BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company.

Is Iran a direct threat to America?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Oh no. Whatever threat Iran poses is very, very limited. And certainly does not constitute any kind of a justification for yet another experiment with preventive war.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Sometimes seems as if it were only a bad dream vaguely remembered from last night's restless sleep, but it was actually nine years ago this month that Iraq's capital of Baghdad erupted in 'shock and awe' and the American invasion began of a country that had not attacked us. When the last combat troops pulled out this past December, what one neo-conservative advocate of the invasion had predicted would be a "cakewalk," had killed well over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians, cost nearly 4500 American soldiers their lives, maimed many others, and incurred costs that could reach more than 3 trillion dollars before the last invoice comes due.

And we never did find those weapons of mass destruction.

Yet here we are, nine years later, and once again the drumbeat sounds for war in the Middle East. This time the bull’s eye is Iran, and many of the bloodthirsty cries come from the same lusty throats that agitated a decade ago for invading Iraq. Now the neo-con armchair warriors call for hitting Iran before it builds a nuclear bomb to drop on Israel – a scenario that remains in doubt.

Add to this potential nightmare Afghanistan, where the U.S. is still fighting more than ten years later, and where events just go from bad to worse. At times like these I turn to someone whose grounded realism makes him my favorite go-to person for separating fact and reason from fear and fantasy. You've seen Andrew Bacevich at this table before. A West Point Graduate and Vietnam veteran, he retired from the army after 23 years and is now an esteemed professor of history and international relations at Boston University and a frequent contributor to publications both left and right. His book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism became a bestseller. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War was a tough-minded critique of our bloated and costly national security complex. He's the editor of this new book of essays: The Short American Century: A Postmortem, recently released by Harvard University Press. Andrew Bacevich, welcome back.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Thanks very much for having me.

BILL MOYERS: The headlines from Afghanistan get uglier and uglier every day. The rampage of that soldier, the burning of the Koran, Marines urinating on corpses, NATO helicopters firing into and killing civilians, the corruption, and vast sums of corruption and the money that's passing through Kabul. Do you see these as isolated episodes, or a pattern that is undermining the mission and making success impossible?

ANDREW BACEVICH: I don't know that there's a pattern in the sense that one incident is related to another in any way. But cumulatively the effect is to make mission success all the more remote. And ought to, I think, cause us to ask whether the game is worth the candle. Where is this thing headed? Now, I think there's a general acknowledgement that in the very best case, the Afghanistan war is not going to end in anything that resembles what we once might have called a victory.

The best case is that we're going to be able to extricate ourselves. Ourselves, we and our NATO allies, without the place immediately falling into chaos.

BILL MOYERS: At what point will it be evident that the relations between the United States and the Afghan people are so poisoned that they’ll want us out?

ANDREW BACEVICH: I think it's where we are. I think it's where we were a couple months ago. I'm struck by the comments of Karzai, President Karzai of Afghanistan, who is pretty clear I think, that it's time for us to get out. His estimation of the ability of Afghan forces to assume responsibility for security in the countryside may or may not be correct. But he is the leader of a nation state that we say is sovereign, and it seems to me that we should take seriously his argument that it's time for us to leave.

BILL MOYERS: The British had to get out, the Russians had to get out, what can we learn from their experience as they left?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, what we ought to have learned is that it's folly to imagine that you can use a foreign army to determine the fate of Afghanistan. We are replicating their experience in tragic ways.

BILL MOYERS: Is a gradual withdrawal still possible? Could it be successful?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, it would have to be gradual in the sense that we have an enormous quantity of forces there, enormous amounts of equipment. And I think that actually that's the-- that should be the business of the commander. I mean--

BILL MOYERS: On the ground, the commander on the ground?

ANDREW BACEVICH: General Allen. Were I the commander in chief I would call General Allen on the phone and say “You know, you know what your job is now? Your job is to expeditiously but responsibly withdraw U.S. Forces from Afghanistan. Please call me back in two weeks and tell me what your plan is to make that happen.” And I would respect his plan, a plan of a military professional, as to how long that would take. And it would take some considerable number of months. Not years, months.

BILL MOYERS: Suppose you're not the commander in chief here, but you are the commander in chief of the Taliban, and you hear that the President of the United States has called his ground commander and said, “Find a way to get out.” What do you then? Do you just sit back and wait until that happens?

ANDREW BACEVICH: You do. You bide your time. I mean, they have a political agenda. And I have no doubt that they aspire to regain political control of that country. I also think that the future of Afghanistan is something for Afghans to sort out on their own.

BILL MOYERS: Then what will have all of our soldiers died for there?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, that is a very difficult question. It's a difficult question, I think about, in the context of Iraq. And I think the answer to the question is that they died for their country. Soldiers don't get to choose the wars that they fight. They are sent to serve. They are sent with an understanding that they may be called upon to sacrifice. And the value of the sacrifice is inherent in the act of sacrifice and is independent, I think, of questions about the merit of the policies that sent the soldier into harm's way in the first place.

BILL MOYERS: Is there a Plan B as you look at the strategic situation there, or look at what the administration is doing?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think Plan B, and it's not necessarily one that I fully agree with, is already taking shape. Or maybe we should call it Plan C. I mean, Plan A was “shock and awe.” Plan A was the George W. Bush administration's belief that the concerted application of American military power could fundamentally transform the Islamic world.

That what really-- that's the real genesis of the Iraq War. Iraq was going to be the place where the Bush administration demonstrated our capacity to fundamentally change countries in the Islamic world. It didn't work. And we ended up by 2004, 2005, with an insurgency that we could not control. That's when Plan B followed. Plan B following the 2006 elections, was the notion that even if we can't liberate the greater Middle East and democratize it, perhaps we can at least control it and we can control it by adopting counterinsurgency tactics.


ANDREW BACEVICH: Petraeus, period. The surge in Iraq. Which some people think succeeded. It did certainly succeeded to a degree in Iraq by reducing the level of violence. And Plan B by 2009, with President Obama now having succeeded George W. Bush, Plan B then was applied to Afghanistan during the McChrystal era.

The notion that “comprehensive counterinsurgency,” that was the phrase that General McChrystal used, that “comprehensive counterinsurgency” could pacify Afghanistan. Could replicate in Afghanistan the achievements supposedly made by Petraeus in Iraq. But that didn't work. Matter of fact, McChrystal himself flamed out. Petraeus came back for a second effort at applying counterinsurgency, and achieved only limited success.

BILL MOYERS: Why don't--

ANDREW BACEVICH: I don't think anybody today thinks that counterinsurgency is going to pacify Afghanistan.

BILL MOYERS: Why didn't it work?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Again, one would refer to Afghan history here, that this is simply not a place that accommodates foreign invaders who think they know how to run the place better than the local population. But what I would want to emphasize, I think, is that by last year, I think Obama himself had given up on the notion that counterinsurgency provided a basis for U.S. strategy and had, indeed, begun to implement Plan C. And Plan C is targeted assassination.

Plan C is relying on drones, unmanned aerial vehicles with missiles, and also commandos, special operation forces, in order to conduct military operations, in essence on a global basis, identifying those who could pose a threat to us. And without regard to congressional authority, without regard to considerations of national sovereignty, to go kill the people we think need to be killed. Plan C is already being implemented.

BILL MOYERS: Most people seem to accept it as an alternative to failure in Afghanistan, and as a way of keeping American soldiers out of harm's way.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, and also they accept it because of course, it doesn't cost us anything. We are not, the people are not engaged in any serious way. The people are not asked to sacrifice. The people are asked only to applaud when we are told after the fact that an attack has succeeded. For example, the raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

And I would applaud, and do applaud, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But I also have this question to ask. And that is, what is the political objective of a strategy of targeted assassination? How many people do we think we're going to kill? How long are we going to kill people in Yemen or in Somalia or in Pakistan before we get to some point where we can say, “Yes, now our political purposes have been achieved, and therefore the war can end, that Plan C will have run its course?” And my fear is that we'll never, we'll never run out of targets. And that describes where we are.

BILL MOYERS: That's Option C, right?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Option C is where we are. And I think that the reason-- but the reason Option-- we should critically scrutinize Option C is that permanent, open-ended war cannot be good for the country. Permanent, open-ended war, in essence, is an abdication of strategic thought. Are we so unimaginative, are we so wedded to the reliance on military means, that we cannot conceive of any way to reconcile our differences with groups, nations, in the Islamic world, and therefore bring this conflict to an end? And there may be some people who would answer, “No, there is no way.” Well, I-- woe betide our nation, if indeed there is no alternative but endless war.

BILL MOYERS: But being a realist, as you are, I'm confident that you think as I do that somewhere, even as we speak, there are terrorists plotting how they can inflict harm on the United States.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Let me emphasize. There is some value, there is some utility in Plan C. That there are people out there who are plotting. Whose minds cannot be changed. And we do need to identify them and do whatever is necessary to ensure that they cannot harm us. But, those groups, those individuals exist within a milieu, a political context, a culture.

And it seems to me that the strategic imperative is to understand that milieu, to understand the grievances that ultimately gave rise to this animosity expressing itself in terrorist activity. And as a realist, and somebody who's not given to optimism, it seems to me that there are indications that we can engage or have some hope in positive change.

