“Arrogance and boldness belong to those that are accursed of God.”
—Saint Clement of Rome
After the end of the Cold War, reasonable people might have expected the United States to withdraw from her many foreign commitments and become a normal country again. Yet the opposite has happened. Rather than dissolve, NATO has expanded. Instead of settling back to enjoy a peace dividend, the United States has intervened militarily in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, and numerous other places. In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich investigates why the United States did not return in the 1990’s to what President Harding had called “normalcy.”
The first section of his book recalls Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy (2007), a condemnation of American hyperindividualism and rampant consumption as a source of personal dissatisfaction and as a threat to the environment. Bacevich goes a step further than McKibben by tying the American culture of consumption to an expansionist foreign policy.
The impulses that have landed us in a war of no exits and no deadlines come from within. Foreign policy has, for decades, provided an outward manifestation of American domestic ambitions, urges, and fears. In our own time, it has increasingly become an expression...