nation is exceptional, and therefore, every nation is similar.  I saw a sign once that said

    Relax.  You're absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

    and this is true of countries, as well as people.

    Then, too, I would like to recover a sense of American exceptionalism, when what marked our country as exceptional was not hubris, greed, and militarism, but a sense of everything being possible.

    •  I have a slightly different take (7+ / 0-)

      I think we should demonstrate within our borders and by our international actions that a different way is possible.  From time to time we have done so.  To me the best example might be the Marshall plan.  Of course it was in our economic and geopolitical self-interest to move in such a direction, or the powers that be might not have agreed, but still, it set an example for generosity that had a powerful effect around the world, as did the idealism of the Peace Corps.

      As for absolute uniqueness.  God, I hope we do not succeed in further leveling the differences among nations.  I shudder to think what we would lose.  It would be the equivalent of the destructiveness of monoculture in aqriculture.

      Last thought - all this is clearly applicable to teaching.  My students are not, and should not be, standardized.  Each is absolutely unique, and should be honored as such.  Yes, we need to try to equip them to be able to function across a wide range of domains, but we can do that without ignoring or suppressing the things that make them who they are.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:22:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ind. Exceptionalism/excellence vs social good (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, cgirard

      See my comment here where I discuss this at length.

      An excerpt (not that I am so right or erudite--just that it comes from a place of deep personal meaning for me!)

      When individual excellence/achievement/ambition, or imperial exceptionalism/dominance/avarice get out of hand, the social, the living system of nature is put at risk.  When a repressive social order, such as that of Lenin and Stalin is over-built and forced onto the people--when all individual freedom and opportunity are squelched in lieu of the so-called good of the state (whole), then the 'living system' is also out of balance. It is the imbalance of individual/national exceptionalism vs the survival of the whole/planet that plagues us today and is the premise of this discussion.

      Find your own voice--the personal is political.

      by In her own Voice on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 10:04:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A leader without active followers... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RustyBrown, George Gould

    is a leader of an empty movement.  

    There is one teaching, and all teachings teach it.

    by wewhodream on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:13:54 AM PST

  •  Slash the military budget by a modest 6% (22+ / 0-)

    and watch as our country does not fail. Publicize that you're doing this by taking away the money from no-bid contracts with private business.

    Call it the Swords Into Plowshares Act. Diverting the money into the PeaceCorps, alternative energy, infrastructure repairs.

    Then you reapportion another amount--roughly the same--from private contracts into body armor, health care for veterans and benefits for military.

    And after the media's done having it's surrender-speculation fest, the country can be made to see that the world will not fall. After all, it's not us that voted for the budget increases.

    Wall Street pirates loot this country, destroy people's lifelong work and their pensions. If you need to execute someone, shoot those motherfuckers.

    by Nulwee on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:14:57 AM PST

    •  must be done (5+ / 0-)

      but as you imply, the media will hinder it.  We'll need to break up media conglomerates first to give everything else an honest shot at success.

      The hopeful depend on a world without end, whatever the hopeless may say. --Rush

      by Leftcandid on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:47:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nah, chicken vs. egg argument (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Leftcandid, cgirard

        the media will never be a true ally, even if it is made less partial.

        Radical change first.

        The media scrambled to redefine themselves on election night, just as they will when progressives succeed.

        They're after the ghosts of ratings and authority, not any particular agenda.

        Wall Street pirates loot this country, destroy people's lifelong work and their pensions. If you need to execute someone, shoot those motherfuckers.

        by Nulwee on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:03:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  what it can't be is a war profiteer propaganda (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          divineorder, cgirard


          That is specifically the obstacle in place even when progressives win.  It's the non-ratings-based profit motive that most of America does not see.

          If NBC was owned by NBC instead of GE, what could KO and RM say that they can't say now?

          The hopeful depend on a world without end, whatever the hopeless may say. --Rush

          by Leftcandid on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:14:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who is going to implement this change? (0+ / 0-)

            The government? Unlikely, as our current elites have a fully symbiotic relationship with the press. The only way we can alter the loyalty of the media is starving it of the dollars and citizen time it needs to remain viable.

            The sea will be there/and all the small things will drown/Inevitable

            by James Kresnik on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:12:12 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  can we send (7+ / 0-)

    a copy to everyone in congress and on the new transition team?

    If we cut our defense budget in half, would be still be facing an economic crisis?

    •  depends what you do with the employees (8+ / 0-)

      of companies that depend upon our military spending.  A similar problem exists with health insurance -  the tens of thousands of people whose employment is rooted in the current wasteful and dysfunctional system.

      Both the military and health insurance need to be addressed.   But we also must be mindful of the economic and psychological impact upon those whose livelihoods will feel the impact.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:24:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I realize this can't be done overnight (5+ / 0-)

        but the US needs to start rethinking and rethinking BIG.

        Saying we need to keep military spending because it employees so many (I realize that isn't what you are saying) is not a good long term strategy.

        I believe it is similar to saying we can't possibly have failures in the US auto industry.  Well, since the US auto industry has failed to adapt, they are going to fail.  It is just a question of when.  You can only kick that can so far down the road.

        The sad reality is that much of our economy is based on failed concepts like permanent war, unlimited oil, super sprawl and the selling of unlimited debt.  Something has got to give.  Well, something is giving right now.  And there is more to follow.

        Will the empire decide that the one thing we can never cut is military spending?  History indicates that is probably the way we will go.  And we all know how that one ends.

        That said, I don't feel bad for the people losing their jobs on Wall Street.  And I can't say I would feel too badly for people losing their jobs in the defense industry.  If you have been making a nice comfortable living in these industries you have been doing it by depriving others of the same by the nature of what your industries do.  Perhaps you should've thought more about your career choice.      

        •  oh, I am NOT arguing for continuation (7+ / 0-)

          either of the military industrial complex or the current scheme of health insurance.  My remarks are merely cautionary -  we need to ensure that we do not forget those whose lives will be displaced as a result of the changes we must make.  And if we are upfront about that, we are likely to find less resistance -  people do fight back intensely when threatened with economic insecurity.

          do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

          by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:44:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  at least the economic insecurity (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            onemadson, James Kresnik, cgirard

            ...will be widely distributed, and that may blunt the power of those seeking to preserve the failing system in that we'll all be in the same sinking boat and able to relate.  We'll all be looking for the new opportunities & industries to employ the millions of us.  We'll all understand the need to change things.

            We hope.

            The hopeful depend on a world without end, whatever the hopeless may say. --Rush

            by Leftcandid on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:53:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Livlihood (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        has been an issue before. I'm quite sure that those involved in buggy manufacturing faced the same problem.

        So perhaps if we stopped war as an industry. Stopped giving big oil, car companies, etc, tax incentives. And, offered all that is being wasted in those realms, to new energy and climate change, there would be a lot more jobs.

        Common Sense is not Common

        by RustyBrown on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:36:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The biggest question for me about Obama (21+ / 0-)

    is can we during his eight years in office get to the point where these questions can be widely considered. Can we begin to recognize that the world needs to wind down depending on military might for security and that that is a real possibility. Transforming the world's energy system while not dooming billions to poverty is all we can afford to do over the next 30 or 40 years. We cannot also play arms race games or continue to spend what we are spending on war and preparation for war.

    I think at least some people are starting to understand this. Shifting America away from the insane vision of PNAC is the first key step in this direction and that, I think, Obama is capable of doing, but he will need all the help he can get within the USA and in the wider world.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:24:04 AM PST

  •  America's twinned gift to the World: (11+ / 0-)

    The Rule of Law combined with Equality of Opportunity.

    Neither has been implemented perfectly here, and other nations have had them in isolation longer, but the combination is a uniquely American Ideal.

  •  Arrogance and narcissim are epidemic (14+ / 0-)

    in this country, and they prevent any sort of meaningful discussion of the issues facing us right now, because ackowledging problems might mean (gasp) that (1) this country and its citizens aren't perfect, and (2) we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.

    It's much easier to look at our reflections in that pool and tell ourselves how beautiful we are.

  •  Iraq a-la Niebuhrean: A "just war"? (9+ / 0-)

    The quagmire that is our rationale for war in the Middle East will have to become one of the deepest hindsight topics to read of within my lifetime.

    I'll add this book to my list, but already have a good indication of what I'll find within it. More postulation and supposition that proves again and again that we're waking-up from our droll bobble-headed agreements with the status quo.

    I'm looking for an American age of intellectual enlightenment to oppose the coming GOP soc.-con. scaremongering.

    You found an audience, alright, TK. Thank you for this.

    "Hew out of the mountain of despair A Stone of Hope." -Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by Patch Adam on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:39:22 AM PST

  •  Jefferson said it 230 years ago (12+ / 0-)
    Bacevich wrote that (we will)
    tolerate stupefying incompetence and dysfunction in the nation's captial, counting on the next president to fix everthing that the last one screwed up.

    just as Jefferson noted in the Declaration of Independence

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

    The question is, at what point do the evils become insufferable?
  •  The Dedication Page of Colonel Bacevich's work... (9+ / 0-)

    is telling:

    To the memory of my beloved son


    First Lieutenant, U.S. Army

    July 8, 1979-May 13, 2007

    Bacevich, the younger was killed in action in Iraq.

    As long as you insist on feeling offended, I'll be glad to comply.

    by George Gould on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:40:49 AM PST

  •  Remember, "What we say goes"? (12+ / 0-)

    Uttered by Bush I. That mindset is still alive and well today, to our detriment.

    Ironically, it took Pat Buchanan to write a book,  "A Republic, Not An Empire."   Go  figure.

    In the meantime, we're saddled with the moral and economic costs of maintaining a 700 military base empire around the globe.  And Obama can't broach the topic.

    "World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed." MLK

    by SmedleyButlerUSMC on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:42:34 AM PST

    •  and your screen name appropriate to discussion (17+ / 0-)

      to quote old Smedley, from a speech he gave in 1933:

          War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

         I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

         I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

         There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

         It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

         I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

         I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

         During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:47:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama Appears Too Intelligent.... (11+ / 0-) buy into the simplistic American Exceptionalism meme.

      I am hoping that Obama sees the fundamental hubris of American foreign policy. I will give him some leeway to gain some leverage but I think within six to ten months we will be able to see if Obama is truly coming to terms with the limits of American military power.

      Well I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari... Tehachapi to Tonopah--Lowell George/Little Feat

      by frandor55 on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:52:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes He Can (5+ / 0-)

      Just not anytime soon.  Hell, maybe not in his first term.  But at some point, we must contract the empire we can no longer afford.  

      The parallel to draw is the Soviet Union.  We are heading down the same path of economic destruction by military overextension, even if we are doing it via capitalism.  The end result will be the same unless we change course.  Most Americans will be able to swallow that once they realize the continued health of the nation is at stake.

      The hopeful depend on a world without end, whatever the hopeless may say. --Rush

      by Leftcandid on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:57:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  see also George Soros and his book from 1999 (11+ / 0-)

    'The Bubble of American Supremacy'.  Soros and Buffett are our wise men and thus hated mightily by many - especially wingnuts like Limbaugh who would cough up blood at the mere mention of this topic.

