Veteran Andrew Bacevich to Illuminate ‘An Age of Illusions’ in Interfaith Lecture


Andrew Bacevich believes the nation — and the world — is in the midst of a profound moral and political crisis.

“I’m going to argue that President Trump is not the cause of that crisis, but merely a symptom,” Bacevich said. Bacevich is an author, professor of history and professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, August 15 in the Hall of Philosophy, Bacevich will discuss societal issues in his lecture, “An Age of Illusions,” which is part of the Week Eight Interfaith Lecture Series, “The Power of Soft Power.”

“During the latter part of the Cold War, I was a serving military officer,” Bacevich said. “I vaguely imagined that if the Cold War ever ended, the U.S. would become a ‘normal nation,’ minding its own business. Just the reverse occurred. American ambitions grew, as did the U.S. willingness to use force, more often than not, with negative consequences. I’ve been trying to figure out why that happened.”

Part of the reason America didn’t end up as a “normal nation,” according to Bacevich, was because of lingering Cold War mentalities.

“The outcome of the East-West conflict persuaded American political and intellectual elites that the ‘end of history’ had arrived,” he said. “The American way defined the inevitable future to which all others would be obliged to adhere.”

Bacevich said that soft power and its relationship with foreign policy in the United States can be traced to the events surrounding the Cold War.

“For starters, (soft power from a foreign policy perspective) means recognizing the limitations of hard power,” he said. “A central theme of U.S. policy since the end of the Cold War has been the misuse of American military might. A crucial step toward an effective approach to policy is to recognize what military power can and cannot do.”

In 2009, Bacevich published The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, which immediately became a New York Times best-seller.

Part of the reason for his book’s popularity was due to acclaimed broadcast journalist Bill Moyers, according to Bacevich.

“A decade ago, he had me on his television show to discuss my book,” he said. “(Moyers’) interview with me made the book a success.”

Bacevich’s writing process for Limits of Power was to “get up early in the morning, take the dog out for a pee, make myself a cup of coffee and get to work.”

For his lecture today, Bacevich said he wants to encourage his audience to “look beyond Trump.”

“Americans were asked either to perpetuate the direction of American politics or to choose a radically different course,” he said. “Those who voted for Trump or who couldn’t be bothered to vote, in effect, rejected the status quo. Trump did not create the conditions that led so many Americans to act as they did. He merely exploited them.”

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The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.