I'm not calling Andrew Bacevich's The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism* a best book of 2008. I'm not saying it's a book you have to read. What I am saying is that you should buy it and give it to anyone who thought Ronald Reagan was a good president and a decent man:
"Reagan reiterated an oft-made promise 'to check and reverse the growth of government.'
He would do none of these things. In each case, in fact, he did just the reverse. During the Carter years, the federal deficit had averaged $54.5 billion annually. During the Reagan era, deficits skyrocketed, averaging $210.6 billion over the course of Reagan's two terms in office. Overall federal spending nearly doubled, from $590.9 billion over the course of Reagan's two terms in office." (p. 39.)
In all fairness, Bacevich has some shocking things to say about all the presidents since Kennedy; his thumbnail history of America in the 20th century in the first fifty pages alone makes this book a worthwhile purchase. He is also a succinct writer,** with what seems to me a keen grasp of the obvious:
"Long accustomed to thinking of the United States as a superpower, Americans have yet to realize that they have forfeited command of their own destiny. The reciprocal relationship between expansionism, abundance, and freedom--each reinforcing the other--no longer exists. If anything, the reverse is true: Expansionism squanders American wealth and power, while putting freedom at risk...Rather than confronting this reality head-on, American grand strategy since the era of Ronald Reagan, and especially throughout the era of George W. Bush, has been characterized by attempts to wish reality away." (p. 66.)
Oh, boy. Happy new year, everyone.
*I couldn't quite make it through 2008 without reading another political book.
**Bacevich is also a retired army colonel, and has had a son killed in the Iraq War. So any Republicans who don't think he knows what he's talking about as far as the military is concerned can just shove it.