  •  Becevich was on Moyers a few months back. What (7+ / 0-)

    an exceptional (NPI) grasp of the totality and complexity of our FP.  Both historically and prospectively.

    Now there's a Secretary of State candidate.


    "You may already be a wiener!" Anonymous

    by Terra Mystica on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:45:59 AM PST

  •  My book group is reading this book for February. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, bustacap, cgirard

    There is nothing worse than having to devote one's precious reading time with a book you don't want to read.  I wasn't looking forward to this but you've changed my mind!  Thank you for this diary--and I will check out the previous diarists posts as well.

    Timidity is laughable--Jenny Holzer Truism

    by NotActingNaive on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:47:33 AM PST

  •  The only thing we create anymore is debt (9+ / 0-)

    It's a sad state of affairs.

    Americans: losing their homes; John McCain: misplacing his houses

    by jhecht on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:52:38 AM PST

  •  This topic has been the third rail (21+ / 0-)

    of punditry as long as rethuggery is involved; mention we're not so great that much anymore, which we aren't, and you're dead, a traitor, a troop hater, anti-American, anti-capitalist, a socialist, a freakin commie. Grown men scream, weep, gnash, and rent their garments at the very mention. Men have died for suggesting we rethink our national bidness - supplying arms to the world, then looking for reasons to make people put them to use. It's a pathetic game. We must change our ways as a country.

  •  Might America re-claim a mantle of exceptionalism (8+ / 0-)

    By voluntarily renouncing the glamor of empire and the pursuit of hegemony and instead craft a sustainable geo-political strategy that allows us to live within our means -- our military, economic, ethical and environmentally sustainable means?

  •  Glimmers of hope in a grim situation (7+ / 0-)

    Let me start by saying that  the essential event in understanding the current US conundrum, in which citizens are completely disempowered and marginalized  was the exploding of nuclear weapons on the Japanese to demonstrate the ruthless will of the American state in 1945.

    How could any civilian population be expected to take back their government from such a regime?

    Your government has repeatedly reinforced the notion that it will do absolutely anything to perpetuate and expand it's power in the intervening decades.

    I believe that the US populace fears it's government far more than most are willing to admit.

    A people cowed by fear will not rise in full view as individuals to try to connect with others who share their terror.

    What I find hopeful is the rise of internet activism, which gives some sense of cover, anonymity to people who wish to express their opposition to the status quo.  I see the emboldening of Americans to oppose the worst instincts of the ruling class happening more and more.  The election just past is a case in point.  The protests against Prop 8  and for the rights of marginalized Americans across the country is another.

    Ironically, the financial crisis is another.  The imperial apparatus is too unwieldy and expensive to be sustained.  Your  common wealth , such as remains after the dust settles, will inevitably be spent on you, if for no other reason than to maintain civil order.  There won't be enough ray-guns and water cannons to do the job, if the government does not come to it's senses.

    Reading this, I'm sorry to come across as a wild eyed radical, but in my heart of hearts I believe what I have written to be essentially correct.

    Right-wingers who clamor for war and oppose universal health care are not "pro-life" and don't get to say they're "pro-life." It's a lie. Night Train

    by peterborocanuck on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:56:51 AM PST

    •  not cowed, just ignorant and apathetic (0+ / 0-)

      never underestimate the fury of Americans when they fully realize their freedoms are being undercut and subverted by a deceitful governing body--or corporate enterprise.

      Find your own voice--the personal is political.

      by In her own Voice on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 10:11:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  American exceptionalism (17+ / 0-)

    I have lived almost all of my adult life as an American citizen outside the United States.  Even so, it took me at least 20 years to understand what 'American exceptionalism' really represents: the peculiarly American form of self-deception.  Some people never learn that.  I have an American colleague with whom I have worked abroad for nearly 40 years.  Whereas I finally adopted Canadian citizenship, he never has.  He is a liberal of the Lieberman stripe -- thinks that there are some 'reasonable' Republicans with whom the Dems have to compromise, because otherwise the Republicans will chase them out of power.  He voted absentee for Obama.  The day after the election he was claiming that the election proved that America was the 'last best hope for mankind', etc.  I replied to him that it meant nothing of the sort. Other countries have hopes, too.  He is impervious to the the notion that any other people have real rights.  

    I have another colleague of the same generation who espouses the same view, but from a Rush Limbaugh perspective.  There's hardly any difference between them other than on economic policy.  These notions are hard-wired into the American psyche, and it will take a long time to rip that wiring out.

    The pre-war Germans had a similar view of themselves as an exceptional people.

    •  as did the Japanese (5+ / 0-)

      Japanese studies discuss the idea of Japanese exceptionalism at some length. Of course, Japanese exceptionalism fueled WWII aggression by Japan, but the idea of exceptionalism is still a fairly strong undercurrent in Japanese culture.

      Some of the reasons are the same as for the US: geographic isolation, combined with a remarkable late 19th century and early 20th century rise in affluence, allowed jingoistic worldviews to gain currency.

      What kids in the US need today is to travel and to learn foreign languages better. Anything that will allow the mere idea into their heads that other countries might have something to contribute to the world now.

      ... salutiamo Barack Obama con un sospiro di sollievo che mai come questa volta attraversa gli oceani -- editorial, Il Manifesto, 6 Nov 2008

      by rilkas on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:03:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  wir wunderkinder (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in translation . . .

  •  If some ordinary kossack wrote a diary making (12+ / 0-)

    arguments similar to those apparently presented in this book, that person would be denounced as a purity troll of insufficient tact, belonging somewhere out there in wackdom with Ward Churchill.

    Which is too bad. Not just for daily kos, but for America and the rest of the world.

    But whatever. I think I'll be writing my GBCW later today, if I can find the strength.

    I am further of the opinion that the President must be impeached and removed from office!

    by UntimelyRippd on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:58:02 AM PST

  •  This is an important diary, teacherken (16+ / 0-)

    Having lived outside the US for almost a decade, I have been subject to plenty of people telling me for years of the hubris, arrogance, sanctimony, etc etc of the American people.  (All whilst saying that Americans are 'such open, friendly people when you meet them in person' ...)

    We were raised on the Pledge of Allegiance - something else non-Americans are aghast at; 'didn't you know that no society has required such a 'pledge' other than Nazi Germany?' they ask - and educated in the sure, serene knowledge that we were the best country, ever, in the entire world.

    It has been a huge mind-f*ck to that worldview, to live outside the US.  I am constantly meeting people who know more about American history than I do (me, an AP Honors student), because what they know is often what we weren't taught in school.  If it made the US look bad - to take one example, the toppling of the Shah of Iran - we didn't learn about it at all, or if we did, it was with the most swirling of spin to still provide us the 'knowledge' that our deeds were done with the best of everyone else's intentions in mind.

    Having 'outsider eyes' hasn't made me think America is a huge steaming pile of sh*t; I know the great things we have achieved.  But it has made me put America in the context of the greater world, to look at her actions and see the ripples of reaction which my 'old self' would have pushed, Limbaugh-like, away.

    •  dld you know how Pledge was recited until 1940? (10+ / 0-)

      You started with your hand over your heart, and then, on the words "to the flag" extended it - palm up - in the direction of the national banner.  A bit too close for comfort, eh?

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:04:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Supreme Court (0+ / 0-)

      ruled in 1940 that mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional.

      Did your all-knowing non-American friends mention that part?

      11/4 Changed Everything - Now, Henceforward, and Forever.

      by Sam I Am on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:30:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  wrong - then it could be mandated (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lotlizard, LaFajita, cgirard, Shazzbot

        as Frankfurter wrote on behalf of an 8-1 Court in Minersville v Gobitis.

        It was 3 years later, in West Virginia v Barnette, that the Court overturned Gobitis, ruling on the broad basis of free speech that participation in the flag ceremony (not just recitation) could not be compelled.  As Jackson writes towards the end of his famous opinion,

        If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

        We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power, and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

        The decision of this Court in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, and the holdings of those few per curiam decisions which preceded and foreshadowed it, are overruled, and the judgment enjoining enforcement of the West Virginia Regulation is Affirmed.

        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:38:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  teacherken, Sam I am: re the Pledge - (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotlizard, LaFajita, divineorder, cgirard

          If it's so voluntary, why is it that I in school (in late 60's into 70's in Los Angeles) found it compulsory, not optional, to start the school day?

          Not that I questioned it of course; it's the rare 8 year old who questions authority in such circumstances.  It's cimply the way we started the day.  The blind allegiance pledge is, frankly (with my new 'outsider eyes') quite extraordinary, but commonplace in practice to the point of stoned regurgitation.

          I have no experience of other school systems outside the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) - perhaps other commenters might be able to provide different experiences dating back to the era of 'Shake Shake Shake, Shake Shake Shake, Shake Yer Booty' and Leif Garrett?

          •  many school systems and others violate rights (4+ / 0-)

            and one has to be courageous enough to challenge them in order to get them to stop.

            I stopped reciting the Pledge formally when I was a bout 15 (sophomore in HS), around the same time I decided to stop reciting the NY State Regents Prayer.   Now, we were in a school system that had better sense than to try to impose upon kids, and we had a lot of high powered lawyers among our parents, so where I was neither was an issue.

            BTW -  I have never insisted on my students participating.  In my home room, perhaps only one or two will stand.  All except two are African-American, but I don't know if that makes any difference.  I think in general that as teenagers they like having the opportunity of resisting mandates of what they are supposed to do.


            do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

            by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:31:57 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Hey, in Hawaii in middle school when they raised (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LaFajita, divineorder, cgirard

            … and lowered the flag at the start and end of the school day, they played a bugle call over the P.A. system and we were supposed to stop whatever we were doing, face the flagpole and place our hands over our hearts.

            This was not presented to us as being "voluntary" or "optional."

            See the national finals of Dutch children's chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen's 2008 Song Contest December 14 in Hoorn!

            by lotlizard on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 10:01:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  why assume anything? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid, OleHippieChick, LaFajita

    isnt this argument like all others dependant on conditioning?

    i dont buy into any of it.

    this country should not be waging wars and forcing its might against the rest of the world.

    why dont we start over from there?

    "but I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers. still crazy after all these years".....

    by JadeZ on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:59:06 AM PST

  •  This is the first time... (5+ / 0-)

    I've seen someone with two diaries on the rec list - both well-deserved.  Congratulations, teacherken.

    As long as you insist on feeling offended, I'll be glad to comply.

    by George Gould on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:04:46 AM PST

    •  thanks - it happens from time to time (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LaFajita, George Gould, cgirard

      it was more common back in the days when we could do two/day.  My two real moments of fame go back then, several years ago.  Once, for about 20 minutes, I had the top two slots.  Another time, I had two and my wife had one.  

      I have seen Jerome and few others have that happen.  MY diary from yesterday was posted yesterday evening, so it is still live, which might be why it has lingered around while this one became active.

      So today I have two.  And perhaps for the next two weeks I will have none.  I don't control that.  The recognition is nice, but I write because I think what I post is worth sharing.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:34:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is exactly why... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The recognition is nice, but I write because I think what I post is worth sharing.

        you get the well-deserved recognition.  I don't mean to sound like an ass kisser (never did develop that taste - prefer scotch) but many of us do appreciate your efforts.

