Bacevich examines price of US empire, foreign policy

Discussing the concept of the American “empire” and the current direction of the United States’ foreign policy, Andrew Bacevich, director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, gave a lecture last Wednesday entitled “War and American Empire” as one part of the series of Gaudino forums.

Bacevich focused mainly on the growth of American empire, which he termed “a problematic enterprise….that deserves critical scrutiny.”

He began by asking the audience in Wege Auditorium for a show of hands if they were uncomfortable with the current direction of U.S. foreign policy. After an overwhelming majority of people raised their hands, he went on to speak about his own concern with current policy, citing the looming war with Iraq, as well as the unresolved conflict in Afghanistan, the drug war in Colombia, the crisis in North Korea and the growing anti-Americanism around the world.

“I became concerned about the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the early 1990s,” Bacevich said, refuting the perception that there was a radical turn in American policy after President Bush came into office. His most recent book, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy, is therefore a history of American foreign policy from 1990 until the end of George W. Bush’s first year in office.

He pointed out that he does not consider it to be a policy book with suggestions for policy changes, but rather a “history, because my purpose is to tell a story, interpret a set of events, invite you to draw your own conclusions.”

Bacevich went on to outline the four-pillared framework of what he considers to be the American empire or “the American grand strategy.”

First, he identified the economic pillar, saying that “an open and integrated international order” has long been an American objective, since “the purpose of economic expansion is to make it possible to maintain the political order.” Said more succinctly, “abundance is linked to freedom.”

According to Bacevich, the second pillar, American global leadership, is political. He sees the U.S. as a dominant power in Europe, the western hemisphere and east Asia, one which is now concentrating on becoming the dominant power in a fourth critical area, the Persian Gulf.

The third pillar is security, or according to Bacevich: “American military supremacy maintained in perpetuity.” He maintains that “the great majority of people have come to expect American military supremacy as part of the natural order.” But he noted that military supremacy is not always equivalent to military strength.

The final pillar for Bacevich is “a belief in America’s mission as the vanguard in history” – an ideological concept.

After outlining all of his views, Bacevich took numerous questions from the audience. He noted that this was his first time at the College and as he began his talk, he jokingly referred to his experience as venturing “into the enemy’s camp” since he considers himself a conservative in relation to the College’s more liberal reputation.

On Thursday, Bacevich also spoke to students of Sociology 202, “Terrorism and National Security” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and sparked a discussion aboutmethods of bringing peace to the region.