And here I'm alluding to the Arab Spring. Now, there are some neoconservatives who believe that somehow we are responsible for the Arab Spring, that the Arab Spring is a natural outgrowth of the Iraq War and the George Bush Freedom Agenda. That's nonsense. The origins of the Arab Spring come from within Arab nations.

They will determine where the Arab Spring leads and where it leads in Egypt is going to be probably different than where it leads in Libya, and where it leads in Tunisia. But, the Arab Spring, it seems to me, does demonstrate a determination on the part of people in the Arab world, and a capacity on the part of people in the Arab world to exercise their right to self-determination.

They are not content to live in the world as they've been condemned to live throughout the period of European imperialism followed by American imperialism. So change is afoot. And there's at least some possibility that that change may make possible some reconciliation between ourselves and them.

I think the harder, deeper problem is the retarded development of nations in the Arab world. Meaning that the people have been denied opportunity. They've been denied opportunities to exercise freedom. But I think that we have to concede that an element of that harder, deeper problem is the West's involvement and presence in the Arab world, or more broadly, the Islamic world.

That presence, those activities, have never been motivated by British concern, French concern, or American concern, about the well-being of the people who live there. That presence has been motivated by imperial ambition, by desire to have access to oil, by geopolitical calculations relative to the Soviet Union back in Cold War days.

We have made it harder. We have made it deeper. And I think the beginning of wisdom, in terms of finding a way out, is to acknowledge that we have contributed to the difficulties we face.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think there is a growing awareness and perception of that reality? Because after 9/11, when some people said, “Well, it's blowback, it's a consequence of our policies in that part of the world for so long.” They were practically drawn and quartered.

ANDREW BACEVICH: I think the historical record is actually-- is unambiguous. The problem is that prior to 9/11, we were largely ignorant of the historical record. We have been a prisoner of a particular narrative of the 20th century that has focused on a series of events, World War I, followed by World War II, followed by the Cold War. In that narrative, the Islamic world has never been anywhere except on the periphery.

Let's take the case of the Suez Crisis of 1956. When I was a kid growing up, 1956 was the year of the Hungarian Revolution. Because when I was a kid growing up, my perspective was very much shaped by events of the Cold War.

And Hungarians, freedom fighters, rising up against their Soviet occupiers was a big deal. Well, it was a big deal. Well just about at exactly the same moment in 1956, there was another very important episode that I paid very little attention to, called the Suez Crisis. What was the Suez Crisis all about? Well what the Suez Crisis was all about is Colonel Nasser, the dictator of Egypt nationalizing the Suez Canal.

That is to say, claiming for Egypt control of this crucial asset on Egyptian soil. And in consequence of that, Great Britain, the imperial power that had controlled Egypt for decades, and France, another European imperial power with interest in North Africa, and Israel, conspiring to concoct a cockamamie war intended to reclaim control of the Suez Canal, supposedly on behalf of the international community, but really aimed to overthrow Nasser, thereby restoring British imperial control of Egypt.

Well, that didn't work out too well. But as an episode indicative of the true nature of the interaction between the West and the Arab world, I think that speaks volumes. And I would bet that if we walked outside this studio and asked a hundred of our fellow citizens, “Tell me about the Suez Crisis,” probably two out of a hundred would be able to identify it.

If we walked down the street in Cairo and said, asked, a hundred Egyptians, “Tell me about the Suez Crisis,” I'll bet you a hundred out of a hundred could identify it. So one of the things that I do believe that is happening at least on college campuses, and this could be a leading indicator of shifting consciousness more broadly-- what's happening on college campuses is greater awareness of sensitivity to, even empathy for, that story in which the Suez Crisis forms one episode.

BILL MOYERS: Let me go back to when we were talking about Option C and withdrawal from Afghanistan and the administration's position. Part of what I hear you saying, confirming what the administration has more or less made clear, that part of the strategy of Option C is to reserve the right to attack anyone who it determines poses a direct threat to American national security, anywhere in the world. So my question to you is, is Iran a direct threat to America?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Oh no. You know, I have a friend who sent me an email, this is six months ago, roughly my age, and he said he never imagined that he would live in a world in which the biggest threat to the United States of America was Iran. I mean, threats used to be powers that somehow more or less were our equivalent. Countries that had big armies. Countries that possessed empires. Countries that had thousands of nuclear weapons. Countries that possessed the ability to destroy us in a heartbeat.

Well, Iran can't do any of those things. Iran doesn't possess any of those things. So whatever threat Iran poses is very, very limited. And certainly does not constitute any kind of a justification for yet another experiment with preventive war.

BILL MOYERS: But suppose that Iran develops the capacity and builds an atomic bomb. Does that change their equation if you put a big stick in the hand of a small boy, is he more of a threat than he had been before?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Don't think so. General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, three or four weeks ago, made a comment, that as far as he was concerned the Iranian government should be viewed as a rational actor. I think that's exactly right. Now, there are representatives of the Iranian government that spout truly vile rhetoric, sometimes directed against us, perhaps even more often directed against Israel.

But rhetoric and behavior are not necessarily the same thing. I see little evidence over the history of the Islamic Republic of irrational behavior, of a regime that courts its own destruction. Now, we once thought that the Soviets were people we couldn't deal with. That the Soviet possession of a nuclear weapon constituted an immediate threat, an intolerable threat.

Back in the early 1950s, there were voices in this country proposing preventive war against the Soviet Union. Cooler heads prevailed. And the United States embraced a strategy of deterrence, directed against the Soviet Union, and it worked. And we've managed to survive these several decades since Hiroshima and Nagasaki without having had any further use of nuclear weapons.

BILL MOYERS: It’s been like living with a snake under the bed though, you know that.

ANDREW BACEVICH: It does, it does. I mean, this is-- we don't live in a perfect world. In a better world, we would eliminate nuclear weapons. Well, we're the ones who invented them, we're the ones who used them, we're the ones who once defined power in terms of the size of your nuclear arsenal. So, it seems unlikely to me that we are going to lead the way to the elimination of nuclear weapons. So we're going to have to live with the snake under the bed. And I believe it's better to live with that snake under the bed than to undertake another war.

BILL MOYERS: If you were Iran, would you want the bomb, a nuclear weapon, because Pakistan on one side of you has nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and Israel on the other side of you has nuclear weapons. And you live in a neighborhood where there are a dozen or more American military installations. So is it rational that you might want a nuclear weapon?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Of course it is. I think were I in a position of authority in Iran, I would counsel the secret development of a nuclear weapons program to the point where we possess the ability to create an actual weapon quickly, without in fact having done so. To possess a somewhat shadowy but nonetheless real nuclear capability. But not an actual nuclear arsenal. I think that that would give my enemies pause, but would not give my enemies a pretext to launch a war.

BILL MOYERS: If you were developing that capacity and you got to the point where you could take the next step if you needed to, wouldn't you be almost inviting-- Israel or the United States, who have made it clear there's a red line you cannot cross, to come in?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I mean, what I would want to do is to make it more difficult for the Israelis and the Americans to determine whether or not I had actually crossed that red line. And I would make that calculation based on my reading of the American thinking. My reading would be that President Obama is not eager to have a war. Now, President Obama has, perhaps to his own misfortune and perhaps ultimately to our misfortune, has gone way out on a limb in declaring that an Iranian bomb is indeed unacceptable. I don't want to invite him to contemplate the bomb. I want him to contemplate the problem of me potentially having a bomb. And much the same I think applies to the government of Israel.

But, you know, again, when you look at it from an Iranian perspective, and I have to emphasize, it's always important in these matters to look at things from your adversary's perspective, they do have serious security threats. They have every reason to view the United States of America as hostile.


ANDREW BACEVICH: Because of the history of U.S./Iranian relations.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, the Eisenhower administration, overthrew the democratically-elected leader of Iran and installed--


BILL MOYERS: --a monarch.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Same thing with the Suez Crisis of 1956. Let walk outside the studio and ask a hundred of our fellow citizens, “Tell me about what happened between the United States and Iran in 1953,” and none will know. Let's go to Tehran and ask them, and a hundred out of a hundred Iranians will say, “That's when the C.I.A. and British MI-6 collaborated to overthrow a democratically-elected government and to reinstall the shah on his thrown.” An action undertaken with absolutely no concern about the well-being of the Iranian people, but in pursuit of near-term strategic interest.

BILL MOYERS: Like you, I am confident that President Obama seems to want to avoid war. But he also has said, as you have said, that an Iranian nuclear bomb would be unacceptable. Which suggests he would act to stop them before they build one, or take it out after they do. And I ask you, has he backed himself into a corner with that position?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think he has. Now, I think I can understand why the president would be as adamant on that score. Because the president doesn't want Israel attacking Iran.

In order to try to restrain any inclination on the part of the government of Israel to engage in a preventive war against Iran, one which almost inevitably we would be drawn into, the president is trying to provide these very clear-cut assurances that-- assurances to Israel and its supporters, that we won't permit this bomb from coming into existence. But yes, in making that commitment to try to restrain Israel the effect is, I think, to limit his own maneuvering room, should an Iranian nuclear program become more visible and make visible progress.

BILL MOYERS: So practically, as a military man, what are his options?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think his options-- number one, he should go to church and pray. But I think more seriously, they're putting their chips in the economic sanctions basket.

