The Age of Illusions

Soldier and citizen, Andrew Bacevich is the overqualified expert who turns the standard take on our distress inside out. It’s not President Trump that divides us, Bacevich says. Rather, Trump got to be president because the country was worse than split: it’s in a 30-year slow-burn rage around a loss of our restraint, our reputation, our identity. Donald Trump is the loathsome cover on our confusion, he says, but the confusion comes out of Clinton, Bush, and Obama time, in the arrogance of military might, unleashed by a Cold War victory, as if we were licensed to rule the world.  The reckoning Bacevich wants, with Trump or without, is about what three reckless decades have cost us abroad and at home.

Andrew Bacevich with Chris Lydon.

Young Andrew Bacevich felt a vocation to be a soldier, left home in Normal, Illinois, for West Point and battle, in Vietnam, then the first Gulf War. He’s rueful now about American wars in his long lifetime, and he is answering a second vocation to write what he’s learned about misplaced faith in force, and where it has taken his country.  His eighth book on military and foreign policy, just out, is titled The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory. When we got a chance to talk about it in the Cambridge Forum, the usual book and author interview sounded at moments like two old Catholic altar boys lapsing in their seventies into musing: what became of the USA that was the toast of the world in their boyhood after World War II? 

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Andrew Bacevich

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