While the passing of Jerry Falwell gets the headlines, the New York Times today reported that young First Lt. Andrew Bacevich, son of Professor Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, was killed in action in Iraq on this past Sunday. Professor Bacevich has been one of the most penetrating critics of America's course over the past fifty years, a period of time when we went from being a producer to a debtor (a.k.a. "consumer") nation and became a penurious if well-armed addict of petroleum supplied by desert tyrants whose nations it was declared to be our national interest to protect or invade. Bacevich - a Vietnam War veteran and self-described conservative - has argued that Jimmy Carter was altogether right to call for a form of freedom in which we lived within our means and with a recognition of limits in his now-decried "malaise" speech of 1979. Our 30 year binge - initiated by Ronald Reagan, whose first act was to tear down the solar panels that Carter had installed atop the White House - now makes it much more difficult for us to live within whatever means we have left. Clinton and Gore were not much better - under their watch the national automobile fleet went from being comprised largely of inexcusably large cars to mammoth assault vehicles.
Bacevich has written widely and seriously about our predicament. For a taste, visit a recent article that appeared at the end of last year in Commonweal, reprinted here. Note that in this essay Bacevich cites Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy, as well as Christopher Lasch, Robert Nisbet and Pope John Paul II, in his call that America begin to live within its means, cease promoting its way of life at the point of a gun, reject the contemporary definition of freedom as "living as one likes" in favor of a freedom of actual independence, and practice the virtues of thrift, self-denial and "putting up for a rainy day." Bacevich, clearly, is a true radical, and an angry one at that (with justification, in my view).
The father, and his son, are in my prayers today. First Lt. Andrew Bacevich, requiescat in pace.