        As long as you insist on feeling offended, I'll be glad to comply.

        by George Gould on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:37:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The author answers his own question (4+ / 0-)

    The operative questions becomes this:  if neither the CIA nor the Joint Chiefs o Staff had existed when Osama bin Laden launched his attack, if Congress had not created the Department of Defense or the National Security Council back in 1947, would the United States find itself in any worse shape than it is?

    The answer is born out in the diary's remaining excerpts.  In a nutshell, a robust military and foreign policy apparatus enabled American exceptionalism.  Therefore, we can say it delivered the freedom from attack that was the necessary parent of our arrogance, narcissism, and hypocrisy.  The author incorrectly asserts these instruments brought "no value added" to the nation.

    However, the author wants to assign blame to these mere tools of foreign policy in order to absolve the American people of blame for inappropriate tool use.

    It all comes down to two issues:

    1.  Information laziness
    1.  The vote

    When we decide not to educate ourselves, and when we abdicate our responsibilities as thinking citizens in favor of blindly trusting our elected leaders, we fail to keep honed the nation's foreign policy instruments. Even worse, when we fail to vote we allow those in power unsupervised access to an incredible amount of coercive clout.

    When we express shock that a George Bush would abuse our foreign policy power, we display our own hubris as citizens.

    I agree with the author in one respect:  we need a smaller military and reigned-in foreign policy apparatus.  However, downsizing them in the context that these tools are to blame for our own hubris is to set ourselves up for fatally blunting these tools.

    Don't throw the hammer away; learn to stop hitting your thumb.

    •  It's long been known that (3+ / 0-)

      believing your own PR is fatal. I wonder why we could never apply it to our abrasive, "hubristley" national psyche.

      •  I should also point this out... (4+ / 0-)

        if neither the CIA nor the Joint Chiefs o Staff had existed when Osama bin Laden launched his attack

        If the DoD or other foreign policy apparatus actually "got us into this mess" then it would be reasonable to assume that, absent the current apparatus, there never would have been a bin Laden attack.  From the get-go, the author trips on his own hubris.

        Regardless of whether or not we have an effective foreign policy apparatus, there will probably always be a bin Laden out there (or a Putin, or a Stalin) and each of them wants to engage in their own version of exceptionalism.  Keeping them in check is a value-added exercise.  But in doing so, we  need to resist the urge to become them in the name of some worldwide democratic "co-prosperity sphere".

        Emperors always have cute euphemisms for their empires.

        •  The apparatus created most of our enemies (5+ / 0-)

          Bin Laden, funded by Carter's and Reagan's covert budgets as a "freedom fighter" against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein, helped into power as a check against the Iraqi leftist elements. Noriega, another thug on the CIA budget who may or may not have come into power thanks to them (depending what you believe about Torrijos's plane crash). And that's not counting the blowback from helping the wrong side and inspiring an opposition hostile to US interests (see Iran, Shah of).

          But even this has been the government taking on the role that the establishment elites had already been doing privately. Hitler was helped to power with Wall Street money, and Lenin and Trotsky got loans for the nascent Bolshevik faction from American banks.

          It's tempting to believe that we have to maintain preparedness for the next evil dictator and warmonger to appear, but we could get by with a lot less preparedness if we just stopped helping to create the next dictator and warmonger in the first place. When you're sitting on the biggest piles of wealth (as we used to be, and are still pretending to be with our debt addiction), just refusing to use it to interfere in other countries and help their little Hitlers become big time threats will diminish significantly the number and size of the threats that we do face.

          •  You're blaming the tool (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            OleHippieChick, LaFajita, divineorder

            The misapplication of the apparatus created most of our enemies.  Just because we have a military doesn't mean we have to use it in an adventurous manner.

            I agree with the thrust of your post, but not with the concept of blaming the instruments of foreign policy for creating bad foreign policy.

            Bad foreign policy is the creation of ambitious politicians, enabled by a complacent public.  We could just have easily become a super-sized version of Switzerland:  sufficiently armed but non-adventurous.

            National security should rest on four pillars:

            1.  Good alliances with moral allies
            1.  A healthy economy (the real source of military power)
            1.  The will to let other nations decide their own fates
            1.  The will to use force in those rare instances when some other nation's issues creates a real and present danger to a significant chunk of humanity

            Saddam Hussein didn't represent a significant threat.  Bin Laden didn't have to, but our stupidity enabled him.  However, we can't un-rub that particular lamp, and now the genie is out.  We need to deal with him.

            •  Use the right tool for the job (0+ / 0-)

              as Mr. Natural used to say. I have severe doubts that the tool created by the national security acts in 1947 and 1948 was what we needed, but part of that may be that the job was not defined correctly

              I don't disagree with your four pillars, but the overall system we've created since 1947 can't seem to get us there. As someone else once said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." When you keep getting bad results out of a system, you start to wonder if maybe that system as designed is too susceptible to being taken advantage of by ambitious politicians, corrupt government officials, sociopathic power seekers, misguided missionary types, etc. I mean, every time communism or capitalism has failed ingloriously the true believers always trot out the old chestnut about "but that wasn't real communism" or "that wasn't a real free market capitalist system". At some point you have to question how great the theories behind these systems are if they can never be realized in practice.

              In this case we have a multi-trillion dollar uber-hightech "defense" system that can't prevent 19 Arabs with box cutters and plastic knives from joy-riding around our airspace for over an hour before smashing planes into big important buildings—including the headquarters of our military. If they can't defend us against actual attacks, what purpose exactly are they serving? I think there is one, but most voters would not be very happy if they heard what it really was in plain English.

    •  I don't entirely disagree with you... (4+ / 0-)

      particularly in regards to our personal and collective culpability.

      But, following your tool analogy, there is the old saying that when all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.

      The attacks on 9/11 were not acts of war.  They were crimes - spectacular and deadly, yes - but crimes nevertheless.  Unfortunately, our bloated "national security" structure in the hands of people with a less than innocent agenda of their own hijacked the crimes and used them to justify the imperial wars of this century.

      Solving 9/11 was more amenable to a team of diplomats and international policemen dedicated to bringing the perpetrators to justice.  You will notice that Osama bin Laden and Aymon Zawahiri are still at large and still plotting further crimes.

      As long as you insist on feeling offended, I'll be glad to comply.

      by George Gould on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:31:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Give me liberty, or give me debt. n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, divineorder, Hoosier Al

    Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them - T Paine

    by breezeview on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:07:51 AM PST

  •  such a great diary, thank you, give us time to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Rogneid

    read and digest. I am going on vacation soon and this one will be on my reading list.

  •  America has the potential to be exceptional (9+ / 0-)

    in its universality. America's true destiny is to be the blueprint of tolerance and intermingling of various groups and nationalities that could hopefully take place on a global scale in some utopian future. I think what has made the rest of the world resentful these last years is the betrayal of that potential, the fact that the US turned out to be nothing more than another bully. Here's to hoping Obama can change this. We'll know that has happened when the military industrial complex that has hijacked the American experiment, is dismantled.

  •  thank you teacherken! (0+ / 0-)

    i will search out this book.

    Liberal/Blades 2012
    The hippies had it right all's about time...the culture as a whole sent out a big, wet, hemp-covered apology.MMorford

    by RiaD on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:15:49 AM PST

  •  Wow (3+ / 0-)

    The Bacevich book seems to resemble something akin to corrective shoes for the mind.

    A painful adjustment in our collective thinking  appears to be in order.  

    Thank you, Teach, for the heads up this one.

  •  Thank You (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Randtntx, cgirard

    for bringing this book to light. Have not seen anything about it anywhere.

    Am beginning to believe I need two of me. One to handle all of the books on my reading list. And, one to handle all other matters.

    Common Sense is not Common

    by RustyBrown on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:20:12 AM PST

  •  Defining "freedom." (10+ / 0-)

    A major part of the problem is how we define "freedom."  What we mean by that word today - and Bacevich consciously uses the present meaning - is very different from what our Framers meant by it.  Ironically, the government we established to protect our "freedom" (as the Framers meant it) has become the very sort of tyrant against which they hoped to protect us ...

    ... because we've become focused on another version of "freedom" - the freedom to buy whatever you want and can afford (or borrow for).

    In focusing on ensuring that latter "freedom" (of consumption), our government has slowly eroded the former "freedom" (from tyranny).  It turns out that the two may be mutually exclusive, because ensuring the former requires exploiting each other (and the rest of the world) in ways that create ... tyranny.

    That's what Bacevich meant when he talked about defining our ideals in terms of our standard of living.

  •  There are many good points in those quotes; (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Vincent, cgirard

    however, to

    if Congress had not created the Department of Defense or the National Security Council back in 1947, would the United States find itself in any worse shape than it is?

    I have to say yes.

    I would not say that is true for the 9/11 type blindness. There were plenty of cases of that during WW II even with our extraordinary intelligence brought about with codebreaking. Just two examples illustrate the blindness that can occur when one expects alertness: the Battle of Savo Island and the Ardennes (Bulge). In the first a racial stereotype played a role. Conventional wisdom held that the Japanese had poor eyesight and were incapable of night fighting at sea. They proved to be expert to the great cost to the Allies. Hubris almost always has blowback of a nasty sort.

    I say "yes" because it was WW II that revealed the sometimes fatal flaws of a Department of War (Army) for land and a Department of the Navy for things marine. The overlap and competing interest alone proved to be a serious flaw.

    Few knew then and fewer now that the Army had more ship tonnage than Navy in WW II. Many of the big transports of fame were Army ships, desugbated USAT for U.S. Army Transport, not Navy's "USS" vessels. Both departments had competing contracts in boat yards for small craft and competing designs and contracts in the same boatyards for landing craft. They competed for cargo transport, sometimes sending ships with much space available to almost the same destinations at a time when the shortage of cargo hulls was so serious it restricted all operations. It took an executive order establishing the War Shipping Administration (WSA) to begin bringing some discipline in that matter alone.

    No, the Department of Defense had to be and was a direct result of painful, sometimes bloody, lessons early in WW II that are not entirely learned to this day. Even with DoD we see competition and sometimes lack of cooperation between services.

    By the way, if anyone is interested in the kind of intelligence and command blunders and blindness that can lead to disaster I highly recommend Disaster In The Pacific by Denis and Peggy Warner.

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

    by pelagicray on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:33:53 AM PST

    •  Efficiency is not an end in itself (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Kresnik, divineorder, cgirard

      I think Bacevich's point is that the creation of the Department of Defense has made U.S. military power easier to use, easier to justify said use, and easier to sustain.  It is a much more responsive bureaucracy, tuned to global power projection, than that run by the War Department and the Navy Department.

      The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols act that created the Joint Staff and the Unified Combatant Commands took that a step further, creating our integrated command structure and a network of regional military commanders to look out for our security interests.  Again, that's much more efficient and it has eliminated extensive inter-Service conflict that cost lives in many operations.

      However, the efficiency of military power is the problem.  Presidents USE military power because it creates immediate effects that they can measure.  Bill Clinton was not someone I would have thought would have been a huge fan of using force, but once in office, he proved only too willing to do so (Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and sundry cruise missile strikes - let alone his inherited mission in Somalia).  W has taken it to the logical extreme.

