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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism - Andrew J. Bacevich, Eric Conger This book takes a critical look at the USA's imperial self-perception of being the world's policeman. It's a role that cannot be sustained because of both economic and political reasons. It has led to a continuous state of war which will destroy the nation's moral integrity and eventually exhaust the economy.

The book goes back to WWII to describe the expansion of America's international interests and involvement. It ends up tearing apart the unrealistic expectations of the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. The book was published in 2008 and is thus becoming somewhat dated so I don't necessarily recommend the book at this time. However, I generally agree with the book's premise.

I was hoping that this book would take a long view of history and compare American imperial interests with the historical fates of other nations that have had imperial ambitions in the past and tried to defend their interests beyond their capacity to do so. Another book that did this was Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987) that examined the reasons for the fall of previous European imperial powers (Habsburg Spain, Netherlands, France, Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia), and showed how the projection of their military power became prohibitively expensive and consequently their strength was weakened or eclipsed. Unfortunately, Kennedy's book is dated and somewhat discredited because he made some predictions that didn't come true. But I believe there are lessons to be learned from history about the limits of power, and all indications are that the lessons have not been learned.