Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reading Bacevich

I've been reading Andrew Bacevich's The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. As I come across excerpts of note, I'll post them here.
"By the end of World War II, the [US] possessed nearly two-thirds of the world's gold reserves and more than half it's entire manufacturing capacity. In 1947, the United States by itself accounted for one-third of the world's exports. Its foreign trade balance was comfortably in the black. As measured by value, its exports more than doubled its imports. The dollar had displaced the British pound sterling as the global reserve currency, with the Bretton Woods system, the international monetary regime created in 1944, making the United States the world's money manager. The country was, of course, a net creditor. Among the world's producers of oil, steel, airplanes, automobiles, and electronics, it ranked first in each category. "Economically," wrote historian Paul Kennedy, "the world was its oyster." And that was only the beginning. Militarily, the United States possessed unquestioned naval air supremacy, underscored until August 1949 by an absolute nuclear monopoly, affirmed thereafter by a permanent and indisputable edge in military technology. The nation's immediate neighbors were weak an posed no threats. Its adversaries were far away and possessed limited reach."
It's obvious that the United States reached that high point only after the near-decimation of Western Europe, Russia, and Japan, but the question still stands, How, with all of that wealth and power and good will, did we get to our present crisis?

It's notable that, of that long list, the only things the US has maintained is its military power and high-standard of living, but the last several weeks and the last 7 years, have seen both of these unravel. Bacevich is making the case that simple, short-sighted greed, driven by an idiotic energy policy and access to easy credit have lowered us to where we are now.