      The great danger of the modern Department of Defense and national security apparatus is that it uses the sacrifice of the troops as the catch-all excuse to justify any action.  We buy more and more gear to try to make our soldiers invulnerable to harm.  We justify stand-off strikes and sledgehammer tactics in the name of force protection, meaning we sacrifice civilian lives in collateral damage to minimize the exposure of our troops to harm.  Politically, we give our generals and admirals great deference as our best military minds.

      All the while, no one asks "why the hell do we need all this?"  That's Bacevich's main thrust.  Our military and our Department of Defense is increasingly structured to manage an AMERICAN EMPIRE and control the fates of others, lest they pose a threat to our way of life.  It is the unspoken debate that few in the national security community want to have and there are almost no takers for that debate in the political realm.

      Thank God for Dr. Bacevich and his clear analysis.

      - "You're Hells Angels, then? What chapter are you from?"

      by Hoya90 on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 04:04:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So, you would rather have an inefficient, (0+ / 0-)

        competitive set of war fighting organizations in the nuclear age? Organizations competing against each other to be "used" as was sometimes the case. I certainly would not.

        Disorganization, redundancy, inefficiency are not the solutions. The problem lies squarely with the civilian political masters and a public that want immediate gratification and a vicarious "we are tough" association as others suffer the burden that comes with just being there if not in blood and trauma. It is usually not the military that pushes to get in to some of the nasty situations we have seen.

        A perfect example was a little comment in a 1985 Frontline piece, "The American Way of War," where a Col. Summers related being sent to a meeting with diplomats on a "problem" in Central America. They wanted a military "demonstration"--that immediate gratification thing again--and he replied with we can go "kill people and destroy things" to which everyone reacted with dismay. Most of the military know too well what a "military demonstration" is or can quickly and brutally  become. It is the civilian masters--and, again, that includes us--who need to know and keep in mind those bloody and horrible results for all directly involved.

        I always find it interesting that Bosnia and Kosovo come up as such misuse of the military. Do we or do we not mean "never again" when we see genocide and rape camps in action? Do we shudder at images of the cordwood stacks of emaciated bodies from 1945 camp liberations, say "never again" and then never, ever say military force shall be used to stop an "agian" in progress? When the only option left to prevent an "again" is the military one do we suddenly quit using that pet phrase of so many, Burke's "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," and do nothing?

        This is always a quandary. It is one we will face over and over. I certainly would push that force should be the absolute last resort. I would also not rule it out where all other efforts fail to have effect before the deeds are done. I would also prefer to see a strong and effective international force less likely to be used for parochial national interests.

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

        by pelagicray on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:08:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Bill Moyers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hulagirl, Neon Vincent

    Interviewed this guy and I thought he was fascinating.I wanted to take issue with some things he said.But most of it rang true to me.

    Moyers interview

    Stand with anybody that stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART with him when he goes wrong.Abraham Lincoln

    by MasterfullyInept on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:34:04 AM PST

  •  Perhaps you should make an irregular series (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revsue, cgirard

    called - teacherken's Book Club.

  •  Wondering if the way the new first family's (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revsue, cgirard

    personal story intersects with the country's history at this point in time could help create an opportunity to really question America's image of itself. Remake the mythology into something more complex and realistic that acknowledges the country's destructive and creative sides. So that it's possible to imagine and debate a different role for America in the world.

    Interesting book. Thanks, teacherken.    

  •  Demystification of BushCheney has only just begun (7+ / 0-)

    Bacevich extols the proportionate response. Indeed, international policing procedures will save the day. All the tools were in place in 2001.

    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." -Thomas Jefferson

    by ezdidit on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:38:51 AM PST

  •  Bacevich, Niebuhr, and Obama (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Snud, LaFajita, Neon Vincent

    The quotes you put forth from the book here brought to mind that I had seen Reinhold Niebuhr and Obama's names in the same place somewhere.  It turns out there are LOTS of somewheres, like 44,000+ of them.

    Trying to sort these out is a bit daunting, but here's something on Niebuhr himself.  And something right before the election from a blogger:

    An interesting quote about Niebuhr from that one:

    What are those "things" that I believe in and find them expressed with such authority by Niebuhr?

    1. The world is not a perfect place because the state of "being created" in time and space and creatures like ourselves are not prefect. Thus the world will never ever comply with how we'd like it to be. Like an unruly child, the world will always frustrate our attempts to "tame" and "educate" it after our own image.
    1. As "transcendent" creatures, we know that one day we're all going to die. This creates an inescapable anxiety in our souls. To compensate for that anxiety we build an absolute story around our relative lives.

    ...Niebuhr mentions two historic figures who withstood that kind of group pressure even at the cost of their own lives: Socrates and Jesus.

    And then on Obama (and McCain, since this was BEFORE the election):

    So how do we jump from all this to contemporary politics, Obama, and McCain?

    The realization that there are other view points in the world and we should try to engage them in a conversation before blasting them up sky high is obvious in Obama's approach to the world.

    The belief in the absolute perfectibility of this world as cherished by neo-conservatives is absent in Obama's worldview, in line with Niebuhr's idea of the same. Perhaps that's why there is more humility in Obama's approach to the international affairs; a sense that we cannot ram absolute goodness (say "democracy") down anybody's throat by force.

    The blogger goes on to say that this doesn't preclude intervention under appropriate circumstances; stating that this reminds him of McCain.

    Article 6: " religious test shall *ever* be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the U.S."

    by billlaurelMD on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:38:52 AM PST

  •  How many times have we heard the US described as (5+ / 0-)

    "the golden city on the hill" during this election? and after it?

    Obama's election is taken to reaffirm American exceptionalism, that is, in part, the reason so many voted for him.

    That particular American ethos is here to stay; Rejecting it would spell the professional death of any politician.

    The Shape Of Things "Beware the terrible simplifiers" Jacob Burckhardt, Historian

    by notquitedelilah on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:45:49 AM PST

  •  Bill Moyers "Journal" interview (4+ / 0-)

    Powerful, provocative interview.  Great to watch in a group (as some local Unitarian Universalists did), as it prompts a great deal of discussion...

    August '08 Bill Moyers "Journal" with Bacevich

  •  i recall a Henry Miller passage.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Vincent, cgirard

    in which he wrote ' When the rot comes to American Institutions, it'll be internal, no outside force is needed '

    Hey, how 'bout we impeach the people who are supposed to do the impeaching and get some other impeachers who are more impeachy?

    by ronny mermaid on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:48:35 AM PST

  •  Thank You For This Diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JuliaAnn, tunney, Neon Vincent, cgirard

    In America's Post-Literate Society, many people don't realize that many of our own great thinkers, whose names we know but whose books we don't read, promoted ideas the mental midgets of the right wing now label as un-American.

    If young people today were to read Thoreau, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich and Erich Fromm, they would gain a better understanding of what we're really about, really supposed to be.

    In his classic book, The Sane Society, published in 1955, psychologist Erich Fromm proposed that, not just individuals, but entire societies "may be lacking in sanity". Fromm argued that one of the most deceptive features of social life involves consensual validation[1]:

    It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth... Just as there is a 'Folie à deux' there is a 'folie à millions.' The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane. (in: Fromm, The Sane Society, Routledge, 1955, pp.14-15)

    What you see is what you get, but what you don't see is what ends up getting you.

    by Existentialist on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:49:14 AM PST

  •  Thank you Andrew J. Bacevich and teacherken (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cumberland sibyl, cgirard
  •  My history prof in the early 70s (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    had us read Niebuhr in addition to our text.  I was young and foolish, and certainly not ready to grasp the depth of his thinking.  I may have to go back and read again...

    Thanks for the great diary, tk!

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:49:35 AM PST

  •  online interviews - PBS, CSPAN (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JuliaAnn, Neon Vincent

    Thanks teacherken, for highlighting this wonderful book. I feel really bad that his son was killed in Iraq.

    We've been buying copies of this book to send for christmas. Please consider adding links to his interviews in your diary. Bacevich has been on Book TV recently, and Bill Moyers interviewed him for Journal

    Book TV - CSPAN   and   PBS Journal

  •  Moyers Interviewed Bacevich in August; Link Here (3+ / 0-)
  •  lost me at the start (0+ / 0-)

    That is like saying because George Bush crashed a Porsche, a Porsche is a bad car. Can't blame the tools for this one, had a competent president been in the white house 9/11 would at least have been mitigated.

    The writer of this book is obviously smarter than me and much more versed in military matters, but that one point and a few others I disagree with him on.

  •  Wonderful review, teacherken (5+ / 0-)

    And one of the most important things we should be discussing as we enter the next chapter of our long and complicated history.

    Even though we often scoff at the idea of "narrative" or "perception," there is immense value in understanding that narrative, or perception, or "worldview," or whatever you want to call it, is absolutely essential in how we understand, interpret, and apply our ideas of what we are to be as a country.

    This is nothing new - the earliest colonists thought of America as the New Zion; the Founders thought of America as a revolutionary republic founded on liberty; later the nation was understood in terms of Manifest Destiny; then our "verb" shifted from an "are" to an "is," reflecting a newfound unity after the Civil War; then there was the "last great hope," the "shining city on a hill," and on and on.

    Implicit within each of these concepts is the assumption of American exceptionalism. But what is rarely mentioned in the public discourse is the related claim that within each of these concepts stands its own critique. For most of our history, the frame or narrative we used to describe ourselves contained a certain tension between the ideal and the reality - between what we thought we should be and where we found ourselves. It was the ideal that motivated us to become what we considered ourselves to be.

    At some point, however - I would put it around the time of Reagan - the distinction between ideal and reality vanished. The idea of American Exceptionalism ceased to function as a goal and was assumed to have become real, or even inevitable. That was a tragic mistake, because the shift from ideal to real included the disappearance of the capacity to critique the idea. If we actually are exceptional, if we actually are the greatest nation on earth, if everything we do is inherently good and decent and just simply because it is we who do it, then we have lost the capacity to critique our own self-understanding as a nation, and we have lost the ability to understand that the ideal we hope to become is not about the product but about the striving.

    This is what allows us to overlook or ignore or interpret away anything said or done in our name that conflicts with our idea of our goodness, decency and justice as a nation. If we actually are the best, most decent, most just nation in the history of the earth, then we couldn't possibly participate in anything that conflicts with those principles, and anyone who dares to point out inconsistencies between our actions and our self-understanding is immediately branded an "anti-American."

    Once we've lost the inherent and necessary tension in our narrative, worldview, national idea, etc., then we have no hope of progressing toward a fuller and more perfect embodiment of our ideals.

    And that's exactly what has happened.

    However, the old way of understanding ourselves does show signs of returning, and the most profound expression of that self-critical idealism was Obama's Philadelphia speech on race, in which he described the tension between our ideals and our reality, our never-ending struggle to perfect our union.

    If we can reclaim that idea, there's hope for us yet.

    "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -- Galileo

    by Mahanoy on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:54:52 AM PST

  •  teacherken... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Vincent

    ...a very wise teacher said, "There are great men and women who go unknown. Their contemporaries ignore them."

      I'm glad we are not ignoring you.  

