• After the Apocalypse

  • America's Role in a World Transformed
  • By: Andrew Bacevich
  • Narrated by: Peter Coyote
  • Length: 6 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (93 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A bold and urgent perspective on how American foreign policy must change in response to the shifting world order of the 21st century, from Andrew J. Bacevich, the New York Times best-selling author of The Limits of Power and The Age of Illusions.

The purpose of US foreign policy has, at least theoretically, been to keep Americans safe. Yet as we confront a radically changed world, it has become indisputably clear that the terms of that policy have failed. Washington’s insistence that a market economy is compatible with the common good, its faith in the idea of the “West” and its “special relationships”, its conviction that global military primacy is the key to a stable and sustainable world order - these have brought endless wars and a succession of moral and material disasters.

In a bold reconception of America’s place in the world, informed by thinking from across the political spectrum, Andrew J. Bacevich - founder and president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a bipartisan Washington think tank dedicated to foreign policy - lays down a new approach - one that is based on moral pragmatism, mutual coexistence, and war as a last resort. Confronting the threats of the future - accelerating climate change, a shift in the international balance of power, and the ascendance of information technology over brute weapons of war - his vision calls for nothing less than a profound overhaul of our understanding of national security.

Crucial and provocative, After the Apocalypse sets out new principles to guide the once-but-no-longer sole superpower as it navigates a transformed world.

A Macmillan Audio production from Metropolitan Books

©2021 Andrew J. Bacevich (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"The proliferating crises of our moment have found their interpreter. In this piercing account, Andrew Bacevich explains how distinctively American attributes - from our national security state to our original sin of racism to our very self-concept as the world leader - have, in the 21st century, conspired to render the American people vulnerable where they live. Bacevich points the way forward in terms that Americans across party lines are likely to appreciate. Will their leaders?" (Stephen Wertheim, author of Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy)

"An excoriating call for change...Bacevich's arguments are well-informed and stoked by a sense of moral outrage. Readers will agree that US foreign policy needs a massive rethink." (Publishers Weekly)

"With a reputation for knowledgeable, incisive, and provocative readings of history, Bacevich delivers his latest addition to a growing body of thought-provoking work.... Broad in its scope yet concise, this is an important nonconformist interpretation of American history." (Kirkus Reviews)

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Required reading.

With the exception of the subject of 9/11, where the author merely repeats the impossible and discredited official account, I found his analysis of the USA’s problems to be spot on. I lived in the States for 36 years (from 1956 to 1992) a period that covered the USA’s steady decline from post-war superpower to a failing state run by corporations with a smarmy drug dealer from Arkansas as puppet president. Interestingly enough, the country’s interconnected failures were harder to see when I actually lived there, i.e. I was too close to the forest. It took moving back to Europe to enable me to see the trees more clearly. In this short but powerful book the author demonstrates his talent for seeing the pattern and its integral parts. This book should be read by every American. Not just read, but publicly discussed, analyzed, debated, and understood. However, I don’t expect it will be. The message is too painful for a people brought up with nonstop propaganda regarding the USA’s “greatness.” The US empire will therefore continue to decline, thrashing about like a wounded beast with its military (what else does it have?), and go the way of all empires, serving as an example for future historians of how a country chose to destroy itself with negligence, decadence, drugs, and mind boggling social experiments instead of doing the work it would take the be truly great.

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Full of chronicled opportunities lost

The Apocalypse this book refers to is the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which upended several previously sacrosanct presuppositions about economics, society, and diplomacy. Andrew Bacevich addresses the history and condition of the United States and the role the US is likely to play in the 2020s and beyond. The author argues that the age of American empire is over—and that that's not a bad thing for the world, and especially the US. This book should help Americans discover that there is (good) life after learning that the world is not all about them.

Bacevich gores favorite oxes of both right and left—no matter who you are, you're likely to cheer some of the points made and find yourself re-evaluating others. The neoconservative insistence on prosecuting the Iraq war receives special skewering—Bacevich traces a common thread of this mindset with the excesses of philosophical assumptions throughout the past 100 years. The obstinate positions of the Best and Brightest and other wise men throughout this period played major roles in getting us where we are today—that is, far from the best of places we could have been. This book is full of chronicled opportunities lost.

