R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT

Speaking truth to power
17.July.2008, 2.31 pm
Filed under: politics | Tags: , , ,

American Conservative’s Andrew Bacevich testified before a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations yesterday, and reviewing his prepared remarks I find absolutely nothing to disagree with, and everything to shout “Amen!” to. And while I generally voice some sort of opinion on the stuff I post, I’m just going to let him speak for himself, and I beg you read this carefully, and think on it, and when you find yourself nodding your head as I am, send it along to your friends and family, no matter their political preferences. The full speech is here.

Here is my bottom line: the strategic imperative that we confront in our time demands first of all that we put our own house in order. Fixing our own problems should take precedence over fixing the world’s problems.

The past decade has seen a substantial erosion of U. S. power and influence. This has occurred in part as a result of ill-advised and recklessly implemented policy decisions, the Iraq War not least among them. Yet it has also occurred because of our collective unwillingness to confront serious and persistent domestic dysfunction.

The chief expression of this dysfunction takes the form of debt and dependency. In the not so very distant future these may well pose as great a danger to our well-being as violent Islamic radicalism or a China intent on staking its claim to the status of great power…

Once the world’s number one producer of oil, the United States today possesses a paltry 4% of known global oil reserves while Americans consume one out of every four barrels of worldwide oil production… The costs of sustaining that addiction are also rising. Since 9/11, the price of oil per barrel has quadrupled. The nation’s annual oil “bill” now tops $700 billion, much of that wealth helping to sustain corrupt and repressive regimes, some of it subsequently diverted to support Islamic radicals who plot against us.

Since the 1970s, Americans have talked endlessly of the need to address this problem. Talk has not produced effective action…Surely, this is a matter that future historians will find baffling: how a great power could recognize the danger posed by energy dependence and then do so little to avert that danger…

To imagine that a reliance on military power can reverse these trends toward ever increasing debt and dependency would be the height of folly. This is the central lesson that we should take away from period since September 11, 2001.

Shortly after 9/11 then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld framed the strategic problem facing the United States this way. “We have a choice,” he said, “either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way that they live; and we chose the latter.”

What we have learned since then is that the United States does not possess the capacity to change the way they live, whether “they” are the people of the Middle East or the entire Islamic world. To persist in seeing U. S. grand strategy as a project aimed at changing the way they live will be to court bankruptcy and exhaustion.

In fact, the choice facing the United States is this one: we can ignore the imperative to change the way we live, in which case we will drown in an ocean of red ink; or we can choose to mend our ways, curbing our profligate inclinations, regaining our freedom of action, and thereby preserving all that we value most.


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I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

Tim Ramsey

Comment by Tim Ramsey

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