    There is one teaching, and all teachings teach it.

    by wewhodream on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:54:53 AM PST

    •  you can ignore me - don't ignore Bacevich (3+ / 0-)

      I merely serve to make some who otherwise might not know about him aware of what he has written.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 07:57:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not ignoring either of you... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, Neon Vincent

        ...Let me clarify what "great" means to me.  My father-in-law is a great man.  He lives in a tiny town of 3000 in extreme northern California.  After years of working in the Forest Service, he became a union official (Local president for the National Federation of Federal Employees --later on I believe he became president of the union--).  He has dedicated his life to helping people with grievances. He is a labor expert, a great negotiator.  I have no idea how many lives he has effectively if not literally saved.  But he is not famous, certainly not rich.  To me, this is true greatness.  He goes out at nearly 80 years old, cuts firewood for his family, plus any neighbors who might need it, but can't get it for themselves.  He "merely serves" too.  Hardly anybody outside the sphere of his job knows who he is or what he does.  
         Greatness does include the famous...Einstein, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama...but it also includes you and me, and my father-in-law.  



        There is one teaching, and all teachings teach it.

        by wewhodream on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:25:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Is Bacevich in Obama's... (0+ / 0-)

        circle of advisors? Given Obama's desire to assemble a cabinet of the best and brightest, perhaps Bacevich should be our next secretary of Defense. With his military and academic background, and his seat in the Council on Foreign Relations, he has the resume...

        You have to play this game with fear and arrogance... - Crash Davis

        by czardingus on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 12:22:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Obama and Neibuhr (9+ / 0-)

    This from the NYT's David Brooks:

    Obama has the great intellect. I was interviewing Obama a couple years ago, and I'm getting nowhere with the interview, it's late in the night, he's on the phone, walking off the Senate floor, he's cranky. Out of the blue I say, 'Ever read a guy named Reinhold Niebuhr?' And he says, 'Yeah.' So i say, 'What did Niebuhr mean to you?' For the next 20 minutes, he gave me a perfect description of Reinhold Niebuhr's thought, which is a very subtle thought process based on the idea that you have to use power while it corrupts you. And I was dazzled, I felt the tingle up my knee as Chris Matthews would say.

    •  Damn it's nice to have an intelligent prez... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Kresnik, tunney, Susan from 29

      Now Obama is a man I would want to have several beers with...I get chills imagiing the ensuing discussions...

      On topic, this makes me tingle too, knowing Our President-elect has read this book, and understands it...great things are coming for We The People's Country, but we also need to prepare for the pains of exorcising our outdated demons.

      "But such is the irresistable nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing." -Thomas Paine

      by Tommymac on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:20:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Spend more if nothing happens"...runaway spying. (4+ / 0-)

    The huge surveillance industrial complex justifies its existence no matter what happens.

    If nothing happens, its because they are spending $600B a year for the vast network of private contractors and mercenaries that make up the intelligence industry.

    If something happens (911), its because we didn't spend $700B a year on the contractors and mercenaries of the intelligence industry.

  •  Will we embody and activate the vision? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Neon Vincent

    Thanks for the review, Teacherken...the quotes you provide from Bacevich follow my own reasoning to the "t".  In fact, I have felt this way--yes "felt", as a result of my reasoning, about America and its leadership since the Nixon years, when all my ideals and illusions about our country were crushed. I completely lost faith in our political process and in our citizenry's integrity/maturity to govern itself back then.  Nothing that's happened since in our American process has given me any reason to hope that could change until now.

    Now we have a large group of awakened youth, a group of mid-lifers stirred to focus, and a re-awakening crowd of "elders" who have a real leader--an ethical, competent leader who is not in this role for personal power--for his own glory--but for the restoration of function to our country, our world.  And in restoring functionality, he challenges us to build, if we can, a sustainable future.

    What an inspiration!  What a dream!  What a vision!  Can we, will we, implement it?

    Find your own voice--the personal is political.

    by In her own Voice on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:25:04 AM PST

  •  Every time Teacherken posts a diary . . . (4+ / 0-)

    an angel gets its wings.

    I wish there was an option to check every recommend box.  And I wish that just about everyone participating in this diary could get a job with the Obama administration.  Then maybe we could make some of the earth-shaking changes that are needed.

  •  End of the Empire (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slatsg, James Kresnik, Neon Vincent

    You might be interested in reading Emmanuel Todd's 2002 book Après l'empire (After the Empire), which examines American exceptionalism from a French perspective.

    Todd's book is strangely optimistic, in the sense that he believes that forces currently in play -- specifically the tenuous situation of the American economy, dependent on foreign credit and with a diminishing domestic industrial capacity -- will inexorably lead to a diminution of American influence, and ultimately to a safer and more stable world:

    The Unites States is beginning to become a problem for the world. We used to look to the Unites States for a solution. A guardan of political freedom and economic stability for half a century, the US now appears more and more like a force for disorder in the world, maintaining conflict and uncertainty wherever it can.

    Todd also "predicted" the collapse of the Soviet Union in a fairly accurate way, which formed the basis of his reputation.

    It's an interesting read, with a fair amount of demographic data thrown in.

    ... salutiamo Barack Obama con un sospiro di sollievo che mai come questa volta attraversa gli oceani -- editorial, Il Manifesto, 6 Nov 2008

    by rilkas on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:37:08 AM PST

  •  Obama's life experience makes him (3+ / 0-)

    uniquely positioned to understand this. The question is if politics will let him walk us back. Representitives, running every two years, always run on "patriotic" issues. Always security issues, sometimes bordering on white, european supremacy.
     Democrats are insanely sensitive to being considered weak on defence. As a country we have not shed the cold war mentality of being the worlds policeman. Maybe our finacial crisis will force us to cut military budgets and reconsider our need to stand in judgement of the rest of the world.

    •  President-elect Obama (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tunney, divineorder, TheWesternSun

      Is not taking his foreign policy advice from Bacevich but is instead taking his foreign policy advice from Ivo Daalder, signatory to the Project for the New American Century

      Maybe our finacial crisis will force us to cut military budgets and reconsider our need to stand in judgement of the rest of the world.

      I wouldn't count on this. If the military industrial complex in the US was in the same shape as the auto industry Washington would be calling for a 'bail out' right now.

      <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

      by superscalar on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:11:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You and Bacevich, both of whom I respect, miss (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    entirely the point of having a national security apparatus.

    The point of the national security apparatus is to give established power centers and those who control it the means to do things in secret and deal with organizations - such as organized crime - in secret that they could neither do nor deal with in the open.  

    This is not for national security, mind you, but for their own and their group's self interest.

    Over time, the apparatus becomes inextricably linked to the terrorist and crime syndicates on whose methods and resources it comes to increasingly rely.

    The only thing to do is to dismantle them as any form of organized crime.

    •  Um, given that Bacevich is part of that apparatus (0+ / 0-)

      how is it that he doesn't see your point of view?

      Dr. Andrew Bacevich spent 20 plus years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Colonel and commander of one its most elite regiments.  Since retiring he has been intimately involved in the defense industry from an academic angle.

      So I'm not really seeing the point of your generalizations....

      - "You're Hells Angels, then? What chapter are you from?"

      by Hoya90 on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 04:08:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Um, most people - and arguably you too? miss the (0+ / 0-)

        underlying point of the apparatus they work for out of either economic necessity or sense of responsibility.

        Um, the proof is that they carry on in the apparatus, because if they did, most of them would quit the apparatus or shift radically their role in said apparatus, especially those people involved the so-called 'national security' apparatus.

        Um, I think Bacevich partially understands the point of the US armed forces, because he is a professor now, not a general, and I give him the benefit of the doubt given that he shows exceptional clarity of thought for where he comes from. However, that particular point I made (primarily about intelligence activities) didn't come out particularly clearly in the diary. But since it's been a while since I read The Limits Of Power, it is possible that it is in the book, but not in the diary.

        A 'generalization' is what you call an explanation of the underlying processes at play behind apparently unconnected facts, when you either: (a) don't understand those processes, or (b) when you understand those processes, but wish to deny them.

        Which makes me think that you may be trying to use the point that Bacevich may actually agree with me on one point, to deny that same point. That's a hard one to pull off.

  •  essentializing the concept of exceptionalism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Vincent

    I haven't read the book but I intend to read it based upon this synopsis.  I have a problem however with essentializing any concept or people as part of historical analysis and that is what this book, at least as presented here, seems to do.  Does our national narrative essentialize America and Americans as "exceptional" (i.e. better than other nations) in history?  Sure. Do I agree with this? No.

    But our struggle to realize these ideals which are a part of our "imagined community" does reflect an exceptional (i.e. different) narrative for engaging with those ideals in practice. This narrative begins with the structure, expressed in our Constitution as originated and as amended, designed to encourage through popular action, the broadest engagement to realize the ideal that "all...are created equal and endowed...with inalienable rights, among these ...are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."   President-elect Obama was not elected by "liberals" or "Democrats" but by a coalition of people for a variety of reasons, many of whom hope for a paradigm change in our practice of foreign policy.  

    We should not essentialize Americans as "exceptional" (good) but our history from 1968 to the present does not negate our ideals.  And the narrative that our recent history shows that Americans do not share a "great liberalizing tradition" tends to essentialize our struggle to practice the ideals of the "great liberalizing tradition" in our national imagined community.  Our history demonstrates that the struggle to realize the ideals upon which our country was founded against a variety of self-interests that undermine those ideals is not always successful... but the struggle continues.

    In a broader sense, our history is a struggle between competing ideals--inalienable human rights for all versus rights claimed for and by only a few.  When those who claim that inalienable rights exist only for a few are ascendant, those who stand for inalienable rights for all continue to struggle. That our struggle to realize inalienable human rights is often unsuccessful does not mean that it does not exist.  I remain skeptical of books that negate the importance of the struggle and claim that our ideals do not exist because we have difficulty in translating those ideals into practice in the conduct of both domestic and foreign policy.  

    We shall see how the struggle for our ideals has changed our ability to put them into practice during the next four years. A paradigm shift in the conduct of our foreign policy is foundational to our struggle to realize inalienable rights for all. I for one am hopeful.


  •  Actually US just demonstrated it is exceptional (0+ / 0-)

    Hugely unfortunate timing for Mr. Bacevich's book. American "exceptionalism" never had anything to do with US intelligence industry. Not sure how he managed to make that stretch.

    US exceptionalism had to with our principles of democracy, religious freedom, equality and being a national of immigrants from around the world.

    Obama's election, Obama himself, are examples of US exceptionalism.

    "providing equal access to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution originated among pinks, lefties, liberals, and bleeding-heart fellow travelers."

    Other than the founders themselves who were very conservative men of property and education.

    Ike is the guy who sent troops to Little Rock to battle the segregationists.  Ike doesn't quite fit the description above.

    Looks like Mr. Bacevich makes the same mistake that current right wingers make in describing the current Republican Party composed of corporate lobbyists, segregationists and religious bigots as "conservative".

  •  Teacherken, what a great diary (0+ / 0-)

    I love reading your diaries.  Well thought out, organized, very topical and thought provoking.  

  •  An Important Idea (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave925, overturned turtle

    And good diary.  

