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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism | [Andrew J. Bacevich]

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

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. If the nation is to solve its predicament, it will need the revival of a distinctly American approach.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2008 Andrew Bacevich; (P)2008 Macmillan Audio

What the Critics Say

"Crisp prose, sweeping historical analysis and searing observations on the roots of American decadence elevate this book from mere scolding to an urgent call for rational thinking and measured action, for citizens to wise up and put their house in order." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Frank RuseAustralia 10-23-08
    Frank RuseAustralia 10-23-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disturbing"

    A disturbing and perspective analysis of America's problems. From the viewpoint of a non-US citizen, this book highlights and explains many of the issues that intrigue, amaze and affect the rest of the world - but will the American people be able to recognise them and act before their country starts sliding irreversibly downward (or is it already too late?). Highly recommended

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan T 11-03-09
    Nathan T 11-03-09 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    66
    ratings
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    61
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    "Tired of the noise?"

    Bacevich argues there are three crises facing America today, economic, political and military. As self-contained as each of these crises may seem on the surface Bacevich succinctly reveals how they are in fact very interconnected and reinforcing of each other. While the crises are the stated focus of the book it's clear that "values" are the driving force behind their analysis. The values Bacevich champions are simply pragmatism and a willingness to see things for what they are, rather than for what we may wish, or need, them to be. Amusingly, Bacevich has been labeled a "fake" Republican by a number of closet Bush Administration apologists, but that's to be expected I guess. Bacevich spares neither Democrat or Republican administrations, the historic records of which he easily reveals to be far more similar than different. Perhaps the most damning of Bacevich's entreaties for a return to common sense, and a restoration of the concept of civic duty, falls upon the common citizen. He points out the disconnect from reality that many of us display by not living within our means and how frighteningly similar this mentality mirrors the underlying structure of our entire economy (it's worth noting he wrote this before the recent collapse). Despite being against the Iraq War from the beginning he smolders at the percentage of citizen to soldier, the unfairness of the few enduring multiple deployments while those able but unwilling to serve refuse to force it's end. And he ultimately holds us accountable for abetting many of our politicians in their corruption and abuse of the political system, by inaction, indifference, or both. I would recommend buying the actual book - I bought a second copy for family and friends (a broad mixture of political stripes) and all of us found common ground, more similarities than differences.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matteo TricesimoItaly 04-27-09
    Matteo TricesimoItaly 04-27-09
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    "important listening"

    I find it very important to take apart important current affair issues and deconstruct them on historical and common sense pragmatism. The Limits of Power looks at the increasing power of the Executive Office since FDR and warns us all that this increasing power poses a great danger to American democracy. Using the Carter and G.W. Bush administrations as cases in point, Bacevich shows how different Presidential failures have used their powers in different ways and each have shown the limits and excesses of power concentration in the Executive branch.

    While this book can be considered an accurate deconstruction of the Bush administration's failures in the Second Gulf War, it would be short-sided to limit the message of the book as a social critique of the Second Gulf War (albeit he does a great job of doing this as well).

    This audiobook is a must for any person, left or right, who loves American democracy,

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracey el paso, TX, USA 03-05-09
    Tracey el paso, TX, USA 03-05-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Thorough"

    Excellent and insightful survey of the war on terror. This book provides possible non-military solutions to containing enemies of America: a breath of fresh air.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ming Highland Village, TX, USA 01-10-09
    Ming Highland Village, TX, USA 01-10-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thought provoking"

    I found the reader a little too boring but the book itself was the best I read/listened to in 2008. It was so good that I had to run out and bought a hard copy. Not that I agree with everything Mr. Bacevich has to say but I feel that he has more right to his opinions than most people do for the reason that he was in the Vietnam war and his son was an Airborne officer who died last year in Iraq.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha F. minneapolis 11-14-08
    Martha F. minneapolis 11-14-08 Member Since 2007

    Martha

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Book!"

    This was one of the best and most important
    books I've read all year. Really put the world --
    and the US role in it -- in perspective.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. Ritchey Idaho, USA 11-06-08
    T. Ritchey Idaho, USA 11-06-08 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    "What an interesting book!"

    I not only bought the audiobook but also bought two copies of the hardback to lend out to my friends. The author gives a very interesting history of U.S. Foreign Policy. Great read.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Westfield 11-11-10 Member Since 2011
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    "Every American Must Read this Book"

    This is the most thoughtful analysis of the terrible mess we are in and gives some insight into how we might get out of it. Bacevich is a genius.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick Boulder, CO, USA 08-06-09
    Rick Boulder, CO, USA 08-06-09 Member Since 2008
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    "National security state"

    I love the obervation that the more the national security bureacracy screws up, the more money it gets -- 9/11, Iraq, etc. That virtually insures more screw ups.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Bellevue, WA, United States 11-08-08
    Dan Bellevue, WA, United States 11-08-08 Member Since 2000
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ""Limits" explained"

    A scholarly, philosophical and very critical review of American foreign policy since WW II. Bacevich's is scathing in his criticism of politicians, the military and the American people's "pursuit of happiness". The first part of the book is too dense at times for easy listening. The heart of the book is Bacevich's analysis of lessons to be learned from the Iraq war. In today's environment when such exercises are labelled as unpatriotic, these lessons are a welcome and needed addition to the public discussion.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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