BILL MOYERS: We did that against Iraq as well.

ANDREW BACEVICH: We did. These sanctions are serious. These sanctions seem to be inflicting real pain on the Iranian economy. Whether or not the result will be to persuade the Iranian government to change its behavior, I think very much remains to be seen. I mean, your comment about Iraq is suggestive of a larger record in which economic sanctions tend not to produce the results anticipated.

BILL MOYERS: And they tend to punish ordinary people. Go and see “A Separation,” that marvelous movie made by Iranian film-- made in Iran. And you see that they're just like us in going about their daily activity, trying to get their kids to school, trying to get domestic help, and--

ANDREW BACEVICH: And it's not the people in the palaces or in the government buildings that are going without.

BILL MOYERS: Would an attack on Iran be a huge roll of the dice?

ANDREW BACEVICH: We should now appreciate the extent to which any war is a roll of the dice. That anyone who pretends to predict how a war is going to play out is-- doesn't know what they're talking about. So yes, this would be a big roll of the dice, maybe more than most. Because you and I don't know what intelligence is available about Iranian nuclear sites. I'm not sure the extent to which the intelligence community actually is confident in their intelligence.

BILL MOYERS: We weren’t in the build up to invading Iraq.

ANDREW BACEVICH: But identifying the targets, choosing the weapons that can destroy those targets with absolute assurance, I think operationally would be a very difficult thing. And then whether or not the Iranians would simply passively accept this or contrive to find some way to strike back against Israel, against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who knows what they would do.

But it seems to me that passivity would unlikely to be their response. And then beyond that even, I think, proponents of attacking Iran acknowledge that the result wouldn't be to destroy an Iranian nuclear program, it would be to deflect it, to postpone it, to cause it some difficulties. That a year later or two years later, the problem would be back again.

BILL MOYERS: You were very clear a moment ago, very unequivocal in saying that you didn't think Iran was a direct threat to us. But what about Israel? Is Iran a direct threat to Israel? Which is only 1,000 miles from those potential nuclear facilities in Iran.

ANDREW BACEVICH: You know, I think honesty requires us to say that were we Israeli Jews, we might evaluate us this threat somewhat differently. I'm not an Israeli Jew, I'm an American. And I believe that the basis for deciding when and where the United States rolls the dice to go to war needs to be informed above all by a calculation of what serves the interest of the American people.

You know, it's very difficult to read Israeli intentions. Israel has a tradition of risk-taking on matters of security. We-- when we alluded a few minutes ago to the Suez Crisis is a good example of that. Contriving this war in order to overthrow Nasser because they perceived Nasser to be a looming threat to the well-being of Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Took a great risk with The Six-Day War.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Took a risk when they invaded Lebanon in1982.



BILL MOYERS: Bombing the nuclear facility in Iraq in 1981.

ANDREW BACEVICH: So it would not be out of character for Israel to attack Iran. That said, Israel is in a circumstance right now where I think it perceives itself and perhaps accurately perceives itself as increasingly isolated in the world stage. Isolated, and therefore evermore dependent upon the United States as patron, partner, supporter, source of security assistance, a couple billion dollars per year.


ANDREW BACEVICH: Israel cannot afford to alienate the United States. And so as Netanyahu and his advisors sit down to evaluate what to do about this perceived Iranian threat, part of their calculation has to be whether or not attacking Iran would put the relationship with the United States in jeopardy.

They cannot afford to rupture that relationship. And quite frankly, were Israel to attack Iran, and were the United States as a consequence to be dragged into another war, and were that war to go badly, then it seems to me the risk to the U.S./Israeli friendship would be very great.

BILL MOYERS: What if this is as The New York Times suggested recently, just a big bluff?" Because since Netanyahu and the pro-Israeli forces groups in this country have been making this such a big debate, you and I are not talking about the Palestinians. And the issue of Palestinians, off the table. Issue settlements, off the table.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Peace process has disappeared. I don't think the Israeli government is inventing a war scare in order to distract attention from the question of the Palestinians. But I think that that's a side benefit. I very much am of the school that says that one, not the only one, but one of those grievances that informs and inflames relations between the United States and the Islamic world, is the fact that the Palestinians still don't have their own state.

I believe that we have a vital national interest in creating that state. Of taking that grievance off the table. And it is absolutely true that amidst all the warmongering about Iran, Israel these days pretty much gets a pass. And there's very little impetus made to advance the peace process. Indeed, the peace process has more or less been lost in the shuffle.

BILL MOYERS: How do you think Obama's handling the pressure from the pro-Israel groups in this country that are pressing for a more aggressive posture toward Iran?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think that he's trying to provide reassurances that we've got Israel's back.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. And whenever an effort is made to delegitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now. When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.

BILL MOYERS: And yet look at this. Let me show you some print ads, sponsored by an organization called the Emergency Committee for Israel.

Here's one of them, "Why does the Obama administration treat Israel like a punching bag?" "Enough with the cheap shots. It's time for the Obama administration to stop blaming Israel first." And this organization is headed by Bill Kristol, the ardent propagandist for invading Iraq ten years ago who once said that the war would be over in two months.

And Gary Bauer who's a right-wing Christian who works with the Christian Zionists to make sure the United States supports Israel 1,000 percent. Bauer has said, as this ad suggests, "I'll be brutally honest: I don't trust the president on Israel." And yet the president keeps assuring them that he can be trusted. And his actions seem to back that up, do they not?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, they do to me. But I mean, I think this is-- this is partisan politics. These-- Gary Bauer and William Kristol act, in essence, as agents of the Republican Party. They are committed to President Obama's defeat in November. And I think the question of Israel is useful to them as a vehicle for mobilizing support for the Republican candidate, whoever that's going to be.

BILL MOYERS: Driving a wedge between Obama and American Jews and maybe between American Jews and Blacks who have been a strong, long coalition for--

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, but also, I mean, garnering the votes of Christian evangelicals. There's many more Christian evangelicals in this country than there are Jews. And so to argue that this Democratic president is weak on Israel is a way, I think, to try to draw votes for the Republican candidate, whoever it's going to be.

I don't mean that Kristol and Bauer aren't themselves committed to the security of Israel, but I think that in a campaign like this, especially when it occurs during an election year, there's something more going and here than simply a concern about Israeli security.

BILL MOYERS: You write in your new essay that President Obama's strategy seems to be to “thicken” America's global presence throughout the world. The horn of Africa, the Arab Peninsula, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, the Pacific.

And that as you said earlier, this strategy militarily involves unmanned missiles, drones, and targeted assassinations. Will the new generation accept that as a necessary instrument of American power without putting us at the risk in order to continue to maintain influence in the world?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, my students won't.

BILL MOYERS: I should've known.

ANDREW BACEVICH: And it's, I guess it's hard to tell the extent to which that kind of critical thinking is going to become pervasive. What I'd say though, is that whatever's bubbling on college campuses in terms of different perspectives on contemporary history, probably won't take unless that different interpretation at least is echoed or endorsed by the broader public media.

That in a larger sense, I think there needs to be a different conversation about what the history of the 20th century has been all about. And frankly, that's, the book of mine that you have sitting there, in a sense, that describes the purpose of that project.

The conceit of the book is that the failure of President Bush's Freedom Agenda and the Great Recession that we're still dealing with, together signify that the post-war period of American dominion has ended. And the question that the contributors to the book are invited to answer is, well, if the American century is over, what was the American century all about? What can we learn from it?

And I want people to begin to grapple with what that new era is all about. It's not going to be about one superpower imposing its will on the entire globe. Well, if the so-called unipolar moment has turned out to be a fiction, then where does that leave us?

I mean, we need to be able to see the world and ourselves and the consequences of our actions in very real terms. Nowhere more so than when it comes to the exercise of military power.

The Iraq War was, from start to finish, maybe not from start to finish, the first two weeks maybe looked brilliant, the remaining 8.9 years were a disaster. An expensive disaster, an unnecessary disaster. And as people, we need to take that on board. We need to acknowledge that in order to avoid replicating those kinds of errors.

BILL MOYERS: So what does it mean if the United States is no longer the sun around which everything else orbits?

ANDREW BACEVICH: It means that history has moved on. It means that the 21st century is in all likelihood, to the extent that we can foresee the future, and we must all acknowledge that our capacity to do so is very limited, but to the extent that we think we can glimpse the future, the 21st century is going to be a multipolar order. There are going to be some number, bigger than one, some number of powers who together will either create order or replicate the catastrophes that occurred in the first half of the 20th century, when the last multipolar order collapsed.

China's going to be one of those powers. Probably India is going be one. In its way, in its peculiar way, Europe is going to be one of those powers that we have to reckon with. To some degree Russia, maybe Brazil. And emphatically, the United States of America. But we are not going to call the shots.

BILL MOYERS: You have written that all this debate about American exceptionalism conceals a flight from reality.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think it does. We began the 21st century with a balanced budget. For the past few years now, we've had a trillion dollar deficit. We began the 21st century, with a military that we were not only persuaded was the best in the world, but with a military that we were certain could win any fight quickly, achieve victory.