    Chalmers Johnson's the Sorrows of Empire develops  many of the same themes.  At the time his warnings of a bankrupt United States seemed not so much far-fetched (to me at least) as it did beyond the event horizon.  Turns out the black hole was pretty close after all.

    I look forward to reading Bacevich.

  •  Half way through (0+ / 0-)

    the book myself and I am glad you have brought it to the attention of DKOS readers.

  •  A very worthy diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RaulVB, rilkas

    I salute you. I was drafted into Vietnam. Most draftees could see that the war was hateful and bound to fail. Career officers may have suspected this but most felt obligated to talk up the war and the threat from Asian communism. We lost a lot when the draft was ended- draftees provided a clumsy and dangerous check on military imperialism- some decent officers were killed by their own troops in Nam. Those idiots who claim that we were on the verge of winning in Nam are mostly fanatics, but they draw support from the writings of various VC generals and planners who indicated how difficult their effort was, how close to collapse they were at many points. But they (the warmongers like Keith Taylor, Harry Summers, et al) ignore the fact that we, including myself and my friends, continued to create enemies among the people of Southeast Asia in two important ways: meddling with the government of South Vietnam, and causing dreadful collateral damage, bombing from 35,000 up having no idea who the bombs killed, shooting angrily into villages that included some VC supporters (i.e. most villages). We are doing the same damn thing today, especially in Afghanistan. I suspect that we'll have to pull down Karzai one of these days. I pray that Obama has the sense to see beyond the propaganda that he gets from career military men, supposed intelligence wizards like Michael Hayden, and people like Gates.

    Here's the big question. Obama is a politician, but a very different kind of politician. He's trying to make some kind of limited deal with Hillary Clinton and John McCain so that they sign on as supporting at least part of his agenda. That's smart, if he can do it, and could bring greater support for the changes that must come. However, Obama knows good and well that the day of American supremacy is over, and that painful adjustments will be necessary. Hillary and McCain could help with these changes but they will still hurt, they will draw blood. Obama has said nothing about this.

    When he is forced to propose painful adjustments, many people, including idiots like Dodd, Pelosi and Reid will shrink from him as if he were radioactive. Then what do American voters, who couldn't begin to point to Paraguay or Afghanistan on a map, do? All humans are selfish and venal, but US voters know less about world affairs than citizens of any other G-8 country. The same simplistic thinking says “Universal health care- no problem”.

    •  a good politician would make sure that... (0+ / 0-)

      before making revolutionary changes in our international overreach,
      he/she has started some very interesting, fruitful approaches to domestic development that provide good jobs and career ladders, increase the sense and reality of community, and revive the overall economy in a sustainable way.

      And s/he would also make sure that major worries - health care, education, and retirement security - are allayed with forward thinking policies and programs.

      Otherwise, is a French revolution style change in the offing for us? That depends on whether we make the changes in time to avert and minimize the impact of global climate change.

      I frankly can't see how this month's trend to ever larger, multinational megabanks is going to do anything but hinder the changes that have to be made. At a recent Commonwealth Club talk, the head of Wells Fargo indicated his criterion for hiring was not the applicant's store of knowledge but his/her potential contribution to the corporate fun of the race to the future.

      Personally, I'd rather have bankers who had some idea of what the heck they were doing and the soundness of the investments they were floating. Better ones who concentrate their fun and thrill seeking to their private pursuits.

  •  "we need a more humble foreign policy" (0+ / 0-)

    George W. Bush, 2000.

    About the wisest thing he ever said. If only he had listened to his own advice.

    We absolutely need a more humble foreign policy. We need to stop being World Cop and World Destabilizer. That does not mean turning a blind eye to humanitarian crises, showing leadership in important global issues, or the dismantling of the military. What it does mean is the US butting out of other countries' business when it doesn't directly affect our national security interests, it does mean ending the chess game of toppling some obscure South American or African or South Asian petty dictators as tit for tat, it does mean giving the EU the push for them to resolve the problems in their backyards--they are more than capable. And finally, it does mean reinvesting in American citizens once again, something of a total afterthought for the Washington Consensus crowd.

    It will not mean our loss of Superpower status, it will mean we become a smarter Superpower.

    "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible." --J.R.

    by michael1104 on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:05:43 AM PST

  •  His son died in Iraq in 2007 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Bacevic was critical of Bush while his son was serving and fighting the war and the son was supportive of his father and his right to be critical.

  •  We need to get rid of American IMPERIALISM (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maracucho, Litvak36, gerbilmark

    that's the word for it. That's what it is. It is a dirty word, i want it to remain a dirty word. It conjures up pictures of war crimes rather than misjudgments as to, for example,  how many troops to assign to a particular conflict... that is what is wrong with the Bush/clinton/bush2 foreign policy, and it is what will be wrong with the Obama policy too if we let nature and politics as usual take its course.

    That is why we need massive protests on the streets to say NO troops in Iraq. Troops out Now.
    NO War with Iran!
    Universal Nuclear Disarmament NOW! Including the US and Israel.

    May the US empire dissolve. Only then will the US people, and the people of this planet, prosper.  

    The determination of our President to prosecute the war, and the probability of his success. is made evident by the puny opposition arrayed against him.

    by Tom J on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:18:02 AM PST

  •  The problem with evaluating successes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is that the operations are "top secret." Operating under the cloak of secrecy, budgets and operations done without scrutiny, which increases opportunity for massive corruption and misuse.  

    Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

    by Kayakbiker on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:18:56 AM PST

  •  No, sadly, we are just like everyone else now. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    In her own Voice

    Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:21:49 AM PST

  •  Things that are supposed to be unmanageable, (1+ / 2-)
    Recommended by:
    Hidden by:
    JLFinch, DAVE DIAL

    things that are so big that thinking that you can
    manage them just leads you into tragedy (from hubris)
    are nevertheless factually getting managed all the
    time around here, and at the top of THAT list is
    closely followed by
    for American consumers.
    The prices of oil and gas have fallen BY HALF
    in just the last 4 months.
    DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT ANYthing involving the
    actual way these commodities get produced or
    distributed CAN POSSIBLY be responsible for that?
    Why is it that THERE ALWAYS seems to be a dramatic
    drop in gas prices EVERY four years in EVERY fall
    just prior to a US Presidential election??

    The wrong large lesson is being learned here.
    The problem is NOT that our exceptionalism is
    ending and that we can't manage large things.
    The problem is that exceptionally large things
    have been exceptionally craftily manipulated,
    with exceptionally huge results.

    The road to hell has not YET been paved with Republicans, but it SHOULD be -- Corrected BumperSticker

    by ge0rge on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:33:00 AM PST

  •  Thanks, will pick it up. (0+ / 0-)
  •  "We can change the world" (3+ / 0-)

    "We can change the world" appears as a sung refrain in one of the YouTube videos which galvanized youth support for Obama.

    I was very moved and impressed by this video, so I got a friend of mine who is from Chile to watch it, since I thought it would inspire him to like Obama more.

    It didn't happen. He said, "why do politicians from the US always talk about changing the world? Why don't they just concentrate on changing the US?"

    I laughed and agreed with him. But this has a slightly more complex dimension. The question is, who is the "we" and what is the "world" of which "we" speak? Is it "our world" or "someone else's world"?

    One could argue that the message is one of internationalism: the world is our focus, and it would be silly to suppose that the US President doesn't affect world affairs.

    Is the message based on American exceptionalism, internationalism, or on a blurring of the two, based on a sober assessment of our country's influence on the world now?

    One of the interesting things I have learned from my Chilean friend is how different one views the world when one comes from a small, internationally insignificant country. Educated Chileans do not think that by electing Michelle Bachelet they are going to change "the world". Maybe they have changed their world, their small part of the world. But that is just it: they know that their small part of the world is not the whole world. Americans seem to forget this, and forget that they forget this.

    (Later my friend supported Obama, but the video was not the convincing point.)

    ... salutiamo Barack Obama con un sospiro di sollievo che mai come questa volta attraversa gli oceani -- editorial, Il Manifesto, 6 Nov 2008

    by rilkas on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:41:13 AM PST

  •  Praise where it is due (5+ / 0-)

    I see where many comments praised your diary.  Indeed it was a nice, scholarly analysis of an opinion.  But remember when Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex?  I think that is the root of the hubris mentioned in your diary.  Add to our military might the voter apathy that allowed intellectual dwarfs to "lead" our mission to save Democracy, and you get what we have today.  Making George W. Bush President, for example, was like giving the keys of a Ferrari to a 10-year old:  sooner or later, he would wrap it around a tree.  With Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Ford, Clinton and the current numbskull we have a perfect storm of incompetence.  The nation is and has not been prepared intellectually to deal with greatness, only the power brokers and industrialists see themselves that way.

    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

    by dolfin66 on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:43:28 AM PST

    •  Baceivich goes back further than Ike (7+ / 0-)

      he looks in particular at NSC 68, a document drafted by Paul Nitze in 1950, as key to understanding the development of the National Security state.  Ues, aspects of it were already in place in the alte 40s with the establishment of DoD, CIA, and NSC.  But the mentality of a permanent armed state, even at the expense of civilian needs, was part of the theoretical underpinning.  

      I think despite his protests, Eisenhower understood that.  After all, the Interstate Highway system was originally justified in large part on national security grounds, and the money we pumped into education was part of a National Defense Education Act spurred in large part by Sputnik.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:49:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Add to that... (3+ / 0-)

        the political knee-jerk to create a committee or a cabinet post when you can't seem to come up with a solution to a problem that doesn't hurt your friends and you have this galloping layer addition game.  That's the hard part, I agree, peeling off the layers.

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 09:53:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Teacherken, I went to college on NDSL prog (0+ / 0-)

        which gave me pause.

        •  I attended Haverford (0+ / 0-)

          which is Quaker by origin and is still governed by a corporation for which to be a member you must be in the Society of Friends.   When the issue came up about whether to put students in the position of taking NDSL, the faculty had a heated discussion.  One faculty member, William Heartt Reese, who had been a conscientious objector but served as a cook during WWII (but was not a Quaker but an Episcopalian) pointed at some words on the wall of the Common Room where the faculty meet and said "I thought those words meant something.  I thought this was a Quaker College."  His statement galvanaized Bob Butman, the drama teacher, who had served in Naval Intelligence.  Bot organized the facutly and Haverford refused the NDSL funds, but instead came up with other funds.

          The words were from Isaiah Sharpless, one-time president of the College, who had offered them in a commencement address in  1888:  

          I suggest that you preach truth and do righteousness as you have been taught, whereinsoever that teaching may commend itself to your consciences and your judgments. For your consciences and your judgments we have not sought to bind; and see you to it that no other institution, no political party, no social circle, no religious organization, no pet ambitions put such chains on you as would tempt you to sacrifice one iota of the moral freedom of your consciences or the intellectual freedom of your judgments.


          do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

          by teacherken on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:22:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Fascinating! My parents had no money to send me (0+ / 0-)

            and I had not earned enough to go to the state supported university I chose.  At the time (1967-71) I thought the name NSDL was 1984 doublespeak, but was glad to get the low interest loan.  Eventually went into public school high school teaching and part of the loan was forgiven.

            Love the approach you described!

