Thursday, June 25, 2009

Latest book... and minor rant

Well, I did it. I read another non-fiction book. This is like, two in two months, a new record for me! This one was called The Limits of Power by Andrew Bacevich, and it was very good, I thought. I read it so fast I didn't even have time to put a picture of it there on the side bar. I'm quite the political neophyte, so I can't really tell you if his arguments fit the broader landscape of the facts. They fit the ones he presents, as he presents them, but I'm not so much of a neophyte that I don't know you can argue anything as long as you're the one who gets to trot out all the facts in whatever light you want, to present the counter arguments and the answers to them, and so forth. Yes, I've seen Fox News, I know all about that crap. But, as I said, it seems to hold together.

His central argument is that 1) American foreign policy is never based on anything beyond expansion or protection of American interests, 2) When you say it's for something else (defending liberty, human rights, protecting those poor for'ners from the evil oppressors) you're full of crap, 3) that's not necessarily bad, but 4) it's not working anymore. I think point 3 there is just his way of sidestepping an argument, he's kind of saying "Yeah, look, I don't care if you approve of that or not - maybe you do, fine! But it's still not working." Of course he's talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, but he's pretty much saying it has always been this way. The cynic in me tends to agree. I mean Iraq is a no brainer. We're there for our own interests? Not to save the Iraqis from Saddam? Really? Shocker! But you like to think that sometimes we intervene in other countries to help. But that could be totally naive. Countries are not nice people - they look out for themselves. People in countries can be nice, but countries themselves, well, I'm more skeptical.

Anyway, Bacevich goes into some arguments about the increasing power of the executive branch, the growing of the industrial-military complex (yes, he credits the author of that quote), and so forth. One of my favorite parts was when he talked about a clear distinction between two points of view that embodies what is going on. He said it was when Carter gave a speech about how America is dependent on oil and needs to get off of it, and in order to do that we all have to sacrafice. Drive less, pay more, change our life styles. Carter said all this. Then he ran against Reagan. Reagan was kind of like Bush, in that he said "All you need to do for us to succeed is keep spending and do whatever you want!" History records which path we as a nation chose. But I think that those two positions - we have to change to fit with our resources, to plan, to be responsible versus we have to do what we want - it's our right - are indeed key to where we are today. Every time you think about some lasting change in government or society the argument is always that it will cost too much or be too unpopular. But if you want things to improve you have to pay. And if we are living beyond our means, as a society, then you either need to increase your means (the book is arguing that this is simply not working) or you change how you live. So that's what I was taking away from it. If you happen to read it (or have read it), feel free to let us know your thoughts.

Kind of funny how I start by saying I'm a political neophyte then deluge you with a bunch of poltiical stuff, huh? Kind of Fox News like of me, eh? See, I'm learning. I'm not an actor, but I play a news person on TV. Heh.

1 comment:

roborob said...

cool! I have started reading his book, but ended up stopping when other crap crept up. I will continue to read it at some point. I picked it up after seeing him on Bill Moyer's Journal - you can still pull the video from that interview on PBS' website. Check it out. I'll let you know what I think when I get around to finishing.