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Hullabaloo


Monday, June 23, 2014

 
Moyers and Bacevich talk American "exceptionalism" (and more)

by digby

Bill Moyers had a fascinating conversation with Andrew Bacevich over the week-end to which you really should listen if you care about what seems to be a rapidly escalating Iraq problem. Bacevich doesn't mince words --- words that Americans don't want to hear but need to:



“We have been engaged in the Islamic world at least since 1980, in a military project based on the assumption that the adroit use of American hard power can somehow pacify or fix this part of the world. We can now examine more than three decades of this effort.

Let’s look at what U.S. military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved, in Somalia has achieved, in Lebanon has achieved, in Libya has achieved. I mean, ask ourselves the very simple question. Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic? Are we alleviating, reducing the prevalence of anti-Americanism?”
In the extended interview, they go more deeply into an area I think is vastly important for us to start thinking about. WWII was a long time ago:


BILL MOYERS: How can one hold to the notion of exceptionalism when America performs so miserably in Vietnam and Iraq? Failed in those two wars fought within 30--

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, the, I mean, the belief in American exceptionalism is accompanied by a very specific, historical narrative. I mean, a story of contemporary history to which we swear fealty or give our allegiance. And that's the story which is centered on World War II. And centered on a very specific interpretation of World War II as a fight of good against evil, in which the United States liberated Western Europe and overthrew Nazi Germany. Now, that story's not wrong. It's just radically incomplete.

And the preoccupation with World War II, particularly the European war, then makes it possible to gloss over much of what followed World War II, during the Cold War, those episodes like overthrowing governments that we didn't like, befriending autocrats and corrupt dictators around the world making monumental mistakes such as the Vietnam War.

BILL MOYERS: What's the conclusion you draw from that reading of history?

ANDREW BACEVICH: My reading is that there are no simple, moral lessons to be drawn. My reading is one in which yes, of course, there is evil in the world that needs to be taken into account. And some time must be confronted. But my reading would be, let's not kid ourselves in somehow imagining that the United States represents all that is good and virtuous, we, ourselves, have committed many sins. And we ought to be cognizant of those sins before we go pronouncing about how the world ought to be run.

Are we allowed to say that?

Take the time to watch this today if you possibly can. Bacevich is an extremely well informed critic with an original take on these issues. And right now, we need some solid analysis --- the media excitement at the prospect of a new "terrorist threat"  and the comfort of being thrown into another military engagement in the familiar territory of Iraq has them very obviously stimulated. You're not going to get much out of watching the usual cable news scream fest (if you ever do.)

This is important. I suspect we are in some danger of this "mission" hurtling out of control more quickly than we might realize...


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