    •  Imho, I think it permeates to the consumer class. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dave925, Bronx59, LaFajita

      And probably began with Andy Jackson,  Manifest Destiny - or earlier.

      Read Jared Diamond - and Howard Zinn.

      Our consumerism - in the  name of the
      "unnegotiable" American way of life - is killing the planet for our children, grandchildren, and the rest of species on the planet.  Our hubris is hated worldwide.

      Buy a Boat. Save the Seed.

      by cumberland sibyl on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 10:05:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The growth of the National Security State has (9+ / 0-)

    been based as much on domestic political imperatives as on foreign threats.

    This was true to a degree during the Cold War, but it was especially true with the War on Terror.   The object wasn't so much to punish Al Qaeda and deter future Al Qaedas, but to create a set of political themes that would (1) trump all proposed alternative policy priorities, and make it possible to portray advocates of other policy priorities as naive or even traitorous, (2) funnel taxpayer money on a grant into the consultancies and contractors linked to the Republican Party, thereby strengthening the party politically and starving the government's ability to fund alternative policies and projects, and (3) establish a narrative that would create favorable conditions for Republican electoral victories.  

    In a just world, what Bush and Company did with the War on Terror would mark them and their congressional and media supporters as among the great villians of American history, and would disqualify them from exercising influence ever again.

  •  Chalmers Johnson also has much to say on this (6+ / 0-)

    Johnson and Bacevich dovetail neatly for showing us what we're getting for our "defense" dollars, which in large measure have nothing to do with defending the nation as a whole or the interests of the large majority of the American people.

    I think one area that they may skimp on a little is the psychology of the people who promote the American exceptionalist line. There are many true believers, who do think we're a divinely inspired nation that ordinary rules don't apply to. Some more moderate and some more fanatical.

    But there are also a lot of people who are just happy with being part of an apparently large, powerful system, who just want to keep it that way because it provides some sense of security and meaning to their lives—some of whom try to rationalize it in more noble terms, and others of whom are just "good Germans" following orders and looking on anyone who rocks the boat with animosity.

    Then there is the most sinister group, those who have no noble illusions but who see the path of empire as a means of enriching themselves, or acquiring personal power, or perpetrating various cons and scams on everyone else. No matter how many others are killed or suffer horribly as a result. The last group has been prominent in our post-World War II military-industrial complex from its beginnings and is now probably the most powerful force sustaining it.

  •  Good riddance to empire... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59, LaFajita

    it improves nobody's life, including the emperor.

  •  Thanks for the info (0+ / 0-)

    Just ordered a used copy which should arrive in the next week or so.

    Unfortunately (fortunately) I saw several other books that looked interesting, so about a half dozen will be winging there way chez murphy shortly...

    Ken, you're making me run out of book space !

    Let's get some Democracy for America

    by murphy on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 10:53:17 AM PST

  •  Can Obama give him a job? n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Paul Kennedy predicted this situtation in 1987 (4+ / 0-)

    do yourself a favor and read Kennedy's masterpiece: "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: 1500-2000"

    his book suggests that as economy goes, so goes international power: every broad, coalition war in Modern history, from the early Wars of Religion starting the the 1500s right through the Cold War, was won by the alliance with the stronger economy.

    But the interesting contradiction is that the large military required for a war is a drain on the economy.  The reaction of nations who can't maintain their previous position (due to the economic improvement of their rivals) always seems to be to increase their military expenditures, which, if not under direct invasion threat, serves only as an achor while less militarily involved powers keep plowing back into their economy, catching up even faster.

    English Military expenses were TINY in 1860.  But the 1880s-1920s naval chase didn't prevent Britain's declining relative to the USA and Germany.  Germany's massive miltary buildup in the 30s didn't save it from destruction at Soviet and US hands (amd even before that war, threatened to destroy the german Economy).  In 1938, the US army was smaller than that of Bulgaria. But did we feel safer in 1938, or today, when the US has the same military expense as the rest of the world COMBINED?  

    The feelings of insecurity aren't assuaged by a bigger military. Its caused by imperial overstretch.  Indeed, the large military SLOWS ECONOMIC GROWTH. Japan seems to be the one nation that learned this lesson: after their defeat in 1945, Japan has kept its military spending well under 1% of its GNP.  and it grew to the #2 economy in 40 years that way.

    We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

    by ScrewySquirrel on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:03:29 AM PST

  •  the solution to the mess (0+ / 0-)

    is the convention clause of the constitution:

    Billion dollar presidential campaigns are for losers.

    by john de herrera on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:10:19 AM PST

    •  No &^$^%^* way! (0+ / 0-)

      A Constitutional convention would be a minefield, and likely to be dominated by a few well-funded wingers.  

      I believe it would be a very rapid route to permanent enshrinement of a right-wing government into the U.S. Constitution.  

      •  he has been pushing this theme for some time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and gotten no traction.   It is for him an idee fixe.  

        In fairness, Larry Sabato of UVa, in a guest post he did here on the front page, has also advocated it.  

        On the one hand, there is no control on what such a convention could propose, including declaring the official religion of the US to be the cult of the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster.  On the other hand, whatever was passed would have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states, which means it would only take 13 states to reject a proposal.

        I am against the idea, for a variety of reasons, but I tend to ignore John's posts on the subject.  As you can see, he was ignored here - except for your response.

        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:24:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Do unto others (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think these quotes illustrate the problem and eventual failure of a system that steps on other peoples faces to become exceptional.  To prevent a revolt you have to take away the reasons for a revolt.  This also can be a problem with capitalism, earn money at all costs, it is shortsighted and ego driven.  Social considerations and global considerations are also important instead of our self-centered drive.  Do unto others is an important Golden Rule.  America can succeed and be exceptional without disenfranchising others, we just need to do it.  

    Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

    by bvig on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:15:35 AM PST

  •  Bacevich (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is a truly important voice.  I think he was on Rachel Maddow's radio show the other day and, as always, made a lot of sense.

    There are many answers to the problems he raises, though, and I think it is premature to call the exceptionalism that has been the byproduct of our natural resources, the distance of our country from Europe, and the different ways in which we have organized our government, to be at an end.

    There has been quite a detour to be sure, but I feel like the journey interrupted by the Vietnam War may be on its way to resumption.

    More of these ravings at the website listed in my profile.

    by Barth on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:19:53 AM PST

  •  I knew I had a link... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Bill Moyers interviewed Bacevich on Sept. 26.  It is a stunningly frank and sad program, well worth the time it takes to watch it.  Scroll down to the date.

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:29:33 AM PST

  •  How reassuring and exciting it would be... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...if Bacevich's name were getting prominent mention as a possible member of Obama's team.  Instead, we see headlines this morning proclaiming old war criminal Kissinger's approval of Clinton for SoS.

    Ivo Daalder, Dennis Ross, Madeleine Albright, Bill Richardson, warmongers all.  This is not change.  It is atavism. - Kicking against the pricks since '98!

    by chuckvw on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:31:21 AM PST

  •  The scariest thing is that this was not discussed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Hoya90, LaFajita

    during the campaign.  Politicians do not dare bring up the idea of limits of power and the growth of empire.  Bacevich blames the American people as much as their leaders for this state of affairs.  You could claim they are being misled and fooled by the conservatives, but human nature being what it is, people are all too easy to mislead with appeals to fear combined with a story of exceptional privilege.  The most important thing is to get these ideas discussed by the country as a whole, by the main stream media and the public at large.

    The best thing the United States can do for the world is to set a great example with our own society, with freedom and prosperity for all without exploiting or trying to control the rest of the world.

  •  Should required reading of every (0+ / 0-)

    Senator, Congress Person, executive office holder, and cabinet member.  The good news is now that intellectualism will not be silently ridiculed, we can anticipate some of these individuals will be doing some serious reading. Thank you for a very timely Diary.  

    Dreams have a way of betraying you when you use them to escape. Ask yourself why you dream what you dream.

    by brjzn on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:51:25 AM PST

  •   Thanx Teacherken. Did you read The End of Wall (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    Ecxellent diary. Will buy book.

    ""If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." JAMES MADISON

    by isabvella on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 11:59:38 AM PST

  •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave925, divineorder

    [quote]The operative questions becomes this:  if neither the CIA nor the Joint Chiefs o Staff had existed when Osama bin Laden launched his attack, if Congress had not created the Department of Defense or the National Security Council back in 1947, would the United States find itself in any worse shape than it is?[/quote]

    The Defense Department is a misnomer.
    It's Department of War.  Let's get out of Cloud Cuckoo Land.
    If there had been no CIA, there would have been an OSS.

    Your question is impossible to answer.
    All I know is that we've done a lot of self deception since 1947.
    It's time for the ride to end.

  •  Here's Professor Bacevick on Rachel, Friday (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KayCeSF, Susan from 29

  •  My favorite quote from the book... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, divineorder

    "History will not judge kindly a people who find nothing amiss in the prospect of endless armed conflict so long as they themselves are spared the effects. Nor will it view with favor an electorate that delivers political power into the hands of leaders unable to envision any alternative to perpetual war."

    I recommend  Bacevich’s book, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Suduced by War

    Andrew Bacevich:
    "The marriage of military metaphysics with eschatological ambition is a misbegotten one, contrary to the long-term interest of either the American people or the world beyond our boarders.  It invites endless war and the ever-deepening militarization of U.S. Policy.  As it subordinates concern for the common good to the paramount value of military effectiveness, it promises not to perfect but to distort American ideas. As it concentrates ever more authority in the hands of a few more concerned with order abroad rather than with justice at home, it will accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy..."

  •  Voltaire said it best - "let us tend our garden" (0+ / 0-)
  •  Great catch, Ken. (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for posting it, and the update with the links to his tv appearances.

    A corrupted government. Patriots branded as renegades. This is how we roll.

    by GreyHawk on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 12:54:31 PM PST

  •  To an extent, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hoya90, Bronx59

    his thesis seems to boil down to the fact that we demand freedom without embracing responsibility.

  •  Let us hope that the Obama Administration (0+ / 0-)

    will,at the very least,be the beginning of the downfall of American imperialism.I realize that it will take many years for the imperialists and militarists to be finally brought down,but I am hopeful that future historians will mark the Obama Administration as the start of the ultimate defeat for imperialism.

  •  Exceptional in different ways.... (0+ / 0-)

    ....election of Barack Obama case in point. Europe does a lot of things better than us, but discussing race isn't one of them.

    There's something attractive about invincible ignorance... for the first 5 seconds.

    by MNPundit on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 01:26:21 PM PST

  •  Obama and Niebuhr (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3goldens, The Wizard

    Barack Obama has said that his favorite philosopher was Niebuhr, and it was he that influenced his thinking greatly. Obama is three moves ahead of the Republicans now, and he has Niebuhr in the brain.

  •  Our work (0+ / 0-)

    What is "our work," and how does it relate to:

    he warned that what he called "our dreams of managing history" - born of a peculiar combination of arrogance and narcissism - posed a potentially mortal threat to the United States.  

  •  Rec'd for that hubris and sanctimony quote (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That about sums it all up.

