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Violet_Crumble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 04:04 AM
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Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order
G. John Ikenberry
From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2004


From Washington to Baghdad, the debate over American empire is back. Five new books weigh in, some celebrating the imperial project as the last best hope of humankind, others attacking it as cause for worry. What they all fail to understand is that U.S. power is neither as great as most claim nor as dangerous as others fear.

The debate on empire is back. This is not surprising, as the United States dominates the world as no state ever has. It emerged from the Cold War the only superpower, and no geopolitical or ideological contenders are in sight. Europe is drawn inward, and Japan is stagnant. A half-century after their occupation, the United States still provides security for Japan and Germany -- the world's second- and third-largest economies. U.S. military bases and carrier battle groups ring the world. Russia is in a quasi-formal security partnership with the United States, and China has accommodated itself to U.S. dominance, at least for the moment. For the first time in the modern era, the world's most powerful state can operate on the global stage without the constraints of other great powers. We have entered the American unipolar age.

The Bush administration's war on terrorism, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, expanded military budget, and controversial 2002 National Security Strategy have thrust American power into the light of day -- and, in doing so, deeply unsettled much of the world. Worry about the implications of American unipolarity is the not-so-hidden subtext of recent U.S.-European tension and has figured prominently in recent presidential elections in Germany, Brazil, and South Korea. The most fundamental questions about the nature of global politics -- who commands and who benefits -- are now the subject of conversation among long-time allies and adversaries alike.

Power is often muted or disguised, but when it is exposed and perceived as domination, it inevitably invites response. One recalls the comment of Georges Clemenceau, who as a young politician said of the settlement ending the Franco-Prussian War, "Germany believes that the logic of her victory means domination, while we do not believe that the logic of our defeat is serfdom." At Versailles a half-century later, he would impose just as harsh a peace on a defeated Germany.

The current debate over empire is an attempt to make sense of the new unipolar reality. The assertion that the United States is bent on empire is, of course, not new. The British writer and labor politician Harold Laski evoked the looming American empire in 1947 when he said that "America bestrides the world like a colossus; neither Rome at the height of its power nor Great Britain in the period of economic supremacy enjoyed an influence so direct, so profound, or so pervasive. ..." And indeed, Dean Acheson and other architects of the postwar order were great admirers of the British Empire. Later, during the Vietnam War, left-wing thinkers and revisionist historians traced the same deep-rooted impulse toward militarism and empire through the history of U.S. foreign policy. The dean of this school, William Appleton Williams, argued in The Tragedy of American Diplomacy that the nation's genuine idealism had been subverted by the imperial pursuit of power and capitalist greed.

Today, the "American empire" is a term of approval and optimism for some and disparagement and danger for others. Neoconservatives celebrate the imperial exercise of U.S. power, which, in a modern version of Rudyard Kipling's "white man's burden," is a liberal force that promotes democracy and undercuts tyranny, terrorism, military aggression, and weapons proliferation. Critics who identify an emerging American empire, meanwhile, worry about its unacceptable financial costs, its corrosive effect on democracy, and the threat it poses to the institutions and alliances that have secured U.S. national interests since World War II.

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040301fareviewessay8321...

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checks-n-balances Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 06:48 AM
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1. Thanks
for posting this. Don't have time to read it right now, but have bookmarked it for later.

I like the writer so it promises to be a good one.
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izzie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 06:53 AM
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2. I would love to buy and read these books but My cat comes first
She takes all my money as she is ill. I am sure the library will not have these books but may get a loan from other bigger lib. I feel Todd is more real on this but all seem to have some good points.Maybe we are a mix of all these empires? We do seem to be trying to rule the world and I would say half our voters like it. I tend to think if we do not have this large middle class we will not be as powerful and how can we keep spending this money to keep this up. Right now taxes have been cut and Bush will be out of office when most retire and their children have to pay for all this. The rich will never send their children to be killed and congress will go with the rich. Maybe we could put all the worlds religious nuts some place together and let them fight it out.They could beat each other with their holy books.
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 08:46 AM
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3. What crap.
The debate on empire is back. This is not surprising, as the
United States dominates the world as no state ever has. It emerged
from the Cold War the only superpower, and no geopolitical or
ideological contenders are in sight. Europe is drawn inward, and
Japan is stagnant.