We've been engaged in war for more than a decade now and we have no victories that we can claim. We began the decade with an economy that seemed to be cooking on all cylinders. And that for the past several years now has been in deep recession with large numbers of Americans, we're still what, over 8 percent unemployment without work, millions losing their homes. What does this signify? What do these bits of evidence signify? Well, they signify something. And what they signify is not that the American century continues or that chance about American exceptionalism constitute the basis for sound policy.

BILL MOYERS: Let me play for you the press conference that President Obama gave in 2009 during which he was asked a question about American exceptionalism, and here was his answer.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world […] Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

BILL MOYERS: That qualified response landed him in burning water with the right. It's become a big campaign issue.

ANDREW BACEVICH: And in many respects, I think he's backed away from that. Politically, I think he regrets that statement, that somehow suggesting some level of equivalence. I wish the president had stuck with his guns. I think he's exactly right.

I believe in American exceptionalism, if American exceptionalism implies that there are certain qualities that make the United States of America a special place, a wonderful place-- a place worthy of a patriot's love.

But it does not follow that other countries, other cultures somehow have to exist in a subordinate position relative to the United States. And it certainly should not imply that we somehow have the answer, the recipe to explain the direction that the world is going to go in.

BILL MOYERS As you know, there are people who believe the world will be a darker and more dangerous place if the United States takes down that umbrella of military power, money, influence, that it has held up all of these years. What happens if the United States retreats?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I don't know that it's retreat. I don't know that it's -- I'm not sure that the umbrella metaphor works all that well. I mean, I'm not an advocate of disarmament. I don't wish us to have the weakest military in the world. I actually think we ought to have a very strong military.

But I think, you know, the fact of the matter is, the world is changing. The world of the American century, as it was once styled, simply no longer exists. And grown-ups will acknowledge that and will adjust accordingly.

We cannot say what the post-American century is going to look like. What we can do is to devote ourselves to ensuring that it's not going to replicate the catastrophes that occurred in the first half of the 20th century.

BILL MOYERS: What's the message you want to communicate with this book?

ANDREW BACEVICH: That if there was an American century, it's over. That the combination of the failure of President George W. Bush's Freedom Agenda and the onset of the Great Recession, as we call it, has opened up a new era. And we need both to contemplate on the significance of the era past, and to begin to think about the uncharted territory in which we are headed.

BILL MOYERS Andrew Bacevich. Thank you very much for being with me.


BILL MOYERS: We have to hope a copy of Andrew Bacevich’s new book makes its way to Barack Obama. He could use a dose of the reality served up in its pages. A reality quite contrary to the book the President has been waving around in public for all to see. This book: The World America Made, by Robert Kagan. Kagan's a well-known figure inside the Beltway, that matrix of think tanks, policy intellectuals, and research centers that have so long and faithfully served to uphold the empire. In it, Kagan dismisses what he calls “the myth of American decline,” and compares the United States to Jimmy Stewart’s character in the Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life. America is to the world, Kagan contends, what Stewart was to the town of Bedford Falls.

HARRY in It's a Wonderful Life: To my big brother George, the richest man in town.

BILL MOYERS: Which without him would have fallen into unseemly hands and disrepute, as the world would have without America. To think otherwise, he writes, is “wishful thinking.”

Not surprising that President Obama, according to The New York Times, has “brandished Mr. Kagan’s analysis in arguing that America’s power has waxed rather than waned.”

And just who is Robert Kagan? Well, he served in the State Department when Reagan was president. He advised John McCain in 2008 and these days is special advisor on national security and foreign policy to Mitt Romney.

MITT ROMNEY: Let me make this very clear, as President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American century and I will never, ever apologize for America.

BILL MOYERS: Oh, yes, back in the late nineties, six years after the first Gulf War and four years before 9/11, Robert Kagan and fellow neo-conservative Bill Kristol founded the Project for the New American Century and signed a letter to then-President Bill Clinton urging him to get rid of Saddam Hussein once and for all – by any means necessary.

In 2002, Kagan wrote, “A devastating knockout blow against Saddam Hussein, followed by an American-sponsored effort to rebuild Iraq and put it on a path toward democratic governance, would have a seismic impact on the Arab world -- for the better.” Hindsight is 20-20, as the saying goes, and nine years later we look back and see with perfect clarity how well Jimmy Stewart’s America delivered in Iraq. Talk about wishful thinking.

So next time President Obama’s looking for a book to read, better he pick up a copy of this one: The Short American Century: A Postmortem. In it, several distinguished historians – including Andrew Bacevich – urge us to take off the rose-colored glasses and see the world as it is. It is not a movie.

That’s it for this week. At our website you can read a chapter from The Short American Century: A Postmortem and you’ll find some startling statistics about the cost of war.

Coming up, the 99 percent spring, a new nationwide campaign for working people. We'll talk with three of its organizers.

SARITA GUPTA: I've loved this nexus of labor and community. That actually, when we all come together, we can have big, bold vision. We can have big, bold demands. And we can, in fact, win those demands together.

AI-JEN POO: The world of organizing and the world of politics is going to be increasingly reflective of the changing demographics of this country in a very positive way.

GEORGE GOEHL: The job of an organizer I really think is often two things. It's to get people to do things they didn't know they wanted to do when they met you. And then secondly, get them to do that with a lot of other people.

BILL MOYERS: I’m Bill Moyers. See you here, next time.

Watch By Segment

Moving Beyond War

March 23, 2012

Nine years after Baghdad erupted in “shock and awe,” we’re once again hearing in America the drumbeat for war in the Middle East. Now, the bull’s-eye is on Iran. But what we need more than a simple change of target is a complete change in perspective, says Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran-turned-scholar who’s become one of the most perceptive observers of America’s changing role in the world.

This week, on an all-new Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers and Bacevich explore the futility of “endless” wars, and provide a reality check on the rhetoric of American exceptionalism.

“Are we so unimaginative, so wedded to the reliance on military means that we cannot conceive of any way to reconcile our differences with groups and nations in the Islamic world, and therefore bring this conflict to an end?” Bacevich tells Moyers.

Bacevich also answers the question of whether Iran is a direct threat to America with a definitive no. “Whatever threat Iran poses is very, very limited,” he tells Moyers, “and certainly does not constitute any kind of justification for yet another experiment with preventive war.”

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  • SFeher

    Would that the issues were simply about what is “right and wrong” about any particular war.  Rather it is that our economy depends on war to function, and we accept that, for some dumb reason. We don’t question whether war in any circumstance is right; it is not.  Anyway, the decision to fight wars has nothing to do with the issues; it has to with what’s good for the ‘military-industrial complex’, that is, business as usual.  It hasn’t changed, and it’s not about to.  When money interests are supreme, as they are in our economy/society. we simply don’t question war.  It seems beneficiary to our “national interests”, whether we are actually threatened or not.  And what constitutes a threat” 

  • A Green Road™

    It is strange how the ‘defense’ budget is increasing every year, including this year, while we are cutting police, firefighters, teachers. We are closing parks, not paving roads, and turning off street lights. We are dismantling the US safety net, while increasing cost plus contracts for a few huge companies operating in the dark, with no accountability. 

    This is a raw, naked grab for power. 

  • Fred Drumlevitch

    I find it notable and ironic that the proper functioning of the ostensibly-democratic political system and the effectiveness of protest have both been so diminished in the U.S. that we have come to the point that two U.S. Army soldiers — Bradley Manning and Robert Bales — operating well outside normal legal boundaries, may ultimately have more of an influence towards getting this nation out of our interminable recent wars than all the normal political actions have had.

    Obviously, that is not how a sensible nation should operate, and we need to find the energy and the means so that the rational average citizen can have significant influence going forward.

  • Uradragon

    Thank you for offering a sane perspective.

  • johnalene

    Romney, last week, said that he would build a military that would discourage any power on earth to attack the United States.

    This ignores the obvious truth that we have had this for over half a century, times three, or four, or five…..

    Who in his right mind can charge that we are currently vulnerable to a military attack from anybody except invaders from another galaxy?

  • Philip

    In regards to the Afghan War discussed on today’s program: For a different and very interesting perspective, watch 9th Company on Netflix or Hulu. From the perspective of frontline soldiers, the parallels between the Soviet experience and ours is uncanny.

  • Will McC

    Bill Moyers is always onthe cutting edge of thinking and I can’t wait to find the time to watch this whole program on this intensely significant  issue, which has been neglected in these troubling times of so much dishonest and irrelevant political talk

  • Phanke

    Where is the excerpt from Mr. Bacevich’s book that the live TV broadcast tonight on March 23 said would be available at I couldn’t find it.

  • Integrityindexing

    Look under Dig Deeper above left for excerpt.

  • Papajack

    Gp to bill moyers + march 23 +

  • Carl Howard

    Ohhhh, Bacevich was doing SO well until he stated that our troops in Afghanistan died for their country.  EHHHHHHHHHH.  Wrong answer.  Thanks for playing.
    Our troops died for one of two reasons, neither of which is “our country.”  They died either for the neo-Liberal profits of warmongers and the oil industry, or for nothing at all.  And all the troops as well as the people of Afghanistan, including those yet unborn whose lives will be claimed by our ecologically and economically devastating footprint – including lavish and unchecked use of depleted uranium – who will yet perish at times and in ways which never would have happened had we not been there, and had we not pursued decade after decade of murderous foreign policy… will also have died either for profit, or for nothing.

