In a book review in The New York Review of Books of Andrew Bachevich's new book, The Limits of Power, Brian Urquhart writes:
Bacevich traces the "crisis of profligacy" in which the American way of life has outstripped the means available to satisfy it. In 1947 America's economic position was unrivaled. That moment soon passed. By 1950 the US had begun to import foreign oil, which Bacevich calls "the canary in the economic mineshaft." The first negative US trade balance occurred in 1971; in 1972 US oil production peaked; and the 1973 "oil shock" caused a 40 percent rise in gas prices. Later in the decade Jimmy Carter's warnings of "a fundamental threat to American democracy," which he described as the "worship of self- indulgence and consumption" and a "constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility," fell on deaf ears. By the 1980s the "Empire of Production" had become the "Empire of Consumption." Carter does not escape, however. Of his statement that control of the Persian Gulf was a vital US interest, Bacevich writes, "not since the Tonkin Gulf Resolution has a major statement of policy been the source of greater mischief."
Ronald Reagan has a special place in Bacevich's rogue's gallery. He is a "faux-conservative" and "the modern prophet of profligacy" who encouraged the fantasy that credit had no limits and bills would never come due. He had a "canny knack for telling Americans what most of them wanted to hear" and presided over eight years of "gaudy prosperity and excess" based on cheap credit and cheap oil. Bacevich remarks that Reagan's beliefs "did as much to recast America's moral constitution as did sex, drugs, and rock and roll." By 1990 the United States imported 41 percent of its oil and was embroiled in the Islamic world as a result. Deficits and the national debt had soared, and the United States was no longer a creditor country. "Americans have yet to realize," Bacevich writes, "that they have forfeited command of their own destiny."