Andrew Bacevich

Empire Weakens America


Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, discusses the negative net returns of U.S. expansionism from the 1960s onward, the establishment of a permanent national security apparatus that made non-interventionism impossible, the Carter Doctrine’s faulty premises and continued influence in Middle East policies and the current Pentagon reassessment of U.S. military limitations that may inhibit a troop surge in Afghanistan and force a more realistic political solution.

MP3 here. (42:03)

Andrew Bacevich is a Professor of International Relations at Boston University, Vietnam War veteran and author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, and The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II.

17 thoughts on “Andrew Bacevich”

  1. Hay guys,

    Your nameservers seem to be on the fritz.

    The IP address for is no longer returned by or

    (It is also bad practice to have out-of-bailiwick nameservers; the nameserver for should really be and but that is another problem)

  2. That was a ragged interview. Turn down the nicotine/caffeine Scott. Also less declarations-that-are-actually-questions. Bacevich seemed baffled by this.

    Otherwise found the amoral utilitarian attitude of Bacevich interesting. I did find his dodge of your “Do we really care who pumps the oil we buy?” argument disingenuous. “Well, that’s what the boys in DC thought.” Well okay, but what about you Bacevich?

  3. Scott, not your best performance. Bacevich is an adult and needn’t have been treated with kid gloves. You seemed either in awe or intimidated, and so were content to abstain from follow-ups to points on which you clearly differed from Professor Bacevich.

    Again, the guy’s an A+ thinker who libertarians like you and I have much agreement with, but also much disagreement with. You might have worked more diligently to bridge that gap.

  4. While I have respect for Bacevich’s views, I cannot agree with his position that our empire was basically a positive thing until the 1960s. How about the Spanish-American War? A couple hundred thousand dead Filipinos and the virtual annexation of Cuba yielded nothing beneficial to us.

    Our involvement in WWI is the greatest strategic disaster in our history, precipitating the monstrous Communist regime and the horrors of fascism, not to mention the onset of the Cold War and the seemingly permanent military-industrial complex.

    His economic views about controlling resources is also flawed. As Scott suggested, it is a fungible commodity. The Arabs gain nothing by leaving petroleum in the ground. To invade and occupy foreign countries to maintain access to these supplies has been a total debacle.

  5. There seems to be something wrong with your audio links. I was anxious to hear the interview with Andrew Bacevich, but I received an “error” in trying to open the link. The other interview links seem to be affected also. Hope you can get them restored. I enjoy Antiwar radio very much.

  6. Absolutely excellent, on the part of both the interviewer, Scott, and particularly Andrew.

    Key points I take away from this superb public discussion:

    1. Empire is the key issue (subsuming war, economics, political policy, citizen values, democracy, etc. etc.). [IE. “It’s the Empire, stupid” — not the economy, the war, or any of the hundred other distractive issues that EMPIRE CAUSES, and which are the distractions of political campaign charades]

    2. The perception of empire as serving the interest of citizens in the belly of the empire can, and is, subject to vast media and political-class manipulation, propaganda, and outright lies — which are determined almost entirely by those very very few who actually benefit from empire.

    3. The false claim of “existential threat” (as raised by Cheney, Netanyahu, and other con artists) appears at least as dangerous a ‘fear motivator’, as the false implication of ‘citizen benefits’ from empire is a ‘greed motivator’ in the false advertising and selling of empire itself.

    4. That the ‘selling of empire’, through the dual false claims of benefit/carrots, and fear/sticks, to the general population of any tribe, region, clan, race, religion, or country defines a wide arc of the history of deception by imperial ruling-elites — from witch-doctors and high priests, to tin-horn crackpots and fascist dictators, and from religious nuts to ideological zealots — all of whom are the primary, and perhaps only, beneficiaries of empires (and the wars and tyranny that they bring) throughout history.

    5. That Hannah Arendt was both prescient and profound in her warning that, “Empire abroad (always) entails tyranny at home.”

    6. That ‘hopefully’ the presentation of truths, rather than deceits, about the nature and terrible impact of empire on a people yearning to recapture the true benefits of their former self-governing democratic republic against a particularly guileful and pernicious modern empire within their own country will remember and learn the lessons of their own founding fathers regarding the revolution and excising of an earlier and more visible British Empire of indivisible political AND economic tyranny and oppression, at the very founding of their own country’s history.

    7. That such ‘facts’ about the devastating impact of this modern ruling-elite ‘corporate financial Empire’ in our midst, that has almost totally taken over our country, behind the facade of its two-party, ‘Vichy’ sham of democracy, will be openly presented to the American people and that they will clearly see that all the major issues/problems/sorrows of our current dilemma lead to one seminal disease — Empire.