  • Jack Smith

    You both spoke of the mission. As of March 2012, What is the mission? This discussion implies that Plan C is the mission. That is to execute everyone who we FEAR might cause us harm. They say that Afghanistan is where empires go to die. If we do not start to get out of there now, I believe Obama will be adding the US to the deaths of Empires. Heed my words, under Obama’s new terrorist law HR 347 I may be on my way to prison for what I just wrote

  • Jack Smith

    Amen my brother – In dollars and cents we care more about our military that the citizens of our nation and the saddest of all, more than our children. 

  • Dnadanyi

    Read Blackwater, Blood Money and Top Secret America. The army should have never been privatized. Blackwater is a huge and politically powerful corporation that needs war to be profitable. Also the creation of a huge government secret nationwide security department just keeps growing and is politically impossible to ever end. The government trains these analysts and then the go to work for Northrop Gruman and SAIC and other Corporations for much higher salaries.  Look at the Chertof group as an example. I guess “smaler government” does not include the military complex.

  • Anonymous

    We do not fear anyone. From the Native Americans on, America has slaughtered anyone standing in the way of the greedy. The past 40 years has let these idiots get into smaller and smaller numbers of what Bush called the Haves and Have Mores.

    There is no excuse for it.

    We can have a great life for billions of people, and the planet and animals and everything if we ALL just do it. It reminds me of that old statement “what if ‘they’ gave a war, and nobody came”. It is time to stop wasting our young people and our money on this idiocy.

    Dead people do not buy anything. Live people do, so we ALL have to build more small businesses, and stop the big myth that we need the stocks, the oil, the blah, blah, blah. NO, they need our dollars and our silliness to keep them the Haves and Have mores while the world suffers, and a lot of people die.

  • Sylvia

    I always welcome the interesting viewpoints expressed on your show.  Being of similar age to Mr. Bacevich, I remember 1956 a little also.  His point about most Americans being ignorant about Suez would be accurate but he neglected to mention that President Eisenhower refused to support the imperialistic attempt by our former allies to take control of the Suez.  And I was also against the Iraq War, but the original logic of our actions in Afghanistan, explained as a limited action to remove the Taliban from a leadership that encouraged Bin Laden and his followers to launch terrorist attacks from their country, was supportable.   This seemed a viable act if limited to that goal.  The Bush Administration hubris that we can structure the whole Middle East to our benefit will continue to command a price in lives and money far beyond any logic.

  • Daniel Hanson

    Please have Prof. Bacevich back on a regular basis.  The conversation between Mr. Moyers and Dr. Bacevich was excellent.  I keep wondering if Dr. Bacevich receives a lot of
    flak for his views.   The other think I ponder about is how
    can we expose more Americans to his reasoned view and thus an understand of our history that few know? 

  • guest

    Reminded what I read and saw earlier that the war was/is the Clash of Civilizations. (1992-3) when first heard. That was what ben Laden wanted and that´s what he got as the US was sucked in to answer with violence.

  • Bettygelinas

    Where would we be without programs like Moyers and Company? We are so fortunate to have these conversations. Andrew Bacevich notes that it’s impossible to predict how a war will turn out. This is true but with one exception: A war will always result in greater fatalities, greater destruction, greater corruption, greater costs, and finally, greater wealth in the pockets of weapon manufacturers, private armies, maintenance and re-building private contractors

  • Blammo

    Oh it’s a movie ! A horror movie.

  • Kay Skelly

    Andrew Bacevich is one of the sanest men in this country.

    He and Bill together should be running this country.

  • Professor PaulTynegate Piehler

    So far,the only long-term, truly practical, plan I’m aware of to cope with terrorism and international misunderstandings And enmities is one very important development of  our Atlantis Educational Initiatives, described on our website

     As you can read there,our Outreach Tutorials would provide for immediate and sustained people- to- people contact, using the Internet and Skype for international work groups and our air transport systems for sustained international student exchanges. The cost would be the minutest fraction of our current expenditures, and should be free of those all too common unintended disastrous side effects.

     Our Atlantis tutorials would provide very well prepared groups, adept educationally, culturally, and linguistically, to constitute highly trained shock troops in the battle for peace.  Our laptops would prove mightier than  machine guns, our student flights more effective than even the most devastating  of our Drones.

    If you have any experience of the Atlantis Educational Initiatives, either in theory or in practice, I’m sure Bill Moyers and Andrew Bacevich would be most interested to hear from you, on this website forum for his Moving Beyond War.

  • AnneLBS
  • wantpeace

    I wish people like Dr. Bacevich would run for President. Oh, how badly we need long-range thinkers like him to stop the nonsense of endless wars. Please bring him back often to remind us that there ARE better ways to “get along” than shock and awe.

  • Holdenhands

    There was a whole movement called Beyond War..based out of Palo Alto, CA. We worked to: resolve conflict, not use violence, not preoccupy ourselves with an “enemy” but maintain a spirit of good will and work with others to build a world beyond war. When the USSR and the Berlin Wall came apart we then renamed to the Foundation for Global Community…maybe it is time to return to the original name and regroup nationally and internationally.

  • Leftyvet

    I thought how he defined dying for ‘our country’ was legitimate. Remember, his son died in Iraq and he has often said that what he and his son had in common was that they both fought in wrong-headed wars. 


    You must do so ….  It is necessary and also possible to eliminate war through multiple approaches that include cutting financial waste that translates into unnecessary weapons.  

  • Anonymous

    The US military outmatches any other “military” in the World by large margins.  The key word here is military.  What we have found is that our aircraft carriers, stealth bombers, and cruise missiles, and well trained soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines will defeat the armies of most other countries in days or weeks with minimal American casualties.  However, after the army is defeated and the soldiers melt into the population, the traditional military of previous wars is of little use.  The house to house combat that we have been engaging in Iraq and Afghanistan is extremely dangerous to even the best equipped soldiers as evidenced by the heartbreaking casualty counts.  Perhaps it is insurgencies and guerrilla wars that are not winnable.  The best that may happen is that the conflicts are eventually resolved politically over long periods like we see in Central and South America when one side or both succumbs to fatigue or sees the folly of killing their fellow countrymen rather than working together for a better life for their citizens.      

  • Taichi-wuchi

    Like it or not we are always in a conflict between good and evil.
    This situation is both external and internal.
    We have the left brain telling our right brain what is the right thing to do and we have our right brain telling our left brain the wrong things to do internally.
    we also have the external conflict of how we react to the world in which we are submerged.
    Some of the situations we deal with are user friendly and others are extremely threatening.
    We are always in the process of picking our poison or picking our pleasure.
    We have to deal with both self-destruct and excessive pleasure.
    We can cause hell on earth or heaven on earth.
    We can listen to the words that say the right things ore listen to the words that say the wrong things.
    We can do the things that are the right things or the things that are wrong things.
    As a person thinks in his mind sorting out all of the possibilities so is his effect on his reality.
    Who we are is a reflection of what we think we are.
    If we want this world to be the best it can be; it is necessary to make it so.
    Our system of exchange of goods and services is the tool we use to make thing either how they should be or how they should not be.
    How we spend our life and our means of exchange creates the world in which we live.
    Present day civilization is dependent on its system of economics to support everyone’s life experience.

  • Dnadanyi

    Love what you said and how it was expressed.  It has always troubled me that the people who are evil and greedy are very often also leaders.  Also that others follow these leaders like sheep.

  • Unsanitorial

    The difference between what T-w is saying (which is self-evident at the personal level) and what Dnadanyi  is saying is the recognition that situationally most people lack viable options for the exercise of free will. 

  • Unsanitorial

    Listen to Andy Bacevich when he observes that Barack Obama was formerly a reasonable person before he became President. This is a systemic and structural problem where changing portraits on the wall has no effect. Our socio-economic system (crony corporate capitalism) has lost all its useful effects and is now a petulant terminally ill  bully feeling sorry for itself. Its rage is increasingly  acted out upon its own people. Bacevich has lost faith in business as usual. The situation recalls Gorbachev in 1990.

  • Dnadanyi

    Every US citizen should be told loud and clear how much per capita we are paying for our war machine(costs of wars, national security, military industrial complex etc) and compare that to other countries. I would love to hear Rush talk his way out of that and wonder if the ditto heads would actually believe him.

  • Unsanitorial

    Some of these Exchange Student operations have become profitable scams that exploit students and ignore sex scandals among their recruiters.

    And I think we all are beginning to understand that 
    talking on the Internet will not fix things anymore than talking on the telephone would. Some risky actions and innovations will be necessary.

  • Unsanitorial

    You take Niall Ferguson too seriously and have some Eurocentric myopia. I bet you like professional sports.

  • Unsanitorial

    The Middle East is not our only problem.
    Empire itself is a symptom of how the USA is stuck in the past. We could just as easily be droning Venezuela or the home of an Occupy radical as the situation deteriorates. We are beyond improving the bottom line, but are desperate to save our own bottoms from the abyss. But we can never admit that reality in polite company (among rich people).

  • Unsanitorial

    Lizzy, if your we going to start a small business today what would you do? Opening a shop or franchise involves at least a quarter of a million dollars. Most US households have no net worth.
    What can debtors buy?

