Andrew J. Bacevich: The American Century Is Over— Good RiddanceRoundup: Historians' Take
As someone who teaches both history and international relations, I have one foot in each camp. I'm interested in what has already happened. And I'm interested in what will happen next. In my teaching and my writing, I try to locate connecting tissue that links past to present. Among the devices I've employed to do that is the concept of an "American Century."
That evocative phrase entered the American lexicon back in February 1941, the title of an essay appearing in Life magazine under the byline of the publishing mogul Henry Luce. In advancing the case for U.S. entry into World War II, the essay made quite a splash, as Luce intended. Yet the rush of events soon transformed "American Century" into much more than a bit of journalistic ephemera. It became a summons, an aspiration, a claim, a calling, and ultimately the shorthand identifier attached to an entire era. By the time World War II ended in 1945, the United States had indeed ascended—as Luce had forecast and perhaps as fate had intended all along—to a position of global primacy. Here was the American Century made manifest....
Luce's essay manages to be utterly ludicrous and yet deeply moving. Above all, this canonical assertion of singularity—identifying God's new Chosen People—is profoundly American. (Of course, I love Life in general. Everyone has a vice. Mine is collecting old copies of Luce's most imaginative and influential creation—and, yes, my collection includes the issue of February 17, 1941.)
Alas, the bracing future that Luce confidently foresaw back in 1941 has in our own day slipped into the past. If an American Century ever did exist, it's now ended. History is moving on—although thus far most Americans appear loath to concede that fact....
comments powered by Disqus
- How Jimi Hendrix’s London Years Changed Music
- Presidential Campaigns are Almost Always about the Future. In 2020, the Candidates Cannot Stop Talking about the Past
- Richard and the Revolutionaries: Why did Lefties Love Wagner?
- Trump Alleges ‘Left-Wing Indoctrination’ in Schools, Says He will Create National Commission to Push More ‘Pro-American’ History
- Black Leaders Launch ‘1776 Unites’ High School Curriculum
- 52 Years Ago, Thelonious Monk Played a High School. Now Everyone Can Hear It.
- From MLK to Whistleblowers, the FBI’s Trouble with Dissidents
- If the Electoral College is a Racist Relic, Why has it Endured? (podcast)
- It’s the 100th Anniversary of the Wall Street Bombing
- Ed Bearss, Past Chief Historian Of National Park Service, Dies At 97