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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  1,897 Ratings  ·  320 Reviews
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
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Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published (first published August 5th 2008)
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Chris
Oct 14, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant insight into current distortion of Jefferson's claim for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Bacevich, a conservative, can reach across the isle to unite both parties into realizing that limitless consumption and consumerism is not going to have a happy ending.
Doug
Mar 21, 2009 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read if you are interested in US politics as it relates to the US' place in the world. The author is a former military officer, and not really "liberal" nor "conservative." The viewpoint expounded in the book might be considered radical by the woefully uninformed average American citizen. However, I found it to be not so radical compared to another of my favorite political authors, Noam Chomsky. The main point of the book is that the US as a nation has been consuming more than we can a ...more
Daniel
Nov 25, 2008 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks we really do need change in our country
This is not the easiest book to read because Bacevich aims a magnifying glass at the current status quo in the United States and deconstructs the historic context that explains how we have become a people so accustomed to living beyond our means who refuse to make sacrifices or do without. He introduces the teaching of the theologian Reinhold Neibuhr who had the foresight during the Cold War to see that America's love of excess would eventually be her undoing.

Throughout this book, Bacevich weave
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Elizabeth Bruce
Oct 05, 2008 Elizabeth Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Bill Moyers' Journal
Extraordinary. Brilliant. Prophetic indictment of the house of cards and hubris that is American exceptionalism. Unflinching and stunningly articulate analysis of the structural flaws in the dominant American narrative.
Ed
Oct 10, 2008 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to understand How we, the U.S. got into the mess we are in.
Recommended to Ed by: PBS
Written by a true conservative, ex-military officer and current Boston University professor, this book concisely explains how the actions of citizens, government and the military over the last 45 years have pushed the U.S into the position it finds itself in today.

In the Chapter titled "The Crisis of Profligacy", Bacevich skewers Americans for surrendering their true freedom for the illusory freedom of materialism. He also shows how the need for both power and abundance has undermined people's a
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Blair
Jul 02, 2016 Blair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
America has unrealistic foreign policy objectives, and is relying far too much on military power to achieve them. While this idea is not new, this book avoids the usual conspiracy theories such as the evil people in charge, or the Capitalism is the Problem, that normally ride along with this type of analysis. Ultimate responsibility is instead placed on the American people and their culture. That is the meaning of “American Exceptionalism” in the sub-title.

The book examines three pillars of Amer
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John
Jun 24, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just read in the LA Times today that the US spends more on defense that the next ten countries combined. Reading Bacevich's book gives almost encylopedic litany of reasons why this expenditure does not ensure our safety nor provide us with the mechanism to enforce the will of our government around the world.

Bacevich points out that the price of our excessive use of oil is undervalued. The price for a gallon of gas should include our military involvement in the Middle East. The sad fact is that o
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Rick Krekel
Oct 17, 2008 Rick Krekel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rick by: PBS Bill Moyers
Retiring a Colonel after 23 years in the Army, Andrew Bacevich is well acquainted with the political nature of projecting American military power abroad. His work in this volume goes far beyond the present administration's doctrine of preemptive war to the heart of the American illusion of indestructibility and how military solutions are overly relied upon to solve national security threats.

The stunning conclusion is America's war on terror is disproportionately falling on a small segment of th
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Jay
Aug 31, 2014 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-studies
I'm about a third into this book, my second of Andrew Bacevich's, whose conservative bona fides, knowledge of military subjects and grasp of The Big Picture are unassailable, IMHO. And I am once again amazed by his dead-on, sobering assessments of not only where we're going as a nation but who we are as a people at this point in world history. Although this book was written in the Shrub's 2nd term, the criticisms of that administration are as applicable to BHO (albeit we are out of Iraq for now) ...more
E
Jul 31, 2009 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A conservative historian’s frank, searing analysis