    Our Oligarchy kills because it fears alternatives to itself.

    You’ve identified the structural problem of concentrated wealth and income. Isn’t fixing that injustice the first challenge? Maybe nobody would attend wars if we all truly had a stake in an egalitarian political system.

    Ah, go ride your horse and forget about reality!

  • Unsanitorial

    I can’t wait for Jack’s letters from the Birmingham Jail.

  • Dnadanyi

    Could you elaborate” situationally most people lack viable options for exercize of free will.”-especially the free will part.

  • Dnadanyi

    Again-the people in power often think, say and do the wrong things and they get people to agree with them by creating an untrue simple message and repeating it over and over- remember “mushroom cloud,”death panels, deficits do not matter, what has the government ever done right etc. Can you relate what you are saying to the real world and the problems we have created and are trying to solve?

  • Milo Jones

    Bacevich displays an incredible – and in my view, entirely unwarranted – confidence in future of China, India, Brazil,  Russia, and the EU relative to the US.  Each of these entities is extremely fragile economically, socially and militarily; if he applied the same degree of pessimism about them that he does to the US, he would not so confidently predict the end of the “American Century”.  American power was never  infinite, even during the so-called “unipolar moment” between 1991 and 2001.  A cold hard look at all nations through the same prism reveals, however, that the 21st Century is likely to remain an “American Century” through at least it’s first half (and that is not incompatible with a degree of opportunistic multipolarity where it suits us, as that helps husband our strength).  

  • D Chris Frandsen

    Many of our West Point classmates take regular potshots at Skip on our class forum. I suspect you will find most that follow the neo-con agenda will take exception to almost everything that Col(ret.) Bacevich says here and in his writings. 

    The key is to keep people talking and thinking about these issues. Sooner or later repetition will get through the brain barrier that self censorship creates. 

  • Dnadanyi

    It  is a good thing that an author has the guts to put down in a book what is finally dawning on some of us-that our interference in the world has come back to haunt us. Brezinski told the mujhadine ” God is on your side?” No one even remembers the first war in Afganistan. And why,why,why did W ever start a war in Iraq?  Actually I guess we now know-for a free trade zone-money,greed. He was warned about upsetting the balance of power. Does the President of the United States or any world power have any power at all?  Is it the corporations of the world (oil,insurance, pharma, banks,, the military industrial complex),the IMF , the World Bank, the WTO that control the world? All Obama can do is tiptoe around these corporations and hope to accomplish a tiny bit in his allotted time. Is it just greed that now controls Congress or do they really believe in the theories that have decimated the economies of the world?These corporations will soon own all the assets of the world. We will all be surfs and the Bushes of the world will live on their aqufiers in South America with a fence and armed guards.

  • Lois

    Thanks for airing the interview with Mr. Bacevich.  His is the voice of reason that should be heard by all Americans.  I hope his book becomes a best seller.

  • Jsenka

    thank you  so much for your attempts to enlighten the US people.  Everyone there deserves to hear what you have to say.

  • Hap Klein

    Brilliant insights today. Andrew Bacevich reaches across so many areas of reality to weave a comprehensive portrait of the world as it is and as it could be I am always impressed.
    I think he and Brzezinski see a world of shifting power bases taking smaller control of narrower spheres the United States becoming just one of many leaders of alliances.
    Nation building and propping up Dictators not having worked maybe its for the better.
    It sure is not going to be an American Century if after 1946 to 1949 it ever was.

  • Paul Hodel

    We need to lead by beinning to abolish nuclear weapons in collaboration with ohter nuclear powers.  We need an international peoples movement that urges Copngress and President Obama to lead initiate this campaign to stop ultimate threatsof war and risk real peace.

  • Marilynngr

    Super analysis.  So refreshing!  Should be required listening for every single American!  

  • MorningstarSun

    What an enlightening time to have spent with you two brilliant beings.  One has answers . . . and as importantly, one knows the right questions to ask.  In any case, the truth Bracevich brings is food for many future possibilities.  I am always hopeful, and now know with open minds all is possible.  Oops!  I forgot.  Not everyone will take that magic step into possibles and will stay forever locked in their boxes of beliefs without making adjustments.  An adjustment is simple:  choose.

  • Edie

    Impressive discussion between Moyers and Bacavich, intelligent, thoughtful, and realistic. Moyers essay at the end of the program also was enlightening.I am happy that they are both back on PBS.

  • günter hiller

    Was 9/11 the fruit of our imperialistic past?
    Then what should we have done in response?

    Should we have left Saddam Hussein in power
    and allowed him to continue to murder the Shiia
    and the Kurds?

    Should we now leave Afghanistan as Bacevich thinks,
    and leave the women again in the hands of the Taliban?

    What kind of rationality does Bacevich attribute to
    the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
    Does he believe that “mutually assured destruction”
    is still a foundation for peace?
    Or is  the  culture of martyrdom cultivated by Khomeini
    change the cold war calculus?

    The possibility that a nuclear armed Iran might
    set off an unstoppable nuclear arms race in the
    Middle east was not mentioned in this assessment.
    Nor did Bacevich consider how the geopolitical
    situation would change if Hamas and Hezbollah
    would acquire nuclear devices from Iran.

    Should we cut our ties (and subsidies) with Israel,
    and let someone else deal with the Jewish problem?

    That  the U.S. must share power with
    China, India and/or Europe in the 21st Century
    is widely acknowledged.  But what does that mean
    for our foreign policy.  And what moral principles
    should inform our foreign policy, especially with regard
    to human rights violations?

    Finally, what kind of a future does Bacevich
    envision for this country?  And how does he
    validate his patriotism?


  • Rezaks

    mr. hiller, what eloquent nonsense! as an iranian, i feel obliged to clue you in on some basic realities of life in that part of the world which you seem to be wholly ignorant about. with or without u.s. military’s presence, the sunnis and shiites would have killed and will in fact continue to kill each other. the roots of this conflict go back many centuries and no well-meaning arbitrator will be able to do anything about this for a long time to come. i would also advise you to talk to real muslim women in the middle east; the ones in small towns and villages who live their lives in poverty and outside the relatively small confines of colleges and universities. the fact of the matter is that the majority of them gladly wear the hijab and are proud to be subservient to their male counterparts since the holy koran requires these of them. what u call the culture of martyrdom has always been a slogan. it’s been used to advance purely political objectives. how naive of you to assume that  iran’s leadership and its people would actively welcome their own annihilation- an inevitable outcome if iran ever used nuclear weapons on israel directly or through proxies- in the hopes of being rewarded the keys to paradise and coitus with virgins! you also seem to have worked out a working definition for “moral principles”, a feat which as of yet has eluded many a brilliant scholar of ethics. moral principles are such slippery customers, always moving, always shifting, very difficult to pin down! you may be well-intentioned but you, sir, are ignorant and your uninformed rhetoric is what fuels the engines of the war-mongerer’s machine.       

  • Unsanitorial

    Thanks for your hopeful information.

  • Unsanitorial

    What  makes sense in advancing personal financial security is negated when you exercise your citizenship responsibilities, so you end up with cognitive dissonance. That is, because the system has violated our good faith (social contract) it has made it impossible for individuals to work for the common good in a non-self-destructive way. That is, Dnadanyi, I dare you to go Occupy (even in your own town on public property with a posterboard).  Maybe 
    the USA is so hopelessly corrupt it doesn’t deserve your reform effort. Might as well turn to Rudi Maxa and forget Bill Moyers.

    PS- Tell me where you want to picket on May 1st (general strike) and what time and I’ll be right there beside you. But if you’re gonna be busy washing your hair I’ll  just go buy catfood at Walmart. I’m serious… I really mean it.

  • Unsanitorial

    Empire is always fragile. This nation is a Pottery Barn. Wanna be the clerk defending it? Empire always costs more than it brings in so that the citizenry pays the shortfall. The taxing in the Biblical Christmas story pertains to Augustus’ last ditch attempt to save The Roman one. We now have perpetual war and Austerity. Are you enjoying the loss of privacy and human rights? 
    This can’t last. China may implode due to ecological stress, but Brazil is virgin territory compared to our fracked out landscape. You’re counting the eggs of unhatched dibbies this Easter.
    Do you depend on sports betting to keep going?

  • Unsanitorial

    Did Dr. Z really tell bin Laden that?
    About “God is on your side” I mean.
    Yep, Barack Obama is a hostage, but the Stockholm syndrome is kicking in.
    He identifies with Oligarch needs now.
    Michelle is planting opium poppies (bulbs) Petraeus gave her in the organic garden this year. Washington will be plenty hot enough. It’s medicinal. That should calm his conscience.

  • Unsanitorial

    Screw the book…. I hope people hear what he’s saying.

  • Unsanitorial

    There, somebody appreciates my posts!

  • Unsanitorial

    What will you do to make the things we need real?

  • Unsanitorial

    What about the deaf?

  • Unsanitorial

    Don’t kid yourself. They rehearsed for hours.
    And they each have a box (we used to say “own bag”) too. They go out to eat, look at new cars, oggle sex objects too, just like us. If they talked about Empire 24-7 they’d go insane. They want you to take a shift and give them a rest. I’d like to buy Andy and Bill ice cream cones, any flavor they like.

