Citizenship, Research

Who gave us the right

Some of my more darker-themed artworks were inspired by the sort of pessimistic malaise seen in some recent contemporary art shows, and the related idea of the end of the American Century. More than just a form of liberal cynicism or the fatigue of constant moral outrage, I’m much more interested in an intellectual inquiry into why Americans should be skeptical the direction of our country, especially as both presidential candidates envision the US being the leader of the world.

So I was intrigued by Andrew J. Bacevich’s interview on WHYY’s Fresh Air (Sept. 11, 2008).

Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and a retired Army colonel, discusses his new book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.

He argues that pragmatic realism has always been the core of American foreign policy, and current politicians would do well to remember that.

Bacevich is both a military man and a Boston University professor. He speaks candidly about how he didn’t develop a political consciousness until after he left the military. His position, now, though, is one that opposes the US’ continued Cold War-style military “strategy” to dramatically reshape the greater Middle East, and how the American public is confusing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan with the more sinister War on Terror—in which the role of this country is more like one that polices the world, rather than coexisting in it with others. He was also highly critical of the Legislative branch for giving up so much power to the Executive branch. And in one exchange that was a welcome validation of leftist values, when host Terri Gross pressed the professor on what the US should be doing, in addition to diplomacy, he mentioned increasing student exchanges and cultural exchanges to improve the perception of the US and work against our isolation from the world.


ADDENDUM (added 9/26/08):

Roger Cohen’s op-ed, “Palin’s American Exception” (, Sept. 25, 2008) is a great primer on why exceptionalism is a suspect position these days. Cohen proposes that behind Palin’s emphatic embrace of exceptionalism is an enraged response to the decline of American power. He promotes universalism instead of exceptionalism, interconnectedness instead of separateness, and realism not rage.


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