Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday morning something to chew on

Not by me nor about a book I have read. Still, it seems worth passing on the link.

Today at Daily Kos teacherken reviews "The Limits of Power: The end of American Exceptionalism by Andrew J. Bacevich, West Point Grad, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, and one of the most cogent critics of the nation in which we live."

Reinhold Niebuhr shaped Bacevich's perspective, as the author mentions at the beginning.
The United States today finds itself threatened by three interlocking crises. The first of these crises is economic and cultural, the second political, and the third is military. All three share this characteristic: they are of our own making. In assessing the predicament that results from these crises, The Limits of Power employs what might be called a Niebuhrean perspective. Writing decades ago, Reinhold Niebuhr anticipated that predicament with uncanny accuracy and astonishing prescience. As such, perhaps more than other figure in our recnet history, he may help us to discern a way out.
Here is the conclusion of Bacevich's book:
"The trustful acceptance of false solutions for our perplexing problems," Niebuhr wrote half a century ago, "adds a touch of pathos to the tragedy of our age." That judgment remains valid today. Adamantly insisting that it is unique among history's great powers, the United States seems likely to follow the well-worn path taken by others, blind to the perils that it courts through its own feckless behavior.

For all nations, Niebuhr once observed, "The desire to gain an immediate selfish advantage always imperils their ultimate interest. If they recognize this fact, they usually recognize it too late." Both parts of this dictum apply to the United States today - and in spades. To extend however slightly the here and now, Americans are increasingly inclined to write off the future. So they carry on, heedless of the consequences even for themselves, no less for their children or grandchildren.

Thus does the tragedy of our age move inexorably towards its conclusion. "To the end of history," our prophet once wrote, "social orders will probably destroy themselves in the effort to prove they are indestructible." Clinging doggedly to the conviction that the rules to which other nations must submit don't apply, Americans appear determined to affirm Niebuhr's axiom of willful self-destruction.

You can read teacherken's review here.
--the BB


johnieb said...

Bacevitch, as quoted in the link and on Rachel Maddow's show Friday, says nothing that is inconsistent with the conventional wisdom of the History of U S Foreign Relations over the past forty years.

The more interesting question to me is why anything Bacevitch is saying should be news to anyone who claims to be informed about the subject, whether scholar, pundit, or public official. The short answer is, of course, "sin".

A friend of mine joked during the
'96 elections that the trouble with Republicans was they didn't really believe sin as an experential fact. Another very astute friend, when I asked him what he was currently reading in the Summer of '06, replied *Immoral Man and Moral Society* I take some comfort in reading the President-Elect has been influenced by his reading of Reinhold Niebuhr.

It is always too late to control the outcome, but it is always time to repent and make the effort.

"Spare Thou those who confess their faults." eh?

Paul said...

While my understanding of sin has shifted considerably from what I was raised to believe about it, I am a firm believer in sin (how can one not be?). We do need to take it very seriously.

Always time to repent and make the effort - well put, my friend.