  • Unsanitorial

    detante’ between a Zionist and a Muslim…
    miracle of miracles

  • Unsanitorial

    David (T-w) always has the same answers to every problem. It boils down to the Golden Rule, but he still likes a little gold with his rule. All of us are weak. We need one another to be strong.

  • Unsanitorial

    Can the economic framework change when it fails to provide the expected support?

  • Unsanitorial

    Do we admire those who boldly take?

  • Unsanitorial

    It runs on gas. Never forget to fill up before attacking weakling states. Ever hear of the Khyber Pass? I’ll bet Professor Bacevich could tell us about it. Seen any plutonium powered troop carriers lately?

  • Unsanitorial

    Congress can always curtail war by cutting appropriations.

  • Unsanitorial

    Blammo got out to Central America while the getting was good. Retirement money goes farther there.

  • Unsanitorial

    You know the tune Betty. When you gonna sing?

  • Unsanitorial

    Sorry, I forgot. Only upper middle class Democrats can hear or see Moyers. He’s invisible to the Elites and the Masses. Conservative viewers see Captain Kangaroo. (Schwinns are slightly higher in the West and South.)
    *So that’s why Mr. Greenjeans was always drunk… He was talking crazy like Professor Bacevich.

  • Unsanitorial

    Drones are the desperate weapon of a terrorist state, not high technology. I can make one.

  • Unsanitorial

    Jobs, jobs, jobs!

  • Unsanitorial

    We take one more for the team.

  • David Gregory

    1-We need to listen anew to the admonition of George Washington regarding foreign entanglements. It was not intended to make us an insular nation but it was intended to keep us out of other nation’s wars.

    2-The mission was accomplished in Afghanistan when the Taliban regime was toppled. We should have left at that point for the UN to handle.We cannot export democracy or western values at the point of a gun. Like it or not, Afghanistan will be what the people make it or allow it to be. Either way, it is not likely to please western values.

    3-We need to stop blindly backing the apartheid regime in Israel and nudge them toward a more inclusive society. America opposed apartheid in South Africa and the Berlin Wall- yet we support a country (Israel) that builds walls and practices apartheid-like policies.

    4-Iranians paraded in sympathy with the US after 9-11 and the NeoCons threw that opening away. Iran is a nation that has a highly educated population and could be engaged through diplomacy and other means. We are forcing a collision where there does not need to be one.

    5-America needs to learn to live in a multilateral world. We no longer can afford to see things in binary terms as the world is far too diverse and complex a place for simplistic thinking. In 1945 we were the preeminent power in the world- this is not 1945.

  • David Gregory

    It’s not PBS- they passed on Moyers & Company. PBS member stations carry the program, but PBS passed on it.

  • David Gregory

    The late Chalmers Johnson detailed this in Blowback- which came out before 9-11. His trilogy on the American Empire would make the core of a great miniseries on PBS. It’s too sad that PBS is too timid to venture into those waters.

  • Erin

    “Should we cut our ties (and subsidies) with Israel,and let someone else deal with the Jewish problem?”  There is no “Jewish problem.”  That is like saying there is a “Christian problem” because Pat Robertson has nominated himself to head America’s Armegeddon team in the Middle East.  (If my reading comprehension is right – God is going to have something to say about that one day…)

    This is not about religion for any of the self-righteous hecklers in the equation.  Unless you consider that if The Revelation is right, that Christians are being lured to the region to pick whom they worship once and for all:  God, or the Whore of Babylon:  OIL. 

    The PNAC has gotten a little cliche over the years, but what was not said is that they had one goal at the “end” of the Cold War, and that was stopping the emergence of a rival Super Power.  Iran? China? I don’t think so – I think it is ISRAEL.  I see us doing Israel the same we have done every other country in the Middle East.  We arm them, give them a free pass to do insane things – and then when they stop doing our bidding, our media blitz cries fake outrage and calls for our invasion to “save” the “poor opressed” peoples in the Middle East. 

    Except this time, we will not have some 7th century Islamic idealogues with no home or standing military- we will have a well armed “western democracy” with an air force as good as ours, and an intelligence community that is better than ours.  Israel and the United States are not friends.  We are business partners.  And when the business goes sour – we will see how fake that “special relationship” between the US and Israel has been all along. 

    I stand with the people of the United States, Israel and all the people in the Middle East.  If our founders taught us anything, We the People our our friends, and Thomas Jefferson and George Washington wrote the 1789 Alien Torts Act to prove it.  It is so ironic that people who claim to be “conservatives” in this country support our tax dollars going to pay for the EXACT  “socialist government” they are so afraid of becoming in the United States….  How is it “supporting Israel” to pay for their own demise?  Patriotism and denial are not the same thing, and nationalism and patriotism are definatley not the same thing.  Andrew Bacevich is a brilliant and wonderful American patriot.  It takes a lot of guts to tell the truth. 

  • Erin

    “The possibility that a nuclear armed Iran mightset off an unstoppable nuclear arms race in the Middle east was not mentioned in this assessment.”  You know what is not ever mentioned in ANY  “assessment?”  Saudi Arabia. 

  • Erin

    You post is proving how Iranian media is as government controlled as our Rezaks.  Sunnis and Shias are like the duped left/righties in the states.  Filled with a load of propagandic nonsense to divide and conquer. 

    US Street gangs would be an even better comparison.  The gang leaders don’t give a hoot about brotherhood or loyalty.  They care about getting as many members to murder and do their dirty work – so that they can collect the cash and power that comes with it.  And just as the Christian God is going to have something to say about the Christian Right joining in – so will Allah as well.

    After 9/11, Irianians had our back.  They helped us in Afghanistan and we would never have toppled the Taliban without them. And if you think the Ayatollahs would have allowed that – then you are kidding yourselves.  That proved right there that it’s about politics and power – and not religion.  Wars are never about religion.  Usually always the excuse – but never the reason.

    So, the Iranian government offers to help us in Iraq – and into the “Axis of Evil” they go.  Whose list was that?  My guess is Saudi Arabia.  See, the Saudi Royal family and their US and EU oil companies cut a deal back at the end of WWII:  we give you access – and you protect our “interests” around the world.  And the only thing that Saudi Arabia is interested in, is keeping their oil competition off the market, because if it floods – then the price goes way down, interest rates go down, and the oil companies lose their asses. 

    There are two solutions.  One, apply ACTUAL free markets when it comes to oil and gas in the ME, and employ the very un-employed men and women in the region.  Or two:  make it so we do not even use what is under their sands as an energy source.  The latter will never happen.  The former is VERY possible.  But the US needs to stop coddling the US oil companies and Saudi Arabia. 

    The market will crash, no doubt.  But if you really believe in free markets – it WILL fix itself. It is currently bloated and supported by gurantees from US taxdollars and foreign investors. 

  • Erin

    You know what bothers me so?  That members of our military are not allowed to have free speech like the rest of us.  You have got to be kidding me?

  • Erin

    “The best that may happen is that the conflicts are eventually resolved politically over long periods like we see in Central and South America ”  Are you kidding me?  Plan Columbia is about the US setting up bases in the region – the same way they are trying to do in Afghanistan, Israel and Iraq.

  • Rezaks

    funny! incidentally, i’m a proud atheist and sincerely believe that much of middle east’s woes are to be blamed on islam!

  • Krisjs

    Thank you and Mr. Bacevich  for saying what needs to be said.

  • günter hiller

    Ask Helen Thomas, the former doyenne
    of the White House Press Corps about
    the Jewish problem.

  • Mleonjanssen

    I, like most ignorant people, believe in a justifiable world that does not nor has never existed except in the minds of the people who have the power over the rest of us to fight their wars for them.
    As a former Army veteran of the Vietnam fiasco, I could see this war in the middle east coming years before it actually took place and, unfortunately, I was proven right.
    I cannot remember any time in my 67 years of life when we were not involved in a war somewhere around the world and it would seem that I will never see peace on this earth in my lifetime.
    Shall we “pray” to our “god” who knows all?

    M. Janssen 

  • günter hiller

    3-“We need to stop blindly backing the apartheid regime in Israel and nudge them toward a more inclusive society.”
    Like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon,  Iran,
    Iraq, et al.?

    This may be news to you: At the end of WWII
    700.000 Jews were expelled from northern African countries, and Iran. They had lived
    in these countries for generations.  Israel
    absorbed these refugees, unlike the Arab countries who shunted their  Palestinian refugees into camps. That’s where you find


  • Erin

    “Ask Helen Thomas, the former doyenneof the White House Press Corps about the Jewish problem.”

    I do not have to ask her anything.  My son’s Catholic great-grandparents were thrown on cattle cars out of Poland and Russia and taken back to German forced labor camps to slave for German businessmen.  You are the one who needs to seek the truth – not me…

  • Erin

    “funny! incidentally, i’m a proud atheist and sincerely believe that much of middle east’s woes are to be blamed on islam!”  Funnier, I did not believe you when you claimed to be from Iran.  The entire story you told was a US narrative – never uttered from people in the Middle East because it is not true.  I was just taking the bait for a moment.

  • Erin

    “Like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iran,Iraq, et al.?”  Actually, Lebanon’s Jewish population increased after Jews began fleeing other Arab areas in Northern Africa and the ME.  They took a lot of those refugees.   Try again. 

