Tuesday, August 09, 2005


The Empire of the United States

Today, we see the phrase hegemony or empire directed at the US without knowing precisely what is meant or even whether it is true that there is such a thing. Most Americans are insistent that we are not an empire and have no intentions of becoming one. On the other hand, Europeans, almost to a man, see the US as definitely an empire and rail against it feverishly, to the amazement of Americans. So what is the truth?

By the classical definition of empire we are certainly not one. We do not control a significant group of foreign nations, bound to us by conquest, and directed by our government. We do not manage this group’s economies, nor do we exploit their resources, because the group does not exist. Neither are we inclined at all to annex new lands and peoples for the growth of the US. Where, then, does this notion of American hegemony or empire come from? Will someone tell us who we are?

The first thing that is true is that we are by far the largest economy in the world and have a voracious appetite for raw materials to feed our industries and our population with goods, including, of course oil. Does this fact alone make us an empire? Hardly: we are simply the largest consumer of resources that we do not own, and pay for them year in and year out.

The second thing that is true is that we have the most powerful military ever assembled in the world. It is in fact stationed in many places around the globe, and has over 31 bases having a thousand men or more permanently assigned. This is due partly to the global Cold War we pursued successfully against the USSR for a half century, and partly due to the stabilization and peacekeeping duties we undertook in a number of nations at the behest of and under the umbrella of “legitimatization” from the UN: South Korea, and Kosovo for example.

Our current military efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are both intended to stabilize these countries under more democratic regimes, and to diminish the Islamofascist terrorists where they are found. There is no plan whatsoever to subjugate these nations to the US, nor even to appropriate their oil. In fact, the sovereign Iraqi government has control of their oil now. We will leave when our stabilization objectives are accomplished.

Does this defacto military dominance we have found ourselves in since the end of the Cold War constitute an empire? Of itself it doesn’t, especially if one gives due credit to the good and even noble intentions of the US. We threaten no nation that is a reasonable international player, whatever their government.

We do threaten Iran and North Korea now because of their suspected development of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, and we are joined in this effort by England, France, Germany, China, Russia, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. This is not an empire-building exercise, it is a defensive effort by major nations to reduce the possibility of nuclear war.

Therefore, a worldwide military presence and dominant military capability does not mean a defacto empire in and of itself, if you take into consideration the true intentions of those forces.

There is a third factor, that of the promulgation of American culture and products throughout the world by means of films, music, TV programs, coke, Macdonald’s and other fast-food operations, and many other products, including automobiles and trucks, and earth-moving equipment. This is certainly a form of "invasion," since with the sales of goods comes the overseas offices of US corporations. But it has only a peaceful, business and trade intent. We are in competition around the globe with other international companies for the same set of products as well. It is business as usual: no empire! So what about economic penetration and the dollar standard throughout the world? Is this a form of economic empire?

At the moment, the US is a debtor nation, and owes in the neighborhood of three trillion dollars to foreign countries. This is hardly a dominant position from which to rule! Empires are said historically to be very solvent indeed, with the empire a net lender to its subjugated nations. So we cannot say that the US has an economic empire, except perhaps within its own borders.

What we are led to is that neither in economics nor military nor culture and products, nor in the intent of the citizens does the US have or want an empire that places us in a dominant and controlling position in the world. Is the potential there? Certainly! But anyone that knows the US also knows that our intentions are benevolent, despite the misguided harangues of anti-American groups in the world. We promote freedom for people worldwide, but this does not rate as imperialism or empire-building.

The USA Has No Empire


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