The Fall of the American Empire

Foreign affairs think tanker Robert D. Kaplan argues in the Washington Post that the United States and the Soviet Union constituted, in effect, two empires that organized the world between them.  Other countries mostly aligned themselves with one side or the other.  The Soviet Empire collapsed, leaving the United States alone in the imperial role.  But now, according to Kaplan, the American empire has collapsed.

Because of our military quagmires, our economic problems, our diplomatic weakness, and our overall popularity abroad, the United States no longer carries much clout with other countries.  We can’t influence even the little ones any more to do what we want.

China is on the verge of replacing  the United States as the world empire.  But it isn’t quite ready yet.  In the meantime, Kaplan predicts global instability since “no one is in charge.”

This raises lots of questions:

(1)  Do you think he is right?

(2)  Does the United States have any business being a de facto global empire?  (The old empires, like that of the Romans and the British, at least profited from their takeover of other countries, unlike the United States with its “soft empire.”)  Wouldn’t it be better for this country if we just hunkered down behind our own borders, letting the rest of the world go its own way?  (On the other hand, didn’t Rome try that, only to find there were no more buffers to keep the Barbarians away?)

(3)  What do you think the world will be like under a de facto Chinese empire, with its free market communism, that strangely effective blend of totalitarian government with money-making enterprise?

via Where’s the American empire when we need it?.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Cincinnatus

    1) He is not correct. The United States is still very much an empire, still very much the strongest empire in world history. It is expressing signs of weakness, as all empires do at various points in their life-cycles. Whether such signs are indicative of a debilitating disease remains to be seen. I think that they probably are, but it is too soon to declare the emperor naked. China, meanwhile, could conceivably arise as the next empire, but China is truly a bubble waiting to burst. It’s strength is a mere facade barely concealing more serious internal problems at the moment (problems serious enough to preclude its status as empire in the near future).

    2. No.

    3. For Americans, I expect the world would feel and be much different. Commodities would be much more expensive, etc. But for everyone else, it wouldn’t be any different at all. It would only sound different, as imperial largesse and frontier military campaigns would no longer be accompanied by blustering and posturing about democracy and human rights.

  • Cincinnatus

    1) He is not correct. The United States is still very much an empire, still very much the strongest empire in world history. It is expressing signs of weakness, as all empires do at various points in their life-cycles. Whether such signs are indicative of a debilitating disease remains to be seen. I think that they probably are, but it is too soon to declare the emperor naked. China, meanwhile, could conceivably arise as the next empire, but China is truly a bubble waiting to burst. It’s strength is a mere facade barely concealing more serious internal problems at the moment (problems serious enough to preclude its status as empire in the near future).

    2. No.

    3. For Americans, I expect the world would feel and be much different. Commodities would be much more expensive, etc. But for everyone else, it wouldn’t be any different at all. It would only sound different, as imperial largesse and frontier military campaigns would no longer be accompanied by blustering and posturing about democracy and human rights.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well I get it on the chin every time I suggest that yes we need to start at least recognizing who we are. We have been in denial since the end of WWII, and that war would not have happened if we weren’t in denial as to what we had done in WWI. You don’t destroy empires, you inherit them, you win them. And the United States has been ignorant enough to think that the rest of the world will govern itself just fine. That worked when the Soviet Union was threatening with the stick, more or less anyway.
    But you aren’t a superpower without taking on the responsibilities of empire, (and one might argue that perhaps you should then take on the benefits of empire if you are going to assume the responsibilities.)
    But I don’t think we have collapsed just yet. Not by a longshot. Perhaps we are collapsing, but it won’t happen for some time to come.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well I get it on the chin every time I suggest that yes we need to start at least recognizing who we are. We have been in denial since the end of WWII, and that war would not have happened if we weren’t in denial as to what we had done in WWI. You don’t destroy empires, you inherit them, you win them. And the United States has been ignorant enough to think that the rest of the world will govern itself just fine. That worked when the Soviet Union was threatening with the stick, more or less anyway.
    But you aren’t a superpower without taking on the responsibilities of empire, (and one might argue that perhaps you should then take on the benefits of empire if you are going to assume the responsibilities.)
    But I don’t think we have collapsed just yet. Not by a longshot. Perhaps we are collapsing, but it won’t happen for some time to come.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Human sociology is fundamentally hierarchical not egalitarian. That is why folks sing, “God save the Queen”. The ruler is a symbol of stability and safety, albeit imperfect. The end of one empire just gives rise to another. Personally, I think ours is better than all the rest, and while we need to improve as well as get out of the military entanglements, I don’t welcome the rise of an even less just system than what we now have.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Human sociology is fundamentally hierarchical not egalitarian. That is why folks sing, “God save the Queen”. The ruler is a symbol of stability and safety, albeit imperfect. The end of one empire just gives rise to another. Personally, I think ours is better than all the rest, and while we need to improve as well as get out of the military entanglements, I don’t welcome the rise of an even less just system than what we now have.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Well, with soldiers in over 100 nations around the world, and those not just guards for embassies, we certainly look like an empire, don’t we? Hard to tell if we’re “losing it,” though, as historically, the Byzantines and others held on for centuries (probably a millenium for Byzantium) after losing their edge.

    And a Chinese empire? Certainly it is forming, but it seems to depend for its lifeblood, economically speaking, on the United States’ business. What plunder was to the Romans, trade surpluses are to the Chinese. So if our empire collapses, so does the Chinese, I think.

    I’m with Bror here. We are, for now at least, something of an empire, and the trick here is to exercise it for both our own good and the good of others–knowing what our President denies, that historically speaking, certain American distinctives (free enterprise, religious and other freedoms) are pretty good for everybody.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Well, with soldiers in over 100 nations around the world, and those not just guards for embassies, we certainly look like an empire, don’t we? Hard to tell if we’re “losing it,” though, as historically, the Byzantines and others held on for centuries (probably a millenium for Byzantium) after losing their edge.

    And a Chinese empire? Certainly it is forming, but it seems to depend for its lifeblood, economically speaking, on the United States’ business. What plunder was to the Romans, trade surpluses are to the Chinese. So if our empire collapses, so does the Chinese, I think.

    I’m with Bror here. We are, for now at least, something of an empire, and the trick here is to exercise it for both our own good and the good of others–knowing what our President denies, that historically speaking, certain American distinctives (free enterprise, religious and other freedoms) are pretty good for everybody.

  • Tom Hering

    I don’t see where Kaplan says we’ve already collapsed, and no one’s in charge now. Instead, he says we’re in the process of a long, slow collapse.

  • Tom Hering

    I don’t see where Kaplan says we’ve already collapsed, and no one’s in charge now. Instead, he says we’re in the process of a long, slow collapse.

  • Tom Hering

    I find it interesting that ten years ago, the idea of America-as-empire was pretty much limited to the thinking of Noam Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson. Now it’s on everybody’s mind. I guess progressives really do lead the way. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    I find it interesting that ten years ago, the idea of America-as-empire was pretty much limited to the thinking of Noam Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson. Now it’s on everybody’s mind. I guess progressives really do lead the way. :-)

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    China needs America to buy its stuff. What might happen is a doubled-headed eagle (remember the last one,? :) ), with the US constituting the one, and China the other. This doesn’t exclude other rising entities, but it could well remain the main theme for a long time. Other entities to watch for are Russia (as always), and Brazil, and India to a lesser extent. And the smaller, wealthy nations will remain, and even increase in power.

    Personally I’m wary of this kind of analysis – I prefer the Irishman who said that he likes to prophecy after the event!

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    China needs America to buy its stuff. What might happen is a doubled-headed eagle (remember the last one,? :) ), with the US constituting the one, and China the other. This doesn’t exclude other rising entities, but it could well remain the main theme for a long time. Other entities to watch for are Russia (as always), and Brazil, and India to a lesser extent. And the smaller, wealthy nations will remain, and even increase in power.

    Personally I’m wary of this kind of analysis – I prefer the Irishman who said that he likes to prophecy after the event!

  • Porcell

    !. Should we continue on the present course of government and individuals spending beyond their means, we shall become a bloated and ineffective second-class nation. Also, should the pacifist left and isolationist right join forces and hold sway, we will not meet the responsibilities and vital interests of a great power. Finally, should leftist culture continue to dominate the cultural heights, we will become not only economically weak but morally and ethically decadent.

    2. He’s probably right, though given America’s foundation of democracy, a relatively free economy, and a Christian tradition among many of its people, America could recover and reverse course.

    3.While many Chinese people are smart, disciplined and aggressive, China’s authoritarian capitalism has deep flaws. The country does a poor job of taking care of its environment, allocating investment capital, and still subsidizes many weak economic entities. Living with a dominant Chinese empire, as it is now structured, would be a Hellish thing. Should China become a democratic nation, it would provide a healthy challenge to the West. Its Christian community is large and growing fas; it has a serious orthodox bent that could challenge flabby American mainline social gospel.

  • Porcell

    !. Should we continue on the present course of government and individuals spending beyond their means, we shall become a bloated and ineffective second-class nation. Also, should the pacifist left and isolationist right join forces and hold sway, we will not meet the responsibilities and vital interests of a great power. Finally, should leftist culture continue to dominate the cultural heights, we will become not only economically weak but morally and ethically decadent.

    2. He’s probably right, though given America’s foundation of democracy, a relatively free economy, and a Christian tradition among many of its people, America could recover and reverse course.

    3.While many Chinese people are smart, disciplined and aggressive, China’s authoritarian capitalism has deep flaws. The country does a poor job of taking care of its environment, allocating investment capital, and still subsidizes many weak economic entities. Living with a dominant Chinese empire, as it is now structured, would be a Hellish thing. Should China become a democratic nation, it would provide a healthy challenge to the West. Its Christian community is large and growing fas; it has a serious orthodox bent that could challenge flabby American mainline social gospel.

  • Tom Hering

    From what I’ve read, most Chinese Christians worship in house churches, and are of the non-denom and Pentecostal bent. Orthodoxy seems limited to the state-approved churches.

  • Tom Hering

    From what I’ve read, most Chinese Christians worship in house churches, and are of the non-denom and Pentecostal bent. Orthodoxy seems limited to the state-approved churches.

  • Porcell

    Tom, at 6, Churchill and many other European and Asian realists understood before WWII that America had become essentially the leading nation of the West, an empire in fact though essentially without actually taking over nations. We sealed this by winning WWII and the Cold War; arch leftists including Chomsky merely reacted to the reality of American international power , hated it, and did everything they could to weaken it.

    Americans deserve to be proud of defeating the totalitarian powers in the twentieth-century and, as empires go, being reasonably benign in the wielding of very large power. Even today, despite the feckless, apologizing Obama on the world stage, we are for the most part respected by fair-minded people for what we have accomplished, as well as being loathed and feared by the tyrants of the world.

  • Porcell

    Tom, at 6, Churchill and many other European and Asian realists understood before WWII that America had become essentially the leading nation of the West, an empire in fact though essentially without actually taking over nations. We sealed this by winning WWII and the Cold War; arch leftists including Chomsky merely reacted to the reality of American international power , hated it, and did everything they could to weaken it.

    Americans deserve to be proud of defeating the totalitarian powers in the twentieth-century and, as empires go, being reasonably benign in the wielding of very large power. Even today, despite the feckless, apologizing Obama on the world stage, we are for the most part respected by fair-minded people for what we have accomplished, as well as being loathed and feared by the tyrants of the world.

  • S Bauer

    I think a riff on one of George Carlin’s observations of human nature fits here.

    Premise: We want Stuff.

    1) We make Stuff to sell to other people who want Stuff, and vice versa.
    2) In order to sell and get the most stuff you can, you need the largest market you can get, i.e. empire.
    3) All so that we can get…More Stuff.

    For a society that wants more and more Stuff, they have to have an empire.

  • S Bauer

    I think a riff on one of George Carlin’s observations of human nature fits here.

    Premise: We want Stuff.

    1) We make Stuff to sell to other people who want Stuff, and vice versa.
    2) In order to sell and get the most stuff you can, you need the largest market you can get, i.e. empire.
    3) All so that we can get…More Stuff.

    For a society that wants more and more Stuff, they have to have an empire.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Orthodoxy meaning “Catholics who deny the Pope,” Tom?

    Agreed that house churches may from time to time have some doctrinal issues, but it is odd to think that subverting the authority structure of the church (nation above God in authority) somehow counts as “orthodoxy.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Orthodoxy meaning “Catholics who deny the Pope,” Tom?

    Agreed that house churches may from time to time have some doctrinal issues, but it is odd to think that subverting the authority structure of the church (nation above God in authority) somehow counts as “orthodoxy.”

  • Tom Hering

    Bike, I should have qualified my statement about the state-approved churches by saying they have the appearance of orthodoxy. But I still think the house churches have more than occasional problems with doctrine.

  • Tom Hering

    Bike, I should have qualified my statement about the state-approved churches by saying they have the appearance of orthodoxy. But I still think the house churches have more than occasional problems with doctrine.

  • Tom Hering

    Porcell, my point about America-as-empire entering the general discussion after Chomsky’s and Chalmer’s books appeared still stands.

  • Tom Hering

    Porcell, my point about America-as-empire entering the general discussion after Chomsky’s and Chalmer’s books appeared still stands.

  • Ryan

    “Catholics who deny the Pope” Hmm? Are you speaking of Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, or in a pinch, Episcopalians? :)

  • Ryan

    “Catholics who deny the Pope” Hmm? Are you speaking of Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, or in a pinch, Episcopalians? :)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Ryan; some Catholics I know point out that “Pappa Ratzi” is the Pope for Baptists like myself as well, whether or not we admit it. :^)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Ryan; some Catholics I know point out that “Pappa Ratzi” is the Pope for Baptists like myself as well, whether or not we admit it. :^)

  • SKPeterson

    1. He’s partially right. We’ve reached the limits of hard power, primarily by wasting it. One issue empires must contend with is clearly defining what is, and more importantly, what is not, in its best interests. If we are an empire, it interesting that we have not sought to change the rules, to redefine the maps drawn by earlier empires. The British Empire still lumbers on, it just is being defended and propped up by American military power. We still have soft power, though, for good or ill. Our cultural impact on the world is enormous.

    2. What do you mean by hunkering down? I’m all for free trade, commercial contacts, and increased involvement of US firms and civic organizations such as churches in the rest of the world. That is engaging the world.

    3. The Chinese aren’t guaranteed to be the de facto next great power. Their handling of their neighbors is hardly deft – they’ve shown a remarkable inability to control their boy in Pyongyang, they play the heavy in Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos, and India and Pakistan, while mutually antagonistic, have been given few incentives to tow the Chinese line. The Chinese have also succeeded in alienating Russia and producing an oddly inconsistent mixture of both burning and building bridges with the buffer state ‘stans.

  • SKPeterson

    1. He’s partially right. We’ve reached the limits of hard power, primarily by wasting it. One issue empires must contend with is clearly defining what is, and more importantly, what is not, in its best interests. If we are an empire, it interesting that we have not sought to change the rules, to redefine the maps drawn by earlier empires. The British Empire still lumbers on, it just is being defended and propped up by American military power. We still have soft power, though, for good or ill. Our cultural impact on the world is enormous.

    2. What do you mean by hunkering down? I’m all for free trade, commercial contacts, and increased involvement of US firms and civic organizations such as churches in the rest of the world. That is engaging the world.

    3. The Chinese aren’t guaranteed to be the de facto next great power. Their handling of their neighbors is hardly deft – they’ve shown a remarkable inability to control their boy in Pyongyang, they play the heavy in Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos, and India and Pakistan, while mutually antagonistic, have been given few incentives to tow the Chinese line. The Chinese have also succeeded in alienating Russia and producing an oddly inconsistent mixture of both burning and building bridges with the buffer state ‘stans.

  • DonS

    The idea that America is an empire is dubious, though it certainly has world influence because of its economic and military might. If by “soft empire”, one means merely “having influence”, well then I can go along with that descriptor. But, the U.S. does not take and keep territory and it does not install and maintain governments. Even in Iraq, it is set to leave and to permit whatever happens to happen in Iraqi governance. Hardly the mark of a traditional “empire”.

    The U.S. is at a crossroads. If it continues in its present economic profligacy, refusing to acknowledge its severe overspending, and refusing to maintain a proper role for government, then the government ultimately will fail economically. I’m not sure how severely that would impact the private economy, even in this country. It might actually be liberating in some respects, though there would be severe dislocation because of currency issues. But, as someone else said above, China is dependent on U.S. success. Morever, China is about to face a demographic disaster of its own, because of its evil mandatory abortion policies.

    As far as questions 2) and 3), 3) is moot, because China will never assume a role of world dominance in the way that the U.S. has done in the last century. Regarding question 2), the U.S. has every right to exert influence globally. As to whether it should, my answer would be probably less so than it has since WWII, but there is no way it could ever return to the isolationism of the 20′s and 30′s, particularly since its economic interests are so global today.

  • DonS

    The idea that America is an empire is dubious, though it certainly has world influence because of its economic and military might. If by “soft empire”, one means merely “having influence”, well then I can go along with that descriptor. But, the U.S. does not take and keep territory and it does not install and maintain governments. Even in Iraq, it is set to leave and to permit whatever happens to happen in Iraqi governance. Hardly the mark of a traditional “empire”.

    The U.S. is at a crossroads. If it continues in its present economic profligacy, refusing to acknowledge its severe overspending, and refusing to maintain a proper role for government, then the government ultimately will fail economically. I’m not sure how severely that would impact the private economy, even in this country. It might actually be liberating in some respects, though there would be severe dislocation because of currency issues. But, as someone else said above, China is dependent on U.S. success. Morever, China is about to face a demographic disaster of its own, because of its evil mandatory abortion policies.

    As far as questions 2) and 3), 3) is moot, because China will never assume a role of world dominance in the way that the U.S. has done in the last century. Regarding question 2), the U.S. has every right to exert influence globally. As to whether it should, my answer would be probably less so than it has since WWII, but there is no way it could ever return to the isolationism of the 20′s and 30′s, particularly since its economic interests are so global today.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS@18: Your first paragraph is so utterly and entirely incorrect on a factual and analytical level that I’m going to be charitable and just assume that you are in denial.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS@18: Your first paragraph is so utterly and entirely incorrect on a factual and analytical level that I’m going to be charitable and just assume that you are in denial.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 19: I’m going to be charitable and just assume that what you really meant to say was “I’m sorry, DonS, but I don’t agree with you”. ;-)

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 19: I’m going to be charitable and just assume that what you really meant to say was “I’m sorry, DonS, but I don’t agree with you”. ;-)

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS – I’m with Cincinnatus – you really need to get your head out of the sand.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS – I’m with Cincinnatus – you really need to get your head out of the sand.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS@20: No, Don. This isn’t one of those situations where we can “agree to disagree” with a puzzled but amicable shrug of the shoulders. This isn’t, in other words, a matter of mere opinion (in my opinion :-P ). Factually speaking, the United States heads an empire–the largest and most powerful in history, in fact. I don’t even see how it is reasonably possible to disagree with that statement. We can debate the merits (some in this thread are obviously amenable to the reality of American Empire; I, for instance, am not) or the specifics (yes, the manner and media by which the United States exercises its imperial power, and the ends towards which it directs such power, differ from those of the Roman Empire, but that doesn’t foreclose the fact of empire itself) of this truth. But claiming that the United States is not an empire of some kind seems on the order of denying that the sky is normally a particular shade of blue on clear days.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS@20: No, Don. This isn’t one of those situations where we can “agree to disagree” with a puzzled but amicable shrug of the shoulders. This isn’t, in other words, a matter of mere opinion (in my opinion :-P ). Factually speaking, the United States heads an empire–the largest and most powerful in history, in fact. I don’t even see how it is reasonably possible to disagree with that statement. We can debate the merits (some in this thread are obviously amenable to the reality of American Empire; I, for instance, am not) or the specifics (yes, the manner and media by which the United States exercises its imperial power, and the ends towards which it directs such power, differ from those of the Roman Empire, but that doesn’t foreclose the fact of empire itself) of this truth. But claiming that the United States is not an empire of some kind seems on the order of denying that the sky is normally a particular shade of blue on clear days.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, The Oxford definition of empire is:

    an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly esp. an emperor or empress empire (adj.)
    : [in names ] the Roman Empire.
    • a government in which the head of state is an emperor or empress.
    • supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority : he encouraged the Greeks in their dream of empire in Asia Minor.

    Don would be quite right to question whether by this or any other definition America is an empire. What definition of the word are you following? My guess is that the polemical notion of America being an empire comes from the disaffected left and the isolationist right in order to favor their fevered disaffection with our strong and rather influential nation.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, The Oxford definition of empire is:

    an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly esp. an emperor or empress empire (adj.)
    : [in names ] the Roman Empire.
    • a government in which the head of state is an emperor or empress.
    • supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority : he encouraged the Greeks in their dream of empire in Asia Minor.

    Don would be quite right to question whether by this or any other definition America is an empire. What definition of the word are you following? My guess is that the polemical notion of America being an empire comes from the disaffected left and the isolationist right in order to favor their fevered disaffection with our strong and rather influential nation.

  • Cincinnatus

    All three definitions apply to the United States. And the political reality of what constitutes an empire extends beyond the Oxford Dictionary definition of the vocabulary word. And yes, “soft power” qualifies as imperial power (not that the United States is limited to soft power).

    But really, how could you deny the imperial status of American power? My guess is that the polemical notion of America not being an empire comes from self-satisfied neoconservatives in order to favor their fevered affection for our strong and rather influential nation.

  • Cincinnatus

    All three definitions apply to the United States. And the political reality of what constitutes an empire extends beyond the Oxford Dictionary definition of the vocabulary word. And yes, “soft power” qualifies as imperial power (not that the United States is limited to soft power).

    But really, how could you deny the imperial status of American power? My guess is that the polemical notion of America not being an empire comes from self-satisfied neoconservatives in order to favor their fevered affection for our strong and rather influential nation.

  • DonS

    Thank you, Porcell. Well said. I was just about to come back with a dictionary definition of “empire” myself, which is essentially identical to the one you quoted. In no wise does the United States qualify as a world empire under the stock definition for the term. Moreover, I allowed for the notion of “soft empire” if, by that, one means having extraordinary influence.

    I realize we have a lot of America-detractors on this blog, but let’s at least acknowledge that there has never before been a world power, having the extraordinary abilities and capabilities of the U.S., which has been less interested in amassing for itself a territorial empire. That’s just fact.

  • DonS

    Thank you, Porcell. Well said. I was just about to come back with a dictionary definition of “empire” myself, which is essentially identical to the one you quoted. In no wise does the United States qualify as a world empire under the stock definition for the term. Moreover, I allowed for the notion of “soft empire” if, by that, one means having extraordinary influence.

    I realize we have a lot of America-detractors on this blog, but let’s at least acknowledge that there has never before been a world power, having the extraordinary abilities and capabilities of the U.S., which has been less interested in amassing for itself a territorial empire. That’s just fact.

  • Cincinnatus

    wat.

  • Cincinnatus

    wat.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus (and Louis):

    The only way you can call the USA an empire is by redefining the term. We have some things in common with empires of the past. But there are many characteristics of true empires that we simply do not share. Calling the USA an “empire” simply because we are a large nation with a lot of economic influence and a powerful military is broadening the term beyond its former meaning.

    If someone wants to comment on the degree of American influence in the world, and render an opinion as to whether it should be increased, reduced or maintained, that’s fine. But as far as I’m concerned, the term “soft empire” just means “not an empire, but similar enough to be complained about”.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus (and Louis):

    The only way you can call the USA an empire is by redefining the term. We have some things in common with empires of the past. But there are many characteristics of true empires that we simply do not share. Calling the USA an “empire” simply because we are a large nation with a lot of economic influence and a powerful military is broadening the term beyond its former meaning.

    If someone wants to comment on the degree of American influence in the world, and render an opinion as to whether it should be increased, reduced or maintained, that’s fine. But as far as I’m concerned, the term “soft empire” just means “not an empire, but similar enough to be complained about”.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, if it makes you feel better if I assert that the United States “behaves imperialistically” rather than that it “is” an “empire,” fine. In my estimation, the distinction is pedantic. Besides, I believe that the United States is an empire, even by the Oxford definition. But if that claim fails to satisfy, the idea that America behaves in most respects as an empire is, in fact, indisputable. As I said above, this claim isn’t even debatable. It is brute fact.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, if it makes you feel better if I assert that the United States “behaves imperialistically” rather than that it “is” an “empire,” fine. In my estimation, the distinction is pedantic. Besides, I believe that the United States is an empire, even by the Oxford definition. But if that claim fails to satisfy, the idea that America behaves in most respects as an empire is, in fact, indisputable. As I said above, this claim isn’t even debatable. It is brute fact.

  • Tom Hering

    “… there has never before been a world power, having the extraordinary abilities and capabilities of the U.S., which has been less interested in amassing for itself a territorial empire.”

    Colonial settlements, westward expansion, Louisiana Purchase, westward expansion, Mexican-American War, westward expansion, Indian Wars, westward expansion, Hawaii, Alaska, Philippine-American War …

  • Tom Hering

    “… there has never before been a world power, having the extraordinary abilities and capabilities of the U.S., which has been less interested in amassing for itself a territorial empire.”

    Colonial settlements, westward expansion, Louisiana Purchase, westward expansion, Mexican-American War, westward expansion, Indian Wars, westward expansion, Hawaii, Alaska, Philippine-American War …

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I wonder how Kaplan’s message of a falling empire would have been received here had he been an ardent left-winger. Doubtless, we would have heard all sorts of whining about how the left is always rooting for America to fail.

    Also, I have to ask, DonS (@18), how you could honestly claim that “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments.” Perhaps that’s how you wished it were, but honestly? Honestly?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_sponsored_regime_change

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I wonder how Kaplan’s message of a falling empire would have been received here had he been an ardent left-winger. Doubtless, we would have heard all sorts of whining about how the left is always rooting for America to fail.

    Also, I have to ask, DonS (@18), how you could honestly claim that “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments.” Perhaps that’s how you wished it were, but honestly? Honestly?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_sponsored_regime_change

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 30 has now completely moved the goalposts, in order to maintain his already tattered assertion that his prior point was indisputable and that I was, basically, an idiot. Of course, it’s hard to argue with “wat” @ 26, which is extraordinarily insightful.

    As for Tom @ 32, thanks for bringing up the 19th Century, and maybe the first decade or so of the 20th Century. However, the U.S. didn’t attain superpower status until after WWII.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 30 has now completely moved the goalposts, in order to maintain his already tattered assertion that his prior point was indisputable and that I was, basically, an idiot. Of course, it’s hard to argue with “wat” @ 26, which is extraordinarily insightful.

    As for Tom @ 32, thanks for bringing up the 19th Century, and maybe the first decade or so of the 20th Century. However, the U.S. didn’t attain superpower status until after WWII.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    Oh spare me. The American head of state is an emperor? Then why is he being called back to reality by Congress? What will he do if the courts strike down his policies? How many states are suing the Federal government as we speak? And isn’t Arizona being sued by the feds? POTUS is a powerful position, but this is not the behavior of an emperor.

    Nor is the United States under supreme authority. Even after the civil war there have remained limits to federal authority, and you will likely see them reasserted by the courts in the next two years. Unless you mean that we are asserting imperial authority over other nations, in which case you are still wrong. We couldn’t even get NATO to support us in the invasion of Iraq, for goodness sake. We had to go recruit a whole new “coalition of the willing”.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    Oh spare me. The American head of state is an emperor? Then why is he being called back to reality by Congress? What will he do if the courts strike down his policies? How many states are suing the Federal government as we speak? And isn’t Arizona being sued by the feds? POTUS is a powerful position, but this is not the behavior of an emperor.

    Nor is the United States under supreme authority. Even after the civil war there have remained limits to federal authority, and you will likely see them reasserted by the courts in the next two years. Unless you mean that we are asserting imperial authority over other nations, in which case you are still wrong. We couldn’t even get NATO to support us in the invasion of Iraq, for goodness sake. We had to go recruit a whole new “coalition of the willing”.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Tom – yes. And Porcell, DonS and Kerner, I like to use the term soft-empire, as in Cincinnatus’ use. We had the same debate some months ago: See http://www.geneveith.com/2010/08/19/combat-troops-are-gone-from-iraq/ – my first relevant comment was at #24.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Tom – yes. And Porcell, DonS and Kerner, I like to use the term soft-empire, as in Cincinnatus’ use. We had the same debate some months ago: See http://www.geneveith.com/2010/08/19/combat-troops-are-gone-from-iraq/ – my first relevant comment was at #24.

  • Tom Hering

    “… thanks for bringing up the 19th Century, and maybe the first decade or so of the 20th Century. However, the U.S. didn’t attain superpower status until after WWII.”

    Could we have become a superpower without first expanding our empire?

  • Tom Hering

    “… thanks for bringing up the 19th Century, and maybe the first decade or so of the 20th Century. However, the U.S. didn’t attain superpower status until after WWII.”

    Could we have become a superpower without first expanding our empire?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I mean, really, “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments”?! I can think of two we’ve installed in the past decade! Say what you will about empires, soft or otherwise, but that claim is just ridiculous, Don.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I mean, really, “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments”?! I can think of two we’ve installed in the past decade! Say what you will about empires, soft or otherwise, but that claim is just ridiculous, Don.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner (and DonS), Tom@32 cites but a few of the examples of American imperialism that could be catalogued to prove my point. But denying that the President is not the equivalent of an empire is also silly: his office has been granted by Congress, the Courts, and some would argue even the Constitution itself almost unrestricted powers of action in the realm of foreign policy–which he has used, I am sure you would agree. And it’s not as if Congress has served in a limiting capacity in relation to America’s propensities to imperialism.

    And the status of the President as a de facto Emperor is the least significant metric of empire. Claiming that we’re not an empire simply because our head of State doesn’t prefer the style “Emperor” is facile. The federal government collectively is the supreme authority in matters of American politics and the politics of its puppet states–of which it has many. It regularly installs and removes foreign governments. It possesses the most powerful empire in history, which it employs regularly and with careful attention to “imperial” interests. It stations military contingents in over 100 nations; they are not there to look handsome. Just as Tacitus lamented the loss of Germanicus’ legion in the Gothic forests, we lament the possible loss of our expeditionary force in Afghanistan. We exercise nearly unchallenged dominance over the world economy. Trade is conducted in our language and with our currency. The status of “American citizen” is the most beneficial status any inhabitant of the globe could desire. We are conscious of our own “superiority.” Other nations act American. And like Rome, we began as a Republic and couched our early conquests in the guise of noble interest. We dictate most global policies of any importance to us. Opposition is merely vocal. Our internal politics resemble in almost all major respects the internal politics of decadent historical empires. And soft power is a red herring: we employ plenty of “hard” power too. I could go on at greater and lesser degrees of abstraction, but surely my point is evident and valid.

    And perhaps somewhere on our frontiers there lies a barbaric Britain to establish a new tradition of modesty and liberty if we fail to reclaim ours.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner (and DonS), Tom@32 cites but a few of the examples of American imperialism that could be catalogued to prove my point. But denying that the President is not the equivalent of an empire is also silly: his office has been granted by Congress, the Courts, and some would argue even the Constitution itself almost unrestricted powers of action in the realm of foreign policy–which he has used, I am sure you would agree. And it’s not as if Congress has served in a limiting capacity in relation to America’s propensities to imperialism.

    And the status of the President as a de facto Emperor is the least significant metric of empire. Claiming that we’re not an empire simply because our head of State doesn’t prefer the style “Emperor” is facile. The federal government collectively is the supreme authority in matters of American politics and the politics of its puppet states–of which it has many. It regularly installs and removes foreign governments. It possesses the most powerful empire in history, which it employs regularly and with careful attention to “imperial” interests. It stations military contingents in over 100 nations; they are not there to look handsome. Just as Tacitus lamented the loss of Germanicus’ legion in the Gothic forests, we lament the possible loss of our expeditionary force in Afghanistan. We exercise nearly unchallenged dominance over the world economy. Trade is conducted in our language and with our currency. The status of “American citizen” is the most beneficial status any inhabitant of the globe could desire. We are conscious of our own “superiority.” Other nations act American. And like Rome, we began as a Republic and couched our early conquests in the guise of noble interest. We dictate most global policies of any importance to us. Opposition is merely vocal. Our internal politics resemble in almost all major respects the internal politics of decadent historical empires. And soft power is a red herring: we employ plenty of “hard” power too. I could go on at greater and lesser degrees of abstraction, but surely my point is evident and valid.

    And perhaps somewhere on our frontiers there lies a barbaric Britain to establish a new tradition of modesty and liberty if we fail to reclaim ours.

  • DonS

    Tom @ 37: A reasonable question, to be sure. But irrelevant to the premise of my statement that you challenged, becausemy statement was based on U.S. behavior after attaining superpower status. If we are going to talk about the origins of nations, and how they attained their boundaries, and their place in the world, in practically every case there were fights and boundary disputes and dislocations and mistreatments of native occupants and the like. Much of U.S. territory was gained through purchase of another nation’s claim (Louisisana Purchase and Seward’s Folly). It wasn’t realistic to expect that a few hundred thousand Indians would be able to maintain nomadic claims to the entire North American continent, though the manner in which they were handled wasn’t always exemplary. We gave the Philippines its independence in 1946, and our boundary disputes with Mexico were settled long ago, keeping in mind that Mexico’s occupation of parts of the American Southwest was expansionist in its own right. No one really had established rights to the North American territory.

  • DonS

    Tom @ 37: A reasonable question, to be sure. But irrelevant to the premise of my statement that you challenged, becausemy statement was based on U.S. behavior after attaining superpower status. If we are going to talk about the origins of nations, and how they attained their boundaries, and their place in the world, in practically every case there were fights and boundary disputes and dislocations and mistreatments of native occupants and the like. Much of U.S. territory was gained through purchase of another nation’s claim (Louisisana Purchase and Seward’s Folly). It wasn’t realistic to expect that a few hundred thousand Indians would be able to maintain nomadic claims to the entire North American continent, though the manner in which they were handled wasn’t always exemplary. We gave the Philippines its independence in 1946, and our boundary disputes with Mexico were settled long ago, keeping in mind that Mexico’s occupation of parts of the American Southwest was expansionist in its own right. No one really had established rights to the North American territory.

  • kerner

    What little I’ve had time to glean from wikipedia is that some scholars have so broadened the definition of ‘imperialism” such that any culture or nation that is expanding in territory or influence can be called imperialistic. Since the alternatives to expansion are stagnation and decline, forgive me if I am not enthused by these.

    But is that what you guys seriously think? That the USA is an “Empire” because our military and economic influence has expanded over the last 120 years or so? And before that our geographical territory expanded. But if so, you have watered down the definition to the point where it ceases to be a concern. I guess I just don’t see much wrong with being a big country, or a country powerful enough to defend itself from the most powerful potential enemies, or to fight those enemies while they are far away instead of on our own soil.

  • kerner

    What little I’ve had time to glean from wikipedia is that some scholars have so broadened the definition of ‘imperialism” such that any culture or nation that is expanding in territory or influence can be called imperialistic. Since the alternatives to expansion are stagnation and decline, forgive me if I am not enthused by these.

    But is that what you guys seriously think? That the USA is an “Empire” because our military and economic influence has expanded over the last 120 years or so? And before that our geographical territory expanded. But if so, you have watered down the definition to the point where it ceases to be a concern. I guess I just don’t see much wrong with being a big country, or a country powerful enough to defend itself from the most powerful potential enemies, or to fight those enemies while they are far away instead of on our own soil.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner: Noting that our “military and economic influence has expanded” along with our “geographical territory” over “the last 120 years or so” is perhaps the most gigantic and egregious understatement in all of history. It’s so bad that I may have to rule it out of bounds as a logical fallacy. If that’s our criterion, then I suppose you could say roughly the same of North Korea, Iran, or Brazil–but at that point, I think you are the one guilty of “watering down” the definition of empire past any possibility of fruitful use. Do we really lack the prudential capacity to make judgments here? Are we really incapable of differentiating Brazil from the United States? Similarly, are we equally incapable of drawing any non-specious comparisons between the United States and the Roman Empire?

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I feel like I’m an extremist screaming incoherently on a street corner here. Am I really relatively alone in deeming America an empire? (Answer: no, but it sure does feel like it)

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner: Noting that our “military and economic influence has expanded” along with our “geographical territory” over “the last 120 years or so” is perhaps the most gigantic and egregious understatement in all of history. It’s so bad that I may have to rule it out of bounds as a logical fallacy. If that’s our criterion, then I suppose you could say roughly the same of North Korea, Iran, or Brazil–but at that point, I think you are the one guilty of “watering down” the definition of empire past any possibility of fruitful use. Do we really lack the prudential capacity to make judgments here? Are we really incapable of differentiating Brazil from the United States? Similarly, are we equally incapable of drawing any non-specious comparisons between the United States and the Roman Empire?

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I feel like I’m an extremist screaming incoherently on a street corner here. Am I really relatively alone in deeming America an empire? (Answer: no, but it sure does feel like it)

  • Tom Hering

    “… you have watered down the definition [of empire] to the point where it ceases to be a concern.”

    And I’m not bald, I just part my hair in the middle. See? I’ve watered down the definition of baldness to the point where it ceases to be a concern. But I’m still bald.

  • Tom Hering

    “… you have watered down the definition [of empire] to the point where it ceases to be a concern.”

    And I’m not bald, I just part my hair in the middle. See? I’ve watered down the definition of baldness to the point where it ceases to be a concern. But I’m still bald.

  • DonS

    Feldman @ 41: “hallucinatory” — nice. You and Cincinnatus are a pair with your ad hominem comments. Care to back it up? But, to politely answer your point, “Superpower” and “Empire” are two different terms. In my American Heritage dictionary, the definition of “superpower” is “a powerful and influential nation, esp. one that dominates its allies in an international power bloc.” I think that’s a fair definition of the U.S., or at least what it aspires to be. It seeks to have allies to further its foreign policy objectives, and seeks to dominate the agenda of those allies because of its power and position. Not always successfully, especially recently. That’s a very different definition than that for “empire”, which Porcell gave above at 23, which involves either a dictatorial government (emperor or empress) or the governance of several countries by one authority.

    Now, perhaps Mr. Kaplan didn’t mean “empire” when he said “empire”, but that’s his problem. When you are dealing with terms of art, particularly in the world of international politics, you need to be correct and you need to be specific. There’s no room for sloppiness.

  • DonS

    Feldman @ 41: “hallucinatory” — nice. You and Cincinnatus are a pair with your ad hominem comments. Care to back it up? But, to politely answer your point, “Superpower” and “Empire” are two different terms. In my American Heritage dictionary, the definition of “superpower” is “a powerful and influential nation, esp. one that dominates its allies in an international power bloc.” I think that’s a fair definition of the U.S., or at least what it aspires to be. It seeks to have allies to further its foreign policy objectives, and seeks to dominate the agenda of those allies because of its power and position. Not always successfully, especially recently. That’s a very different definition than that for “empire”, which Porcell gave above at 23, which involves either a dictatorial government (emperor or empress) or the governance of several countries by one authority.

    Now, perhaps Mr. Kaplan didn’t mean “empire” when he said “empire”, but that’s his problem. When you are dealing with terms of art, particularly in the world of international politics, you need to be correct and you need to be specific. There’s no room for sloppiness.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hey DonS (@45), speaking of “you need to be correct and you need to be specific,” “there’s no room for sloppiness,” and “Care to back it up?” … um, you’ve managed to write three (3) comments since I challenged your claim (@18) that “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments.”

    Are you going to address that claim of yours at some point?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hey DonS (@45), speaking of “you need to be correct and you need to be specific,” “there’s no room for sloppiness,” and “Care to back it up?” … um, you’ve managed to write three (3) comments since I challenged your claim (@18) that “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments.”

    Are you going to address that claim of yours at some point?

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 39, you’re vastly overstating the case. While the American president has a lot of power, he is far from being a de facto emperor. Obama just now is learning the effect of overreaching with presidential power. In America states have much more authority than regions in most of Europe and just now the American people are in process of curbing federal government power.

    America, like any sensible nation, has vital interests in the world and drives hard bargains with other countries in terms of trade and diplomacy. As with all great nations in history, we have a responsibility to maintain stability in order to favor our own vital interests. The tens of thousands of American warriors buried in Europe were engaged in defeating a brutal totalitarian power in WWII and other wars in order that Europe could become stable and relatively peaceful. Since WWII, there has not been a major war in Europe in large part to American restraint, influence, and diplomacy. Having won WWII and the Cold War we have helped many European nations to become relatively free and prosperous.

    You characterize America as a power hungry nation interested primarily in building an empire. I should say that America has largely used its vast power for the most part wisely with restraint. The Pax Americana is far different than that of the Pax Romana; In fact we learned a lot from the Pax Britannica between 1815 and 1914, though unlike Rome and Britain, we were involved only marginally in ruling other nations.

    You’re smoking too much of that isolationist dope.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 39, you’re vastly overstating the case. While the American president has a lot of power, he is far from being a de facto emperor. Obama just now is learning the effect of overreaching with presidential power. In America states have much more authority than regions in most of Europe and just now the American people are in process of curbing federal government power.

    America, like any sensible nation, has vital interests in the world and drives hard bargains with other countries in terms of trade and diplomacy. As with all great nations in history, we have a responsibility to maintain stability in order to favor our own vital interests. The tens of thousands of American warriors buried in Europe were engaged in defeating a brutal totalitarian power in WWII and other wars in order that Europe could become stable and relatively peaceful. Since WWII, there has not been a major war in Europe in large part to American restraint, influence, and diplomacy. Having won WWII and the Cold War we have helped many European nations to become relatively free and prosperous.

    You characterize America as a power hungry nation interested primarily in building an empire. I should say that America has largely used its vast power for the most part wisely with restraint. The Pax Americana is far different than that of the Pax Romana; In fact we learned a lot from the Pax Britannica between 1815 and 1914, though unlike Rome and Britain, we were involved only marginally in ruling other nations.

    You’re smoking too much of that isolationist dope.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    He, he, he.

    We try to install and maintain governments.

    We just aren’t very good at it.

    And/or the countries we target aren’t amenable.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    He, he, he.

    We try to install and maintain governments.

    We just aren’t very good at it.

    And/or the countries we target aren’t amenable.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 46: I didn’t consider your comment pertinent to the point I was making @ 18. I was clearly talking about the definition of “empire”, which is that one authority governs multiple nations, and making the point that we don’t do that.

    As far as the “regime change” Wikipedia article you cited, without getting into its overall credibility, I acknowledged @ 18 the situation of Iraq, but noted that it was beyond the scope of what I was talking about because we do not intend to stay and maintain the new government. Similar to the case in Afghanistan. Moreover, both of these circumstances are actually coalitions of countries acting together, rather than the U.S. acting alone, and came only after the most severe of provocations by those countries or actors from those countries. A good many of the other events referenced in the article are Cold War era stuff, where we attempted to overthrow communist governments, but in no case established and maintained a successor puppet government, to my knowledge. In short, none of the events you are addressing were efforts by the U.S. to expand its territory or its direct authority beyond its present borders, which have been fixed for a century, and thus could not fairly be characterized as efforts at empire building.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 46: I didn’t consider your comment pertinent to the point I was making @ 18. I was clearly talking about the definition of “empire”, which is that one authority governs multiple nations, and making the point that we don’t do that.

    As far as the “regime change” Wikipedia article you cited, without getting into its overall credibility, I acknowledged @ 18 the situation of Iraq, but noted that it was beyond the scope of what I was talking about because we do not intend to stay and maintain the new government. Similar to the case in Afghanistan. Moreover, both of these circumstances are actually coalitions of countries acting together, rather than the U.S. acting alone, and came only after the most severe of provocations by those countries or actors from those countries. A good many of the other events referenced in the article are Cold War era stuff, where we attempted to overthrow communist governments, but in no case established and maintained a successor puppet government, to my knowledge. In short, none of the events you are addressing were efforts by the U.S. to expand its territory or its direct authority beyond its present borders, which have been fixed for a century, and thus could not fairly be characterized as efforts at empire building.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus@39:

    Again, as I read your comment, I’m not sure I see your concern. When you say that thwe American “empire” “regularly installs or removes foreign govrnments”, is that just another way of saying that we have often won our wars so decisively that our enemies have unconditionally surrendered?

    When you say that we exercize nearly unchallenged dominance over the world economy, is that just another way of saying that our economic system is successful?

    When you say that “being an American citizen is the most benewficial status any inhabitant of the globe could desire”, isn’t that really just another way of saying that we don’t have to force people into anything because they want what we have badly enough to voluntarily trade what they have to get it?

    How can you possibly argue that it is a bad thing that the rest of the world wants to join us? A real empire has to conquer and subjugate people to get cheap labor. But people from all over the world risk their fortunes and sometimes their lives for a chance to work in the USA.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus@39:

    Again, as I read your comment, I’m not sure I see your concern. When you say that thwe American “empire” “regularly installs or removes foreign govrnments”, is that just another way of saying that we have often won our wars so decisively that our enemies have unconditionally surrendered?

    When you say that we exercize nearly unchallenged dominance over the world economy, is that just another way of saying that our economic system is successful?

    When you say that “being an American citizen is the most benewficial status any inhabitant of the globe could desire”, isn’t that really just another way of saying that we don’t have to force people into anything because they want what we have badly enough to voluntarily trade what they have to get it?

    How can you possibly argue that it is a bad thing that the rest of the world wants to join us? A real empire has to conquer and subjugate people to get cheap labor. But people from all over the world risk their fortunes and sometimes their lives for a chance to work in the USA.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, I never said that the fact of imperial domination is prima facie a bad thing. (But at least you agree that it is a thing, unlike DonS, apparently.) But it is contingently bad, as the ineluctable consequence of imperial government is a loss of liberty and republican government–something that is undeniable in the Roman case and certainly the American case as well. I would take the modest Republic we once were over the economically, militarily, politically dominant monstrosity we are now, regardless of whether the “rest of the world wants to join us,” which is itself a dubious claim.

    Also, your portrait is painted in hues just a tad too rosy.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, I never said that the fact of imperial domination is prima facie a bad thing. (But at least you agree that it is a thing, unlike DonS, apparently.) But it is contingently bad, as the ineluctable consequence of imperial government is a loss of liberty and republican government–something that is undeniable in the Roman case and certainly the American case as well. I would take the modest Republic we once were over the economically, militarily, politically dominant monstrosity we are now, regardless of whether the “rest of the world wants to join us,” which is itself a dubious claim.

    Also, your portrait is painted in hues just a tad too rosy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Wow, Don (@49), looks like you have a limitless supply of justifications for why any objection shouldn’t be considered (“Oh, that’s 19th Century stuff” … “Oh, sure, but we’ll eventually leave those countries where we installed and maintained governments” (just like we’ll eventually leave Japan and Germany, right, Don?) … “Oh, that’s Cold War era stuff, where our attempts to install and/or maintain a government didn’t go well“).

    You complain (@34) about “moving the goalposts”, and yet here you are, defending your claim that “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments” by claiming that we “in no case established and maintained a successor puppet government”. Hey look, you added a word! Smells like post-moving.

    Iraq. 2003.
    Afghanistan. 2001.

    And if you think that Iraq or Afghanistan would’ve occurred without the US acting, well, I think that’s ridiculous. Just because we were able to convince our allies that it was in their best interest to help us out on our mission doesn’t mean it wasn’t our mission. No one else was making noise about attacking either of those countries until we did.

    Panama. 1989.
    Philippines. 1986. (After supporting Marcos for some time, the U.S. suddenly decided it cared about democracy and was instrumental in pressuring him to step down. Soft imperial actions, I suppose.)
    Grenada, 1983.

    To say nothing of the rather large number of coups we’ve supported (not a few of which were in the Middle East or somewhere south of our border). You seem to think that we’re only an empire if we meet your rather narrow (if ill-defined) criterion of establishing “puppet” governments.

    But look, if we’re capable and willing to take out any government that we consider inconvenient, in what way do we not exercise authority and power in those regions?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Wow, Don (@49), looks like you have a limitless supply of justifications for why any objection shouldn’t be considered (“Oh, that’s 19th Century stuff” … “Oh, sure, but we’ll eventually leave those countries where we installed and maintained governments” (just like we’ll eventually leave Japan and Germany, right, Don?) … “Oh, that’s Cold War era stuff, where our attempts to install and/or maintain a government didn’t go well“).

    You complain (@34) about “moving the goalposts”, and yet here you are, defending your claim that “the U.S. does not … install and maintain governments” by claiming that we “in no case established and maintained a successor puppet government”. Hey look, you added a word! Smells like post-moving.

    Iraq. 2003.
    Afghanistan. 2001.

    And if you think that Iraq or Afghanistan would’ve occurred without the US acting, well, I think that’s ridiculous. Just because we were able to convince our allies that it was in their best interest to help us out on our mission doesn’t mean it wasn’t our mission. No one else was making noise about attacking either of those countries until we did.

    Panama. 1989.
    Philippines. 1986. (After supporting Marcos for some time, the U.S. suddenly decided it cared about democracy and was instrumental in pressuring him to step down. Soft imperial actions, I suppose.)
    Grenada, 1983.

    To say nothing of the rather large number of coups we’ve supported (not a few of which were in the Middle East or somewhere south of our border). You seem to think that we’re only an empire if we meet your rather narrow (if ill-defined) criterion of establishing “puppet” governments.

    But look, if we’re capable and willing to take out any government that we consider inconvenient, in what way do we not exercise authority and power in those regions?

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 51: I don’t object to “dominance”. I object to “imperial”, which is a synonym for “empire”. I object because it is untrue, as has been well demonstrated on this thread. The only way you are circumventing the obvious is by re-defining terms to mean what you want them to mean.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 51: I don’t object to “dominance”. I object to “imperial”, which is a synonym for “empire”. I object because it is untrue, as has been well demonstrated on this thread. The only way you are circumventing the obvious is by re-defining terms to mean what you want them to mean.

  • DonS

    Oh, please, tODD. Nice try, but no. My comment @ 18 is totally consistent with my comment @ 49. The fact remains that the U.S. has not expanded its sovereign territory, or attempted to do so, in a century. That is a rather unique circumstance in world history for a nation so dominant as our’s has been. For you to even cite Japan and Germany, for our post-war occupation after an unprovoked attack by Japan on our nation, is laughable. After re-building them both into world powers, at our expense, we returned them to their full status as independent nations. We are currently in both countries at their specific request, and at our expense, though I would like to see us leave ASAP.

    As for Iraq and Afghanistan, what does the fact that our actions there wouldn’t have happened without U.S. initiative have to do with anything related to “empire”? Iraq attacked our ally Kuwait, and we responded in a measured way, stopping at Iraqi borders and establishing, through the UN, a means to keep imperialistic Iraq in check. Hussein refused to comply, however, and was perceived by the UN to be a further threat to the region. In no way did the U.S. act to expand its sovereign territory or to exert imperial control over that country. Afghanistan harbored and abetted terrorists who executed a heinous attack on our sovereign soil. We and a vast coalition of nations responded to that provocation, as we’re entitled to do without being labeled imperialistic. In Panama, we returned the Panama Canal, which was built at our expense, to that nation and relinquished our territorial claim in that nation, in 1979. We have no territorial claim there, or in Grenada, or in the Philippines, to this day. Our Cold War actions, rightly or wrongly, were defensive, and motivated by our desire to thwart empire-building which communist Russia and Red China were engaged in.

    No one is claiming that the U.S. always does it right, or never bullies or isn’t at times overbearing and arrogant. But it’s just simply not an empire. And it is, by far, the most benevolent nation to ever wield so much power in world history. No one has yet countered that claim.

  • DonS

    Oh, please, tODD. Nice try, but no. My comment @ 18 is totally consistent with my comment @ 49. The fact remains that the U.S. has not expanded its sovereign territory, or attempted to do so, in a century. That is a rather unique circumstance in world history for a nation so dominant as our’s has been. For you to even cite Japan and Germany, for our post-war occupation after an unprovoked attack by Japan on our nation, is laughable. After re-building them both into world powers, at our expense, we returned them to their full status as independent nations. We are currently in both countries at their specific request, and at our expense, though I would like to see us leave ASAP.

    As for Iraq and Afghanistan, what does the fact that our actions there wouldn’t have happened without U.S. initiative have to do with anything related to “empire”? Iraq attacked our ally Kuwait, and we responded in a measured way, stopping at Iraqi borders and establishing, through the UN, a means to keep imperialistic Iraq in check. Hussein refused to comply, however, and was perceived by the UN to be a further threat to the region. In no way did the U.S. act to expand its sovereign territory or to exert imperial control over that country. Afghanistan harbored and abetted terrorists who executed a heinous attack on our sovereign soil. We and a vast coalition of nations responded to that provocation, as we’re entitled to do without being labeled imperialistic. In Panama, we returned the Panama Canal, which was built at our expense, to that nation and relinquished our territorial claim in that nation, in 1979. We have no territorial claim there, or in Grenada, or in the Philippines, to this day. Our Cold War actions, rightly or wrongly, were defensive, and motivated by our desire to thwart empire-building which communist Russia and Red China were engaged in.

    No one is claiming that the U.S. always does it right, or never bullies or isn’t at times overbearing and arrogant. But it’s just simply not an empire. And it is, by far, the most benevolent nation to ever wield so much power in world history. No one has yet countered that claim.

  • kerner

    @51:

    Could just set aside the adjective “imperial” for a moment, because I consider it a tad too gloomy, as well as misleading.

    I do agree that America is dominant in many ways. But I think that is because our “modest republic” was a good institution based on really good ideas. People wanted to be part of it. Three formerly sovereign countries have joined it as states. None of our non-state territories wants to leave, and I don’t think we would stop one that wanted to go.

    I have to admit that we did not let states secede in 1861, and that we did not let the various Indian tribes maintain their independence, but do you honestly believe that these could have maintained a stone age nomadic way of life in the modern world?

    But my point is that we grew because, for many people, being part of America was preferable to being part of “modest” countries in Europe and the world. Then, when truly evil empires rose up, we fought them and won. Now we’re bigger than many countries and so powerful that many fear to fight us.

    And I don’t think I agree that the loss of liberty is an ineluctable result of our size and global power. Size and power certainly CAN be (and, I admit, in the USA have been) pretexts for the loss of liberty. But there are plenty of modest countries that have less liberty than we do, and I am hopeful (given recent political events) that some of our lost liberty is actually being restored.

  • kerner

    @51:

    Could just set aside the adjective “imperial” for a moment, because I consider it a tad too gloomy, as well as misleading.

    I do agree that America is dominant in many ways. But I think that is because our “modest republic” was a good institution based on really good ideas. People wanted to be part of it. Three formerly sovereign countries have joined it as states. None of our non-state territories wants to leave, and I don’t think we would stop one that wanted to go.

    I have to admit that we did not let states secede in 1861, and that we did not let the various Indian tribes maintain their independence, but do you honestly believe that these could have maintained a stone age nomadic way of life in the modern world?

    But my point is that we grew because, for many people, being part of America was preferable to being part of “modest” countries in Europe and the world. Then, when truly evil empires rose up, we fought them and won. Now we’re bigger than many countries and so powerful that many fear to fight us.

    And I don’t think I agree that the loss of liberty is an ineluctable result of our size and global power. Size and power certainly CAN be (and, I admit, in the USA have been) pretexts for the loss of liberty. But there are plenty of modest countries that have less liberty than we do, and I am hopeful (given recent political events) that some of our lost liberty is actually being restored.

  • Cincinnatus

    “People wanted to be a part of it.”

    Sure, but really? Does that include (at various points in the history of American Empire) huge portions of Mexico and colonial Spain, Cuba, Grenada, the Philippines, Japan, Germany, West Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, various Latin American republics, Guam, various Caribbean and Pacific principalities, etc. Some of those remain under the direct umbrella of the empire, others not. Also included under the rubric of “hard” power (i.e., those realms controlled by American military dominance) are most of the remainder of Latin America, portions of Africa, all of Western and parts of Eastern Europe, most of Southeast Asia. Places we have had a hand in manipulating/ruining include Iran, most of the Middle East, all the rest of Latin America, Mexico, much of Africa, much of southeast Asia and the Korean peninsula. If we extend our rubric to include soft power, add the rest of the world, including China. Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant. Either way, it is fact.

    And saying that most of these people and places “wanted to be a part of America” is ludicrous. Almost none of them did. Don’t confuse immigration (lots of people want to be Americans) with conquest (lots of people who didn’t want to be Americanized or used in the service of American interests but have been anyway). No, I do not think that America is the Great Satan. I love America. Yes, I do think the loss of liberty is an ineluctable result of our size and power, but we’ve had this discussion before, kerner. Consolidation of power always results in the reduction of liberty.

    And really, Don. Why is America not an empire? I’ve heard lots of mental gesturing, but little of substance. Just because you regard the fruits of our imperial action (or our motives for taking them) to be beneficial our laudable doesn’t change what they are in essence.

  • Cincinnatus

    “People wanted to be a part of it.”

    Sure, but really? Does that include (at various points in the history of American Empire) huge portions of Mexico and colonial Spain, Cuba, Grenada, the Philippines, Japan, Germany, West Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, various Latin American republics, Guam, various Caribbean and Pacific principalities, etc. Some of those remain under the direct umbrella of the empire, others not. Also included under the rubric of “hard” power (i.e., those realms controlled by American military dominance) are most of the remainder of Latin America, portions of Africa, all of Western and parts of Eastern Europe, most of Southeast Asia. Places we have had a hand in manipulating/ruining include Iran, most of the Middle East, all the rest of Latin America, Mexico, much of Africa, much of southeast Asia and the Korean peninsula. If we extend our rubric to include soft power, add the rest of the world, including China. Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant. Either way, it is fact.

    And saying that most of these people and places “wanted to be a part of America” is ludicrous. Almost none of them did. Don’t confuse immigration (lots of people want to be Americans) with conquest (lots of people who didn’t want to be Americanized or used in the service of American interests but have been anyway). No, I do not think that America is the Great Satan. I love America. Yes, I do think the loss of liberty is an ineluctable result of our size and power, but we’ve had this discussion before, kerner. Consolidation of power always results in the reduction of liberty.

    And really, Don. Why is America not an empire? I’ve heard lots of mental gesturing, but little of substance. Just because you regard the fruits of our imperial action (or our motives for taking them) to be beneficial our laudable doesn’t change what they are in essence.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    We HAVE had this discussion before. And having it periodically is (I love that word) ineluctable. But I DO think that most of the participation in America as we now know it is voluntary.

    First of all, the geographical size of this country and immigration to it are linked. We have lots of room and lots of resources for lots of people, which is a good thing because we have lots of immigrants. I believe that one of the reasons we have been such a popular destination for immigrants is because we have a lot of land. And you shouldn ‘t worry so much about the prior claims of Mexico or colonial Spain. We conquered all of Mexico in the Mexican War, but we only held onto the parts that were populated by relatively few Mexicans. And as Don pointed out, how was their claim to all this almost vacant land any better than ours?

    I also believe that virtually all the countries you listed that are now our allies prefer that status to any available alternatives. We aren’t forcing South Korea to be our ally. If they wanted us to sever our relationship, we wouldn’t force them to stay allied to us. The same is true of all our European allies. And when they decide we are wrong about something (eg. the Iraq war) they don’t do what we want and we don’t retalliate. This is not “empire” in the sense that term is usually understood. These are negotiated alliances that all concerned consider win-win arrangements. Sometimes these arrangements are objectively good things as well, other times not so much. But I don’t consider a wide spread network of military and economic alliances to be an “empire”. It’s just a wide spread network of alliances.

    Which brings me to a issue that you and your fellow “America is an empire” raise. Why is it “imperial” to have a successful foreign policy? You seem to have a problem with the inevitable growth that comes with success.

    I repeat, loss of liberty may be the ineluctable result of the consolidation of power, but I do not believe that consolidation of power must always be the consequence of size and success. Although it certainly can be. There is still more liberty in the USA than there has been in most nations throughout history, and we still strive to preserve it. And how many small, modest, and relatively free countries lost their liberty to a tyrannical coup? Look what happened to the modest Weimar republic; or to many modest Latin American republics.

    Plus, there is the issue of defense. South Korea is today a modest republic. But it would not have become one, nor would it long remain one, without our help and protection. Who would be protecting our liberties today from external threats had we remained the modest republic you miss so much?

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    We HAVE had this discussion before. And having it periodically is (I love that word) ineluctable. But I DO think that most of the participation in America as we now know it is voluntary.

    First of all, the geographical size of this country and immigration to it are linked. We have lots of room and lots of resources for lots of people, which is a good thing because we have lots of immigrants. I believe that one of the reasons we have been such a popular destination for immigrants is because we have a lot of land. And you shouldn ‘t worry so much about the prior claims of Mexico or colonial Spain. We conquered all of Mexico in the Mexican War, but we only held onto the parts that were populated by relatively few Mexicans. And as Don pointed out, how was their claim to all this almost vacant land any better than ours?

    I also believe that virtually all the countries you listed that are now our allies prefer that status to any available alternatives. We aren’t forcing South Korea to be our ally. If they wanted us to sever our relationship, we wouldn’t force them to stay allied to us. The same is true of all our European allies. And when they decide we are wrong about something (eg. the Iraq war) they don’t do what we want and we don’t retalliate. This is not “empire” in the sense that term is usually understood. These are negotiated alliances that all concerned consider win-win arrangements. Sometimes these arrangements are objectively good things as well, other times not so much. But I don’t consider a wide spread network of military and economic alliances to be an “empire”. It’s just a wide spread network of alliances.

    Which brings me to a issue that you and your fellow “America is an empire” raise. Why is it “imperial” to have a successful foreign policy? You seem to have a problem with the inevitable growth that comes with success.

    I repeat, loss of liberty may be the ineluctable result of the consolidation of power, but I do not believe that consolidation of power must always be the consequence of size and success. Although it certainly can be. There is still more liberty in the USA than there has been in most nations throughout history, and we still strive to preserve it. And how many small, modest, and relatively free countries lost their liberty to a tyrannical coup? Look what happened to the modest Weimar republic; or to many modest Latin American republics.

    Plus, there is the issue of defense. South Korea is today a modest republic. But it would not have become one, nor would it long remain one, without our help and protection. Who would be protecting our liberties today from external threats had we remained the modest republic you miss so much?

  • http://somewebsite.somedomain.com C-Christian Soldier

    if the we in the US were empire builders we would OWN japan-korea-germany-italy-russia-philippine islands-and et al–
    the last “wars”-starting w/ the ‘korean war’ were never declared by congress-thus-the ‘skirmishes’ are un-Constitutional…
    as to our BEST fighting under the auspice of the the UN and or NATO-staring w/the korean “war”-well-don’t get me started on that!
    C-CS

  • http://somewebsite.somedomain.com C-Christian Soldier

    if the we in the US were empire builders we would OWN japan-korea-germany-italy-russia-philippine islands-and et al–
    the last “wars”-starting w/ the ‘korean war’ were never declared by congress-thus-the ‘skirmishes’ are un-Constitutional…
    as to our BEST fighting under the auspice of the the UN and or NATO-staring w/the korean “war”-well-don’t get me started on that!
    C-CS

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 56: The United States is not an empire because, well, it’s not. Again, the definition of “empire” is:

    an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly esp. an emperor or empress empire (adj.)
    : [in names ] the Roman Empire.
    • a government in which the head of state is an emperor or empress.
    • supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority : he encouraged the Greeks in their dream of empire in Asia Minor.

    (Porcell @ 23)

    So, what are the extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority? Or which several countries are subject to supreme political power exercised by a single authority? Or, who is the emperor/empress of the U.S.? I’m sorry, but Obama would be the first one to tell you he’s no emperor. Especially now.

    Look, I’m sympathetic to your point of view, though not to the extreme to which you hold it. I like small government, I think foreign intervention doesn’t promote small government, nor does it typically benefit our citizenry. I do think that America is a good country — the greatest major world power to ever exist in history. This isn’t even a close call in my mind. I also think that America’s power is currently on the wane, thanks to the Baby Boomers, the most selfish and shallow generation ever to live on American soil. I’m so proud to be one (not). But words mean something. And you guys are butchering the word “empire” in attempting to apply it to the U.S. Try “superpower” and you’ll be a lot closer to the truth.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 56: The United States is not an empire because, well, it’s not. Again, the definition of “empire” is:

    an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly esp. an emperor or empress empire (adj.)
    : [in names ] the Roman Empire.
    • a government in which the head of state is an emperor or empress.
    • supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority : he encouraged the Greeks in their dream of empire in Asia Minor.

    (Porcell @ 23)

    So, what are the extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority? Or which several countries are subject to supreme political power exercised by a single authority? Or, who is the emperor/empress of the U.S.? I’m sorry, but Obama would be the first one to tell you he’s no emperor. Especially now.

    Look, I’m sympathetic to your point of view, though not to the extreme to which you hold it. I like small government, I think foreign intervention doesn’t promote small government, nor does it typically benefit our citizenry. I do think that America is a good country — the greatest major world power to ever exist in history. This isn’t even a close call in my mind. I also think that America’s power is currently on the wane, thanks to the Baby Boomers, the most selfish and shallow generation ever to live on American soil. I’m so proud to be one (not). But words mean something. And you guys are butchering the word “empire” in attempting to apply it to the U.S. Try “superpower” and you’ll be a lot closer to the truth.

  • Cincinnatus

    I really see no need for me to continue my argument (which has been more ably articulated by others anyway), though I will insist that “superpower” is not “a lot closer to the truth” than the term “empire.”

    I will note two things, however:

    -It is ironic that I am being vigorously accused of fatally “redefining” a word by folks who show no qualms about calling neoconservatives “conservatives,” paleoconservatives “extremists,” Obama a bonified socialist, and Republicans conservative. When did this new interest in pedantic and precise vocabulary usage come into vogue on Cranach? Of course, I disagree entirely that I am using the word incorrectly, but your insistence otherwise is amusing. And so facile, as well: your strongest argument against empire is that the President doesn’t call himself an emperor?

    -I have the strange sensation that I have stumbled either into a parallel universe or an extremist fringe–perhaps the only universe amongst all the countless cosmos where the status of America as some kind of empire is not regarded as undeniably true. Not that popular regard is a satisfactory test of truth, but my proposition is one supported by a congeries of basic, established, indisputable facts (I’m sorry, but any nation with active military installations in over 100 supposedly “sovereign” nations is no mere “influential power’). What you do with that fact is up to you–I don’t mind if kerner argues all day that our imperial status is, in the end, beneficial to the world, as that’s a different argument. What I find inexplicable is that the first premise itself–that America is, at least in some important ways, an empire–is denied here as a matter of course. At root, I suspect–perhaps uncharitably–that your denial is rooted not in empirical observation but in a (probably well-placed) love of America, and for some reason you deem the word “empire” to be intrinsically and totally bad. Personally, I do not think we should maintain our imperial status for aforementioned reasons, but you are free to think otherwise without denying the basic truth of the matter. After all, both the Roman and the British empires did much good in the world–perhaps more good than bad (after all, we wouldn’t even exist as a nation if Britain hadn’t been feeling a bit of the white man’s burden).

  • Cincinnatus

    I really see no need for me to continue my argument (which has been more ably articulated by others anyway), though I will insist that “superpower” is not “a lot closer to the truth” than the term “empire.”

    I will note two things, however:

    -It is ironic that I am being vigorously accused of fatally “redefining” a word by folks who show no qualms about calling neoconservatives “conservatives,” paleoconservatives “extremists,” Obama a bonified socialist, and Republicans conservative. When did this new interest in pedantic and precise vocabulary usage come into vogue on Cranach? Of course, I disagree entirely that I am using the word incorrectly, but your insistence otherwise is amusing. And so facile, as well: your strongest argument against empire is that the President doesn’t call himself an emperor?

    -I have the strange sensation that I have stumbled either into a parallel universe or an extremist fringe–perhaps the only universe amongst all the countless cosmos where the status of America as some kind of empire is not regarded as undeniably true. Not that popular regard is a satisfactory test of truth, but my proposition is one supported by a congeries of basic, established, indisputable facts (I’m sorry, but any nation with active military installations in over 100 supposedly “sovereign” nations is no mere “influential power’). What you do with that fact is up to you–I don’t mind if kerner argues all day that our imperial status is, in the end, beneficial to the world, as that’s a different argument. What I find inexplicable is that the first premise itself–that America is, at least in some important ways, an empire–is denied here as a matter of course. At root, I suspect–perhaps uncharitably–that your denial is rooted not in empirical observation but in a (probably well-placed) love of America, and for some reason you deem the word “empire” to be intrinsically and totally bad. Personally, I do not think we should maintain our imperial status for aforementioned reasons, but you are free to think otherwise without denying the basic truth of the matter. After all, both the Roman and the British empires did much good in the world–perhaps more good than bad (after all, we wouldn’t even exist as a nation if Britain hadn’t been feeling a bit of the white man’s burden).

  • Cincinnatus

    …and I inadvertently used a word that is verboten on this blog. If the moderator has the opportunity today, I would appreciate it if he could release my rather lengthy comment for public consumption at some point.

  • Cincinnatus

    …and I inadvertently used a word that is verboten on this blog. If the moderator has the opportunity today, I would appreciate it if he could release my rather lengthy comment for public consumption at some point.

  • SKPeterson

    A few comments and observations. Was Rome an empire before it became the Empire? How about Athens, birthplace of democracy? If so, what combination of hard or soft power did they use? If not, why not?

    There is non-interventionism and there is isolationism. Please try to understand the difference. If I had the time I could construct a nice little argument on how isolationism breeds war, empire, and social pathology, while non-interventionism allows independence, freedom and generally all things good, right and salutary in international affairs.

    Finally, one fun little government change the U.S. engaged in that we’re now beginning to regret: Iran, 1952. Ah, the sunny unintended consequences of empire!

  • SKPeterson

    A few comments and observations. Was Rome an empire before it became the Empire? How about Athens, birthplace of democracy? If so, what combination of hard or soft power did they use? If not, why not?

    There is non-interventionism and there is isolationism. Please try to understand the difference. If I had the time I could construct a nice little argument on how isolationism breeds war, empire, and social pathology, while non-interventionism allows independence, freedom and generally all things good, right and salutary in international affairs.

    Finally, one fun little government change the U.S. engaged in that we’re now beginning to regret: Iran, 1952. Ah, the sunny unintended consequences of empire!

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    SKP – yes, I’ve mentioned Mossadegh a couple of times here, and the silence has been deafening…. and nobody picked up on my mention of Lubumba the other day either.

    But I like your distinction between isolationism and non-interventionism. It might be a gruitful avenue to explore the nuances, and what a reasonable foreign policy would look like.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    SKP – yes, I’ve mentioned Mossadegh a couple of times here, and the silence has been deafening…. and nobody picked up on my mention of Lubumba the other day either.

    But I like your distinction between isolationism and non-interventionism. It might be a gruitful avenue to explore the nuances, and what a reasonable foreign policy would look like.

  • DonS

    SKP @ 61: Yes, I agree as to the distinction between non-interventionism and isolationism. Because of our globally-based economy, isolationism is an impossible status for us. But non or at least less-interventionism would be a good thing, imo. Although we probably know more about the failures than the successes, interventionist policies have had, at best, mixed results, are expensive in American lives and treasure, and have cost us considerable political capital worldwide.

    Mossaddegh — not our most brilliant moment, but hardly evidence that we are imperial. More accurately, this incident was more a result of the dying throes of the British Empire. The desire to overthrow Mossaddegh was a British one, which we were induced into on the basis of British allegations of Mossaddegh’s C0mmunist ties. They were trying to protect their oil company from nationalization. We were all about resisting the expanding Soviet Empire at that point in our history. Though the result was to install what we hoped would be a friendly government, we didn’t control that government or its sovereign territory.

  • DonS

    SKP @ 61: Yes, I agree as to the distinction between non-interventionism and isolationism. Because of our globally-based economy, isolationism is an impossible status for us. But non or at least less-interventionism would be a good thing, imo. Although we probably know more about the failures than the successes, interventionist policies have had, at best, mixed results, are expensive in American lives and treasure, and have cost us considerable political capital worldwide.

    Mossaddegh — not our most brilliant moment, but hardly evidence that we are imperial. More accurately, this incident was more a result of the dying throes of the British Empire. The desire to overthrow Mossaddegh was a British one, which we were induced into on the basis of British allegations of Mossaddegh’s C0mmunist ties. They were trying to protect their oil company from nationalization. We were all about resisting the expanding Soviet Empire at that point in our history. Though the result was to install what we hoped would be a friendly government, we didn’t control that government or its sovereign territory.

  • DonS

    I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what other world power has been as benign or, frankly, non-imperial, as the U.S.

  • DonS

    I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what other world power has been as benign or, frankly, non-imperial, as the U.S.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@60 … your newly-released comment), well said.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@60 … your newly-released comment), well said.

  • Porcell

    SK Peterson, even during the early days of the Roman Republic, when a nation was defeated Romans ruled it, politically, through proconsuls, though they didn’t rigidly impose their culture. Same, basically with the Greek Empire under both Athens and later Alexander and his heirs. In those days ruling nations played hardball.

  • Porcell

    SK Peterson, even during the early days of the Roman Republic, when a nation was defeated Romans ruled it, politically, through proconsuls, though they didn’t rigidly impose their culture. Same, basically with the Greek Empire under both Athens and later Alexander and his heirs. In those days ruling nations played hardball.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, there is nothing unusual about those on the Cranach blog who are careful about the use of language. Your use of empire doesn’t comport with any authoritative definition of the word .

    America at present mainly uses both soft and hard power, though, since the twentieth-century, it hasn’t attempted attempt supreme rule of those nations it has defeated militarily. The term superpower is far more apt than empire, unless you can come up with an authoritative source otherwise.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, there is nothing unusual about those on the Cranach blog who are careful about the use of language. Your use of empire doesn’t comport with any authoritative definition of the word .

    America at present mainly uses both soft and hard power, though, since the twentieth-century, it hasn’t attempted attempt supreme rule of those nations it has defeated militarily. The term superpower is far more apt than empire, unless you can come up with an authoritative source otherwise.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@68), read Cincinnatus’s comment (@60) again, and you will see why it’s kind of silly to claim that “there is nothing unusual about those on the Cranach blog who are careful about the use of language”. Language is abused all over the place when it serves people’s (defamatory) interests. And the strictest adherence to “authoritative sources” for definitions is demanded — also when it serves people’s interests.

    All of which tells us more about people’s biases than it does the actual meanings of words, “authoritative” or otherwise. But people prefer to have ridiculous proxy battles over the words’ meanings than over the ideas behind them, I guess.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@68), read Cincinnatus’s comment (@60) again, and you will see why it’s kind of silly to claim that “there is nothing unusual about those on the Cranach blog who are careful about the use of language”. Language is abused all over the place when it serves people’s (defamatory) interests. And the strictest adherence to “authoritative sources” for definitions is demanded — also when it serves people’s interests.

    All of which tells us more about people’s biases than it does the actual meanings of words, “authoritative” or otherwise. But people prefer to have ridiculous proxy battles over the words’ meanings than over the ideas behind them, I guess.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, I hesitate to do this, as it’s refreshing to see you especially (and DonS and kerner, in this case) express a (sincere?) desire to maintain lexical precision, but in this case you have gone too far, and you are, in fact, incorrect (or inappropriately pedantic).

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary–the authoritative standard for the English language–the word “empire” is defined as follows:

    1. Supreme and extensive political dominion; esp. [but not necessarily--author's addition] that exercised by an ‘emperor’ (in the earlier senses: see emperor n. 1, 2), or by a sovereign state over its dependencies.

    2. transf. and fig. Paramount influence, absolute sway, supreme command or control.

    5 a. An extensive territory (esp. an aggregate of many separate states) under the sway of an emperor or supreme ruler; also, an aggregate of subject territories ruled over by a sovereign state.

    Please demonstrate how these, the most relevant definitions, do not apply in some fashion to the manner in which the United States exercises its power and foreign policy. Most significantly, I draw your attention to the fact that these definitions can be employed figuratively: a nation need not be ruled by Caesar or deem Iraq a literal principality in order for it to be an empire. And aren’t you the ones who said that America currently exercises “paramount influence” in global affairs? And we do boast a rather large number of “subject territories” and even more “dependencies.” Whether we use such power benevolently or benignly is immaterial to the question. We are, in any case, an empire in denial.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, I hesitate to do this, as it’s refreshing to see you especially (and DonS and kerner, in this case) express a (sincere?) desire to maintain lexical precision, but in this case you have gone too far, and you are, in fact, incorrect (or inappropriately pedantic).

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary–the authoritative standard for the English language–the word “empire” is defined as follows:

    1. Supreme and extensive political dominion; esp. [but not necessarily--author's addition] that exercised by an ‘emperor’ (in the earlier senses: see emperor n. 1, 2), or by a sovereign state over its dependencies.

    2. transf. and fig. Paramount influence, absolute sway, supreme command or control.

    5 a. An extensive territory (esp. an aggregate of many separate states) under the sway of an emperor or supreme ruler; also, an aggregate of subject territories ruled over by a sovereign state.

    Please demonstrate how these, the most relevant definitions, do not apply in some fashion to the manner in which the United States exercises its power and foreign policy. Most significantly, I draw your attention to the fact that these definitions can be employed figuratively: a nation need not be ruled by Caesar or deem Iraq a literal principality in order for it to be an empire. And aren’t you the ones who said that America currently exercises “paramount influence” in global affairs? And we do boast a rather large number of “subject territories” and even more “dependencies.” Whether we use such power benevolently or benignly is immaterial to the question. We are, in any case, an empire in denial.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@71), I hate to do this back to you, but my social studies book did not say we’re an empire. It said we’re a republic. Or a democracy. Whatever, same thing. So, um, there.

    Also, we can’t be an empire. We just can’t be. So, also, there.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@71), I hate to do this back to you, but my social studies book did not say we’re an empire. It said we’re a republic. Or a democracy. Whatever, same thing. So, um, there.

    Also, we can’t be an empire. We just can’t be. So, also, there.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@72: And my social studies book said that England is a constitutional monarchy–as if Britain cares a whit either about its constitution or its Queen.

    And North Korea claims that it is democratic.

    SO THERE.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@72: And my social studies book said that England is a constitutional monarchy–as if Britain cares a whit either about its constitution or its Queen.

    And North Korea claims that it is democratic.

    SO THERE.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “And North Korea claims that it is democratic” (@73). Um, pardon my Greek*, but I’m pretty sure they have strong people there. They’d have to be, to put up with all that crap.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “And North Korea claims that it is democratic” (@73). Um, pardon my Greek*, but I’m pretty sure they have strong people there. They’d have to be, to put up with all that crap.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    *Not actually my Greek. I stole it from Merriam-Webster. … Excuse me, from the highly authoritative Merriam-Webster. Because I speak American, not English. Stupid OED.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    *Not actually my Greek. I stole it from Merriam-Webster. … Excuse me, from the highly authoritative Merriam-Webster. Because I speak American, not English. Stupid OED.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS @ 64 – if you read the thread I referred to @36, you’ll see my answer.

    Mossadegh: It was a collborative effort between the CIA and MI6, as I stated before. Just like the removal and assissinationwas a collaborative effort between Belgian operatives and the CIA. Just like the involvement in the Angolan Civil War, directly, as well as by proxy / in collaboration with the then Zaire, and apartheid South Africa, which drew in the Cubans and the Russians (see http://killinghope.org/bblum6/angola.htm).

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS @ 64 – if you read the thread I referred to @36, you’ll see my answer.

    Mossadegh: It was a collborative effort between the CIA and MI6, as I stated before. Just like the removal and assissinationwas a collaborative effort between Belgian operatives and the CIA. Just like the involvement in the Angolan Civil War, directly, as well as by proxy / in collaboration with the then Zaire, and apartheid South Africa, which drew in the Cubans and the Russians (see http://killinghope.org/bblum6/angola.htm).

  • DonS

    Feldman @ 69: “You effectively demolished DonS and Porcell”

    You’ve made exactly three comments on this thread, and every one of them was an ad hominem rude comment. You know, you can say the same thing a lot less personally by saying, for example “You effectively demolished ‘the arguments of’ DonS and Porcell”. Better yet, instead of rooting from the sidelines like some kind of a sidekick, you could actually make some substantive comments and arguments of your own.

  • DonS

    Feldman @ 69: “You effectively demolished DonS and Porcell”

    You’ve made exactly three comments on this thread, and every one of them was an ad hominem rude comment. You know, you can say the same thing a lot less personally by saying, for example “You effectively demolished ‘the arguments of’ DonS and Porcell”. Better yet, instead of rooting from the sidelines like some kind of a sidekick, you could actually make some substantive comments and arguments of your own.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 76: That thread is over 100 comments, and I didn’t participate in it, that I recall, because I was on vacation. The only country I saw that you referenced was South Africa, but I don’t think that’s the one you meant?

  • DonS

    Louis @ 76: That thread is over 100 comments, and I didn’t participate in it, that I recall, because I was on vacation. The only country I saw that you referenced was South Africa, but I don’t think that’s the one you meant?

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 60 & 71: An excellent speech, and high dudgeon is always effective on the emotions. But turning the tables and putting the burden on me to prove the U.S. is not an empire, after changing the definition to one you like better (and adding your own “helps” to try to make your point)? Really? Why not just answer the questions I posed @ 59?

    1. There is no country on earth over which the U.S. asserts “supreme and extensive political domination, esp. that exercised by an emperor or a sovereign state over its dependencies”. If you disagree, name it. That’s not even true in Iraq.
    2. “transf. and fig. Paramount influence, absolute sway, supreme command or control.” — paramount influence and absolute sway, as well as supreme command or control is an extremely high bar. Name the nation over which the U.S. holds this power.
    3. “5 a. An extensive territory (esp. an aggregate of many separate states) under the sway of an emperor or supreme ruler; also, an aggregate of subject territories ruled over by a sovereign state.” — We don’t even have an emporer or supreme ruler, so this doesn’t even apply to the several U.S. states.

    This isn’t just about semantics or words. It’s about attitude. The misuse of “empire” implies that the U.S. is a bad country with bad expansionist motives. I don’t accept that. I think the U.S. is a great country, the greatest one in the history of the world. Largely because of the influence of the U.S., and its emphasis on human rights, our world is much more focused on human rights and the dignity of the individual. Prior to the modern era 95% of the world’s population routinely lived in squalor, drudgery, and often slavery — subsisting day to day while the nobility partied. The western world has led the way to a new world paradigm, and the U.S. is largely responsible for that. And, with all of its power and might, both economically and militarily, it is not expansionist. Credit is due, especially from Americans.

    That being said, the country is certainly flawed. As I’ve said before, I want less interventionism, though I think it is reasonable to defend American interests in the world when necessary, as every other country does to the best of its ability.

    But I refuse to take this country I am privileged to live in and to be a citizen of for granted. I recognize that we are uniquely blessed.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 60 & 71: An excellent speech, and high dudgeon is always effective on the emotions. But turning the tables and putting the burden on me to prove the U.S. is not an empire, after changing the definition to one you like better (and adding your own “helps” to try to make your point)? Really? Why not just answer the questions I posed @ 59?

    1. There is no country on earth over which the U.S. asserts “supreme and extensive political domination, esp. that exercised by an emperor or a sovereign state over its dependencies”. If you disagree, name it. That’s not even true in Iraq.
    2. “transf. and fig. Paramount influence, absolute sway, supreme command or control.” — paramount influence and absolute sway, as well as supreme command or control is an extremely high bar. Name the nation over which the U.S. holds this power.
    3. “5 a. An extensive territory (esp. an aggregate of many separate states) under the sway of an emperor or supreme ruler; also, an aggregate of subject territories ruled over by a sovereign state.” — We don’t even have an emporer or supreme ruler, so this doesn’t even apply to the several U.S. states.

    This isn’t just about semantics or words. It’s about attitude. The misuse of “empire” implies that the U.S. is a bad country with bad expansionist motives. I don’t accept that. I think the U.S. is a great country, the greatest one in the history of the world. Largely because of the influence of the U.S., and its emphasis on human rights, our world is much more focused on human rights and the dignity of the individual. Prior to the modern era 95% of the world’s population routinely lived in squalor, drudgery, and often slavery — subsisting day to day while the nobility partied. The western world has led the way to a new world paradigm, and the U.S. is largely responsible for that. And, with all of its power and might, both economically and militarily, it is not expansionist. Credit is due, especially from Americans.

    That being said, the country is certainly flawed. As I’ve said before, I want less interventionism, though I think it is reasonable to defend American interests in the world when necessary, as every other country does to the best of its ability.

    But I refuse to take this country I am privileged to live in and to be a citizen of for granted. I recognize that we are uniquely blessed.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Don, in that thread, I’d direct you to comments 24,27,78 and 79, if you want to get an idea of what I mean.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Don, in that thread, I’d direct you to comments 24,27,78 and 79, if you want to get an idea of what I mean.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@79), “The misuse of ‘empire’ implies that the U.S. is a bad country with bad expansionist motives. I don’t accept that. I think the U.S. is a great country.”

    I think that probably pretty well encapsulates the “Is not!” side of this whole debate over whether America is an empire or not. It’s not so much the degree to which America could be argued to be an empire or not, but, really, a question about whether America is “bad” or “great”.

    DonS, finding the label “empire” to be pejorative, but not being bothered as much by the many ways in which America might actually appear imperial, objects, mainly on the grounds that America is “great”, and pejorative labels are to be avoided for “great” countries.

    Of course, Cincinnatus has already noted (@60) that there isn’t anything intrinsically bad about empires. Some of them were arguably quite good, in general — for both their citizens and the world at large. Those of us who perceive many imperial aspects in America (or even a straight-up empire) aren’t doing so as a long-winded way to label America “bad”, though jingoists will necessarily disagree.

    Still, I think Cincinnatus’s statement that, “your denial is rooted not in empirical observation but in a (probably well-placed) love of America, and for some reason you deem the word ‘empire’ to be intrinsically and totally bad” fits quite well with Don’s statement that I quoted at the beginning of this comment.

    I would further add that in general, the “Is not!” side probably tolerates criticism of America a little better when it comes from “their side” than when it comes from, you know, nihilistic secular liberals and heartland isolationists. To pick random phrases out of the air.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@79), “The misuse of ‘empire’ implies that the U.S. is a bad country with bad expansionist motives. I don’t accept that. I think the U.S. is a great country.”

    I think that probably pretty well encapsulates the “Is not!” side of this whole debate over whether America is an empire or not. It’s not so much the degree to which America could be argued to be an empire or not, but, really, a question about whether America is “bad” or “great”.

    DonS, finding the label “empire” to be pejorative, but not being bothered as much by the many ways in which America might actually appear imperial, objects, mainly on the grounds that America is “great”, and pejorative labels are to be avoided for “great” countries.

    Of course, Cincinnatus has already noted (@60) that there isn’t anything intrinsically bad about empires. Some of them were arguably quite good, in general — for both their citizens and the world at large. Those of us who perceive many imperial aspects in America (or even a straight-up empire) aren’t doing so as a long-winded way to label America “bad”, though jingoists will necessarily disagree.

    Still, I think Cincinnatus’s statement that, “your denial is rooted not in empirical observation but in a (probably well-placed) love of America, and for some reason you deem the word ‘empire’ to be intrinsically and totally bad” fits quite well with Don’s statement that I quoted at the beginning of this comment.

    I would further add that in general, the “Is not!” side probably tolerates criticism of America a little better when it comes from “their side” than when it comes from, you know, nihilistic secular liberals and heartland isolationists. To pick random phrases out of the air.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 80: I thought you were answering my question @ 65, concerning which world power in history has been more benign than the U.S.? South Africa is your answer? That’s still the only country I see referenced in that kind of context in any of posts 24, 27, 78, 79 on that other thread, so I am guessing that we are talking past each other a bit.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 80: I thought you were answering my question @ 65, concerning which world power in history has been more benign than the U.S.? South Africa is your answer? That’s still the only country I see referenced in that kind of context in any of posts 24, 27, 78, 79 on that other thread, so I am guessing that we are talking past each other a bit.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 81: Well, I guess I could just retort by saying that the “is” side’s argument boils down to “the U.S. is too an empire!”. Because that seems to be all you’ve got. My argument is that pejorative and untrue labels are to be avoided, regardless of the greatness of the country. No one on your side of the argument has bothered to actually fit the definition to the facts, despite my repeated inquiries. Curious how you just want to persist with the labels, without justification, yet at the same time insist that you don’t necessarily mean the label to be pejorative.

    Here’s a summary of the thread:

    18. I state that it is dubious to label the U.S. as an empire, and explain why, though I allow that “soft empire” might be appropriate if that means “having influence”. Then I go on to make my main point.
    19. Cincinnatus says that the first paragraph of 18 “so utterly and entirely incorrect on a factual and analytical level that I’m going to be charitable and just assume that you are in denial”. No explanation for this emotional attack is given.
    20. I gently call him on his rudeness.
    21. Louis piles on — no explanation
    22. Cincinnatus — the U.S. is too an empire.
    23. Porcell provides a definition of the term “empire” and reminds Cincinnatus that the U.S. doesn’t seem to fit that definition.
    24. Cincinnatus — it does too.
    25. I thank Porcell and agree with him that the U.S. does not fit the definition of “empire”
    26. Cincinnatus — “wat”
    29. Kerner, in a nicer and more reasonable tone, agrees with me and Porcell and tries to explain to Cincinnatus that he is significantly expanding the definition of “empire”
    30. Cincinnatus — is too an empire
    32. Tom Hering actually provides some explanation for considering the U.S. an empire — westward expansion, etc.
    34. I briefly respond to Tom by pointing out that his examples are all really old, before the U.S. was powerful
    35. Kerner patiently explains to Cincinnatus that the president cannot possibly be equated to an emperor and the U.S. doesn’t exercise supreme authority, two of the hallmarks for being an empire
    37. Tom asks a good question — could we have become a superpower later on without our westward expansion in the 1800′s?
    39. Cincinnatus gloms onto Tom’s point at 32 as evidence that the U.S. is an empire. At least he’s now actually trying to support his point, so that’s something. But then his comment degenerates into ridiculousness. He insists the the president is a de facto emperor, well, just because he is, I guess. That little matter about being accountable to Congress is apparently not an issue. Then he says, well, that’s not really the most important thing anyway. He proceeds to then make a series of unsupported assertions which he claims proves the U.S. is an empire, things like “The federal government collectively is the supreme authority in matters of American politics and the politics of its puppet states–of which it has many”. Care to name a “puppet state” of the U.S., Cincinnatus? I’ve asked numerous times. He also asserts that “It regularly installs and removes foreign governments”. “Regularly”? Seriously? Hmmm, a little back-up for that claim would be nice, though even that wouldn’t necessarily meet the definition of “empire” unless the U.S. exerted supreme control over those installed governments. The rest of his comment is a rant — nothing stated has anything to do with “empire”, though some of it evidences power.
    40. I respond to Tom’s comment @ 37 by explaining that I didn’t believe the U.S. westward expansion qualified to forever define the U.S. as an empire because the west was essentially unclaimed territory and much of it was legitimately purchased from prior claimants. Moreover, every nation had to expand into its present territory in some fashion.
    42. Kerner is still reasonably trying to explain that the definition Cincinnatus is apparently applying to the term “empire” or “imperial” renders it so broad a term as to be meaningless.
    43. Cincinnatus — I feel like an extremist on this reactionary blog
    47. Porcell asserts the reasonable point that it is possible to have a firm and strong foreign policy without being an empire. Tens of thousands of American dead lie in Europe, where they died to free western Europe from the grips of a truly evil empire. Good point, Porcell. Does the U.S. get any credit for all of the times it has fought alongside nations to defend them from expansionist empires?
    51. and 54. You and I have a sidebar exchange about various interferences with foreign governments the CIA has engaged in over the years, mostly during the Cold War era.
    55. Kerner — “dominance” is not synonymous with “empire”
    56. Cincinnatus — our military garrisons around the world are evidence of empire
    57. Kerner — no that’s not true, because they are voluntary. Allies are not required to remain our allies, and we will pull out our military if asked. Hardly the definition of “empire”
    59. I repeat the definition of “empire”, and ask Cincinnatus specific questions in an attempt to draw him out as to why he is so insistent on this term.
    60. Cincinnatus — I must be in a parallel universe
    71. Cincinnatus presents a different definition of “empire”, and challenges us to prove that the U.S. is not one
    79. I respond by reminding him that my questions to him remain unanswered, but then go ahead and answer his challenge

    And, that’s where we are. Though it is clear that the U.S. does not fit any established definition of the term “empire”, your point is that I just don’t like to admit that it actually is one because I don’t like it when “nihilistic secular liberals and heartland isolationists” criticize my country.

    Uh-huh. Whatever.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 81: Well, I guess I could just retort by saying that the “is” side’s argument boils down to “the U.S. is too an empire!”. Because that seems to be all you’ve got. My argument is that pejorative and untrue labels are to be avoided, regardless of the greatness of the country. No one on your side of the argument has bothered to actually fit the definition to the facts, despite my repeated inquiries. Curious how you just want to persist with the labels, without justification, yet at the same time insist that you don’t necessarily mean the label to be pejorative.

    Here’s a summary of the thread:

    18. I state that it is dubious to label the U.S. as an empire, and explain why, though I allow that “soft empire” might be appropriate if that means “having influence”. Then I go on to make my main point.
    19. Cincinnatus says that the first paragraph of 18 “so utterly and entirely incorrect on a factual and analytical level that I’m going to be charitable and just assume that you are in denial”. No explanation for this emotional attack is given.
    20. I gently call him on his rudeness.
    21. Louis piles on — no explanation
    22. Cincinnatus — the U.S. is too an empire.
    23. Porcell provides a definition of the term “empire” and reminds Cincinnatus that the U.S. doesn’t seem to fit that definition.
    24. Cincinnatus — it does too.
    25. I thank Porcell and agree with him that the U.S. does not fit the definition of “empire”
    26. Cincinnatus — “wat”
    29. Kerner, in a nicer and more reasonable tone, agrees with me and Porcell and tries to explain to Cincinnatus that he is significantly expanding the definition of “empire”
    30. Cincinnatus — is too an empire
    32. Tom Hering actually provides some explanation for considering the U.S. an empire — westward expansion, etc.
    34. I briefly respond to Tom by pointing out that his examples are all really old, before the U.S. was powerful
    35. Kerner patiently explains to Cincinnatus that the president cannot possibly be equated to an emperor and the U.S. doesn’t exercise supreme authority, two of the hallmarks for being an empire
    37. Tom asks a good question — could we have become a superpower later on without our westward expansion in the 1800′s?
    39. Cincinnatus gloms onto Tom’s point at 32 as evidence that the U.S. is an empire. At least he’s now actually trying to support his point, so that’s something. But then his comment degenerates into ridiculousness. He insists the the president is a de facto emperor, well, just because he is, I guess. That little matter about being accountable to Congress is apparently not an issue. Then he says, well, that’s not really the most important thing anyway. He proceeds to then make a series of unsupported assertions which he claims proves the U.S. is an empire, things like “The federal government collectively is the supreme authority in matters of American politics and the politics of its puppet states–of which it has many”. Care to name a “puppet state” of the U.S., Cincinnatus? I’ve asked numerous times. He also asserts that “It regularly installs and removes foreign governments”. “Regularly”? Seriously? Hmmm, a little back-up for that claim would be nice, though even that wouldn’t necessarily meet the definition of “empire” unless the U.S. exerted supreme control over those installed governments. The rest of his comment is a rant — nothing stated has anything to do with “empire”, though some of it evidences power.
    40. I respond to Tom’s comment @ 37 by explaining that I didn’t believe the U.S. westward expansion qualified to forever define the U.S. as an empire because the west was essentially unclaimed territory and much of it was legitimately purchased from prior claimants. Moreover, every nation had to expand into its present territory in some fashion.
    42. Kerner is still reasonably trying to explain that the definition Cincinnatus is apparently applying to the term “empire” or “imperial” renders it so broad a term as to be meaningless.
    43. Cincinnatus — I feel like an extremist on this reactionary blog
    47. Porcell asserts the reasonable point that it is possible to have a firm and strong foreign policy without being an empire. Tens of thousands of American dead lie in Europe, where they died to free western Europe from the grips of a truly evil empire. Good point, Porcell. Does the U.S. get any credit for all of the times it has fought alongside nations to defend them from expansionist empires?
    51. and 54. You and I have a sidebar exchange about various interferences with foreign governments the CIA has engaged in over the years, mostly during the Cold War era.
    55. Kerner — “dominance” is not synonymous with “empire”
    56. Cincinnatus — our military garrisons around the world are evidence of empire
    57. Kerner — no that’s not true, because they are voluntary. Allies are not required to remain our allies, and we will pull out our military if asked. Hardly the definition of “empire”
    59. I repeat the definition of “empire”, and ask Cincinnatus specific questions in an attempt to draw him out as to why he is so insistent on this term.
    60. Cincinnatus — I must be in a parallel universe
    71. Cincinnatus presents a different definition of “empire”, and challenges us to prove that the U.S. is not one
    79. I respond by reminding him that my questions to him remain unanswered, but then go ahead and answer his challenge

    And, that’s where we are. Though it is clear that the U.S. does not fit any established definition of the term “empire”, your point is that I just don’t like to admit that it actually is one because I don’t like it when “nihilistic secular liberals and heartland isolationists” criticize my country.

    Uh-huh. Whatever.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: I’m not sure what I’m missing here. In your rather long synopsis of the preceding conversation, most of my comments are summarized as such (or similarly): “Is too!” Maybe that is an accurate encapsulation of what I said, but I do recall providing more or less abundant examples (you know, evidence) of imperial behavior on the part of the United States. Louis, tODD, and even feldman have done the same. Even my first response to you, while not entirely substantive or friendly (for that I apologize), notes correctly that much of your argument is rooted in denial, not facts.

    Speaking of which, your comments throughout this thread, along with those of Porcell and kerner, are the ones that either take the form “Nuh uh!” or “Yes, but.” And it’s those “yes buts” that are of concern here. None of you have actually refuted our claim to empire, though you did offer Wikipedia’s definition of the word to “prove” that I’m using the word improperly (by the way, I like how my citation of the actual Oxford Dictionary of the English language is a mere “different source”). Your arguments have had the following format: “Yes, we have hundreds of military installations on foreign soils, but those nations probably want them there anyway” (the latter claim being something you left unsubstantiated; ask Japan or Cuba how much they appreciate the presence of military bases on their islands). “Yes, we wage countless proxy wars in other countries and install/remove governments on a regular basis, but it’s better than the Soviet Union or China doing the same.” “Yes, we exercise predominant influence and power in the world, both economically and militarily, but our intentions are mostly benign!” “Yes, we impose our way of life on countless other nations and peoples, but this is because most people want to be like America anyway–and besides, a lot of the power we exercise is soft power.” And my personal favorite: “Yes, our President is quite literally the most powerful person in the world and exercise almost unquestioned authority in matters of foreign policy, but he doesn’t call himself an emperor!”

    My serious question is whether all these qualifications are of substantive importance. You claim–in my opinion, puerilely–that it is absolutely out of bounds to “change” the definition of empire such that it could capture the particular shape the American empire has taken. You claim (incorrectly) that “empire” is a pejorative term, and thus we shouldn’t use it, not matter what America does. You claim that, because America has good intentions (usually) or is a “net force for good in the world,” then we should avoid the term. But I’m not interested in those arguments. I’m interested in the facts, not their circumstances or normative qualities (Rome, after all, didn’t destroy Carthage out of base, imperial interest; it did so to protect itself). As I keep repeating, I truly find it hard to believe that the term “empire” is an inappropriate term for a nation with substantial military installations in over 100 nations, regardless of what we do with those installations or why they are there in the first place.

    And of course, after all this, I’m usually labeled a “heartland isolationist.”

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: I’m not sure what I’m missing here. In your rather long synopsis of the preceding conversation, most of my comments are summarized as such (or similarly): “Is too!” Maybe that is an accurate encapsulation of what I said, but I do recall providing more or less abundant examples (you know, evidence) of imperial behavior on the part of the United States. Louis, tODD, and even feldman have done the same. Even my first response to you, while not entirely substantive or friendly (for that I apologize), notes correctly that much of your argument is rooted in denial, not facts.

    Speaking of which, your comments throughout this thread, along with those of Porcell and kerner, are the ones that either take the form “Nuh uh!” or “Yes, but.” And it’s those “yes buts” that are of concern here. None of you have actually refuted our claim to empire, though you did offer Wikipedia’s definition of the word to “prove” that I’m using the word improperly (by the way, I like how my citation of the actual Oxford Dictionary of the English language is a mere “different source”). Your arguments have had the following format: “Yes, we have hundreds of military installations on foreign soils, but those nations probably want them there anyway” (the latter claim being something you left unsubstantiated; ask Japan or Cuba how much they appreciate the presence of military bases on their islands). “Yes, we wage countless proxy wars in other countries and install/remove governments on a regular basis, but it’s better than the Soviet Union or China doing the same.” “Yes, we exercise predominant influence and power in the world, both economically and militarily, but our intentions are mostly benign!” “Yes, we impose our way of life on countless other nations and peoples, but this is because most people want to be like America anyway–and besides, a lot of the power we exercise is soft power.” And my personal favorite: “Yes, our President is quite literally the most powerful person in the world and exercise almost unquestioned authority in matters of foreign policy, but he doesn’t call himself an emperor!”

    My serious question is whether all these qualifications are of substantive importance. You claim–in my opinion, puerilely–that it is absolutely out of bounds to “change” the definition of empire such that it could capture the particular shape the American empire has taken. You claim (incorrectly) that “empire” is a pejorative term, and thus we shouldn’t use it, not matter what America does. You claim that, because America has good intentions (usually) or is a “net force for good in the world,” then we should avoid the term. But I’m not interested in those arguments. I’m interested in the facts, not their circumstances or normative qualities (Rome, after all, didn’t destroy Carthage out of base, imperial interest; it did so to protect itself). As I keep repeating, I truly find it hard to believe that the term “empire” is an inappropriate term for a nation with substantial military installations in over 100 nations, regardless of what we do with those installations or why they are there in the first place.

    And of course, after all this, I’m usually labeled a “heartland isolationist.”

  • SKPeterson

    The U.S. then is an empire of a different stripe.

    We have the trappings of empire – foreign bases, client states, entangling alliances, power projection. We have instances of interference in foreign affairs – Iran, Cuba, Zaire, Lebanon, Grenada, Nicaragua (repeatedly), Panama, (I have seen arguments for Chile and Allende – mixed results temporarily with Pinochet, but all-in-all a qualified success, blind nuts and squirrels I suppose), as well as the Wilsonian debacle of post-WWI interference that led to the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the solidification of the Communists in Russia, and laid the groundwork for fascism in Italy and Germany. Success, success, success. I’ll argue that we partially made up for it with Post-war Japan, perhaps our greatest foreign policy achievement in the 20th Century, although we have undertaken the “imperial” defense of our defeated foe and their former client state of S. Korea. We went to Viet Nam to uphold the remnant French Empire (oh wait, they’re a Republic). More success. More intervention. Abetting further success and further intervention. I should add that intervention = $. Many $. Over and over and over.

    Even so, we refrain from exercising explicit hard power. Beyond our bases and the defense commitments we undertake with their presence in most cases, our imperial footprint is far less substantial than that of Britain, France or the Soviets.

    A simple, unscientific indicator of our imperial status though is the simple recognition that when there is a major crisis in the world, political or natural, there is the implicit expectation that the U.S. will be involved and leading the way. When that expectation ends, or diminishes, our “empire” will have ended or begun its true decline.

  • SKPeterson

    The U.S. then is an empire of a different stripe.

    We have the trappings of empire – foreign bases, client states, entangling alliances, power projection. We have instances of interference in foreign affairs – Iran, Cuba, Zaire, Lebanon, Grenada, Nicaragua (repeatedly), Panama, (I have seen arguments for Chile and Allende – mixed results temporarily with Pinochet, but all-in-all a qualified success, blind nuts and squirrels I suppose), as well as the Wilsonian debacle of post-WWI interference that led to the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the solidification of the Communists in Russia, and laid the groundwork for fascism in Italy and Germany. Success, success, success. I’ll argue that we partially made up for it with Post-war Japan, perhaps our greatest foreign policy achievement in the 20th Century, although we have undertaken the “imperial” defense of our defeated foe and their former client state of S. Korea. We went to Viet Nam to uphold the remnant French Empire (oh wait, they’re a Republic). More success. More intervention. Abetting further success and further intervention. I should add that intervention = $. Many $. Over and over and over.

    Even so, we refrain from exercising explicit hard power. Beyond our bases and the defense commitments we undertake with their presence in most cases, our imperial footprint is far less substantial than that of Britain, France or the Soviets.

    A simple, unscientific indicator of our imperial status though is the simple recognition that when there is a major crisis in the world, political or natural, there is the implicit expectation that the U.S. will be involved and leading the way. When that expectation ends, or diminishes, our “empire” will have ended or begun its true decline.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS @ 82: I was referring to my definition of soft empire, and posts relevant to that – ie my answer (actually more comment, apologies for the confusion) on your post at 64, not 65. Also, SA was only mentioned as an aside in post 24.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS @ 82: I was referring to my definition of soft empire, and posts relevant to that – ie my answer (actually more comment, apologies for the confusion) on your post at 64, not 65. Also, SA was only mentioned as an aside in post 24.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Here is my observation: In previous conversations, some of you had been strong on America as an Ideal, rather than a national entity. America as freedom, America as the pursuit of Happiness, America as triumphant individualism (ok, nobody said the last one, but it is pretty much implied).

    Some of the people identifying themselves as conservatives on these threads have bought into this at a very high level – it is their ethos, it has entered the very fibre of their being, it is as true as the sky is blue. With this particular view comes a whole lot of baggage, including vocabulary, themes and symbols. These cannot be overthrown by reason or example. Thus, for instance, the word Empire is antithecal to this idea, and therefore it shall never be connected to the word America, unless it is used to demonise internal opponents (pesky democrats etc.). Also, while wrongdoing is sometimes admitted, the Ideal can never “go wrong”, or require wrong doing. The Ideal is above everything else.

    Others here accept America as a country, a national entity, amongst the nations of the world. A great country, perhaps, their country, who they love dearly, but a country like all others nonetheless. The first group cannot understand this – thus statements which imply the belief that they are the only country that live up the concepts of freedom as given birth within the Anglo-Saxon tradition (ever heard of Australia? New Zealand? Canada?). They are so married to the Ideal, that all reality is seen not for what it is, but in the light of the Ideal.

    As an outsider, I identify much more with the second group. Because they can value me for who I am. We can differ amicably. And we can wholeheartedly wish each other well, our respective people well, and pray for the peace, security and prosperity of each others’ nations. The first group will always view me as some “ghastly outsider”. A friendly barbarian if you will. Somebody that is never entirely above suspicion, because he is not an American who holds to the Ideal, or an outsider that desperately wants to be an American holding to the ideal. They strongly belive that if you do not whorship the ideal, you are at best to be pitied, at worst to be seen as an enemy.

    In short, the second group are normal, patriotic people – I could even become one of these if I wanted to. The first group have elevated their patriotism to some sort of religion. As a Christian, and as a foreigner, I cannot go there.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Here is my observation: In previous conversations, some of you had been strong on America as an Ideal, rather than a national entity. America as freedom, America as the pursuit of Happiness, America as triumphant individualism (ok, nobody said the last one, but it is pretty much implied).

    Some of the people identifying themselves as conservatives on these threads have bought into this at a very high level – it is their ethos, it has entered the very fibre of their being, it is as true as the sky is blue. With this particular view comes a whole lot of baggage, including vocabulary, themes and symbols. These cannot be overthrown by reason or example. Thus, for instance, the word Empire is antithecal to this idea, and therefore it shall never be connected to the word America, unless it is used to demonise internal opponents (pesky democrats etc.). Also, while wrongdoing is sometimes admitted, the Ideal can never “go wrong”, or require wrong doing. The Ideal is above everything else.

    Others here accept America as a country, a national entity, amongst the nations of the world. A great country, perhaps, their country, who they love dearly, but a country like all others nonetheless. The first group cannot understand this – thus statements which imply the belief that they are the only country that live up the concepts of freedom as given birth within the Anglo-Saxon tradition (ever heard of Australia? New Zealand? Canada?). They are so married to the Ideal, that all reality is seen not for what it is, but in the light of the Ideal.

    As an outsider, I identify much more with the second group. Because they can value me for who I am. We can differ amicably. And we can wholeheartedly wish each other well, our respective people well, and pray for the peace, security and prosperity of each others’ nations. The first group will always view me as some “ghastly outsider”. A friendly barbarian if you will. Somebody that is never entirely above suspicion, because he is not an American who holds to the Ideal, or an outsider that desperately wants to be an American holding to the ideal. They strongly belive that if you do not whorship the ideal, you are at best to be pitied, at worst to be seen as an enemy.

    In short, the second group are normal, patriotic people – I could even become one of these if I wanted to. The first group have elevated their patriotism to some sort of religion. As a Christian, and as a foreigner, I cannot go there.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 84: I accept your apology. I must admit, I was considerably surprised at being personally attacked as being “utterly and entirely incorrect on a factual and analytical level” merely by saying, in a rather offhand way that was ancillary to my main point at the time, that I didn’t think the U.S. qualified as an empire under traditional definitions of the term. And then to have my thinking to be “charitably” regarded as evidence of “denial”. I hope you can see, in retrospect, why I reacted emotionally to that kind of supercilious slur.

    While Porcell, Kerner, and I have all attempted to actually have you engage the definition of the term, you have insisted on your own, and, at the same time, essentially considered us to be fools for not seeing it your way. Apparently, as I read your latest comment, you consider projection of power beyond one’s borders to be tantamount to empire. I disagree with that broad definition, because to me it is clear, from whichever dictionary definition you use, that “empire” means the expansion of one’s territory to include satellite states, and exerting supreme control over those states. You certainly have the right to be your own lexicographer, but at least acknowledge that you have created your own meaning for “empire” and that others are not fools merely for disagreeing with you. And, please, don’t insult our intelligence by dangling the thought that you don’t mean “empire” in a necessarily pejorative way. If you don’t mean it pejoratively, then kindly explain how you think it is good.

    So, it appears that the root of your issue with American “empire” is the presence of American troops in “over 100″ foreign countries. Please acknowledge, at least, that our post-war occupation of Japan, Italy, and Germany was warranted because of our victory in WWII, in the defense of ourselves and our allies against the attempted expansion of the empires of Germany and Japan. If anything, those occupations were “anti-empire”. Our occupation of bases in many other allied countries was, more or less, an accident of WWII combined with the immediate post-war threat of the communist empire of the Soviet Union and, a little bit later, Red China. It’s not like we wanted their territory. Rather, they wanted us to defend them.

    For all of these foreign military occupations, I don’t call us an “empire”. Rather, I call us “suckers”. Western Europe and Japan have ridden on our backs and attained essentially a free ride by us providing their defense on our dime. We don’t use those military forces to oppress the people of those countries. Quite the contrary. In the middle east, our troops are prohibited from openly engaging in their usual cultural and faith practices in order to avoid offense to the local population. We go to Iraq, establish a democratic government there, governed by their own people, pay trillions in costs to defend and rebuild that country, and then pay for their oil. What kind of satellite country is that? After WWII, instead of demanding reparations and tribute from the conquered people of Japan and Germany, we re-built their countries for them. At our expense.

    If we’re an “empire”, we’re the most stupid one in history. We certainly don’t know how to act like one.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 84: I accept your apology. I must admit, I was considerably surprised at being personally attacked as being “utterly and entirely incorrect on a factual and analytical level” merely by saying, in a rather offhand way that was ancillary to my main point at the time, that I didn’t think the U.S. qualified as an empire under traditional definitions of the term. And then to have my thinking to be “charitably” regarded as evidence of “denial”. I hope you can see, in retrospect, why I reacted emotionally to that kind of supercilious slur.

    While Porcell, Kerner, and I have all attempted to actually have you engage the definition of the term, you have insisted on your own, and, at the same time, essentially considered us to be fools for not seeing it your way. Apparently, as I read your latest comment, you consider projection of power beyond one’s borders to be tantamount to empire. I disagree with that broad definition, because to me it is clear, from whichever dictionary definition you use, that “empire” means the expansion of one’s territory to include satellite states, and exerting supreme control over those states. You certainly have the right to be your own lexicographer, but at least acknowledge that you have created your own meaning for “empire” and that others are not fools merely for disagreeing with you. And, please, don’t insult our intelligence by dangling the thought that you don’t mean “empire” in a necessarily pejorative way. If you don’t mean it pejoratively, then kindly explain how you think it is good.

    So, it appears that the root of your issue with American “empire” is the presence of American troops in “over 100″ foreign countries. Please acknowledge, at least, that our post-war occupation of Japan, Italy, and Germany was warranted because of our victory in WWII, in the defense of ourselves and our allies against the attempted expansion of the empires of Germany and Japan. If anything, those occupations were “anti-empire”. Our occupation of bases in many other allied countries was, more or less, an accident of WWII combined with the immediate post-war threat of the communist empire of the Soviet Union and, a little bit later, Red China. It’s not like we wanted their territory. Rather, they wanted us to defend them.

    For all of these foreign military occupations, I don’t call us an “empire”. Rather, I call us “suckers”. Western Europe and Japan have ridden on our backs and attained essentially a free ride by us providing their defense on our dime. We don’t use those military forces to oppress the people of those countries. Quite the contrary. In the middle east, our troops are prohibited from openly engaging in their usual cultural and faith practices in order to avoid offense to the local population. We go to Iraq, establish a democratic government there, governed by their own people, pay trillions in costs to defend and rebuild that country, and then pay for their oil. What kind of satellite country is that? After WWII, instead of demanding reparations and tribute from the conquered people of Japan and Germany, we re-built their countries for them. At our expense.

    If we’re an “empire”, we’re the most stupid one in history. We certainly don’t know how to act like one.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 87: I will admit that I get angry at fellow Americans for their endless drumbeat of criticism of the U.S. It’s not that there is not plenty to criticize. Indeed there is, and I do it myself. But there is never any acknowledgement of the good. One of the great things about Ronald Reagan was his ability to help Americans realize that they were part of a great enterprise, a country that is arguably the most powerful one to ever exist in the history of the world (in absolute terms, this is unquestionable), but yet prizes the dignity and worth of the individual. He restored the pride in country which Kennedy had earlier elicited, and which Johnson, Nixon, and Carter had later seriously damaged. Why is it important for Americans to be proud of the U.S.? Because this regard for individual rights and dignity is unique and precious in world history. If we don’t value this uniqueness, value the sacrifice of our forefathers to create and maintain it for us, and seek to continue to promote the ideals that made this country great, it will be lost. The default state in this fallen and evil world is the aggrandizement of power to the powerful elite, and the oppression of the common man. We cannot afford to take our freedoms and privileges for granted.

    As for those of you who are not Americans, of course you do and should have a different view of the U.S. You’re now a Canadian, and you are rightfully proud of and love your great country. By uplifting the U.S., I am not dissing Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, who all evince these same principles of individual dignity and liberty as the U.S. does. But, they’re not world powers, the way the U.S. is. I’m calling out the U.S. as being the most benign world power in history. No one has challenged that point, which I have made repeatedly on this thread, so I assume that you all accept and agree with it. I only ask that you acknowledge it, and appreciate the good nature of the U.S. and its respect for its neighbors and allies.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 87: I will admit that I get angry at fellow Americans for their endless drumbeat of criticism of the U.S. It’s not that there is not plenty to criticize. Indeed there is, and I do it myself. But there is never any acknowledgement of the good. One of the great things about Ronald Reagan was his ability to help Americans realize that they were part of a great enterprise, a country that is arguably the most powerful one to ever exist in the history of the world (in absolute terms, this is unquestionable), but yet prizes the dignity and worth of the individual. He restored the pride in country which Kennedy had earlier elicited, and which Johnson, Nixon, and Carter had later seriously damaged. Why is it important for Americans to be proud of the U.S.? Because this regard for individual rights and dignity is unique and precious in world history. If we don’t value this uniqueness, value the sacrifice of our forefathers to create and maintain it for us, and seek to continue to promote the ideals that made this country great, it will be lost. The default state in this fallen and evil world is the aggrandizement of power to the powerful elite, and the oppression of the common man. We cannot afford to take our freedoms and privileges for granted.

    As for those of you who are not Americans, of course you do and should have a different view of the U.S. You’re now a Canadian, and you are rightfully proud of and love your great country. By uplifting the U.S., I am not dissing Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, who all evince these same principles of individual dignity and liberty as the U.S. does. But, they’re not world powers, the way the U.S. is. I’m calling out the U.S. as being the most benign world power in history. No one has challenged that point, which I have made repeatedly on this thread, so I assume that you all accept and agree with it. I only ask that you acknowledge it, and appreciate the good nature of the U.S. and its respect for its neighbors and allies.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    donS, I refer you to my comments in that previous thread, before Porcell viciously and ignorantly attacked me on a personal level. Specifically, the following:

    Start quote:
    The US has, possibly as far back as 1812, but very definitely since the Monroe doctrine (on an ideological level), and the Mexican-American War (on a practical level), pursued a policy of what can be called Soft-Imperialism. Soft does not mean no war – there have been very few years since the beginning of the last century where America was not involved with some or the other conflict, somewhere on the planet. This is not because of the Avuncular role many perceive, but because of the Realpolitik involved in running an Empire, even if it is a “soft” empire. The success of the Empire until now has partly been because of it’s perceived softness (instituting democracy, etc etc), but one often misses the fact that the reconstruction efforts are often very cleverly disguised transactions for getting the money from the US government (taxpayers money), to US companies, who return some of that to the government as taxes again, with the foreign government having to pay back with interest (even if it is low), and the average Joe taxpayer carrying the bucket in the mean time. However, with the advent of Keneysian Economics, we have the added component of enriching bankers many of those Chinese. Really, a very clever scheme.

    At the same time, whereas most of the rest of the world would prefer to carry on with their business without the presence of an Empire, I’m sure most are more content with an American Empire, than with say a Soviet one. It is all Realpolitik. But one should recognise as well that Imperial machinations today have long lasting effects, some of which will lie for decades before jumping up and biting you in the butt:
    End quote. (ps, html tags do not like me).

    Thus I would say that American Realpolitik has been more benign than that of most other Empires. I would actually argue that the Realpolitik of the British Empire, and that of the American, are quite similar in impact. If you realise my ancestory, you would know how much it took for me to say that.

    On the word Empire: I specifically use the words Soft Empire, because I feel that though it is not the same as “I’m going to conquer you” Empire, they share a lot of attributes. Hence the word “soft”. Superpower can be misleading, I feel.

    But I’d like your input on the heart of my argument, that of American Nationalism being a quasi-religion (as opposed to American patriotism).

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    donS, I refer you to my comments in that previous thread, before Porcell viciously and ignorantly attacked me on a personal level. Specifically, the following:

    Start quote:
    The US has, possibly as far back as 1812, but very definitely since the Monroe doctrine (on an ideological level), and the Mexican-American War (on a practical level), pursued a policy of what can be called Soft-Imperialism. Soft does not mean no war – there have been very few years since the beginning of the last century where America was not involved with some or the other conflict, somewhere on the planet. This is not because of the Avuncular role many perceive, but because of the Realpolitik involved in running an Empire, even if it is a “soft” empire. The success of the Empire until now has partly been because of it’s perceived softness (instituting democracy, etc etc), but one often misses the fact that the reconstruction efforts are often very cleverly disguised transactions for getting the money from the US government (taxpayers money), to US companies, who return some of that to the government as taxes again, with the foreign government having to pay back with interest (even if it is low), and the average Joe taxpayer carrying the bucket in the mean time. However, with the advent of Keneysian Economics, we have the added component of enriching bankers many of those Chinese. Really, a very clever scheme.

    At the same time, whereas most of the rest of the world would prefer to carry on with their business without the presence of an Empire, I’m sure most are more content with an American Empire, than with say a Soviet one. It is all Realpolitik. But one should recognise as well that Imperial machinations today have long lasting effects, some of which will lie for decades before jumping up and biting you in the butt:
    End quote. (ps, html tags do not like me).

    Thus I would say that American Realpolitik has been more benign than that of most other Empires. I would actually argue that the Realpolitik of the British Empire, and that of the American, are quite similar in impact. If you realise my ancestory, you would know how much it took for me to say that.

    On the word Empire: I specifically use the words Soft Empire, because I feel that though it is not the same as “I’m going to conquer you” Empire, they share a lot of attributes. Hence the word “soft”. Superpower can be misleading, I feel.

    But I’d like your input on the heart of my argument, that of American Nationalism being a quasi-religion (as opposed to American patriotism).

  • Stephen

    First, I bow to the superior “wonkishness” of everyone here. I’m throwing in something I just read – a quote by Bishop Camara of Brazil – ya’ know, liberation theology and all that.

    “If I give food to the poor and I am called a saint. If I ask why the poor have no food, I am called a communist.”

    One of his colleagues of note, Oscar Romero, was assassinated by US backed, supplied and trained death squads in El Salvador. I’m not sure what about that is “hard’ or “soft” as it relates to our worldview as a Christian nation as I have heard around here over and over, and on this thread, and that we continue to supply and train such regimes as I believe Louis has pointed out.

    While one may not agree with liberation theology, I think it is interesting that there is a dearth of bible verse quoting, religiously justified, etc. going on in the attempt to defend the US against the charge of empire, hard, soft, beneficial, not so much, whatever. I’m wondering where all that is. What “christian” righteousness is it that we promote in doing what we do? Any? Some? Tell me?

  • Stephen

    First, I bow to the superior “wonkishness” of everyone here. I’m throwing in something I just read – a quote by Bishop Camara of Brazil – ya’ know, liberation theology and all that.

    “If I give food to the poor and I am called a saint. If I ask why the poor have no food, I am called a communist.”

    One of his colleagues of note, Oscar Romero, was assassinated by US backed, supplied and trained death squads in El Salvador. I’m not sure what about that is “hard’ or “soft” as it relates to our worldview as a Christian nation as I have heard around here over and over, and on this thread, and that we continue to supply and train such regimes as I believe Louis has pointed out.

    While one may not agree with liberation theology, I think it is interesting that there is a dearth of bible verse quoting, religiously justified, etc. going on in the attempt to defend the US against the charge of empire, hard, soft, beneficial, not so much, whatever. I’m wondering where all that is. What “christian” righteousness is it that we promote in doing what we do? Any? Some? Tell me?

  • Cincinnatus

    None. And so to DonS I would respond that the United States has, in fact, not been the most benevolent imperial power in history: at least the British pretended to couch (some of) their colonial conquests in the discourse of Christian missionary work.

  • Cincinnatus

    None. And so to DonS I would respond that the United States has, in fact, not been the most benevolent imperial power in history: at least the British pretended to couch (some of) their colonial conquests in the discourse of Christian missionary work.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 90: It stinks when commenters attack you personally, rather than focusing on arguments, doesn’t it? Kind of spoils the whole thing. And shows a certain weakness on their part.

    I acknowledged in my original comment @18, before Cincinnatus attacked me, kind of out of the blue, that I could see how you could apply “soft Empire” to the U.S. Cincinnatus evidently was not molified by that — he chose to insist on using “empire” without the “soft”, despite the fact that the definition doesn’t apply.

    You will be unsurprised to learn that I don’t agree with you about the U.S. I think your viewpoint is still unrelentingly negative, and that is unjustified, imo. Take this quote, for example:

    there have been very few years since the beginning of the last century where America was not involved with some or the other conflict, somewhere on the planet. This is not because of the Avuncular role many perceive, but because of the Realpolitik involved in running an Empire, even if it is a “soft” empire.

    Doesn’t that seem a little broad-brush to you? First of all, there have been a lot of wars, but not to the point where there were “very few years” without them since 1900. WWI was hardly American aggression. The U.S. fought being in that war until 1917, and was dragged into it by its European allies. WWII — same thing. My goodness, the U.S. didn’t want any part of that war. Roosevelt couldn’t convince us to enter it until the Japanese attack. By the way, Canada was already on board. That war was the ultimate in “avuncular”. Uncle Sam to the rescue, and after he saves your butt from Hitler, and rebuilds your continent and defends you from the Soviet Union, post-war. Come on! At least give the U.S. a little credit. Visit the American cemeteries along the Normandie coast and see the thousands of American boys who died to liberate France. And we took nothing in return.

    And how about Korea? Jumped into the fray to save South Korea’s butt this time. Same thing with Vietnam. Rightly or wrongly, in terms of policy decisions, it’s hard to see these wars as “soft empire” building, rather than simple defensive actions against the asserted and evidenced expansion of the Soviet Union and Red Chinese empires.

    As far as the Gulf War is concerned, it was Hussein who invaded Kuwait, without provocation. We defended our allies’ interests in preserving their territorial boundaries, and entered both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia at their expressed request. Then, when we fought Hussein back to the original Iraqi borders, we stopped. Sure, it’s an oil region, and sure we purchase a lot of oil from that region. But, the key is we purchase it. We don’t take it. And there is no fuzz on the fact that we were defending allies.

    I do agree with you that much of the world resents the U.S. and its power. I think a lot of that is envy, and a lot of it is perceived U.S. attitudes. But, I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it is very appreciative of the many good things that Americans have done throughout the world. In particular, Europeans who hate America have a very short memory, or regard for how things would have been but for U.S. participation in the European front in WWII. And that’s sad.

    As far as your other point regarding “quasi-religion”, I didn’t really understand it. To whom were you referring, for example? I do believe that America represents an ideal, as well as a nation, because of its Constitution and emphasis on the ideal of individual worth. And I do believe that is a worthy ideal to spread throughout the world, to the extent the world wants to adopt that ideal. I certainly don’t view my country as having no warts, and I don’t worship America. I consider America unique, as the only major world power in history to value the individual over national power. Because of this, it’s clearly not “just another country”. But, it’s also not the only country to value the individual.

    I’m not sure if I answered your question.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 90: It stinks when commenters attack you personally, rather than focusing on arguments, doesn’t it? Kind of spoils the whole thing. And shows a certain weakness on their part.

    I acknowledged in my original comment @18, before Cincinnatus attacked me, kind of out of the blue, that I could see how you could apply “soft Empire” to the U.S. Cincinnatus evidently was not molified by that — he chose to insist on using “empire” without the “soft”, despite the fact that the definition doesn’t apply.

    You will be unsurprised to learn that I don’t agree with you about the U.S. I think your viewpoint is still unrelentingly negative, and that is unjustified, imo. Take this quote, for example:

    there have been very few years since the beginning of the last century where America was not involved with some or the other conflict, somewhere on the planet. This is not because of the Avuncular role many perceive, but because of the Realpolitik involved in running an Empire, even if it is a “soft” empire.

    Doesn’t that seem a little broad-brush to you? First of all, there have been a lot of wars, but not to the point where there were “very few years” without them since 1900. WWI was hardly American aggression. The U.S. fought being in that war until 1917, and was dragged into it by its European allies. WWII — same thing. My goodness, the U.S. didn’t want any part of that war. Roosevelt couldn’t convince us to enter it until the Japanese attack. By the way, Canada was already on board. That war was the ultimate in “avuncular”. Uncle Sam to the rescue, and after he saves your butt from Hitler, and rebuilds your continent and defends you from the Soviet Union, post-war. Come on! At least give the U.S. a little credit. Visit the American cemeteries along the Normandie coast and see the thousands of American boys who died to liberate France. And we took nothing in return.

    And how about Korea? Jumped into the fray to save South Korea’s butt this time. Same thing with Vietnam. Rightly or wrongly, in terms of policy decisions, it’s hard to see these wars as “soft empire” building, rather than simple defensive actions against the asserted and evidenced expansion of the Soviet Union and Red Chinese empires.

    As far as the Gulf War is concerned, it was Hussein who invaded Kuwait, without provocation. We defended our allies’ interests in preserving their territorial boundaries, and entered both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia at their expressed request. Then, when we fought Hussein back to the original Iraqi borders, we stopped. Sure, it’s an oil region, and sure we purchase a lot of oil from that region. But, the key is we purchase it. We don’t take it. And there is no fuzz on the fact that we were defending allies.

    I do agree with you that much of the world resents the U.S. and its power. I think a lot of that is envy, and a lot of it is perceived U.S. attitudes. But, I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it is very appreciative of the many good things that Americans have done throughout the world. In particular, Europeans who hate America have a very short memory, or regard for how things would have been but for U.S. participation in the European front in WWII. And that’s sad.

    As far as your other point regarding “quasi-religion”, I didn’t really understand it. To whom were you referring, for example? I do believe that America represents an ideal, as well as a nation, because of its Constitution and emphasis on the ideal of individual worth. And I do believe that is a worthy ideal to spread throughout the world, to the extent the world wants to adopt that ideal. I certainly don’t view my country as having no warts, and I don’t worship America. I consider America unique, as the only major world power in history to value the individual over national power. Because of this, it’s clearly not “just another country”. But, it’s also not the only country to value the individual.

    I’m not sure if I answered your question.

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 91: You have not heard me reference the U.S. as a “Christian nation”. It most clearly is not, and in fact is quite virulently secular. It does have Christian roots, but those are long withered, in terms of its official actions.

    No one is claiming or averring that the U.S. has not committed atrocities or evil at times. All nations have, and the U.S. is no exception. But the whole point of the argument is that the mere projection of power is not necessarily imperial. Sometimes it is defensive. And, in the case of the U.S., there are usually defensive motivations in its overseas actions.

    Cincinnatus @ 92: Yes, of course. Pretending is everything.

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 91: You have not heard me reference the U.S. as a “Christian nation”. It most clearly is not, and in fact is quite virulently secular. It does have Christian roots, but those are long withered, in terms of its official actions.

    No one is claiming or averring that the U.S. has not committed atrocities or evil at times. All nations have, and the U.S. is no exception. But the whole point of the argument is that the mere projection of power is not necessarily imperial. Sometimes it is defensive. And, in the case of the U.S., there are usually defensive motivations in its overseas actions.

    Cincinnatus @ 92: Yes, of course. Pretending is everything.

  • Cincinnatus

    “But the whole point of the argument is that the mere projection of power is not necessarily imperial. Sometimes it is defensive.”

    As I recall, I cited earlier the fact that “defense” and “empire” are often inextricably related. Rome’s geographical empire, after all, was rooted in defense; it was that venerable republican Cato, after all, who insisted that “Carthago delenda est.” Our own empire is rooted in similar impulses: the Spanish-American War, often cited as the birth of America’s overseas empire, was ostensibly waged as a defensive or at least retaliatory act against Spain. Certainly many primitive empires (Hittite, etc.) were borne of a mere desire to extend access to necessary resources like food/hunting grounds or access to the sea that were dwindling or unavailable in the homeland. In other words, not all “emperors” and empire assume the form of Alexander or Napoleon. Indeed, there is a reciprocating relationship between the increasing need for defense and the expansion of the empire; for example, since Cuba and other island principalities landed in our laps in 1898, America then had a vested interest in extending its military influence throughout the Caribbean and Pacific; when our domestic petroleum reserves shrank but our demand for its products didn’t, the Middle East became ever more important for our national defense, and thus we’ve exerted ourselves strenuously in that region for at least five decades. Britain maintained dominion over Egypt and Gibraltar to preserve the trade routes in the Mediterranean upon which its empire depended. Rome attempted to conquer what is now Germany for no particularly good reason, but its involvement in Palestine, etc., was motivated by real and tangible interests of defense and economy. We didn’t go to Korea primarily out of altruistic desire to spill the blood of 50,000 Americans to preserve some Asian backwater’s right to vote; we did it to defend some our tentacled national interests. The same goes for Vietnam, Iraq )(both times), Latin America, Africa, etc., etc., etc. I’m not assessing these various deeds as “good” or “bad” at the moment. They just are, and they are what they are.

    In other words, it seems to be you who are altering the definition of empire. Nowhere in any definition of the word is it specified that an empire, in order to be deemed such, must be greedily and consciously possessed of a love for power-qua-power with no particular end in mind. And as tODD has pointed out, you are at best totally ignoring the sense behind the word “empire.”

    And you are correct: no one is denying that the United States has committed atrocities at various points in its history. This is because the point is moot and irrelevant. A nation need not commit atrocities in order to be an empire; that’s something that is also absent from all definitions of the word. For all I care, there could be an empire that is utterly blameless of ill-considered or oppressive actions and benign to all its global neighbors; it would still be an empire. And I would remind you that saying that America “extends its influence beyond its borders” is, again, an egregious understatement; every nation extends its influence, but surely you possess the evaluative capacity to make a distinction between Luxembourg and the United States.

    The bottom line is that the United States has exceedingly numerous dependencies, client states, and military interests. Its economic and military commitments literally span the globe. It possesses unquestioned dominance in most realms of any importance to any nation, and, as another commenter noted, we are regarded as the world’s policeman (begrudgingly, albeit). For crying out loud, citizens in other countries beg for the right to vote in American presidential elections simply because what the American president decrees and does has such a tremendous global impact. Whether that impact is primarily beneficial or harmful, hard or soft, is immaterial, and would seem to vary depending upon the particular moment and history and the perspective of the entity receiving that “impact.”

  • Cincinnatus

    “But the whole point of the argument is that the mere projection of power is not necessarily imperial. Sometimes it is defensive.”

    As I recall, I cited earlier the fact that “defense” and “empire” are often inextricably related. Rome’s geographical empire, after all, was rooted in defense; it was that venerable republican Cato, after all, who insisted that “Carthago delenda est.” Our own empire is rooted in similar impulses: the Spanish-American War, often cited as the birth of America’s overseas empire, was ostensibly waged as a defensive or at least retaliatory act against Spain. Certainly many primitive empires (Hittite, etc.) were borne of a mere desire to extend access to necessary resources like food/hunting grounds or access to the sea that were dwindling or unavailable in the homeland. In other words, not all “emperors” and empire assume the form of Alexander or Napoleon. Indeed, there is a reciprocating relationship between the increasing need for defense and the expansion of the empire; for example, since Cuba and other island principalities landed in our laps in 1898, America then had a vested interest in extending its military influence throughout the Caribbean and Pacific; when our domestic petroleum reserves shrank but our demand for its products didn’t, the Middle East became ever more important for our national defense, and thus we’ve exerted ourselves strenuously in that region for at least five decades. Britain maintained dominion over Egypt and Gibraltar to preserve the trade routes in the Mediterranean upon which its empire depended. Rome attempted to conquer what is now Germany for no particularly good reason, but its involvement in Palestine, etc., was motivated by real and tangible interests of defense and economy. We didn’t go to Korea primarily out of altruistic desire to spill the blood of 50,000 Americans to preserve some Asian backwater’s right to vote; we did it to defend some our tentacled national interests. The same goes for Vietnam, Iraq )(both times), Latin America, Africa, etc., etc., etc. I’m not assessing these various deeds as “good” or “bad” at the moment. They just are, and they are what they are.

    In other words, it seems to be you who are altering the definition of empire. Nowhere in any definition of the word is it specified that an empire, in order to be deemed such, must be greedily and consciously possessed of a love for power-qua-power with no particular end in mind. And as tODD has pointed out, you are at best totally ignoring the sense behind the word “empire.”

    And you are correct: no one is denying that the United States has committed atrocities at various points in its history. This is because the point is moot and irrelevant. A nation need not commit atrocities in order to be an empire; that’s something that is also absent from all definitions of the word. For all I care, there could be an empire that is utterly blameless of ill-considered or oppressive actions and benign to all its global neighbors; it would still be an empire. And I would remind you that saying that America “extends its influence beyond its borders” is, again, an egregious understatement; every nation extends its influence, but surely you possess the evaluative capacity to make a distinction between Luxembourg and the United States.

    The bottom line is that the United States has exceedingly numerous dependencies, client states, and military interests. Its economic and military commitments literally span the globe. It possesses unquestioned dominance in most realms of any importance to any nation, and, as another commenter noted, we are regarded as the world’s policeman (begrudgingly, albeit). For crying out loud, citizens in other countries beg for the right to vote in American presidential elections simply because what the American president decrees and does has such a tremendous global impact. Whether that impact is primarily beneficial or harmful, hard or soft, is immaterial, and would seem to vary depending upon the particular moment and history and the perspective of the entity receiving that “impact.”

  • Stephen

    DonS

    You’re correct. You have not made any claims about America’s Christian this or that. But some have and they know who they are. I suppose my one example goes the “appearance” of empire perhaps. I’m not as wonky on details as you guys (and a few gals). I’m interested in any of the moral calculus behind the defense against the charge of empire, especially as it has to do with the claim of our “Christian heritage” as such, or even the recent thread on our “exceptionalism” which just about did me in.

    Even with all her “sins” it sounds like you want to claim some kind of morally neutral place for our country. She does not fit the dictionary definition, therefore we can objectively claim she is not an empire. And she sure walks like one, talks like one, and quacks like one in a whole lot of ways. How many sins of self-interest and world domination equals empire? Maybe that’s not the best way to frame it, but just because we are not staking out new real estate and building houses for English speakers, does that mean the folks at home who consume the lion’s share of the world’s resources do not benefit from the murder of priests, torture, and the mass graves in places that we haven’t even heard about (yet)?

    Let’s just say I am not reassured by your answers.

  • Stephen

    DonS

    You’re correct. You have not made any claims about America’s Christian this or that. But some have and they know who they are. I suppose my one example goes the “appearance” of empire perhaps. I’m not as wonky on details as you guys (and a few gals). I’m interested in any of the moral calculus behind the defense against the charge of empire, especially as it has to do with the claim of our “Christian heritage” as such, or even the recent thread on our “exceptionalism” which just about did me in.

    Even with all her “sins” it sounds like you want to claim some kind of morally neutral place for our country. She does not fit the dictionary definition, therefore we can objectively claim she is not an empire. And she sure walks like one, talks like one, and quacks like one in a whole lot of ways. How many sins of self-interest and world domination equals empire? Maybe that’s not the best way to frame it, but just because we are not staking out new real estate and building houses for English speakers, does that mean the folks at home who consume the lion’s share of the world’s resources do not benefit from the murder of priests, torture, and the mass graves in places that we haven’t even heard about (yet)?

    Let’s just say I am not reassured by your answers.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    OK, DonS, you asked for it :) ! Here is a list of American military operations, other than evacuation, embassy/consulate protection and human aid, as well training and transport of other country’s military. Since 1905. Excluding CIA operations, and excluding the war on drugs. I did include “Protection of American interests, though. (from Wikipedia). Very important note: I’m not saying I disapprove. Not at all. Some of these were absolutely necessary. But it serves to illustrate my point of the US engaging in military activity nearly all the time. What is interesting, though, is at the nineteenth century does not look all that different. Neither does the history of Britain or France over the last 200 years. Realpolitik, DonS, Realpolitik.

    1906-09 – Cuba. September 1906 to January 23, 1909. US forces sought to protect interests and re-establish a government after revolutionary activity
    1910 – Nicaragua. May 19 to September 4, 1910. Occupation of Nicaragua US forces protected American interests at Bluefields.
    1911 – Honduras. January 26. American naval detachments were landed to protect American lives and interests during a civil war in Honduras
    1912 – Cuba. June 5 to August 5. U.S. forces protected American interests in the province of Oriente and in Havana
    1912 – China. August 24 to 26, on Kentucky Island, and August 26 to 30 at Camp Nicholson. US forces protected Americans and American interests during the Xinhai Revolution
    1914 – Dominican Republic. June and July. During a revolutionary movement, United States naval forces by gunfire stopped the bombardment of Puerto Plata, and by threat of force maintained Santo Domingo City as a neutral zone
    1914-17 – Mexico. Tampico Affair led to Occupation of Veracruz, Mexico. Undeclared Mexican-American hostilities followed the Tampico Affair and Villa’s raids . Also Pancho Villa Expedition) – an abortive military operation conducted by the United States Army against the military forces of Francisco “Pancho” Villa from 1916 to 1917 and included capture of Vera Cruz. On March 19, 1915 on orders from President Woodrow Wilson, and with tacit consent by Venustiano Carranza General John J. Pershing led an invasion force of 10,000 men into Mexico to capture Villa
    1915-34 – Haiti. July 28, 1915, to August 15, 1934. United States occupation of Haiti 1915-1934 US forces maintained order during a period of chronic political instability. During the initial entrance into Haiti, the specific order from the Secretary of the Navy to the invasion commander, Admiral William Deville Bundy, was to “protect American and foreign” interests
    1916-24 – Dominican Republic. May 1916 to September 1924. Occupation of the Dominican Republic American naval forces maintained order during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection
    1917-18 – World War I. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war with Germany and on December 7, 1917, with Austria-Hungary. Entrance of the United States into the war was precipitated by Germany’s submarine warfare against neutral shipping and the Zimmermann Telegram
    1917-22 – Cuba. US forces protected American interests during insurrection and subsequent unsettled conditions. Most of the United States armed forces left Cuba by August 1919, but two companies remained at Camaguey until February 1922.
    1918-19 – Mexico. After withdrawal of the Pershing expedition, U.S. troops entered Mexico in pursuit of bandits at least three times in 1918 and six times in 1919. In August 1918 American and Mexican troops fought at Nogales, The Battle of Ambos Nogales. The incident began when German spies plotted an attack with Mexican soldiers on Nogales Arizona. The fighting began when a Mexican officer shot and killed a U.S. soldier on American soil. A full scale battle then ensued, ending with a Mexican surrender
    1918-20 – Soviet Union. Marines were landed at and near Vladivostok in June and July to protect the American consulate and other points in the fighting between the Bolshevik troops and the Czech Army which had traversed Siberia from the western front. A joint proclamation of emergency government and neutrality was issued by the American, Japanese, British, French, and Czech commanders in July. In August 7,000 men were landed in Vladivostok and remained until January 1920, as part of an allied occupation force. In September 1918, 5,000 American troops joined the allied intervention force at Archangel and remained until June 1919. These operations were in response to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and were partly supported by Czarist or Kerensky elements.
    1920-22 – Russia (Siberia). February 16, 1920, to November 19, 1922. A Marine guard was sent to protect the United States radio station and property on Russian Island, Bay of Vladivostok
    1924 – Honduras. February 28 to March 31, September 10 to 15. U.S. forces protected American lives and interests during election hostilities
    1925 – Panama. October 12 to 23. Strikes and rent riots led to the landing of about 600 American troops to keep order and protect American interests
    1932 – China. American forces were landed to protect American interests during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai
    1941 – Germany. Sometime in the spring the President ordered the Navy to patrol ship lanes to Europe. By July US warships were convoying and by September were attacking German submarines. In November, the Neutrality Act was partly repealed to protect US military aid to Britain.
    1941-45 – World War II. On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war with Japan in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The US declared war against Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania in response to the declarations of war by those nations against the United States
    1945-49 – Occupation of South Korea and defeat of a leftist insurgency
    1950-53 – Korean War. The United States responded to North Korean invasion of South Korea by going to its assistance, pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions. US forces deployed in Korea exceeded 300,000 during the last year of the conflict. Over 36,600 US military were killed in action
    1955-64 – Vietnam. First military advisors sent to Vietnam on 12 Feb 1955. By 1964, US troop levels had grown to 21,000. On 7 August 1964, US Congress approved Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming “All necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States. . .to prevent further aggression. . . (and) assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asian Collective Defense Treaty (SEATO) requesting assistance. . .”[
    1962-75 – Laos. From October 1962 until 1975, the United States played an important role in military support of anti-Communist forces in Laos
    1959-75 – Vietnam War. US military advisers had been in South Vietnam for a decade, and their numbers had been increased as the military position of the Saigon government became weaker. After citing what he termed were attacks on US destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf, President Johnson asked in August 1964 for a resolution expressing US determination to support freedom and protect peace in Southeast Asia. Congress responded with the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, expressing support for "all necessary measures" the President might take to repel armed attacks against US forces and prevent further aggression. Following this resolution, and following a Communist attack on a US installation in central Vietnam, the United States escalated its participation in the war to a peak of 543,000 military personnel by April 1969.
    1965 – Dominican Republic. Invasion of Dominican Republic The United States intervened to protect lives and property during a Dominican revolt and sent 20,000 US troops as fears grew that the revolutionary forces were coming increasingly under Communist control.
    1968 – Laos & Cambodia. U.S. starts secret bombing campaign against targets along the Ho Chi Minh trail in the sovereign nations of Cambodia and Laos. The bombings last at least two years.
    1970 – Cambodia Campaign. US troops were ordered into Cambodia to clean out Communist sanctuaries from which Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attacked US and South Vietnamese forces in Vietnam. The object of this attack, which lasted from April 30 to June 30, was to ensure the continuing safe withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam and to assist the program of Vietnamization
    1981 – Libya. First Gulf of Sidra Incident On August 19, 1981, US planes based on the carrier USS Nimitz shot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra after one of the Libyan jets had fired a heat-seeking missile. The United States periodically held freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, claimed by Libya as territorial waters but considered international waters by the United States
    1983 – Grenada. Citing the increased threat of Soviet and Cuban influence and noting the development of an international airport following a bloodless Grenada coup d'état and alignment with the Soviets and Cuba, the U.S. launches Operation Urgent Fury to invade the sovereign island nation of Grenada
    1983 – Chad. On August 8, 1983, President Reagan reported the deployment of two AWACS electronic surveillance planes and eight F-15 fighter planes and ground logistical support forces to assist Chad against Libyan and rebel forces
    1984 – Persian Gulf. On June 5, 1984, Saudi Arabian jet fighter planes, aided by intelligence from a US AWACS electronic surveillance aircraft and fueled by a U.S. KC-10 tanker, shot down two Iranian fighter planes over an area of the Persian Gulf proclaimed as a protected zone for shipping
    1986 – Libya. Action in the Gulf of Sidra (1986) On March 26, 1986, President Reagan reported on March 24 and 25, US forces, while engaged in freedom of navigation exercises around the Gulf of Sidra, had been attacked by Libyan missiles and the United States had responded with missiles.
    1986 – Libya. Operation El Dorado Canyon On April 16, 1986, President Reagan reported that U.S. air and naval forces had conducted bombing strikes on terrorist facilities and military installations in the Libyan capitol of Tripoli, claiming that Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi was responsible for a bomb attack at a German disco that killed two U.S. soldiers
    1987 –October 19, Operation Nimble Archer - attack on two Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf by United States Navy forces. The attack was a response to Iran's October 16, 1987 attack on the MV Sea Isle City, a reflagged Kuwaiti oil tanker at anchor off Kuwait, with a Silkworm missile.
    1988 – Panama. In mid-March and April 1988, during a period of instability in Panama and as the United States increased pressure on Panamanian head of state General Manuel Noriega to resign, the United States sent 1,000 troops to Panama, to "further safeguard the canal, US lives, property and interests in the area." The forces supplemented 10,000 US military personnel already in the Panama Canal Zone.[RL30172]
    1989 – Libya. Second Gulf of Sidra Incident On January 4, 1989, two US Navy F-14 aircraft based on the USS John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan jet fighters over the Mediterranean Sea about 70 miles north of Libya. The US pilots said the Libyan planes had demonstrated hostile intentions.
    1989 – Panama. On May 11, 1989, in response to General Noriega’s disregard of the results of the Panamanian election, President Bush ordered a brigade-sized force of approximately 1,900 troops to augment the estimated 11,000 U.S. forces already in the area.
    1989-90 – Operation Just Cause, Panama – On December 21, 1989, President Bush reported that he had ordered US military forces to Panama to protect the lives of American citizens and bring General Noriega to justice. By February 13, 1990, all the invasion forces had been withdrawn. Around 200 Panamanian civilians were reported killed. The Panamanian head of state, General Manuel Noriega, was captured and brought to the U.S.
    1991 – Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm (Persian Gulf War). On January 16, 1991, U.S. forces attacked Iraqi forces and military targets in Iraq and Kuwait in conjunction with a coalition of allies and under United Nations Security Council resolutions. Combat operations ended on February 28, 1991
    1994-95 – Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti. U.S. ships had begun embargo against Haiti. Up to 20,000 US military troops were later deployed to Haiti
    1995 – Operation Deliberate Force, Bosnia. NATO bombing of Bosnian Serbs.
    1998 – Operation Infinite Reach, Afghanistan and Sudan. On August 20, air strikes were used against two suspected terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical factory in Sudan.
    1999 – Operation Allied Force – NATO’s bombing of Serbia in the Kosovo Conflict
    2001 – Afghanistan. War in Afghanistan. The War on Terrorism begins with Operation Enduring Freedom. On October 7, 2001, US Armed Forces invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks and “begin combat action in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters.
    2003 – 2003 invasion of Iraq leading to the War in Iraq. March 20, 2003. The United States leads a coalition that includes Britain, Australia and Spain to invade Iraq with the stated goal being “to disarm Iraq in pursuit of peace, stability, and security both in the Gulf region and in the United States
    2004 – War on Terrorism: US anti-terror related activities were underway in Georgia, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Eritrea.[8]
    2004 – 2010: Drone attacks in Pakistan

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    OK, DonS, you asked for it :) ! Here is a list of American military operations, other than evacuation, embassy/consulate protection and human aid, as well training and transport of other country’s military. Since 1905. Excluding CIA operations, and excluding the war on drugs. I did include “Protection of American interests, though. (from Wikipedia). Very important note: I’m not saying I disapprove. Not at all. Some of these were absolutely necessary. But it serves to illustrate my point of the US engaging in military activity nearly all the time. What is interesting, though, is at the nineteenth century does not look all that different. Neither does the history of Britain or France over the last 200 years. Realpolitik, DonS, Realpolitik.

