Skip to main content

Recommendation: “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”


This is a very timely book and Bacevich manages to pack it with a substantial amount of well organized information. His main themes, as evidenced by the title, are the limitations of power projection through military force and the ideology of American Imperium. He traces the history of the National Security State, its organizational apparatus and the friction between various departments and the ideology of National Security which provide the rationale for the projects of political elites. His analysis situates the Bush administration within a tradition of ideology that spans back to the early days of the Cold war. Whilst also demonstrating its discontinuities; above all, the Bush doctrine’s concept of “preemptive war”. For Bacevich, this policy is both morally indefensible and pragmatically inept. He attempts to give both a description of the current crises (the crisis of profligacy, the political crisis and the military crisis) and prescriptive advice on how to readdress past mistakes. However, he does not view the current political, economic and military quandaries of the United State’s as the product of the Bush Administration and its key insiders alone. Though, he does a fine job of dissecting figures like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz while linking their ideological positions to pervious policy makers like James Forrestal and Paul Nitze. The crucial advantage of Bacevich’s “The Limits of Power”, is that it moves beyond the notion that the Bush Administration is an aberration and contextualizes the last eight years within the broader history of U.S. Foreign policy. Moreover, his analysis of institutional frameworks and the nature of self-seeking political elites add a deeper understanding to the current situation. To mention one failing, Bacevich does little to relate the current crises to the operations of capitalism itself. That however, would have perhaps limited the books appeal to segments of the political spectrum and pushed the book beyond its scope of inquiry. Despite that quibble, I couldn’t recommend Colonel Bacevich’s book more strongly.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Karen Armstrong on Women and Islam.

Zaibatsu Dissolution, Reparations and Administrative Guidance.

During a lecture before the Eugenics Society in 1937, British economist John Maynard Keynes stated that “a greater cumulative increment than 1 per cent per annum in the standard of life has seldom proved practicable”. Moreover, Keynes continued, “generally speaking the rate of improvement seems to have been somewhat less then 1 per cent per annum cumulative”. Of course, Keynes was speaking during the great depression, and therefore his remarks may be tainted with a particular pessimism. But they draw into sharp relief the experience of economic growth in post-war Japan: between 1950 and 1973, GDP growth averaged 10%, a rate of sustained growth never before seen .By 1962, the English publication Economist, with poetic flair, dubbed Japan’s recovery an “economic miracle” . This designation caught on and became a general catch phrase for spectacular economic growth. In the case of Japan, a multitude of explanations have arisen for why Japan underwent an ‘economic miracle’. Crucial to el…

Ideology and Symbolic power: Between Althusser and Bourdieu.

Western Marxism has often laid considerable stress upon the ideology of modern capitalist societies. This focus upon ideology stems from the failure of proletarian revolution to have either occurred, or establish socialism within Western Europe. The exact nature and function of ideology became paramount in Marxian explanations of the continued stability of Western capitalism after the Great War and Great Depression. Marxian conceptualizations of symbolic domination (under the notion of ideology) remain in the realm of consciousness and intellectual frameworks. Pierre Bourdieu developed a paradigm for understanding symbolic power and domination through his theory of dispositional practices that breaks with the concept of ideology and it basis in the tradition of ‘Kantian intellectualism’. This theoretical model both deepens and broadens the sociological understanding of symbolic power and domination, through the acknowledgment of non-intellectual and bodily elements in the dynamics of…