The Un-Empire

James Bennett has an interesting piece on the logic of empire and the United States. He seems to argue that the United States is an empire in fact if not in action by virtue of our unchallenged wealth and military power.

To a certain extent he’s right – the US is unchallenged economically and most certainly militarily. However, that says a lot about our relative strengths rather than any concerted effort to become a hegemon. In fact, the strain of isolationism that runs through much of American history has not disappeared overnight. I tend to side with Walter Russell Mead that the course of American foreign policy has always been one of reaction rather than action. In order to truly be an empire, you have to extend large amounts of control through direct action. America has no desire to do this for many reasons from expense to moral considerations. Yes, we’ll defend ourselves to the uttermost, but when it comes down to actually going out and ruling another nation we’d just as soon get the hell out of the way.

2 thoughts on “The Un-Empire

  1. I tend to agree, that empire building requires an “expansionist” mentality and American preeminance in the world (both militarily and economically) is at time confused with the former.

  2. the american empire is driven by our hunger to be rich. so long as the american dream can be expressed in material terms and the population of this country continues to expand, our consumer desires will drive our corporations to grow, and grow and grow.

    corporate growth *is* expansionism.

    is that good or bad?

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