< < <
Date Index
> > >
'It takes an empire,' say several U.S. thinkers
by Arno Mong Daastoel
08 April 2002 13:09 UTC
< < <
Thread Index
> > >



Copyright © 2001 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

'It takes an empire,' say several U.S. thinkers
Emily Eakin The New York Times
Tuesday, April 2, 2002
Struggling to get a handle on U.S. foreign policy? For starters, try dusting off your Livy and boning up on the Second Punic War. Or dip into a good history of 19th-century Britain, paying close attention to those dazzling military campaigns in the Middle East - the Battle of Omdurman, say, or the Second Afghan War.

Today, America is no mere superpower or hegemon but a full-blown empire in the Roman and British sense. That, at any rate, is the consensus of some of the most notable U.S. commentators and scholars.

"People are now coming out of the closet on the word 'empire,'" said the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. "The fact is no country has been as dominant culturally, economically, technologically and militarily in the history of the world since the Roman Empire."

Americans are used to being told - typically by resentful foreigners - that they are imperialists. But lately some of the nation's own eminent thinkers are embracing the idea. More astonishing, they are using the term with approval. From the isolationist right to the imperialist-bashing left, a growing number of experts are issuing stirring paeans to American empire.

The Weekly Standard kicked off the parade early last fall with "The Case for American Empire," by The Wall Street Journal's editorial features editor, Max Boot. Quoting the title of Patrick Buchanan's last book, "America: A Republic, not an Empire," Boot said, "This analysis is exactly backward: the Sept. 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition; the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation."

Calling for the military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Boot cited the stabilizing effect of 19th-century British rule in the region. "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today," he wrote, "cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodphurs and pith helmets."

Since then, the empire idea has caught on. In January, Charles Fairbanks, a foreign policy expert at Johns Hopkins University, told an audience at Michigan State University that America was "an empire in formation." Last month, a Yale University professor, Paul Kennedy - who 10 years ago was predicting America's ruin from imperial overreach - went further.

"Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power," Kennedy wrote in the Financial Times of London. "The Pax Britannica was run on the cheap, Britain's army was much smaller than European armies and even the Royal Navy was equal only to the next two navies - right now all the other navies in the world combined could not dent American maritime supremacy. Napoleon's France and Philip II's Spain had powerful foes and were part of a multipolar system. Charlemagne's empire was merely western European in its stretch. The Roman Empire stretched further afield, but there was another great empire in Persia and a larger one in China. There is no comparison." The most extended statement from the empire camp to date is "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos" (Random House, 2001), a recent book by the journalist Robert Kaplan.

Arguing that "times have changed less than we think," Kaplan suggests the nation's leaders turn to ancient chroniclers - as well as Winston Churchill's 1899 account of the British conquest of the Sudan - for helpful hints about how to navigate today's world. He devotes a chapter to the Second Punic War ("Rome's victory in the Second Punic War, like America's in World War II, made it a universal power") and one to the cunning Emperor Tiberius. Granted, the emperor was something of a despot, writes Kaplan. Still, he "combined diplomacy with the threat of force to preserve a peace that was favorable to Rome."

If that sounds familiar, you've got the right idea. "Our future leaders could do worse than be praised for their tenacity, their penetrating intellects and their ability to bring prosperity to distant parts of the world under America's soft imperial influence," Kaplan writes. "The more successful our foreign policy, the more leverage America will have in the world. Thus, the more likely that future historians will look back on 21st-century United States as an empire as well as a republic, however different from that of Rome and every other empire throughout history."

Classicists may scoff at the idea that democratic America has much in common with the tyrannical Rome of Augustus or Nero. But the empire camp points out that however unlikely the comparison, America has often behaved like a conquering empire. As Kennedy put it, "From the time the first settlers arrived in Virginia from England and started moving westward, this was an imperial nation, a conquering nation."

America's imperial behavior continues today. "The United States has bases or base rights in 40 countries," he said. "In the assault on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, they moved warships from Britain, Japan, Germany, Southern Spain and Italy."

Today, the empire scholars acknowledge that America tends to operate not through brute force but through economic, cultural and political means. The idea seems to be that it is easier to turn other people into Americans than for Americans to make war on them.

"We are an attractive empire, Boot said. And that, empire enthusiasts say, is the reason to root for a Pax Americana. In an anarchic world, with rogue states and terrorist cells, a globally dominant United States offers the best hope for peace and stability, they argue.

"There's a positive side to empire," Kaplan said. "It's in some ways the most benign form of order."

Copyright © 2001 The International Herald Tribune


GIF image

GIF image

FN:Arno Mong Daastøl
NOTE;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE:InnoTrans=0D=0AUtsiktsveien 34=0D=0ANO-1410  Kolbotn=0D=0ANorway=0D=0A=0D=
=0AOrganisation number: NO 882 826 902 Bankgiro: 7114 0555 619 =0D=0ABank:De=
n norske Bank SWIFT: DNBANOKKXXX =0D=0AA/C for international payments: NO19 =
7114 0555 619=0D=0A=0D=0AE-Fax: +1 (419) 710 3145=0D=0AMobile fax: +47 94.03=
.56.50=0D=0A=0D=0AAll email addresses:=0D=0A=0D=0Aam@daastol.com=0D=0Aarno@d=
conomics.org=0D=0Aa.m.daastoel@uni-erfurt.de=0D=0A=0D=0AOld: =0D=0Aa.m.daast=
@ulrik.uio.no=0D=0A=0D=0Aa.daastoel@algemene.uni-maas.nl =0D=0Aarnomd@online=
.no=0D=0A=0D=0AOnline email addresses:=0D=0Aarnomd@opera.com=0D=0Aarnomd@hot=
TEL;WORK;VOICE:+47 66 80 63 73
TEL;HOME;VOICE:+47 66 80 65 23
TEL;CELL;VOICE:+47 90 02 49 56
TEL;WORK;FAX:+47 66 99 53 25
TEL;PREF:+47 66 80 63 73
ADR;WORK:;;P.O. Box 4;Taarnaasen;;NO-1413;Norway
ADR;HOME:;;Utsiktsveien 34;Kolbotn;;NO-1410;Norway
LABEL;HOME;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE:Utsiktsveien 34=0D=0AKolbotn NO-1410=0D=0ANorway
ADR;POSTAL;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE:;;Nordha=FCserstrase 14=0D=0APostfach 900 221;Erfurt;;99089;Germany
LABEL;POSTAL;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE:Nordha=FCserstrase 14=0D=0APostfach 900 221=0D=0AErfurt 99089=0D=0AGermany
< < <
Date Index
> > >
World Systems Network List Archives
at CSF
Subscribe to World Systems Network < < <
Thread Index
> > >