    Silence is not an effective reply to propaganda.

    by fleisch on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 02:30:46 PM PST

  •  Does America Need a Bigger Army? (0+ / 0-)

    I'd put this issue differently.  I'm not sure "bigger" and "smaller" are all that meaningful.  It certainly isn't an index of how interventionist you intend to be. A smaller army might in fact be just the thing you want if you plan on imposing your military will upon other regimes.  You want agile, flexible and deadly; size and the kind of overspecialization that leads to it can be so much dead weight when it comes to shaking down the other national leaders for their lunch money.

    The Bush administration, Rumsfeld especially, came in with a vision for restructuring the military precisely along the lines needed to impose our will on other regimes.  However, as is often the case with people who are overly enamored of military power, they missed on of its important point: there is more than one kind of power. In fact, there is more than one kind of military power.  What you need to impose your will on a regime is very different from what you need to impose your will on a country.

    The tactical agility of US forces was of limited use in the Iraq occupation;  so many US deaths were the result of repeated patrol patterns.   Agility certainly wasn't the kind of force multiplier in an occupation that it is in a shooting war, and as a result we miscalculated how "large" our military power was.  This placed enormous demands on individuals. One solider or marine had to do the work of many.   For Iraq, what we needed a larger force, better at tracking slow moving developments; such a force would have got more done in less time than the kind of force designed to push around regimes.  On the other hand, such a force is less useful for pushing regimes around. For one thing, it takes a long time to get anything done with it. More importantly, the domestic political cost of using a large body of soliders, marines and airmen is too high.

    I think what we should have learned from Bush and Rumsfeld's fisaco is this: it's a mistake to use the ability to defeat another nation's military force as a proxy for "security", or even "power".  The military dimension of power has its uses, but those uses fall far short of what we need to accomplish in the world.  We should start from there and proceed to the kind of military we need, rather than starting from the kind of military we need to the kind of foreign policy we pursue.

    I believe pursuing multi-lateral security is a better, less costly approach to security problems presented by countries like Iran, and possibly Russia.  It may not be so useful in cases like North Korea and Afghanistan.  Looking across the range of foreign policy challenges we have, we should then build a military that is up to what we are going to ask it to do.

    I've lost my faith in nihilism

    by grumpynerd on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 02:57:58 PM PST

  •  Bacevich is at Firedog Lake right now (0+ / 0-)

    Support our troops... end the occupation of Irag NOW!

    by petestern on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 03:14:39 PM PST

  •  It all sounds so familiar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Kresnik

    Limits to growth, limits to power, the need for sustainability, the trap of justifying imperial ambition as "spreading freedom and democracy", the paradoxical need for a more modest foreign policy if America is to lead in the world, where have I heard all that before>

    Oh right, that's it, Bacevich sounds like a 70s radical, making almost every key point for which we have been alternately mocked and denounced for the past 30 years by all elements of the establishment and all powers that be regardless of letter after their name.  How strange to hear the things I've said for a generation and a half coming from a distinguished professor at West Point.  Is he a "nutcase" too like the rest of us that have been saying such things for such a long time?

    This sig line is in foreclosure. For details on acquiring a credit default swap on this sig line, contact H. Paulson, Dept of the Treasury, c/o Goldman, Sachs

    by ActivistGuy on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 03:22:07 PM PST

    •  umm, not a professor AT West Point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      a graduate, a retired career Army officer, and now teaching at Boston U

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 03:23:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Reminds me of Paul Kennedy's book (0+ / 0-)

      "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers."

      Kennedy surmised Japan as the next "Great Power" - IIRC - but seems like after this fiscal debacle has worked its way through the global economy it may well be China and Indai that set the direction for the future.

      Henry R. Nau had this to say in 2001:

      ... the United States and democratic Europe are on the upswing. Their pluralist identities emancipate all citizens, especially women and minorities, to participate in the process of ‘creative destruction’ (replacing the old with the new) and to grow both politically and economically by competition. This process is messy, to be sure, and it is never guaranteed. Pluralist systems could lose their way, just as collectivist systems may finally find their way to competitive reforms. But it is hard to believe that, given the historical record, collectivist identities hold the upper hand. The lesson of the ages is not that great powers rise and fall. It is rather that democratic powers succeed best in creating wealth and power, and that this success reduces the military dimension of interstate competition and releases the productive energies of civil society to generate growing world markets and peaceful transnational societies of law and comity.

      I think though, that he made several miscalculations in assessing the US and China.  First, he assumed that this country would continue to move in a pluralistic direction, but the Bush/Republican reaction to 9/11 pushed us in the opposite direction, along with squandering the budget surpluses and driving us back into deficit spending.  Second, I think that the Chinese (as well as the Indians), whatever one might think about their form of government, are nonetheless getting ready to be as economically and scientifically innovative as any western democracy.

      So, while we have turned inward over the last eight years, squandered a surplus, wasted trillions of dollars on a fruitless and pointless war, Asia has moved on.

      I fear that soon enough we will be in their rear view mirror.

  •  I went to Amazon to order this book and found (0+ / 0-)

    listed underneath it:  The Irony of American History by Niebuhr and Bacevich.  Since I have never read any Niebuhr, would this be a good place to start?  If not, are there any recommendations?


    Piffle crack eat monkey snow. Really. Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 03:51:48 PM PST

    •  Try instead... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan from 29, polar bear

      Moral Man and Immoral Society. I think its a bit more philosopshical and captures the essential Niebuhr. However, why stop at just one? The Irony f American History is brilliant as is The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.

      I wrote a review of Bacevich's book too, and if nothing else a revivial of Niebuhr would be an excellent outcome.

      You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

      by FrankCornish on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 04:26:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, that was just what I was hoping for. (0+ / 0-)

        Sometimes, when an author has such a collection of works and is clearly pertinent to understanding today's world it is hard to know where to begin.

        Doubt that I will stop at the one, but I will definitely start there!

        Piffle crack eat monkey snow. Really. Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald

        by Susan Grigsby on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 04:48:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good Luck... (0+ / 0-)

          and if you indulge me. I understand that Obama knows Niebuhr well. You will see that in Moral Man and Immoral Society he is sketching out a complex view of the world that makes politics a difficult game. I am one of those people who is a "true believer" in Obama. I have read both his books and everything I hear about him points to a politician who understands how the game must be played, but has an uncorruptable internal compass. I implicitly trust all the moves he makes as being the best possible under the circumstances. I do not believe that the US is a "Center-Right" nation, but I believe that Obama is going to build the largest possible coalition to affect change. What he achieves depends entirely on what the electorate makes possible. That is why I feel that Bacevich's book is important. There are many Conservatives out there who would agree with me on very little, but the gist of Bacevich's book they are in agreement. Once we get the insane foreign policy dialed down, many other things are possible. Unfortunately, little else will make significant progress until then. I hope I did not bore you too much, and once again good luck wth Niebuhr.

          You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

          by FrankCornish on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:38:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's one of the reasons I am interested in (0+ / 0-)

            Niebuhr.  I've always been interested in the authors and philosophies of the people who run our country.  Which meant that the last eight years have not provided much in the way of reading material.

            Barack Obama has to be one of the best read Presidents that we have elected during my lifetime, with the possible exception of Jack Kennedy.  So I am looking forward to the next four to eight years as being rich in intellectualism.  

            I am one of those people who is a "true believer" in Obama. I have read both his books and everything I hear about him points to a politician who understands how the game must be played, but has an uncorruptable internal compass.

            I'm counting on that internal compass, and am more than willing to give him lots of slack and time to achieve his goals.  I guess that's how you feel when you have a President who inspires confidence.

            Piffle crack eat monkey snow. Really. Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald

            by Susan Grigsby on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:13:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I just thank God that (0+ / 0-)

              for the next four years at least I will be able to hear a man on a regular basis articulate in detail why he has chosen a course of action.

              Thanks for answering.

              You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

              by FrankCornish on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:27:20 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  On November 4, 2008 (0+ / 0-)

    At about 11 PM EST, I stopped questioning the reality of American exceptionalism.

  •  What Bush did has changed everything (3+ / 0-)

    and I personally believe we will not recognize the depth of what he did for years and years.  And, I fear that some of what he did (including setting up a police state here, and a million other things, plus the latest financial coup d'etat) will be irreversible for a generation or more.

    With the help of corporate media, hate speech tv and radio, the Bush legacy will still have one of the most powerful propaganda tools at work  24/7 to keep up the pressure, to catapult the messages of Bush, enduring corporate power, and the financial mafia, so that Americans will remain in conflict over the same issues that divide us now.  

    What we need is some Constitutional 'shock and awe' action that will roll back everything Bush and the Congress did to undermine it.  We need shock and awe too regarding holding people accountable, instead of handing them a cupcake and a lemonade for the damage they've done.  

    Net: the country has been Bush'd and Enron'd and we need to have leadership that will roll all this up for the terrorism that all this has actually been--to citizens, to our Constitution, to our economy.    

  •  It seems as though... (0+ / 0-)

    This nation gets too consumed with people's personal affairs (Bill Clinton's affair) than actually care about the safety of this nation.  The country and primarily the Republicans cared way too much about his affair...if they hadn't, we could have put our efforts towards capturing Osama bin Laden...

  •  Teacherken, I am halfway (0+ / 0-)

    through this book. I am adding this to the required reading for my U.S. history course. It is among the best interpretive essays I have ever read, and it effectively sums up my course.

  •  I read the book and diaried (0+ / 0-)

    in the abstract. Thank you TK for making it concrete.

    In the diary, I asked the question: What are you willing to give up to get us away from the need for such a foreign policy?

    See the original diary here

  •  To teacherken (0+ / 0-)

    Is this a book that would be good for high school seniors? I teach government and would love to use an entire book outside the text. I was wondering what you think

    •  you might get some pushback (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      from those who disagree with Bacevich, and you might have to find something equivalent from a different perspective

      it might be a bit above the average high school student, and I would assume the reading level might be a little bit challenging. But for more gifted students, such as those in an honors class, it would be accessible.

      Most of my 10th grade AP students could probably handle it.  If that serves as any guide.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:33:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yup its over. Well, until... (0+ / 0-)

    ...we do something "exceptional" again.

    I would worry more personally, about probable increasing frequency of Chinese and Russian "exceptionalism," given the way we've shattered so many international institutions...

    The McCain-Palin Campaign: a transitional medium through which Monty Python skits are transformed into SNL skits

    by Minerva on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 05:49:24 PM PST

  •  Wonder if Kos has time to write something a (0+ / 0-)

    little more in depth than the hit and run diaries he has had time for lately?  heh

    This diary came at a perfect time, along with the Iraqi vote this weekend.  Helped me clarify some thoughts on what I want in foreign policy to come under Obama.  Helped me to think with more audacity!

    •  the front page is by nature a mix (0+ / 0-)

      there are some very thoughtful and in depth posts.  Consider some recent ones by Plutonium Page, Meteor Blades, Dark Syde, and Devilstower, for example.   But there are also some things that are more immediate - the pundit watch diaries by BarbinMd and DemfromCT, for example.  

      As an occasional frontpager at RK (formerly known as Raising Kaine), I know we confront the same issues of having sufficient content while balancing in depth pieces with more immediate pieces.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:28:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  i want to get this book, also. saw him on moyers (0+ / 0-)
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