Monday, August 25, 2008

Andrew Bacevich's "The Limits of Power"

Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of The New American Militarism, among other books. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, and reported the following:
Anyone reading page 99 of The Limits of Power will encounter a major theme of the book, namely the incompetence and dysfunction of the national security state. The page begins midway through an illustration of how senior military leaders failed to provide civilian policymakers with the sort of cogent and pointed advice that might have dissuaded them from invading Iraq in 2003. As the page concludes, I am just turning my attention to similar shortcomings in the intelligence community.

What the reader of page 99 will not get is an appreciation of the book's other central themes, namely a "crisis of profligacy" that condemns the United States to a condition of ever-increasing debt and dependency and a "military crisis" that leads us to squander our military power on ill-advised and unnecessary misadventures.

The book's bottom line is expressed in this quotation from the Second Book of Kings in the Hebrew Bible: "Set thine house in order." We can't fix the world; we need to fix ourselves.
Read "Illusions of Victory under Bush," adapted from The Limits of Power; learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue