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Unilateral Superior Arms?
June 2, 2003 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Is the USA "an empire in denial?"
"The United States is a 'danger to the world' because of its denial that it is a military and economic empire, according to Niall Ferguson, historian and new-found darling of the American right."
posted by Blue Stone (21 comments total)

 
Here's a recent article by Ferguson on America's reluctant imperialism: The Empire Slinks Back
posted by homunculus at 10:26 AM on June 2, 2003


I always thought it was the Egyptians that had an empire in de Nile...

[insert favourite 'tip the waitress' line here]
posted by i_cola at 10:39 AM on June 2, 2003


The guy is so busy being anti-American that he refuses to note that having baesin so many countries by itself does not make America an Empire. After all, how many countries can he name where we have bases and the people living in those countries do not want us to be there (goverments speaking in behalf of the people)? Iraq? fairlysoon, prehaps, S. Korea? Japan> Germany?--these countries and many others profit from our presence and no longer need worry about spending huge sums of their own for a military.

We have bases in UK--does the good professor feel a 1776ish notion to forment a revolution and declare independence?
posted by Postroad at 11:02 AM on June 2, 2003


If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

"750 military bases in three-quarters of the countries on earth"

chances are...
posted by Damienmce at 11:18 AM on June 2, 2003


Rome ruled primarily through vassal kings; a conquered nation would have its king confirmed by the Senate. Rome could and did adjudicate succession in these client states, and intervened in many civil wars.

Particularly restless vassal kingdoms were quelled by the judicious stationing of legions and colonies of retired veterans.

These nations often desired the presence of Rome. Rome brought stability, militarily defended its client states, and more importantly, brought lots and lots of money. Often Rome "conquered" through the invitation of one side or the other of some internecine conflict.

It's all there in Tacitus, and Livy, and the rest-- plain as day.

How are we any different in these features of Empire? We aren't, substantially. But the author's point is simply this: by refusing to acknowlege the imperial rĂ´le we play on the stage of world affairs, we cannot engage in effective internal criticism and debate about our own actions, and therefore cannot make the best decisions for our own interests as well as for the interests of our vassals.
posted by Cerebus at 11:23 AM on June 2, 2003


I don't get this. The author seems to take for granted that running an empire would be a good thing for the U.S. He complains that educated Americans don't want to move overseas and run foreign possessions - well, maybe that's because educated Americans don't generally think the U.S. should have foreign possessions, and don't want anything to do with the nasty business of dominating them.

Can't these neoconservatives see what kind of tiger sits at the other end of the tail they're so eager to seize? It's only written on every page of history. It'll be a wild ride at first, but every empire overreaches, hollows out its own support base, stretches, frays, and collapses, and America will be no exception. Where are the Romans now? The Greeks? Mongols? Spaniards? Turks? French? British? Russians? Why do these people think the U.S. will be able to avoid the same fate?

It won't happen. If these warmongers get their way, come next century the U.S. will be played out, broken, and humiliated, and possibly dismembered. Are they truly so short-sighted that they think the inevitable defeat is worth a few decades of glory and exploitation?
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:39 AM on June 2, 2003


these countries and many others profit from our presence and no longer need worry about spending huge sums of their own for a military.

So they're economically dependent on the US then?

On a different point;

Where are the Romans now? The Greeks? Mongols? Spaniards? Turks? French? British? Russians? Why do these people think the U.S. will be able to avoid the same fate?

Rom; Greece; Mongolia; Spain; Turkey; France; Britain; Russia.
Where would these people have been if they hadn't had empires? For the individuals involved in them there was power, prestige and being on the top rather than the bottom. Motivation for empires may look silly once they've failed but having one can be fruitful for those involved in them at the time given an unknowable future.
posted by biffa at 11:53 AM on June 2, 2003


What price the American empire?
posted by homunculus at 11:56 AM on June 2, 2003


I don't care about the theories of Niall Ferguson or anyone else about the American Empire (Slavoj Zizek, this means you), but I'm very glad I read the linked article because of its conclusion:
Security men removed a self-styled "shamanistic poet", Niall McDevitt, from the lecture, when he accused Prof Ferguson of trying to "alleviate guilt" [about the empire], while reciting a poem in pidgin on the imperial legacy in the New Hebrides islands in the Pacific.

"I know you are Irish," Prof Ferguson told him, "but what is your question?"
posted by languagehat at 12:01 PM on June 2, 2003


Languagehat - Best. Putdown. Ever.

But the "U.S. as empire"? - if Professor Ferguson would care for a brief respite from his lecture circuit, perhaps it would please him to come over to my house and exercise the physical counterpart to his uncanny historian's aim.

I have one foot deep pond stocked with large, slow trout and a sawed off shotgun - for his hunting pleasure.
posted by troutfishing at 12:45 PM on June 2, 2003


The politically correct term is "Superpower" not Empire.
posted by clavdivs at 1:47 PM on June 2, 2003


What is seldom mentioned is the "Empire of Democracy".
Going back to the American Revolution, Americans and other democrats around the world have been seeking to foment, by *whatever means necessary*, the development of democracy and democratic institutions, worldwide.
Democracy, this wild and reckless experiment, IS the revolution. It IS "The Conspiracy". By 1848, there were revolutions in most countries of Europe demanding it, and it continues to creep ever outward.
The British Empire *evolved* into real democracy, and *that* is what made it "Liberal".
Its empire fell apart, but the democratic taint was left behind, if only in embryonic form in some places, but truly developed in others.
The American experiment is less colonial, but the most ambitious to date: to FORCE what is left of the world that is NOT democratic to BECOME democratic, to whatever extent it can.
And this is how the "pro-American Empiricists" see it. That the US does not now, and does not seek to RULE the world. That democracy does. That only democrats can be dealt with, that other forms of government are corrupt and dangerous.
posted by kablam at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2003


Where is the British Empire now?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:08 PM on June 2, 2003


Gary Hart: Where is Bush leading us?
posted by homunculus at 3:47 PM on June 2, 2003


We just installed our own government by force in Iraq. That's what an empire does.
posted by Hildago at 4:19 PM on June 2, 2003


"Empire of Democracy" ?

Sounds nice, but I believe the last time the U.S. interfered in Iranian politics like this was 1951 when we were overthrowing a democratically elected government, in favor of a tyrannical dictator, our friend the shah of Iran. The reason, for our imperial generosity, then, controlling the oil. Not sure much has changed.
posted by MetalDog at 4:31 PM on June 2, 2003


We just installed our own government by force in Iraq. That's what an empire does.

i mean, it is true....right?

{displays histories list of empires}

as a side note,all google gives me about "list of world empires" is stuff on games....
using 'it' above...

....It thus refers essentially to attempts to establish formal sovereignty over subordinate political societies, but is also often equated with the exercise of any form of political control or influence by one political community over another."

So a country is an Empire if it say, made campaign contributions to another empire?
thats political influence is it not?

an Empire infers imperial or military under one persons control in the Roman analogy so in vogue.
so...is President george Bush LIKE an imperator?
posted by clavdivs at 7:04 PM on June 2, 2003


An empire is the domination by a single political entity of a region of disparate political entities that are otherwise not historically united. Imperial control can be asserted politically, militarily or economically.

It is not necessary for an empire to be under the control of a single person in which all political power is vested; nor does empire imply that the ruling political unit directly rules the subordinate units.

It is possible for a democracy to be an empire. Athens, Rome, and Great Britain were all democracies that held empires.
posted by Cerebus at 5:00 AM on June 3, 2003


Americans and other democrats around the world have been seeking to foment, by *whatever means necessary*, the development of democracy and democratic institutions, worldwide.... this is how the "pro-American Empiricists" see it. That the US does not now, and does not seek to RULE the world. That democracy does.

"Lenin never regarded the Republic of Soviets as an end in itself. To him it was always a link needed to strengthen the chain of the revolutionary movement in the countries of the West and the East, a link needed to facilitate the victory of the working people of the whole world over capitalism.... Lenin knew that this alone could fire the hearts of the working people of the world with determination to fight the decisive battles for their emancipation." - Joseph Stalin
posted by rory at 5:06 AM on June 3, 2003


The communist comparison is a good one, except they had to constantly remind themselves that they were doing what they were doing "For the Revolution." But democrats were always the 'soft sell', 'compare democracy vs. anything else'. Even the US Constitution was distributed to every corner of the planet as a "manifesto", and people faced death to distribute it.
The biggest problem has always been people "who are not yet ready for democracy", but who have something *called* "democracy" foisted on them, often as a ruse by their less-than-democratic leaders.
And this is why America has often made the mistake of supporting dictators with pseudo-democracy, in the face of the real democrats that the US didn't see as such.

Isn't it ironic that the "dialectic" of democracy is so accepted that it doesn't even seem like dialectic anymore?
posted by kablam at 6:39 AM on June 3, 2003


It is not necessary for an empire to be under the control of a single person ;

To be an imperator, one must control the military, i did not mean all political power is vested, just the military. This is what the Roman term Imperator means: control of the military.

Athens, Rome, and Great Britain were all democracies that held empires.

democracy, to me, means the right for everyone not to be a slave and for everyone to able to vote.

I believe we need to replace that word 'Empire' with something else.
posted by clavdivs at 8:36 AM on June 3, 2003


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