They keep repeating this shit like a mantra, and the facts do not
bear it out. We are weak, debt-ridden, stupidly governed, and far
into decline.
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robcon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 07:43 PM
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4. The idea is perfectly squared away...
The Bush administration says there is no empire.

Ikenberry says there is no empire.

There is no empire. That's fine with me.
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Direckshun Donating Member (303 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-19-04 05:03 AM
Response to Original message
5. Great article.
Let me respond to some of its points. Ikenberry will be in bold. I will be in regular font.

The debate on empire is back. This is not surprising, as the United States dominates the world as no state ever has.

As no state EVER has? Rome dominated ALL of its opposing states. Alexander the Great conquered all of the known world. Maybe if he's arguing modern history, I'd be more willing to agree...

It emerged from the Cold War the only superpower, and no geopolitical or ideological contenders are in sight.

I think we do have a geopolitical and ideological contender in sight: China.

A half-century after their occupation, the United States still provides security for Japan and Germany -- the world's second- and third-largest economies.

But without the massive importing that these two countries provide the United States, would we have the money to occupy them?

Let us not be military-centered. We depend on more than guns. We depend largely on the dollar, and we depend on these countries for a lot of it.

For the first time in the modern era, the world's most powerful state can operate on the global stage without the constraints of other great powers. We have entered the American unipolar age.

Oh you have got to be kidding me.

I would think that in the Nuclear Age, where dozens of countries possess nuclear weapons, our ability to act "without the contraints of other great powers" is greatly reduced.

The current debate over empire is an attempt to make sense of the new unipolar reality. The assertion that the United States is bent on empire is, of course, not new.

Well perhaps we should have a debate on whether or not the United States COULD become an empire. ;)

The British writer and labor politician Harold Laski evoked the looming American empire in 1947 when he said that "America bestrides the world like a colossus; neither Rome at the height of its power nor Great Britain in the period of economic supremacy enjoyed an influence so direct, so profound, or so pervasive. ..."

Well god dang, I disagree with him now, and it's 2004.

And he wrote this in 1947? When we were licking our wounds post-WWII? What was this guy smoking?

The dean of this school, William Appleton Williams, argued in The Tragedy of American Diplomacy that the nation's genuine idealism had been subverted by the imperial pursuit of power and capitalist greed.

That is absolutely true. Applause for William Williams.

The United States' war conflicts SHOULD be driven by our democratic ideals, not our capitalist ones. Unfortunately, just the opposite seems to be occuring...

Today, the "American empire" is a term of approval and optimism for some and disparagement and danger for others. Neoconservatives celebrate the imperial exercise of U.S. power, which, in a modern version of Rudyard Kipling's "white man's burden," is a liberal force that promotes democracy and undercuts tyranny, terrorism, military aggression, and weapons proliferation. Critics who identify an emerging American empire, meanwhile, worry about its unacceptable financial costs, its corrosive effect on democracy, and the threat it poses to the institutions and alliances that have secured U.S. national interests since World War II.

Well, let me voice my opinion on this, since this is basically the backbone of Ikenberry's article.

What is an empire? Ikenberry's article discusses this term but never seeks to define it. Is an empire a state that is simply more powerful than any other country? Is an empire a state that is overwhelming more powerful than any other country? Is an empire a state that forces other countries to assimilate themselves to its culture? "Empire" could be defined any of these three ways. We would be justified calling the United States an empire in the first sense. But the second and third senses are more complicated. I would say we are unjustified in calling America a "empire" if either of those definitions applied.

I think the reason pro-empire people and anti-empire people are arguing so much over this issue is because they are referring to two different things when they say "empire." Pro-empire people mean the third definition, and promote the notion of an empire because it means a spread of democracy and individual freedom. Anti-empire people mean the second-definition, and fear that we are so intent on using our power that our wallets will be drained feeding the superior military machine.

Before the debate goes any further, we should define what exactly we are saying when we say "empire."
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