Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tell it like it is Department

In his new book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, Bacevich argues that the country's foreign policy is a direct result of the American way of life. The only way of changing that policy, he contends, is changing the way Americans live. Excerpts:

Where do you think American foreign policy has gone wrong?
I've come to believe that U.S. foreign policy is broadly conceived to reflect the will of the American people.

Yet the majority of people don't support continuing the war in Iraq.
Not that the majority of people thought that invading Iraq was a good idea either, but they were satisfied and wanted to protect the American way of life, which requires access to massive amounts of oil. Tacitly, at least, the American people are complicit and responsible for the policies made in Washington. Nothing is going to change unless we are willing to make substantive changes in the way that we live our lives.

Is there any chance that such a revolution in thinking is in the offing?
I doubt that there will be any change.... That reflects a very familiar strand of thought in American foreign policy back to the Native Americans, which says that "they" will always have to change to accommodate our way of living.

Is it possible to realize the limits of power without overreaching?
Every great power has an exaggerated sense of itself. It's only when you meet failure that introspection is possible. We bumped into failure in Vietnam, which was the beginning of this paradigm shift. Despite its incredible near-term impact on the country, what strikes me now in 2008 is how short-lived the lessons of Vietnam were, how quickly they were swept aside.