Author Andrew J. Bacevich dedicates this book to his son, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Bacevich has long been a strong conservative critic of U.S. policy in Iraq, but it’s difficult to escape the impression that the impassioned indictment set forth here draws on a deep reservoir of personal anguish. With unblinking, unwavering directness, he attacks the illusions, self-deceptions and hypocritical
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Jim
Sep 03, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
Every American needs to read this book, and read it soon. Bacevich, a retired Army Colonel and now History Prof in Boston, puts forth the case that we, the American people, have allowed our present economic, military and political status to come about through our own non-involvement and obsession with consumption at any price. It is a convincing argument and although I was somewhat dismayed that the conclusion settled for hopelessness with a touch of condescension, the book as a whole is a grand ...more
Scott
Oct 02, 2008 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bacevich, West Pointer, Vietnam veteran, conservative, rips Congress and all our recent presidents (especially George the Lesser) and we, the people, for having concocted a foreign policy designed to feed our self indulgence.
Regina
Jan 28, 2009 Regina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a serious, balanced commentary on the recent history of American wars, with a focus on the war in Iraq. Bacevich is considered a conservative historian and is an ex-member of our military, which makes his critique of America’s hunger for political and economic power abroad and the price we pay for it at home all the more compelling. One could argue that part of what informs him is his personal tragedy --- he lost a son in Iraq --- but he does not strike me as someone with an agenda and n ...more
Tripp
Feb 02, 2009 Tripp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Bacevich is one of the great influential critics of American foreign policy today. His critiques of American consumerism and foreign policy are not too distant from those of leftie giants like Chalmers Johnson, so the left-leaning find it easy to like him. On the other hand, he says out front that he is a conservative and revives an older tradition of conservatism that opposes growing government power and entangling overseas adventures, so the right can be comfortable with him as well. To ...more
Dan
Aug 02, 2013 Dan rated it liked it
Bacevich wrote this book as G. W. Bush was just completing his presidency. His main thesis is that the history of the US is that freedom and abundance go together. He asserts that since the founding of our country, we have associated freedom with at least the hope of having abundant goods.

In 1979 Jimmy Carter suggested that the US was in a crisis due to a growing self-indulgence and consumption. Carter called on Americans to consume less, use less oil, and be prepared to sacrifice to get our cou
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Nicole
Feb 15, 2010 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nicole by: my father
Shelves: nonfiction
I learned some things about what has led to recent American military and foreign policy decisions, things that have been brewing for a lot longer than I ever realised. However, much of the book served to simply reinforce my already cynical suspicions about American society, the federal government, and "preventive war." I wish, though, that after Bacevich pointed out all that is wrong, he might've provided more concrete suggestions for how we can make things better.
Neibaur
This book could've been done 80 pages into it. While I found Bacevich's perspective interesting, I also found his writing repetitive, using 160+ pages to make the same point over and over again. My advice, read the first 80 or so pages and then the last 12 and you'll have a great sense of the author's point.
Paula
Aug 31, 2012 Paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely worth reading (or listening to audio version, as I did). I recommend the first and last CDs if you are not interested to listen to the entire book. The introduction and the conclusion offer a good analysis of the whole, our nation's problems and potential solutions in a nutshell. Bacevich refers often to the writings of American pastor, teacher, activist, theologian, and prolific author, Reinhold Niebuhr. The following excerpt is a perfect explanation of what our country/government/le ...more
Zach Cohen
Nov 17, 2010 Zach Cohen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Limits of Power is a fascinating deconstruction of the ideology that drives US political and military institutions. Though short, it's a very dense read, with a lot of hard hitting information packed into a relatively small amount of text.

Bacevich challenges the US self image of a freedom and peace loving country, always possessed of benign intentions, which constantly finds itself involved in conflicts created by 'evil' figures intent on denying us the peace we seek. Observating the religi
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Mark
Feb 15, 2012 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more, but I couldn't. The first half contains a great deal of moralization about America's wanting too much. But that is a function of economic policy and politics that applies to Greece as much as the US. Bacevich seems confused here. At one point he mentions plunging savings rates, but never mentions intentional monetary policies that have discouraged saving and encouraged debt. How these are related to war is unclear.

One probable link in Bacevich's mind is "energy i
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Nicholas
Oct 08, 2008 Nicholas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in national policy.
Recommended to Nicholas by: Bill Moyers
I saw Andrew Bacevich's interview with Bill Moyers on PBS last week and was impressed enough by his demeanor, verve, and intelligence to go out and buy the book off Amazon right away.

Andrew Bacevich is a conservative academic with a distinguished military career, who teaches International Affairs at Boston University. He is a real conservative, not one of those 'I worship triple the size of government, Ronald Reagan Conservatives.' From his writings I actually believe he thinks government should
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David
Aug 11, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bacevich argues that the impulses which have led America to wars that seem to have no exit and no deadline have come from within our country, from our own "domestic ambitions, urges and fears" (5). The problem is that we Americans expect the rest of the world to accommodate our way of life, a way of life rooted in consumption. We want "more"! This has led us to a point, as individuals and a country, when we are unable to live within our means. When a president (Carter) dared say we try to live w ...more
Gregory
Dec 23, 2009 Gregory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Bacevich's The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008) has been very widely reviewed (there was a good review in the NYT). I found it a thought-provoking jumble, a book that is perhaps most interesting for the discussions that can ensue from examining its virtues and shortcomings together.

