Bacevich, “Appetite for Destruction”

Last Updated: 12 Mar 2023
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Bacevich argues that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” principles on which the American government were based, has always been associated with the desire to accumulate: territories, business markets, and precious resources. In the present day, for many Americans, this ideology equates with consumerism, and the consumerist/materialist/self-indulgent culture affects foreign policy. In the American conscience, expansion, abundance, and freedom have been inextricably linked.

This linkage is most evident in the events and American’s economic and military status directly following World War II. The post-World War II expansion, however, reached a crisis point in the 60s with the Vietnam War, when America was transformed into an “Empire of Consumption. ” Now, these three concepts are not related reciprocally: expansion is not leading to abundance. On the contrary, it is leading to scarcity. Bacevich argues that U. S.’s reliance on oil and petroleum (and its dependence on foreign sources for this resource) has led it to stray from ethical foreign policy. This phenomenon was something that Carter recognized, but the American public was unwilling to admit that their primary threat was their own consumerist behavior (and not some outside threat).

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Reagan indulged the American public’s desire for instant gratification: oil consumption jumped considerably as did the size of the national debt, and savings dwindled as American’s borrowed more and more. The dependency on oil has made the U.S. dependent on Islamic lands, and Presidents have generally relied on military power to retain access to these necessary resources. In the aftermath of September 11, President Bush encouraged Americans to indulge their consumerism. Instead of advising them that saving might be prudent given that war costs money, Bush focused on preserving the American way of life. Because the American way of life has not been seen as a major problem, Americans now have expensive commitments in foreign lands and face dangers that they are poorly equipped to face.

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Bacevich, “Appetite for Destruction”. (2016, Jul 16). Retrieved from

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