READ THE TRANSCRIPT

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 BillMoyers.com 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.

Bill Moyers Essay: The Dangerous Road of Wishful Thinking

March 23, 2012

Bill Moyers counsels President Obama not to look at America through the rose-colored glasses of people — like Robert Kagan — led by political opportunity and wishful thinking, but by those — like Andrew Bacevich — who see the world as it truly is, and are best poised to make it better.

  • submit to reddit

BillMoyers.com encourages conversation and debate around issues, events and ideas related to content on Moyers & Company and the BillMoyers.com website.

  • The editorial staff reserves the right to take down comments it deems inappropriate.
  • Profanity, personal attacks, hate speech, off-topic posts, advertisements and spam will not be tolerated.
  • Do not intentionally make false or misleading statements, impersonate someone else, break the law, or condone or encourage unlawful activity.

If your comments consistently or intentionally make this community a less civil and enjoyable place to be, you and your comments will be excluded from it.

We need your help with this. If you feel a post is not in line with the comment policy, please flag it so that we can take a look. Comments and questions about our policy are welcome. Please send an email to info@moyersmedia.com

Find out more about BillMoyers.com's privacy policy and terms of service.

  • Sfeher

    Are we willing to look at “what is” rather than what we would like it to be?  I don’t think so.  We are so willing to escape from ‘what is’ by blaming, rationalizing, explaining away, whatever works…  If we are willing to see ‘what is’ we have to look at our own contribution to society as it really is, not accepting the phrases that have no meaning, such as “the American Dream”, and other drivel.  Looking at what really is requires seeing oneself and the contribution of our own ambition, greed, envy, and willingness to crush any opposition to our competitive drive to the “top”, whatever that might be. We are a violent society and say what we will about peace, it is just a word without meaning; anyone countering our drive to be No. 1 better get ready to face our drones, bombers, and other attacks. 

  • Barry Gross

    Really quite amazing that people in the bubble can truly be so disconnected from the reality of the crises they create.  We don’t need an America that exists as it does today.  We need an America whose leaders embrace compassion, reason, democracy, community and moral clarity.  None of those characteristics define any semblance of policy in Washington today.

  • Piksnilderf

    It’s unamerican for Bill to speak out against the concept of American Exceptionalism” in this segment.
    Surely he isn’t suggesting we shouldn’t be able to occupy other nations at a President’s whim, or allow our corps free reign to pillage wherever they choose.

    Surely he’s not suggesting other nation’s citizens are on par with Americans??? How could we justify drone strikes anywhere we like around the world?

    Surely he is not suggesting America learn from mistakes of past and stop entering into unjustifiable conflicts?

    Seems to me to suggest such heresy is justification for deportation… or perhaps even  “extraordinary rendition”.

  • Keysclub

    PNAC! The Project For A New American Century. The most telling sentence I’ve read possibly explaining how we got where we are today went something like ” this agenda is likely to take a long time barring a revolution or another event like Pearl Harbor.”
    It was written in one of their letters on their web page and was signed by many retread daddy bush mob members that even he thought were overboard. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others and very telling, Jeb Bush. This is a very deep pocketed group that had their dream come true on 9/11. I always wondered why George W obstructed a serious investigation of the attack but seeing Jeb, who he owed his office to, associated with this agenda it certainly warrants a second look at the obvious dots left unconnected.

  • Anonymous

    The not-to-be-too-closely-examined cheerleading for American exceptionalism is entirely consonant with the aims of the (Bacevich’s term) national security state, which is to keep us fearful and embroiled in endless war, thus ensuring its continued political power and corporate profits.

    Short of an informed electorate taking to the streets (highly doubtful in my lifetime), such wishful thinking will continue to dominate US politics.

    How thrilled I would be to be proven wrong.

  • Unsanitorial

    Could he get droned?

    “They’ll drone you when you’re trying to be so goodThey’ll drone you just like they said they wouldThey’ll drone you when you’re trying to go homeThey’ll drone you when you’re not there all aloneBut I would not feel so all aloneEverybody must get droned ”

    with apologies to Robert Zimmerman

  • Unsanitorial

    Jebby was justa tryin’ t’help them Bin Laddies get home. Laddie, come ho-o-ome!  Laddie, come ho-o-o-ome! I cried and cried like in that War Whores movie. Meanwhile Marvin got the WT all wired up good. It’s a family show, like the Sopranos. Finally, Dick Cheney has a heart! Let’s cry some more.

  • Unsanitorial

    If you diss me soccer club, mate, I’m gonna rearrange yer teeth! 

    She’s a loserShe’s a forgiverShe still finds goodWhen no one couldYou want herMore than moneyCadillac can rustDiamond and dust

    So leave America aloneLeave America aloneShe’s not like youAnd meShe’s not like youAnd me
    You should’ve seen herBack in the shining city (on a hill)Poetry and jewelsBroke all the rulesShe was as high asA Georgia pot stalk”

    sings Rod Stewart

  • Unsanitorial

    “Don’t cry for me Progressive voters.
    All through my compromised days,
    My re-election.
    I kept my promise,
    No insurrection.”

    He had his moments, he had some styleThe best show in town was the crowdOutside the White House crying, “Say it ain’t so”But that’s all gone nowAs soon as the smoke from the funeral clearsWe’re all gonna see and how, he did nothing for years

    Show business kept us all alive
    Since Eleven September 2001
    But the star has gone, the glamour’s worn thin
    That’s a pretty bad state for a state on the run

    Don’t cry for me Progressive voters
    All through my compromised days
    My re-election.
    I kept my promise,
    No insurrection.

  • Unsanitorial

    Don’t cry for me broke consumers,
    The truth is I am a Neo-con,
    The War on Terror,
    The profiteering,
    I kept you spending,
    I kept you fearing.

    (Andrew LLoyd Webber plagiarized it earlier, 
    copying Peronism)

  • Anonymous

    Biography lends to death a new terror.

  • W.Tonyi Quilico

    Obama has sold out the country.  He has appointed too many former Bush people to serve his administration, and too many Wall Street Bankers as well. 
      He bailed out the wrong people.  Also, he put no sanctions on these “big” money people.  Result is they are at it again.
       Obama is responsible for not backing single payer legislation and losing Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Mass by not considering Union’s med package.  They dropped him like a water logged stick.
       It is time for a third party because there are too many bought people in the gov. now.