I first heard of Ret. Col. Andrew J. Bacevich in graduate school. His book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, had been required summer reading. Looking back, I hated it before I even started reading–how dare someone talk about the end of American exceptionalism. Nonetheless, a few days later, after I finished, I found myself regretting that I had ever doubted what the author had to say.
Without question, I’m still awestruck at his deep understanding of just how misguided our foreign policy has been especially when, as he does in his article this past Sunday in Politico and will in his new book, he talks about American failure and folly in the Middle East.
The piece in Politico is essentially (I’m assuming) the Cliff’s Notes version of his book. In it he dissects the origins of the US military’s failures in the Greater Middle East. For Bacevich, our failures are a matter of sticking to a false narrative even while the facts don’t support it. Combined that with the unsustainable eschewing of any responsibility for war by political leaders or the public–which primarily originates from the draft being eliminated and deficit financing which pushes the costs of war to later generations who will most likely not even participate in the conflict.
Additionally, the persistence of the American-Power-narrative is for the most part bipartisan. Many on both sides of the aisle believe that all it takes is smart policy and strong resolve and the region will bow to our requests. Unfortunately, “the war for the Greater Middle East has become a permanent fixture.” No policy maker is willing to question the Beowulf-esque grip that narrative has on American policy or to suggest an alternative.
I’ll be tackling his book in the near future. If you choose not to, at least take the quicker route and read his piece in Politico.