A Tantalizing Preface

Sat, 06 Sep 2008 13:27:44 +0000

Following up on a tip by the indispensable Minnesota Mom, the next book on my reading list is The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War by Andrew J. Bacevich. If this excerpt from the preface is any guide, it should be on yours, too:

Today, I still situate myself culturally on the right. And I continue to view the remedies proffered by mainstream liberalism with skepticism. But my disenchantment with what passes for mainstream conservatism, embodied in the present Bush administration and its groupies, is just about absolute. Fiscal irresponsibility, a buccaneering foreign policy, a disregard for the Constitution, the barest lip service as a response to profound moral controversies: these do not qualify as authentically conservative values.


On this score my views have come to coincide with the critique long offered by the radical left: it is the mainstream itself, the professional liberals as well as the professional conservatives, who define the problem. Two parties monopolize and, as if by prior agreement, trivialize national politics. Each panders to the worst instincts of its core constituents. Each is seemingly obsessed with power for its own sake. The historian Walter Karp's acerbic assessment of early twentieth-century politics strikes me as equally applicable to the early twenty-first century: "Behind the hoopla of partisanship, the leaders of the two parties worked together in collusive harmony." The Republican and Democratic parties may not be identical, but they produce nearly identical results. Money buys access and influence, the rich and famous get served, and those lacking wealth or celebrity status get screwed--truths not at all unrelated to the rise of militarism in America.

I have no doubt that the world of politics is not without men and women of honor. But the system itself is fundamentally corrupt and functions in ways inconsistent with the spirit of genuine democracy. This anyone with eyes to see recognizes.

I'm going to read the whole thing, and then his new The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.