    And do you even know what the definition of aparthied is?  Apparently not…

  • Rezaks

    as opposed as i was to the tenets of the original post by mr. hiller, at least his were eloquently formulated and free of the schizophrenic, conspiratorial and incoherent junk that u’re spewing! of course we can continue this exchange in persian if u’re still in doubt about my ethnic origins!

  • Dnadanyi

    Thanks I will look this up.

  • Dnadanyi

    Brezhiniski absolutely did say those exact words.  It was televised. It is funny that neithr he or Richard Clarke admit what a mistake the US made.

  • Dnadanyi

    We certainly do have extremely short memories.  Does anyone remember Ahamad Chalabi?  Did anyone ever hear about a character nicknamed “Curveball”? I would love to know what these people are up to. Would also love to know when Scooter will wake up and cash in. Would love to know how much the taxpayers are paying to keep these people quiet.

  • The Gubbler

    An honorable episode which was much appreciated by The Gubbler

  • The Gubbler

    My close friend EmileZ over on truthdig liked it as well.

  • Guest

    Counseling Obamanable prayer doesn’t belong on PUBLIC Broadcast, Bill and Andy!

  • Unsanitorial

    Opiumstan and Cocainlombia, profit centers for our dear Oligarchy. 
    Strategy: arms out; drugs back: The spice must flow!

  • Unsanitorial

    Farquhar Manor:
    Charles and David K. are eager to fund it with the proviso of a happy ending. Maybe it could be written as a microcosm set in a manor house in Northern Virginia; kind of a Lobbyists and illegal alien help thing. The remainder of us could fantasize vicariously and use it as a model for our American Century Dream. DSK could guest star and show us how its done. It could encompass the period from the end of WWII to the present. Dick Cheney is writing it as we speak with Niall Ferguson as color man.

  • Unsanitorial

    Farsi is the language Rezaks will be cramming  to learn in the next several hours, not Persian. That’s what grey fluffy cats speak. Or maybe he’ll meow back later- hiss,hiss.
    Can cats be atheists? Good subject for the next On Point.

  • Unsanitorial

    Look, even the DRShow Beauty Shop admits Iran has no nuclear weapons as of now, and that it might take 2 or 3 years in they went for them unmolested. Looks like we’d be worked up over Pakistan (maybe 200 warheads and counting) if we had good sense. Even Israel has 100 nuclear tipped missiles. That may be why when Bebe talks Barack listens.

    I advocate a one-state solution in Israel/Palestine, all duplexes, with a nominal Jewish family on one side and a nominal Palestinian family on the other. Ethnic mixing is the solution.

  • Unsanitorial

    Jimmy Carter knows.

  • Taichi-wuchi

    When you have one or more people to deal with, freedom becomes limited because there are only two choices.  The first choice is to do away with the other person and the second choice is work together to make life as pleasant as is possible within the limits of  resources.
    We have already chosen to work together to make life what it is today.
    NOW; it is necessary to work together to provide the justice and equity that is necessary to make life a good experience for everyone through cooperation. 
    Considering our present technology, the ability to cooperate instead of undermine is essential to our survival.

  • Unsanitorial

    Prometheus gave them firecrackers too!
    No wonder the Pantheon is upset!

  • Unsanitorial

    Bill needs to invite Chris H. over.
    Or can he do that?
    I saw Chris on C-Span before… Book Chat.

  • Taichi-wuchi

    The Middle East will either be the source of peace on earth or the end of civilization and a viable earth.
    This is no ho hum situation.

  • Dnadanyi

    Guess I understand now. I am in SC with a cat to take care of and law suit against a vulture builder who sc—– us.  Waiting for the lawyer to call as we speak.  Then I go to PA to see how the gas vultures are also sc—— us on our environment and property values. This after the vulture capitalists have sc—–up my retirement. After all this maybe I will come to NYC.  Good luck we are all behind you.

  • Dnadanyi

    How about a war tax?

  • Unsanitorial

    I wouldn’t pay it, would you?

  • Unsanitorial

    I’m in NC near Charlotte. I used to be a builder. I have two cats. But I’m not chained to a post. I wish I could meet someone from this blog at a protest event.

  • Unsanitorial

    Have you seen Pagels new scholarship on Revelations? When people believe mythic superstitions they tend to prepare for them, and in preparing for these expected outcomes they fulfill the foolish prophesy. Revelations is a renewable self-fulfilling prophesy. There is no necessary reason for End Times war in the Levant. Our collective manipulated ignorance could cause war there though. No one can predict the events or outcome of any war (Bacevich),  and fairy tales from a Catholic assembled Bible built for social control will not help. It’s like asking Lindsay Lohan for her recipes. Christians are often the mental victims of warlord religion purveyed by media for the MIC.

  • Unsanitorial

    Say them magic words; and if nuttin’ happens; say ’em again. If you repeat them often enough and long enough they will eventually coincide with a significant event. Then yer prayers is answered.

  • Dnadanyi

    So there is an occupy movement in Charlotte. That is a possibility either in Spring or fall as I could vere off course.

  • Dnadanyi

    Well that is when people would wake up and realise what each of us is paying for the MIComplex and start to complain.  I believe that the right -who love war-actually love their own pocketbooks much, much more.  Do you agree?

  • guest

    What happened to the 3/23 podcast?  It’s 3/28 already.

  • Tom Whitaker

    Where is the 3/23 podcast?

  • Dnadanyi

    It was written up in the New York Book Review.  Havn’t read it yet.

  • MMCBushnell

    Thank you for speaking truth to power.

  • Freegan337

    I wish you would have Andrew Bacevich more often. My father who is a veteran of the second world war and Korean war, has a difficult time with hearing some opinions that call for a deeper struggle with  conscience and moral integrity. When Mr. Bacevich shares his thoughts – my father comes away with a new and more positive understanding of the situations you discuss. Thank you. He is reading Mr. Bacevich’s first book now. I will gladly buy the next too.  

  • Unsanitorial

    Charlotte Occupy is protesting bus fare hikes.
    That ain’t my thang.
    We should meet up in PA,
    near the fracking.
    On May 1st.
    Don’t veer off dear.

  • Unsanitorial

    Replying to Dnadanyi:
    Lets meet at the Women’s Rights Rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 28th. GLH will be there too. 
    Martutah @yahoo:twitter .com
    Charlotte Occupy is protesting bus fare hikes- bo-o-o-ring.

  • Dnadanyi

    I will not be going to PA until May. My old house has the pipes drained and May is the earliest they can put the water back in.

  • Inspired one

    Excellent show.  I commend Mr. Bacevich for truly insightful comments and Bill Moyers for allowing us the priviledge of hearing them.

    Truly loving your show!

  • Sam in Texas

    I think your last line says it all: “And how does he VALIDATE his patriotism?”  I’m thinking Col. Bacevich has more than “validated” his patriotism through his 23 years of service in the army, which included tours of duty in Vietnam.  Not to mention his own son served and died in that fruitless excursion known as the Iraq War.  

    I hope that you are at least a veteran to levy such an inflammatory charge.  And even then, you would be out of line. As for the rest of your “thoughts”, you remind me of that drawing of the three monkeys: one covers his eyes, one his ears, and the last his mouth.  I’m guessing you didn’t really listen to anything that Col. Bacevich had to say.  Instead, thoughtful discourse merely rebounded against fatalistic, hyperbolic talking points rooted firmly in your brain.   You have to question the man’s patriotism because you don’t have any rationale or logic to contradict his well thought out arguments.Shame on you, Gunter Hiller.  People like you really do make this country less than what it ought to be. 

  • Larry Polsky

    Great presentation.  Mission accomplished.  We need to reinstate the draft for people to become more involved
    in world affairs.  Can you imagine a politician suggesting
    that legislation?

  • Anonymous

    Mr, Moyers, will you please read Rialchard Slotkins books, Regeneration through Violence, the Fatal Frontier, and Gunfighter Nation and then before it is too late… have Richard Slotkin on your show to explain the real basics of American culture, individualism, regeneration through regression narratives, and hwo they explain so much of what we do.  Please.

  • Dnadanyi

    I definitely do not, but most others do. A new acquaintance from Australia mentioned that she thought the Gates were wonderful. Ummm I wonder if their African drug philanthropy has an ulterior motive. Betcha it does but they fooled Warren Buffet. 

  • leftofcenter

    The draft will never come back for several reasons. Soaring rates of suicide, PTSD and rape in the military. We can’t pay off our national debt. Also, China continues to block our moves in the UN for more Iranian sanctions.

    How would the President sell attacking Iran to the public? They’re a “threat” to our security. Really? How? When Obama’s kids are 18, would he let them be drafted? Or, would he get all the deferrments he could for them?

  • Paul Revere

    Just more talk that never gets us anywhere.  When you get tired of talking about it –  Join the revolution and do something about it.

    Read “Common Sense
    3.1” at (

  • A Green Road™ M.Blog

    War is a Racket; via A Green Road Blog


    War/No More
    Trouble | Playing for Change | Song Around The World; via A Green Road Blog

  • Anabarbararenaud

    This was superb. Finally an honest discussion about American history.

  • Kenshipman