Bill Moyers recently spoke with one of America’s most recognized voices on America and the world today, Andrew Bacevich. He’s a graduate of West Point, fought in the Vietnam war, served in Europe during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the U.S. and led troops in the Persian Gulf War. His new book The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory makes the case that we face a new common enemy — climate change.
BILL MOYERS: I expected at the end of your book to see that famous cartoon where someone is asking someone else, “Well, tell me, whose side are you on? Doom or gloom?”
ANDREW BACEVICH: I tend to be — somewhere between — doom and gloom. But I would argue strongly that we need to resurrect some understanding of the common good. If we can do that, that will help heal our divisions [and] will answer the question, “What is the purpose of being an American after the Cold War?” People are going to have different ideas about what could be the basis of a new understanding of the common good.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is climate change. This is the common threat to us and to everybody else on the planet. And were we collectively to recognize how serious that threat is, then that could become the basis of a new politics that would be focused on addressing the threat of climate change and that would then, I believe, help bring the country together again.
To really state it bluntly, the enemy is the American way of life. The enemy is the way we have come to define what freedom actually means…It is past time for us to have a serious conversation about what freedom means, what freedom entails, what obligations or duties freedom imposes.
I don’t see a lot of evidence right now that our political class — there’s a lotta talk about climate change. A lot more talk than there is action. Not a heck of a lot of willingness to confront Americans with the fact that dealing with climate change will require sacrifice, will require doing with less. But unless we get serious, I fear for the world, in which my grandchildren are now growing up in.
BILL MOYERS: So we find a new enemy, and that enemy is our own threat to life on this planet and the life of the planet itself.
ANDREW BACEVICH: Yes. And — I mean, to really state it bluntly, the enemy is the American way of life. The enemy is the way we have come to define what freedom actually means. We will always see ourselves as the people of freedom. We will always say that, freedom really is the foundation of of America.
But it is past time for us to have a serious conversation about what freedom means, what freedom entails, what obligations or duties freedom imposes. We’ve avoided that, and I think, in particular again, after the Cold War we didn’t want to talk about that.
BILL MOYERS: That’s what makes your book both painful and exhilarating. Because it is painful to read the truth, but it is also exhilarating to think the truth may yet save us.
Listen to the full interview
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