Susan Modares of Press TV’s excellent Autograph interviews Andrew J. Bacevich, one of PULSE’s top 10 global thinkers of 2010.
Americans mostly tend to divide their history into presidential terms. Thus, they think there are great differences between the presidents. Many, however, believe there is a national security policy consensus which continues through all presidencies without any change. The same issue is discussed with author and Boston University Prof. Andrew J. Bacevich in this edition of The Autograph.
In response to the curious choices in Foreign Policy magazine’s ’Top 100 Global Thinkers’ list last year, we decided to publish our own. In 2010, Foreign Policy‘s selections were even more abysmal: among others it included Robert Gates, Ben Bernanke, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, Thomas Friedman, Ahmed Rashid, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bjorn Lomborg, Richard Clarke, Madeleine Albright, Salam Fayyad…and John Bolton! Would anyone outside FP’s editorial board confuse them for a thinker? Once again, it appears FP chose based on the alignment of an individual’s work with the global military and economic agenda of the US government. We therefore asked our writers and editors to nominate once again their own top 10 global thinkers. The following list was the result. (Also see our Top 10 Media Figures of 2010)
A towering intellect, a moral giant, a master of prose, and an outstanding historian, Tony Judt did what only the greatest of thinkers do: he constantly evolved. More significantly, he never succumbed to orthodoxies, he was always on the edge. In his later years, he also outgrew his middle-of-the-road liberalism to adopt principled, at times radical, positions on war and capitalism. He also jettisoned his youthful Zionism to emerge as the proponent of a single binational state in Palestine. In 2006 he was the only mainstream figure to come to the defence of Mearsheimer & Walt for their groundbreaking London Review essay. He later excoriated Israel as the ‘country that wouldn’t grow up.’ He was also the author of Postwar, an elegant and expansive history of Europe since 1945. We mourn his loss.
An exemplary scholar, Chalmers Johnson metamorphosed from a hardline Cold Warrior into one of the most formidable critics of US militarism, mapping America’s expanding imperium of bases and spotlighting the fraying edges of its republic. His 2000 book Blowback was as prophetic as his subsequent books The Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis were prescient. His longtime JPRI associate Steve Clemons has described him as the ‘acknowledged godfather of the conceptualization of the “developmental state“’ and as ‘an apostate and heretic in the field of political economy’ in the neoliberal hive at the University of Chicago. Johnson was also a literary critic, a skill he deftly used in his later writings to show how the imperial imagination was reflected in the language of metropolitan literature. His departure has greatly impoverished the intellectual world.
by Chase Madar
Of all the received ideas that clog America’s foreign-policy discourse, none is more at variance with reality than the threat of isolationism. We have never been more engaged with every corner of the world, yet we have never been lectured more often about the consequences of “retreating within our borders.” The more countries we attack—Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen—the more dire warnings we get about national introversion. The specter of isolationism has never looked healthier.
A case in point was George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, a venue he used to tell a spine-chilling tale. With his foreign policy exploding all around him, Bush warned against an even more disastrous alternative: there were those who would “tie our hands” and have us “retreat within our borders.” From the tenor of his talk, he seemed to think that Americans were about to burn down both the Pentagon and Department of State, beat defense intellectuals into postal workers, and force every house in the land to set up a little steel foundry in the back yard—just like in the Great Leap Forward—while learning to live on grubs and wild mountain honey.
Of course, this is absurd: as many pointed out in response to this scaremongering, there are no isolationists in America—not in either political party, not in the media, and not in the academy. (The i-word is often used as a synonym for unilateralism. Here I am assigning only its most common meaning: a tendency to ignore security threats beyond territorial borders and disengage diplomatically, politically, and economically from the rest of the world.) Nevertheless, the menace of a return to geopolitical autarky is carted out whenever our sclerotically narrow foreign-policy consensus gets an unwelcome jolt. This habit of mind did not end with the exit of George W. Bush.