In an artful expose of Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series of motivational propaganda films in the 1940s, Bacevich highlights the clever hypocrisy presented to entice African Americans to support a war defending a democracy in which Jim Crow restricted their participation. That sold for WWII—much less so in the Vietnam era.

Major media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post as societal influencers, are also called out for criticism about their hypocrisy. The Times for example in the 1990s celebrated the US in a "we are number one" manner—while later declaring in the 1619 project that the US democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. As such candor is necessary and refreshing (Americans, eat your historical spinach), the contradictory complexity of US history indicates that the truth is likely somewhere between the noble universal humanity of the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson's own ethnic chauvinism in his regression away from striving for racial and cultural liberalism in his later life.

Even as this book was written prior to the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bacevich leaves open the question of whether America's leadership (its ruling elites) can reform themselves (and the US) to establish a survivable direction. Whether America will re-calibrate its many erroneous readings and keep authoritarians (foreign and domestic) and its own advancing illiberalism safely contained remains unanswered—we must do all we can to influence the influencers to stay the (corrected) course and establish true justice for all.

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A screed he promised, a screed he gave

One thing about this book, there is something for everyone to love and something to hate.

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Citizens, Take Heed

Mr Bacevich addresses our problems directly, and honestly. Probably why he is not in our current political arena. This book is a wake up call to Americans who care about our future and the future of our grandchildren. Right now this country is bifurcated and disjointed - so much so, we can't even come to a logical and reasonable agreement on getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Having experienced the good times and the bad times of the US over my 78 years, this is the worst state I have seen the country in. Things need to change in a big way, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

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interesting foreign policy book

I enjoyed reading this book, which examined recent American history, our foreign policy goals, our national self-concepts and where they have faults. And made some recommendations for future changes.

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Clear-headed critique of US policy pre-and post-pandemic

Historian Andrew Bacevich torpedoes all claims of American exceptionalism and dismantles the myths we have foolishly believed about our history and leadership, at home and abroad, since the USA was founded. He then offers a way out of this quagmire, in the unlikely event we ever come to our senses. Well read by Peter Coyote (though not quite up to his usual high standards).

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Very negative but with merit.

This is third book I’ve purchased by Andrew Bacevich. I admire with military and geopolitical knowledge as one of the best. In this book he is seemingly biter regarding the historical events of the US and it’s leadership. Informing but strong opinions by the author are apparent. The narrator should stick with Ken Burns documentaries. His voice is just too authoritative.

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Realistic and sobering assessment of where the USA

It is hard to accuse Andrew Bacevich for the lack of patriotism and the love for his country. Career military himself, Vietnam vet whose son also paid with his life while serving in Iraq. So when he offers an opinion, people should take it seriously. USA is on the wrong track misguided by self delusion of grandeur and exceptionalism. Focused on the wrong things and chasing the wrong objectives. Bacevich is trying to lift that veil and offer an alternative vision. Will his advice be heeded? Time will tell but things do not look promising at the moment. Madness continues....

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Apocalypse Today

Bacevich has been one of the few historians who looked at the GWOT with open eyes in the last twenty years. He’s done this again in his latest book, but now he’s predicting our future. The failed wars made by dumb generals and politicians, along with their partisan voters, have been part of a bigger illness Americans suffer from. Our exceptionalism in war and empire have dug our own graves.

Bacevich has provided a alternative future without our exceptionalism if we have the courage. The chapters on race and the environment are excellent. There’s a soundness and modesty in his thought that you can’t find within the empty two party tent. Good narration by Peter Coyote, too.

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  • 09-13-21

A must read/ listen.

A very powerful and honest book. It's a must read for everyone, but especially Europeans.This books details a very powerful current that is sweeping America, that of American retrenchment. Many of us living outside America don't seem to realise how much America spends in maintaining our current world order that many of us benefit from.

American's seem to be going through a set of upheavals that I believe they will overcome, but they will be changed at the end of it. For the rest of us, it will mean our world's will also be changed because of the oversized role the American's have played in it.

This book should be a warning to citizens and world leaders that things in America will not return to normal with a new President, and that the world will have to find a new normal.