The Limits of Power by Andrew Bacevich
The End of American Exceptionalism

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From an acclaimed conservative historian and former military officer, a bracing call for a pragmatic confrontation with the nation's problems

The Limits of Power identifies a profound triple crisis facing America: the economy, in remarkable disarray, can no longer be fixed by relying on expansion abroad; the government, transformed by an imperial presidency, is a democracy in form only; U.S. involvement in endless wars, driven by a deep infatuation with military power, has been a catastrophe for the body politic. These pressing problems threaten all of us, Republicans and Democrats. If the nation is to solve its predicament, it will need the revival of a distinctly American approach: the neglected tradition of realism.

Andrew J. Bacevich, uniquely respected across the political spectrum, offers a historical perspective on the illusions that have governed American policy since 1945. The realism he proposes includes respect for power and its limits; sensitivity to unintended consequences; aversion to claims of exceptionalism; skepticism of easy solutions, especially those involving force; and a conviction that the books will have to balance. Only a return to such principles, Bacevich argues, can provide common ground for fixing America's urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.


About Andrew Bacevich

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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 is the recipient of a Lannan award and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Published August 5, 2008 by Metropolitan Books. 224 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, History. Non-fiction

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In the American context, it serves principally to legitimate the exercise of executive power…It certainly does not prevent American policymakers from collaborating with debased authoritarian regimes that deny basic freedoms like Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt or Pervez Musharraf’s Pakistan.” The author of...

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Andrew J. Bacevich plays the prophet for a fat, self-indulgent America.

Sep 14 2008 | Read Full Review of The Limits of Power: The End ...

Daily Kos

Bacevich agues that while Stimson remained respected the majority of advisors emulated Forrestal and culminated in a statement of policy in NSC-68 written by Paul Nitze who was then head of the Policy Planning Staff of Dean Acheson’s State Department: Historians have long seen NSC 68 as on...

Oct 27 2008 | Read Full Review of The Limits of Power: The End ...

Andrew Bacevich's The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism is an important book because it explores the links between American military power, culture, and politics.

Aug 24 2009 | Read Full Review of The Limits of Power: The End ...


The ending is rather negative (for the United States), but by recognizing the crisis for what it is and defining the need to change foreign policy and the domestic consumption that commands that foreign policy, Bacevich provides a clear view as to where the U.S. and the world should be moving.

Nov 09 2008 | Read Full Review of The Limits of Power: The End ...

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