Retired Army officer and Boston University history professor Andrew Bacevich has a dual identity. Most obviously, he’s a semirenowned writer who commands bipartisan respect for speaking frank truths to an aloof political establishment. He critiques the military without slandering it, and he questions the wisdom of liberal culture without demeaning anyone. This generosity of spirit has given Bacevich access to media outlets across the ideological spectrum. He’s written for both the New Republic and the American Conservative. He’s also a small-c conservative Catholic whose name has been mentioned as a potential secretary of defense nominee in a Bernie Sanders administration, a suggestion Bacevich himself humbly brushed off with, “I doubt that. ... I’m 72 and have other things on my plate.”
But there’s another aspect to Bacevich’s public persona: He is our most insightful commentator on the American character. Past books, such as The New American Militarism and America’s War for the Greater Middle East, are simultaneously policy critiques and dissections of the failures of American culture more broadly. In this sense, Bacevich has more in common with the historian and critic Christopher Lasch than with other military commentators; his ambitions are merely concealed behind the approachability of his subject matter. And his latest book, The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory, is no exception.
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