I'm finally getting around to Andrew Bacevich's The Limits of Power, only half a year after everybody else read it. I think that Bacevich's biggest virtue might be the degree to which he eschews “metaphysical” speculation in his Niebuhr-inspired realism. His case for self-restraint doesn't rest on a natural law argument. You can take his arguments to be entirely consequentialist if you want. Global power projection isn't going to work because we can't afford it. Massive consumer and government debt isn't going to work because it will ruin us in the future.
Take the traditionalist syllogism from the other day:
- Premise 1: Democratic values displace the older virtues of self-restraint and self-government.
- Premise 2: The older virtues of self-restraint and self-government are necessary to human flourishing.
- Conclusion: Therefore a democratic culture is inimical to human flourishing.
What's important is that we take a clear view of the consequences of our actions and decide what kind of freedom is worth the price that we won't be able to escape paying when the creditors come calling.