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The Old Normal

Into the morass: a historical view of America’s disastrous foreign policy

In May 1942, six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, General George C. Marshall gave a commencement speech at West Point in which he stated, “We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.” In the March issue of Harper’s Magazine, Andrew J. Bacevich demonstrates how Marshall’s proclamation became the essential premise of American foreign policy. This “terminal inertia” has persisted in the face of multiple forever wars, and it shows no sign of ending even under the self-proclaimed isolationist Donald Trump. As we attempt to come to terms with and move on from the conditions that led to Trump’s election, we must reckon with both freedom and power, and how densely intertwined those concepts are.

In this week’s episode, Bacevich, who is the president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and author of The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory, speaks with web editor Violet Lucca about his cover story, “The Old Normal.” Bacevich and Lucca discuss the centrality of expansionism to American foreign policy, the uniquely American failure to learn from our past mistakes, the origins of executive power, and the opportunity the United States has to redefine its core values.

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September 2016

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