Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Limits of Power - Bacevich

Hobo-ing America is my book and it provides a picture of how the millions of non-profligate exist in today's America. Click on cover of Hobo-ing America at right of this page for my information.

The Limits of Power

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

The author does a lot of quoting of a man named Reinhold Niebuhr. Do yourself a favor and skip Reinhold. I read Reinhold first at the author’s recommendation, and even though the man writes in English one still needs an interpreter to get through his book.

Bacevich, on the other hand, is very mater-of-fact and to the point.
Andrew Bacevich is a college professor and ex-military. This book is another installment from “The American Empire Project.”

This Project is a series of books by various authors who disparage the imperialistic policies of the United States, the expansion of the Military Industrial Complex, and the tendency of promoting the misguided notion of global exceptionalism by the U.S.A.

In this work Bacevich points out the futility of constantly choosing military solutions to solve international disagreements by the U.S.A. War should be a last resort and only used as a retort to military aggression by an enemy. Used as a diplomatic weapon it has been a total failure, Bacevich explains. Disregarding the morality of it all, it just doesn’t seem to be working. And this failure goes back for decades.

Mr. Bacevich is extremely hard on his military cohorts. General Franks, Colon Powell, General Wesley Clark and several others are run through Bacevich’s meat grinder. He goes so far as to say that, though America’s soldier base and technology are strong, the officers Corps is derelict. He is very outspoken with regards to the poor quality of American military leadership. This would make some conclude that our institutions for training our officers must be faulty. But Bacevich doesn’t mention our military academies. Maybe he deals with those institutions and their shortcomings in another of his books.

He doesn’t have much good to say about the civilian leadership either. He runs Bush and his administration through the ringer. He is especially unhappy with the Bush Doctrine of “Preemptive War” as should all Americans.

He also hits Clinton and his military strategy of throwing bombs and rockets around as equally misguided, insane and irrational.

The moral of his story is that war does not work. He quotes Norman Mailer: “Fighting a war to fix something works about as good as going to a whore house to get rid of the clap.”

In Bacevich’s estimation the military “option” is not the answer.

He questions every military excuse for their failure, even their groaning about interference from inept and dominating, civilian, political leadership.

By Bacevich’s arguments the military leadership has no excuse. They appear to be, in the author’s estimation, a bunch of bungling, rampaging buffoons.

His bottom line: no military unless attacked. Military brawn is a poor excuse for not using our political heads. The United States is not equipped, nor does it have the moral right to be preemptively striking anybody. We should be more willing to let world problems play out in the world theater. America does not have all the answers and we should not be so patriotically egotistical to think that we do. And, by the way, we don’t have the money or the personnel to protect and direct the world militarily.

A big sub-theme throughout the book is highlighted by the word “profligate.” The author praises Jimmy Carter for his “malaise” speech – though he says that Jimmy never used the word.

It seems that it is the wasteful, greedy consumerism of the American people that has precipitated all these terrible military and political policies. We all want cheap gasoline, cheap goods and cheap foreign imports. We are all wasteful, self-indulgent, and … profligate.

This point by the author brings to mind such past writers as Henry David Thoreau, Thorstein Veblen and John Kenneth Galbraith.

Thoreau advised his American fellow citizens back in the 1800’s to “simplify.” He told us to make do with less and to be satisfied with one chair and a mat of straw to sleep on at night. Henry did not get very far with this notion even back in the 1800’s.

Then there was Mr. Galbraith who pondered the difficulties of “The Affluent Society.” A time that was advancing upon Americans when they would all have more free time and luxuries to spare. Oh woe is me. What would all us fat, overfed, wealthy Americans do with all our freedom and money.

Then we had Thorstein Veblen who coined the term “conspicuous consumption.” But Thornstein was not talking about everyday Americans. He was referring to the elegant class, the better-off and the wealthy. Unlike the other two mentioned above, he had a point.

Mr. Bacevich is laboring under the misconception that all of us Americans have been living high off the hog going all the way back to the late forties and early fifties. Ever since World War II ended, America has truly been a land of milk and honey and “profligate” spending on the part of all us elitist Americans.

My dad was hunting work all through the 50’s in my old neighborhood. My hometown of Lawrence was boasting an unemployed percentage of between 30 and 40 percent. We were in a depression.

Things were horrible.

I have never enjoyed profligacy of any type, shape or form. In my book “Hobo-ing America” my wife and I worked ourselves around America and though we worked by the sides of thousands of hard working Americans, we bumped into very few of the profligate.

I think Mr. Bacevich has been blessed and has had the privilege of rubbing elbows with the profligate in some nifty profligate neighborhoods. I have never seen one, nor do I know any of the profligate class. I don’t doubt that one could find statistics to verify the author presumptions but we all know what has been said about statistics.

I resent being held blame for America’s poor government leadership, military leadership, and poor economic policies.

Mr. Bacevich also neglected U.S. failure to maintain jobs in the face of our mounting import/export imbalances that started, as he pointed out, in 1970 and has never returned to the black. He mentioned the import/export imbalance but never once brought up the loss of our jobs to the global economy and what could or should have been done to compensate and keep Americans working.

I agree totally with over 90% of what Mr. Bacevich has to say especially with his points against the military option, preemptive war and attempting to police the world. But the points where I disagree I disagree very strongly.

Please don’t blame me, buddy. I have been doing all that I can just to stay alive.

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