What happened to American exceptionalism?

By Rufus Foshee | Oct 23, 2009

It has become revelatory to me that I have found a book by a retired colonel that I am willing to believe in. But “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism” by retired Colonel Andrew J. Bacevick, now professor of history and international relations at Boston University, is just such a book.

He has a distinguished education background, including a doctorate from Princeton.

I had read the books of several other writers, very acclaimed, writing about similar themes, all coming from very different backgrounds. Fareed Zakaria, for example.

Even more revelatory is Bacevick's ability to write with purpose and great clarity, without all the muddling that many insist upon inflicting upon the reader in an attempt to appear to know more than they do or are capable of expressing in a manner that is accessible to most readers.

Without oversimplification, I think it is fair to say that Bacevick is writing about what George W. Bush was certain the United States could do: bottle American values as if they were Pepsi and sell them in the Middle East and Asia.

As has been proven after eight years in office, Bush's wishful thinking is the only thing that got bottled, if not completely sold. One of the really frightening things is that President Obama, after many months in office and despite his new Nobel Prize, has shown little evidence that he is attempting to conduct American foreign policy any differently. Secretary Clinton is known for her hawkishness, unlike her husband.

Nuclear proliferation is just one of many pressing aspects of American foreign policy.

If there are any antiwar voices still, they are only a whisper. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, unlike his predecessor Tony Blair, refused to supply any more soldiers for Afghanistan. Meanwhile President Obama has vowed to add troops in Afghanistan, rather than reducing them -- in short just shifting the emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan.

The question must be asked, and is being asked, can the United States survive without a long-term war without borders and without a time line? What is it the United States expects it will accomplish by such an ongoing war that it cannot afford and certainly cannot win. Obama seems determined to get in the line behind Russia, as a major nation that could not conquer Afghanistan. It is not really conceivable that Obama is so delusive that he believes he might get it done in a second term if he could win one.

Death on the battlefield now seems to be taken for granted as if it were a Sunday afternoon walk. Women and men who put their lives on the line for their country are not filling the same roles as many have in past wars, when many could believe they were fighting for freedom for all. Does anyone believe that now?

Have we declared a permanent state of war somewhere without a time line? If the answer is yes, and there is strong evidence that it is, what is accomplished when more troops die in Afghanistan? Will those being born now know when they reach memory that in a few short years they will be sent off to the front lines, somewhere, for some reason that is inexplicable?

It is a common belief that the wars being fought in Asia are to preserve American interests in oil supplies. Is it now closer to the truth that the United States cannot survive without some way to keep the American military industrial complex in high cotton?

Not since President Eisenhower's farewell address in 1960 has any president commented upon this military complex. He said: "Military industrial complex is a concept commonly used to refer to policy relationships between governments, national armed forces, and industrial support they obtain from the commercial sector in political approval for research, development, production, use, and support for military training, weapons, equipment, and facilities within the national defense and security policy. It is a type of iron triangle."

As late as 2008, 48 percent of the $1.47 trillion of the total global military spending fell on the United States.

If the American media were able to get their minds off the romance they continue to weave around the Obamas, including race, clothes and an obsession with photo ops, might they not find a way to encourage the president to see that after all these months in office he has done nothing exceptional?

It is time for all to get over the honeymoon.

One always wonders what those in the highest power positions read, if anything, or whether they are totally reliant upon those advisers who also give cause for the same wondering. Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (Ret.) wrote of “The Limits of Power,” “Andrew Bacevich takes aim at America's culture of exceptionalism and scores a bulls-eye. He reminds us that we can destroy all that we cherish by pursuing an illusion of indestructibility.”

Bacevich's son died in Iraq in support of this concept of indestructibility as envisioned by George W. Bush's zest for war at any time at any cost.

Does this seem fact or illusion?

That Obama's tenure thus far may seem to many a relief from the policies of Bush 43, is no reason for touting brass horns into the wilderness.

A lot of window dressing is going on, a lot of photo ops and frankly, just plain nonsense. What do any of us recall, that has substance, that all were promised in all that talk about “change that one can believe in?”

Is it a bit difficult to understand why Obama would have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, while he continued to fuel two useless wars?

Can anyone come up with a sensible answer?
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