[Springboard] Andrew Bachevich's "The Limits to Power"

R Williams rcwmbw at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 28 08:28:09 EDT 2008

I am grateful to Jack Gilles for calling to our attention Bill Moyer's interview with Andrew Bachevich.  I read the transcript and agree with Jack, it is absolutely essential reading.  I can't wait to get his book The Limits to Power.
I share these thoughts which came to mind as I read.  Maybe former senator Phil Gramm was right.  We Americans have become a nation of whiners, complaining that the rest of the world will not do their part to see that we get what we want and have convinced ourselves we deserve.  Democratic capitalism with its radical overemphasis on the individual has run its course.  The solution is not the opposite extreme of socialism but a middle ground that holds the tension between individualism and collectivism.  In the interview Bachevich says, "The (U.S) congress no longer is able to articulate a vision of what is the common good."  (My emphasis.)  There are articulations of what is meant by "the common good" that state in other ways that "all the earth belongs to all the people" as we once poetically said it.
Bacevich identifies the "imperial presidency," and the fact that congress has allowed it, as a basic contradiction.  It's not just an imperial presidency, but imperial CEOs (hence the financial crisis), imperial supervisors, imperialism in virtually all leadership roles.  Imperialism has become the dominant paradigm for effective leadership in America--the leader articulates the vision and develops the strategic plan for achieving it, while directing us to be obedient.  The problem is, we the people go along.  As a nation we require leaders who will think for us and act for us.  The messiah we await is one who can think and act in a way that will fulfill our wants, which Bacevich identifies as "this continuing flow of very cheap consumer goods"..
Jack is right.  Obama is not the messiah we await (who is not coming), but his insight that "we are the ones we've been waiting for" may be key.  "The change that is needed" is a participatory democracy that makes it incumbent upon every citizen to work for the common good, not only of the US, but of the planet for now and future generations, which is really the only "common" good there is.  It is my hope that as a nation we Americans will take the look in the mirror that Bacevich suggests.  Maybe the most important thing the new American president, or any leader, can do is to call us to that confrontation with ourselves.
Randy Williams

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