09/18/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The End of American Exceptionalism: Bacevich on Moyers

Sometimes there is an interview, an interviewee, and an interviewer that brings it all so tightly into focus. This is one of those moments. Bill Moyers -- who I've celebrated on this site before -- caught up with Boston University Professor of International Relations Andrew J. Bacevich, on a recent broadcast of Bill Moyers Journal.

I won't spend too much time dissecting Bacevich's eloquent and brilliant critique of American foreign policy, all of which is found in his book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. I just implore you to at least do what I did and watch the two-part interview.

Before any right or left knee-jerking ensues, note that Bacevich takes both political camps to task (questioning whether either Obama or McCain, for example, will bring substantive change to America's geopolitical center of gravity. The short answer: No). And he has a stinging indictment of the self-serving Democratic leadership of Pelosi and Reid. He asks all Americans to take a look at themselves, from support of the troops (beyond flag pins) to energy conservation. He draws clear lines of accountability from the general public directly to the halls of power. Bacevich never let's you easily and conveniently point the finger at rogue political leaders, showing them as part of the continuum that includes the American citizen.

And, offered up almost reluctantly, you learn of Bacevich's real life tragedy: the loss of his son, a soldier in Iraq, in 2007. He then reminds us of, and without a hint of condemnation, the obscenity of America sending troops on their third and fourth Mideast deployment while we at home merely "chill out."

Lastly, if you needed a more resounding assurance of what public television does right, this is it. And I doubt you could easily find a more studied and restrained agent of the socio-political introspection we desperately need.