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.
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.