Saturday, August 16, 2008

Looking In The Mirror

Andrew J. Bacevich is on Bill Moyers’ Journal discussing his book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. I have read excerpts of the book, but have not yet read the whole thing, but I can tell you that the interview with Moyers is a must watch.

I have been reading essays by Mr. Bacevich on military issues for quite some time, but in this interview he speaks to American social issues, to us as a nation living beyond our means and being unwilling to look in the mirror and see ourselves as we really are. He places the responsibility for our broken government where it belongs, on the people of this nation who make demands that they are unwilling to pay for.

You really should go listen to the entire interview; there is food for thought in every part of it on more than one issue. But here is the crux, here is what I think is at the heart of all the political rhetoric and I think he says it far better for me than I would ever have been able to say it for myself.
What I would invite them to consider is that, if you want to preserve that which you value most in the American way of life, and of course you need to ask yourself, what is it you value most. That if you want to preserve that which you value most in the American way of life, then we need to change the American way of life. We need to modify that which may be peripheral, in order to preserve that which is at the center of what we value.

I think the clearest statement of what I value is found in the preamble to the Constitution. There is nothing in the preamble to the Constitution which defines the purpose of the United States of America as remaking the world in our image, which I view as a fool's errand. There is nothing in the preamble of the Constitution that ever imagined that we would embark upon an effort, as President Bush has defined it, to transform the Greater Middle East. This region of the world that incorporates something in order of 1.4 billion people.

I believe that the framers of the Constitution were primarily concerned with focusing on the way we live here, the way we order our affairs. To try to ensure that as individuals, we can have an opportunity to pursue our, perhaps, differing definitions of freedom, but also so that, as a community, we could live together in some kind of harmony. And that future generations would also be able to share in those same opportunities.

The big problem, it seems to me, with the current crisis in American foreign policy, is that unless we do change our ways, the likelihood that our children, our grandchildren, the next generation is going to enjoy the opportunities that we've had, is very slight, because we're squandering our power. We are squandering our wealth. In many respects, to the extent that we persist in our imperial delusions, we're also going to squander our freedom because imperial policies, which end up enhancing the authority of the imperial president, also end up providing imperial presidents with an opportunity to compromise freedom even here at home.

I would also add that there is nothing in the preamble of the constitution that entitles me to a big screen television, or $1 gasoline, or a 3000 sqft home, and to surrender the things that Andrew describes above to secure those things…
We need to modify that which may be peripheral, in order to preserve that which is at the center of what we value.


  1. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Wow... A man who gets it... too bad the politicians don't (most of them, some do..).

    About the part: "... We have created an imperial presidency. The congress no longer is able to articulate a vision of what is the common good. The Congress exists primarily to ensure the reelection of members of Congress." ...

    1) We have allowed an imperial presidency to be created. There are supposed to be checks and balances, and these have been.. um.. thwarted. Both the President(not just this one, but mostly him) and the Congress are to blame.

    2) And I so much agree with the essential statement 'Congress exists to serve itself' in so many words.

    3) And I agree with the statement that the country (oh and the state) and individuals are living beyond their means. Not all individuals, but many.

    4) and of course, the voters like sheep, are lead to the slaughter (of the country as a whole).

    good article. A must read for just about everyone.

  2. Anonymous10:49 AM

    oh and the part about the Prsident as demigod, kind uncle, blah blah.

    and the part about "just elect us, everything will be rosy.."

    the BS keeps getting higher and higher. I simply do not trust politicians to be honest. They want to be elected. Period. Everything else is secondary.

    okay, yes, there are exceptions to that rule. But start with that rule, and you'll not go wrong.