The book's primary virtue is its hard-hitting examination of failure, combined with the utter refusal in the U.S. to accept failures as such. Americans want more and more, and are will
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Meg - A Bookish Affair
American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States is unique and different from other countries and should be an example for other places in the world. This idea has become something of legends through global politics. Andrew Bacevich points out that this idea of exceptionalism along with our expansionist history and the idea of wanting instant gratification have hurt our country (full disclosure: I tend to agree with him).

Bacevich runs through some American history (focusing mostly on
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Brandon Colligan
"The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism is an incredible novel". The simple but yet complex moral of the story is how corrupt and greedy our American society has become and how it has effected us in more ways than one. Bacevich tells how the moral fiber of our nation has collasped therefore having a spiraling collaspe of our other instituions.
There are no main characters but discuss many powerful individuals who he thinks contributed to the downfall of our country. He talks ab
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Charles Gonzalez
Aug 31, 2015 Charles Gonzalez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a retired US Army Colonel whose Army officer son was killed in Iraq and to whom the book is dedicated. Mr. Bacevich pulls no punches and very nearly screams with anger and frustration at the incoherent, dangerous and ultimately incompetent design and execution of American military actions since the end of WW II and especially post 9/11. His passion and searing anger made me think of Oriana Fallaci's post 9/11 anti-Muslim rants which captured her complete and utter detestation of th ...more
Julie
Apr 29, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There aren't enough stars for this rating. This book was amazing. It is the most clear-eyed view of what America has been up to since WWII that I have ever seen. It doesn't lay blame on one politician or the other, but on our entire system of consumption and entitlement and aggression. It doesn't say whether the glass is half empty or half full - it points out that the glass is the wrong size.

The author is a conservative, but he isn't blindly partisan, or even slightly partisan - he analyzes ve
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Karla
Dec 16, 2008 Karla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WHY I CHOSE THIS BOOK:
My dad sent it to me :-)

NOW THAT I'VE READ IT:
While by no means light reading, Bacevich's The Limits of Power offers a compelling and historical look at Americans' ever changing view of what is meant by life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In an almost refreshing way, Bacevich explains how the American public is responsible for the situations that face us today- namely the ongoing wars in the Middle East, our crippling dependency on foreign oil, and the credit crisi
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Lynne
I was more impressed with this book than I expected to be. Here's a sample quote from the book [pg 174:]:

"To hard-core nationalists and neoconservatives, the acceptance of limits suggests retrenchment or irreversible decline. In fact, the reverse is true. Acknowledging the limits of American power is a precondition for stanching the losses of recent decades and for preserving the hard-won gains of earlier generations going back to the founding of the Republic. To persist in pretending that the U
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Ed
Oct 24, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another must for Kate. An excellent book that really made me re-frame to whole of US national security policy and its deployment post 1945. He succeeds in connecting the weakness of the US economy with US foreign policy. Simply put rather than address the deep seated problems of the US economy, presidents especially since Reagan have built an imperial foreign policy designed to prop up a heavily imported oil addicted and foreign goods importing deficit economy. Reagan is exposed as the first of ...more
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The Limits of Power 4 30 Sep 04, 2009 12:59PM  
  • The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
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  • Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism
  • The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
  • The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
  • The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right
  • Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States
  • Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future
  • The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
  • The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril
  • Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America
  • Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream
  • Engaging the Muslim World
  • House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power
  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
  • Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power
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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 Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War and The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism and The New American Militarism. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York ...more
More about Andrew J. Bacevich...

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“Carter then proceeded to kill any chance he had of securing reelection. In American political discourse, fundamental threats are by definition external. Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, or international communism could threaten the United States. That very year, Iran’s Islamic revolutionaries had emerged to pose another such threat. That the actions of everyday Americans might pose a comparable threat amounted to rank heresy. Yet Carter now dared to suggest that the real danger to American democracy lay within.” 1 likes
“If one were to choose a single word to characterize that identity, it would have to be more. For the majority of contemporary Americans, the essence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness centers on a relentless personal quest to acquire, to consume, to indulge, and to shed whatever constraints might interfere with those endeavors. A bumper sticker, a sardonic motto, and a charge dating from the Age of Woodstock have recast the Jeffersonian trinity in modern vernacular: “Whoever dies with the most toys wins”; “Shop till you drop”; “If it feels good, do it.” 1 likes
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