    8. Finally, and again ‘hopefully’, that president-elect Obama has the vision and moral courage (which I knew, rather than hoped, that Ralph Nader had, when I worked and voted for him) to clearly articulate the name of our common threat as ‘Empire’, to confront and revolt against this deadly empire, and to lead the battle toward the re-establishment of our democratic republic.

    9. It was very encouraging to hear Bacevich and Scott discuss the issue of whether empire benefits average citizens —which it absolutely does NOT. For Americans today the clear facts of this can be presented in asking the classic campaign question, “are you better ff today?” I have strongly suggested in many places, including on Obama’s thingy, that the best answer to this question in our age of corporatist Empire is to educate the American people about the truth between the ruling-elite (who benefit from and protect the entrenched Empire) and the rest of us (who suffer the oppressions of empire) can be dramatically shown in the universal measure which all economists (and even our CIA) use to rank countries’ economic performance for their citizens. —- the GINI Coefficient of income inequality.

    On this simple scale a GINI index of 0 signifies a country in which income is totally and equally shared by the population, and a GINI index of 1 signifies a country where ONE PERSON claims all income in the country. The U.S. used to have a moderate GINI index, comparable to all our peer group advanced industrial democracies in Europe and Japan — which at the time was about 0.30. But today, with the ‘corporate financial Empire’ gaining almost total control of our country over the last three decades, the U.S. GINI index of income INequality has soared to 0.48 and is rising fast. This high inequality index between the ruling-elite of the empire and the average citizens is literally ‘off the charts’ with respect to all our supposed peer countries (since they are not disguised Empires). The average GINI indexes of Japan and the European democracies is now below 0.28, while the U.S. GINI index of 0.48 compares only with South American ‘banana republics’, Middle Eastern royal family oil monarchies, and African military dictatorships, like Robert Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe (which ranks only slightly higher than ours, at 0.53). In fact, our own CIA, in its country casebook, warns that “countries with a GINI over 0.45 are subject to ‘civil unrest’”. As Bush said of secretary Brown, “Heck of a job, Empire”!

    The American people, once given real facts, as opposed to political and MSM distortions, will have no difficulty in seeing, just like our founding fathers, that an Empire upon their land is not benefit to them. They are already starting to see that al of the agenda items on president –elect Obama’s agenda thingy, like foreign wars, economic oppression, lack of health care, domestic tyranny and spying, and loss of America’s standing in the world ALL lead like Roman roads to one signal, singular, and seminal pathology: the cancerous tumor of Empire upon our country.

    Let’s ‘hope’ that Obama starts using his vision and soaring rhetoric on January 20th tot start selling ‘truth about empire’ as well as just ‘hope’.

  7. Steve: Your comments are spot-on. When Bacevich refers to the concept of "freedom," I cannot take him seriously as a thinker on this — given the Framers' warnings about the inevitable effect of militarism and war and taxes and the death of freedom. Sadly, Bacevich's willingness to compromise principles to gain these ephemeral and totally fictitious "strategic advantages" came home to him in the worst way — even though he will probably never realize it. The death of his son is directly attributable to his willingness to give the war party the "rope" it enjoyed at the beginning. When it finally hung his son, his surprise cannot be taken seriously. I think he needs to examine himself down to the most basic of levels and reconstruct himself from there.

  8. What I find sadly lacking in conversations with Bacevich is his inability (and that of his interviewers) to realize that all of the “baby steps” toward empire that preceded the disastrous effects of empire that he admits have obtained since the 1960s — beginning with the empire’s beginnings in the late 19th century all made the later evil empire inevitable. Once you start down the road to empire and war profiteering, you can’t complain that it became evil later on. It only became more noticeable in its evil. Bacevich fails to understand the “lost opportunities” theory of economics — a kind of “broken window fallacy” on his part. In other words, what would have been our freedoms and our prosperity if we had not squandered both on the paths to war and empire. This was particularly embarrassing at the conference to which Scott made reference. The huge volume of “expert” speakers there — all of them — failed to address this point. There, in a room full of the so-called leading lights of the movement, not a one of them took Bacevich to task on this. Sad…sad…sad.

  9. Well, if my country ( the C.S.A. ) had been allowed to secede fm the USA perhaps it would have forced you self-righteous meddling Yankees to be a little inward-looking…just as it was no business of the U.S. who controls Iraq ( or whether it re-acquires Kuwait ) it was no business of yours who ran the C.S.A…or what our trade policy would be ( 0% tariffs which actually makes sense for a raw materials based economy ) or when all the slaves would be freed…( within one generation under a compensated system )….But you’ve been arrogant for too long to change.

  10. Even though Bacevich is highly respected and rightly so, I think his view is, despite his enlightened approach, the view of a member of the military. Only so can we understand how he says that the US was a positive force until the 60s. As a citizen of a country in the fringes of the Empire, the US was never a positive force.

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