    1906-09 – Cuba. September 1906 to January 23, 1909. US forces sought to protect interests and re-establish a government after revolutionary activity
    1910 – Nicaragua. May 19 to September 4, 1910. Occupation of Nicaragua US forces protected American interests at Bluefields.
    1911 – Honduras. January 26. American naval detachments were landed to protect American lives and interests during a civil war in Honduras
    1912 – Cuba. June 5 to August 5. U.S. forces protected American interests in the province of Oriente and in Havana
    1912 – China. August 24 to 26, on Kentucky Island, and August 26 to 30 at Camp Nicholson. US forces protected Americans and American interests during the Xinhai Revolution
    1914 – Dominican Republic. June and July. During a revolutionary movement, United States naval forces by gunfire stopped the bombardment of Puerto Plata, and by threat of force maintained Santo Domingo City as a neutral zone
    1914-17 – Mexico. Tampico Affair led to Occupation of Veracruz, Mexico. Undeclared Mexican-American hostilities followed the Tampico Affair and Villa’s raids . Also Pancho Villa Expedition) – an abortive military operation conducted by the United States Army against the military forces of Francisco “Pancho” Villa from 1916 to 1917 and included capture of Vera Cruz. On March 19, 1915 on orders from President Woodrow Wilson, and with tacit consent by Venustiano Carranza General John J. Pershing led an invasion force of 10,000 men into Mexico to capture Villa
    1915-34 – Haiti. July 28, 1915, to August 15, 1934. United States occupation of Haiti 1915-1934 US forces maintained order during a period of chronic political instability. During the initial entrance into Haiti, the specific order from the Secretary of the Navy to the invasion commander, Admiral William Deville Bundy, was to “protect American and foreign” interests
    1916-24 – Dominican Republic. May 1916 to September 1924. Occupation of the Dominican Republic American naval forces maintained order during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection
    1917-18 – World War I. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war with Germany and on December 7, 1917, with Austria-Hungary. Entrance of the United States into the war was precipitated by Germany’s submarine warfare against neutral shipping and the Zimmermann Telegram
    1917-22 – Cuba. US forces protected American interests during insurrection and subsequent unsettled conditions. Most of the United States armed forces left Cuba by August 1919, but two companies remained at Camaguey until February 1922.
    1918-19 – Mexico. After withdrawal of the Pershing expedition, U.S. troops entered Mexico in pursuit of bandits at least three times in 1918 and six times in 1919. In August 1918 American and Mexican troops fought at Nogales, The Battle of Ambos Nogales. The incident began when German spies plotted an attack with Mexican soldiers on Nogales Arizona. The fighting began when a Mexican officer shot and killed a U.S. soldier on American soil. A full scale battle then ensued, ending with a Mexican surrender
    1918-20 – Soviet Union. Marines were landed at and near Vladivostok in June and July to protect the American consulate and other points in the fighting between the Bolshevik troops and the Czech Army which had traversed Siberia from the western front. A joint proclamation of emergency government and neutrality was issued by the American, Japanese, British, French, and Czech commanders in July. In August 7,000 men were landed in Vladivostok and remained until January 1920, as part of an allied occupation force. In September 1918, 5,000 American troops joined the allied intervention force at Archangel and remained until June 1919. These operations were in response to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and were partly supported by Czarist or Kerensky elements.
    1920-22 – Russia (Siberia). February 16, 1920, to November 19, 1922. A Marine guard was sent to protect the United States radio station and property on Russian Island, Bay of Vladivostok
    1924 – Honduras. February 28 to March 31, September 10 to 15. U.S. forces protected American lives and interests during election hostilities
    1925 – Panama. October 12 to 23. Strikes and rent riots led to the landing of about 600 American troops to keep order and protect American interests
    1932 – China. American forces were landed to protect American interests during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai
    1941 – Germany. Sometime in the spring the President ordered the Navy to patrol ship lanes to Europe. By July US warships were convoying and by September were attacking German submarines. In November, the Neutrality Act was partly repealed to protect US military aid to Britain.
    1941-45 – World War II. On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war with Japan in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The US declared war against Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania in response to the declarations of war by those nations against the United States
    1945-49 – Occupation of South Korea and defeat of a leftist insurgency
    1950-53 – Korean War. The United States responded to North Korean invasion of South Korea by going to its assistance, pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions. US forces deployed in Korea exceeded 300,000 during the last year of the conflict. Over 36,600 US military were killed in action
    1955-64 – Vietnam. First military advisors sent to Vietnam on 12 Feb 1955. By 1964, US troop levels had grown to 21,000. On 7 August 1964, US Congress approved Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming “All necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States. . .to prevent further aggression. . . (and) assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asian Collective Defense Treaty (SEATO) requesting assistance. . .”[
    1962-75 – Laos. From October 1962 until 1975, the United States played an important role in military support of anti-Communist forces in Laos
    1959-75 – Vietnam War. US military advisers had been in South Vietnam for a decade, and their numbers had been increased as the military position of the Saigon government became weaker. After citing what he termed were attacks on US destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf, President Johnson asked in August 1964 for a resolution expressing US determination to support freedom and protect peace in Southeast Asia. Congress responded with the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, expressing support for "all necessary measures" the President might take to repel armed attacks against US forces and prevent further aggression. Following this resolution, and following a Communist attack on a US installation in central Vietnam, the United States escalated its participation in the war to a peak of 543,000 military personnel by April 1969.
    1965 – Dominican Republic. Invasion of Dominican Republic The United States intervened to protect lives and property during a Dominican revolt and sent 20,000 US troops as fears grew that the revolutionary forces were coming increasingly under Communist control.
    1968 – Laos & Cambodia. U.S. starts secret bombing campaign against targets along the Ho Chi Minh trail in the sovereign nations of Cambodia and Laos. The bombings last at least two years.
    1970 – Cambodia Campaign. US troops were ordered into Cambodia to clean out Communist sanctuaries from which Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attacked US and South Vietnamese forces in Vietnam. The object of this attack, which lasted from April 30 to June 30, was to ensure the continuing safe withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam and to assist the program of Vietnamization
    1981 – Libya. First Gulf of Sidra Incident On August 19, 1981, US planes based on the carrier USS Nimitz shot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra after one of the Libyan jets had fired a heat-seeking missile. The United States periodically held freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, claimed by Libya as territorial waters but considered international waters by the United States
    1983 – Grenada. Citing the increased threat of Soviet and Cuban influence and noting the development of an international airport following a bloodless Grenada coup d'état and alignment with the Soviets and Cuba, the U.S. launches Operation Urgent Fury to invade the sovereign island nation of Grenada
    1983 – Chad. On August 8, 1983, President Reagan reported the deployment of two AWACS electronic surveillance planes and eight F-15 fighter planes and ground logistical support forces to assist Chad against Libyan and rebel forces
    1984 – Persian Gulf. On June 5, 1984, Saudi Arabian jet fighter planes, aided by intelligence from a US AWACS electronic surveillance aircraft and fueled by a U.S. KC-10 tanker, shot down two Iranian fighter planes over an area of the Persian Gulf proclaimed as a protected zone for shipping
    1986 – Libya. Action in the Gulf of Sidra (1986) On March 26, 1986, President Reagan reported on March 24 and 25, US forces, while engaged in freedom of navigation exercises around the Gulf of Sidra, had been attacked by Libyan missiles and the United States had responded with missiles.
    1986 – Libya. Operation El Dorado Canyon On April 16, 1986, President Reagan reported that U.S. air and naval forces had conducted bombing strikes on terrorist facilities and military installations in the Libyan capitol of Tripoli, claiming that Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi was responsible for a bomb attack at a German disco that killed two U.S. soldiers
    1987 –October 19, Operation Nimble Archer - attack on two Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf by United States Navy forces. The attack was a response to Iran's October 16, 1987 attack on the MV Sea Isle City, a reflagged Kuwaiti oil tanker at anchor off Kuwait, with a Silkworm missile.
    1988 – Panama. In mid-March and April 1988, during a period of instability in Panama and as the United States increased pressure on Panamanian head of state General Manuel Noriega to resign, the United States sent 1,000 troops to Panama, to "further safeguard the canal, US lives, property and interests in the area." The forces supplemented 10,000 US military personnel already in the Panama Canal Zone.[RL30172]
    1989 – Libya. Second Gulf of Sidra Incident On January 4, 1989, two US Navy F-14 aircraft based on the USS John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan jet fighters over the Mediterranean Sea about 70 miles north of Libya. The US pilots said the Libyan planes had demonstrated hostile intentions.
    1989 – Panama. On May 11, 1989, in response to General Noriega’s disregard of the results of the Panamanian election, President Bush ordered a brigade-sized force of approximately 1,900 troops to augment the estimated 11,000 U.S. forces already in the area.
    1989-90 – Operation Just Cause, Panama – On December 21, 1989, President Bush reported that he had ordered US military forces to Panama to protect the lives of American citizens and bring General Noriega to justice. By February 13, 1990, all the invasion forces had been withdrawn. Around 200 Panamanian civilians were reported killed. The Panamanian head of state, General Manuel Noriega, was captured and brought to the U.S.
    1991 – Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm (Persian Gulf War). On January 16, 1991, U.S. forces attacked Iraqi forces and military targets in Iraq and Kuwait in conjunction with a coalition of allies and under United Nations Security Council resolutions. Combat operations ended on February 28, 1991
    1994-95 – Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti. U.S. ships had begun embargo against Haiti. Up to 20,000 US military troops were later deployed to Haiti
    1995 – Operation Deliberate Force, Bosnia. NATO bombing of Bosnian Serbs.
    1998 – Operation Infinite Reach, Afghanistan and Sudan. On August 20, air strikes were used against two suspected terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical factory in Sudan.
    1999 – Operation Allied Force – NATO’s bombing of Serbia in the Kosovo Conflict
    2001 – Afghanistan. War in Afghanistan. The War on Terrorism begins with Operation Enduring Freedom. On October 7, 2001, US Armed Forces invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks and “begin combat action in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters.
    2003 – 2003 invasion of Iraq leading to the War in Iraq. March 20, 2003. The United States leads a coalition that includes Britain, Australia and Spain to invade Iraq with the stated goal being “to disarm Iraq in pursuit of peace, stability, and security both in the Gulf region and in the United States
    2004 – War on Terrorism: US anti-terror related activities were underway in Georgia, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Eritrea.[8]
    2004 – 2010: Drone attacks in Pakistan

  • Stephen

    And the empire said “Quack . . . quack . . . quack!”

    I’m sorry, what did you say?

  • Stephen

    And the empire said “Quack . . . quack . . . quack!”

    I’m sorry, what did you say?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Also Don, and here’s the clincher. You and others are fond of saying that America is so special, because of the leading roles it played in WWI and WWII, Korea and others.

    Might I remind you that countries like Australia, NZ, Canada and SA also partook in those wars, FROM THE START, often sacrificing more men and women per capita etc etc. I’m not even beginning to talk about Britain and all that. In essence then, the US was so critcal and important because of the sheer size of its population. For instance, in 1914, population levels were as follows:

    US: 100 million.
    Canada: 8 million
    Australia: 4.5 million
    SA: 6 million

    In 1940, they were as follows:
    US: 132 million
    Canada: 11.4 million
    Australia: 7.4 million
    SA: 10 million

    OF COURSE the country with the biggest population, and a similar ethos, is going to have the biggest impact compare to countries, all significantly less than 1/10 it’s size!!

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Also Don, and here’s the clincher. You and others are fond of saying that America is so special, because of the leading roles it played in WWI and WWII, Korea and others.

    Might I remind you that countries like Australia, NZ, Canada and SA also partook in those wars, FROM THE START, often sacrificing more men and women per capita etc etc. I’m not even beginning to talk about Britain and all that. In essence then, the US was so critcal and important because of the sheer size of its population. For instance, in 1914, population levels were as follows:

    US: 100 million.
    Canada: 8 million
    Australia: 4.5 million
    SA: 6 million

    In 1940, they were as follows:
    US: 132 million
    Canada: 11.4 million
    Australia: 7.4 million
    SA: 10 million

    OF COURSE the country with the biggest population, and a similar ethos, is going to have the biggest impact compare to countries, all significantly less than 1/10 it’s size!!

  • Stephen

    Cinncinatus @ 95

    I think we posted at about the same time. I’d say atrocities do matter if one claims to be a Christian nation. It seems we get plenty of this from conservative defenders of America at all costs. We certainly got it during the Bush administration. Saying that is not to suggest we should not defend our country, or that it does not have many things worthy of praise. That is another matter.

    And it seems to me that even a cursory glance at history reveals that atrocities go hand in hand with empire building. They have to do with first dehumanizing then eradicating those that are being exploited and/or dominated. How many of the things on Louis’s list would fit that bill on some level? (get on that Louis!)

    Like I said, this was my interest, and I was hoping to turn it toward a theological perspective somehow. It does seem that underneath all this is a moral battle, and that the grounds for that battle are perhaps not as clear as they might be.

  • Stephen

    Cinncinatus @ 95

    I think we posted at about the same time. I’d say atrocities do matter if one claims to be a Christian nation. It seems we get plenty of this from conservative defenders of America at all costs. We certainly got it during the Bush administration. Saying that is not to suggest we should not defend our country, or that it does not have many things worthy of praise. That is another matter.

    And it seems to me that even a cursory glance at history reveals that atrocities go hand in hand with empire building. They have to do with first dehumanizing then eradicating those that are being exploited and/or dominated. How many of the things on Louis’s list would fit that bill on some level? (get on that Louis!)

    Like I said, this was my interest, and I was hoping to turn it toward a theological perspective somehow. It does seem that underneath all this is a moral battle, and that the grounds for that battle are perhaps not as clear as they might be.

  • Cincinnatus

    Stephen: You’re missing my point, which was an explicit response to DonS. I’m not denying that atrocities have been committed by the United States, or indeed that atrocities are a typical symptom of imperial pursuits (and I would be the first to assent to Louis’s list). But one need not commit atrocities before becoming an empire, which seemed to be one line of argument taken by Don (i.e., “well, we haven’t committed many atrocities and we’re mostly benign/benevolent, so we’re not an empire”). But the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. “The commission of atrocities” is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition for empire; contingent upon empire, perhaps, but not prerequisite. Either way, though, Don’s argument isn’t helped, because America has committed numerous global atrocities. So it’s kind of a moot point. Which is what I’ve been saying this whole time.

    But you are correct: the creation of one mode of life–the American way, in this case–always comes at the expense of other modes of life, for better or worse.

  • Cincinnatus

    Stephen: You’re missing my point, which was an explicit response to DonS. I’m not denying that atrocities have been committed by the United States, or indeed that atrocities are a typical symptom of imperial pursuits (and I would be the first to assent to Louis’s list). But one need not commit atrocities before becoming an empire, which seemed to be one line of argument taken by Don (i.e., “well, we haven’t committed many atrocities and we’re mostly benign/benevolent, so we’re not an empire”). But the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. “The commission of atrocities” is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition for empire; contingent upon empire, perhaps, but not prerequisite. Either way, though, Don’s argument isn’t helped, because America has committed numerous global atrocities. So it’s kind of a moot point. Which is what I’ve been saying this whole time.

    But you are correct: the creation of one mode of life–the American way, in this case–always comes at the expense of other modes of life, for better or worse.

  • Stephen

    Cinncinatus @101

    I did miss your point. I stand corrected. Reading and writing on the fly. No excuse . . .

    I was, however, thinking that as far as living up to who we say we are, that goes for anyone making some particular claim about the “ethics’ of their culture. If Islam is about peace, then Islamic culture, well . . . and if Christianity is about charity ANd we accept the overwhelmingly popular conservative idea that America is a Christian nation, then why all this grousing about spending money helping other countries or giving tax dollars to the poor or whatever. The minute such things come up it is “my money.” Oh really, I thought it was for your neighbor’s good.

    Setting aside Christianity, I have also heard how morally superior capitalism is over that boogey man soci@lism because of how much stuff and money we have and how everyone wants to come here. This seems to prove something about capitalism aver every other possible way of doing things, and that it is basically a system that works out for everyone’s benefit if just let it work. Louis’s list shows that the underbelly is not so smooth, and that any morality that exists in the exchange of goods and services is built, at leas t in our case, on a whole lot of questionable stuff.

  • Stephen

    Cinncinatus @101

    I did miss your point. I stand corrected. Reading and writing on the fly. No excuse . . .

    I was, however, thinking that as far as living up to who we say we are, that goes for anyone making some particular claim about the “ethics’ of their culture. If Islam is about peace, then Islamic culture, well . . . and if Christianity is about charity ANd we accept the overwhelmingly popular conservative idea that America is a Christian nation, then why all this grousing about spending money helping other countries or giving tax dollars to the poor or whatever. The minute such things come up it is “my money.” Oh really, I thought it was for your neighbor’s good.

    Setting aside Christianity, I have also heard how morally superior capitalism is over that boogey man soci@lism because of how much stuff and money we have and how everyone wants to come here. This seems to prove something about capitalism aver every other possible way of doing things, and that it is basically a system that works out for everyone’s benefit if just let it work. Louis’s list shows that the underbelly is not so smooth, and that any morality that exists in the exchange of goods and services is built, at leas t in our case, on a whole lot of questionable stuff.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 95: “As I recall, I cited earlier the fact that “defense” and “empire” are often inextricably related. ”

    Well, of course. Empires sometimes have to defend themselves. Hitler spend the last three years of the Reich doing that. But, the fact remains that the hallmark of an empire is the expansion of your own territorial boundaries through the supreme control of satellite states. That’s the part that’s missing with respect to the U.S.

    In other words, it seems to be you who are altering the definition of empire. Nowhere in any definition of the word is it specified that an empire, in order to be deemed such, must be greedily and consciously possessed of a love for power-qua-power with no particular end in mind. And as tODD has pointed out, you are at best totally ignoring the sense behind the word “empire.”

    I’m using the dictionary definition. I never insinuated that to be an empire necessarily requires a greedy lust for power. And, I guess I’m not sure what the “sense” behind the word “empire” is. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t so broad that it can be stretched to cover any exertion of power outside of the borders of a powerful nation, which is the definition you seem to prefer. It requires expansion into territories other than your own, and the assumption of supreme power over those territories, or satellite states.

    “The bottom line is that the United States has exceedingly numerous dependencies, client states, and military interests. ” — I would be curious as to which sovereign nations you regard as “dependencies” or “client states” of the U.S. I can’t think of a single ally that I would consider to be sufficiently amenable to U.S. direction to regard it as a “dependency” or “client state”. Not even Israel. And certainly none where we have anything approaching supreme control or an actual territorial interest.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 95: “As I recall, I cited earlier the fact that “defense” and “empire” are often inextricably related. ”

    Well, of course. Empires sometimes have to defend themselves. Hitler spend the last three years of the Reich doing that. But, the fact remains that the hallmark of an empire is the expansion of your own territorial boundaries through the supreme control of satellite states. That’s the part that’s missing with respect to the U.S.

    In other words, it seems to be you who are altering the definition of empire. Nowhere in any definition of the word is it specified that an empire, in order to be deemed such, must be greedily and consciously possessed of a love for power-qua-power with no particular end in mind. And as tODD has pointed out, you are at best totally ignoring the sense behind the word “empire.”

    I’m using the dictionary definition. I never insinuated that to be an empire necessarily requires a greedy lust for power. And, I guess I’m not sure what the “sense” behind the word “empire” is. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t so broad that it can be stretched to cover any exertion of power outside of the borders of a powerful nation, which is the definition you seem to prefer. It requires expansion into territories other than your own, and the assumption of supreme power over those territories, or satellite states.

    “The bottom line is that the United States has exceedingly numerous dependencies, client states, and military interests. ” — I would be curious as to which sovereign nations you regard as “dependencies” or “client states” of the U.S. I can’t think of a single ally that I would consider to be sufficiently amenable to U.S. direction to regard it as a “dependency” or “client state”. Not even Israel. And certainly none where we have anything approaching supreme control or an actual territorial interest.

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 96: I do assert that the U.S. is an exceptional nation, for the reasons I stated earlier in this thread. Not because of its Christian heritage, per se, but because of its elevation of individual rights and dignity above the rights of the state. That is what makes America both great and unique, and thus, exceptional.

    The U.S. has made plenty of mistakes and committed many sins in its history, as have all nations in this fallen world. None of us stand in morally neutral stead Stephen, as you well know. We are all fallen and thus, moral failures. This applies both to nations and individuals. Fortunately, we as individuals have the opportunity of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Not so for nations.

    That being said, the ideals of the U.S. are worth preserving and worth promoting. Many great things have been accomplished in the realm of human rights in the past century because of the influence of our nation. She is worth preserving, defending, and improving.

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 96: I do assert that the U.S. is an exceptional nation, for the reasons I stated earlier in this thread. Not because of its Christian heritage, per se, but because of its elevation of individual rights and dignity above the rights of the state. That is what makes America both great and unique, and thus, exceptional.

    The U.S. has made plenty of mistakes and committed many sins in its history, as have all nations in this fallen world. None of us stand in morally neutral stead Stephen, as you well know. We are all fallen and thus, moral failures. This applies both to nations and individuals. Fortunately, we as individuals have the opportunity of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Not so for nations.

    That being said, the ideals of the U.S. are worth preserving and worth promoting. Many great things have been accomplished in the realm of human rights in the past century because of the influence of our nation. She is worth preserving, defending, and improving.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 97: Yeah, you’re not kidding :-)

    OK, a very impressive exercise of cut-and-paste from Wikipedia, but most of these are exceedingly minor events. I mean, if you want to show that our military is nearly always active, just evidence the fact that we have maneuvers every year. Most of these things are glorified maneuvers. “Protection of American interests” is typically just the defense of American institutions and citizens in a country undergoing some kind of civil unrest, and this category dominates the list.

    The first one of interest is the Pancho Villa Expedition in 1916-17. My grandfather fought with John Pershing in this skirmish, and later in Europe during WWI. Of course, this is really an early instance of illegal immigration from Mexico :-) , as Pancho Villa, the revolutionary during the Mexican Revolution, attacked American citizens and interests in northern Mexico, and ultimately crossed the border, attacking citizens in New Mexico. Pershing’s force entered Mexico to deal with him.

    Most of the other ones we have either already discussed or they are fairly insignificant.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 97: Yeah, you’re not kidding :-)

    OK, a very impressive exercise of cut-and-paste from Wikipedia, but most of these are exceedingly minor events. I mean, if you want to show that our military is nearly always active, just evidence the fact that we have maneuvers every year. Most of these things are glorified maneuvers. “Protection of American interests” is typically just the defense of American institutions and citizens in a country undergoing some kind of civil unrest, and this category dominates the list.

    The first one of interest is the Pancho Villa Expedition in 1916-17. My grandfather fought with John Pershing in this skirmish, and later in Europe during WWI. Of course, this is really an early instance of illegal immigration from Mexico :-) , as Pancho Villa, the revolutionary during the Mexican Revolution, attacked American citizens and interests in northern Mexico, and ultimately crossed the border, attacking citizens in New Mexico. Pershing’s force entered Mexico to deal with him.

    Most of the other ones we have either already discussed or they are fairly insignificant.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 99: Acknowledged! No question about it, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand did more than their share during WWII. Of course, they were all dragged into the war early on since they were part of that great British Empire of old.

    Actually, the U.S. population during WWII was about 130 million, 15 million men were under arms, and some 300,000 died, while 300,000 more were injured. Canada’s war dead, at 42,000 was indeed a higher percentage of its population (11 million). Of course, our mutual casualties were dwarfed by those of the Soviet Union (28 million military and civilians killed!) or China (total of 10.3 million dead). So, I am not at all saying that America’s contribution to the effort in WWII was outsized. However, because of America’s size and power, its contributions were critical to the victory won. That is indisputable. Without American effort, Europe would likely have remained part of the Third Reich.

    And, of equal or greater significance was the Marshall Plan instituted after the war, to rebuild the European continent largely at American expense. I continually stand amazed at how ungrateful Europeans are concerning these things.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 99: Acknowledged! No question about it, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand did more than their share during WWII. Of course, they were all dragged into the war early on since they were part of that great British Empire of old.

    Actually, the U.S. population during WWII was about 130 million, 15 million men were under arms, and some 300,000 died, while 300,000 more were injured. Canada’s war dead, at 42,000 was indeed a higher percentage of its population (11 million). Of course, our mutual casualties were dwarfed by those of the Soviet Union (28 million military and civilians killed!) or China (total of 10.3 million dead). So, I am not at all saying that America’s contribution to the effort in WWII was outsized. However, because of America’s size and power, its contributions were critical to the victory won. That is indisputable. Without American effort, Europe would likely have remained part of the Third Reich.

    And, of equal or greater significance was the Marshall Plan instituted after the war, to rebuild the European continent largely at American expense. I continually stand amazed at how ungrateful Europeans are concerning these things.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 101: “But one need not commit atrocities before becoming an empire, which seemed to be one line of argument taken by Don (i.e., “well, we haven’t committed many atrocities and we’re mostly benign/benevolent, so we’re not an empire”).” — Why did you put this in quotes? I never said or implied anything of the sort. My viewpoint, and I said it repeatedly, is that “empire” is a defined term, and the U.S. doesn’t meet the definition. Just because a country is big or powerful, doesn’t automatically make it an empire.

    My point about the U.S. being benign was an attempt to stir some kind of feeling of good will in your heart toward your country. It was, obviously, a fail.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 101: “But one need not commit atrocities before becoming an empire, which seemed to be one line of argument taken by Don (i.e., “well, we haven’t committed many atrocities and we’re mostly benign/benevolent, so we’re not an empire”).” — Why did you put this in quotes? I never said or implied anything of the sort. My viewpoint, and I said it repeatedly, is that “empire” is a defined term, and the U.S. doesn’t meet the definition. Just because a country is big or powerful, doesn’t automatically make it an empire.

    My point about the U.S. being benign was an attempt to stir some kind of feeling of good will in your heart toward your country. It was, obviously, a fail.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS, in light of your admission in#106, would it be fair to say that the messiah-complex that many Americans have is unwarranted?
    That America is only exceptional because of its size? That the same freedoms, willingness to sacrifice etc are found in other countries, sometimes to a greater extent? That we are all sinners?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS, in light of your admission in#106, would it be fair to say that the messiah-complex that many Americans have is unwarranted?
    That America is only exceptional because of its size? That the same freedoms, willingness to sacrifice etc are found in other countries, sometimes to a greater extent? That we are all sinners?

  • Cincinnatus

    “My point about the U.S. being benign was an attempt to stir some kind of feeling of good will in your heart toward your country. It was, obviously, a fail.”

    As I suspected: this debate isn’t really about whether America is an empire or not, but whether each of us “loves” America. But I humbly and seriously request that you stop reframing this discussion as a psychiatric interrogation into my love or lack thereof for my country: I do, and to insinuate otherwise is patronizing, offensive, and irrelevant. And really? Are you actually denying that the United States has numerous client states and dependencies? Really?

    And, geez, you’re like a broken record. Let me repeat one more time: the motive does not need to be the mere desire to extend territorial possession for its own sake in order to a nation to qualify as an imperial power (although, if that were the case, then we were an empire much earlier than even I am proposing). Once again, I repeat, Rome and Britain both initiated their empires not from a raw desire to expand territory, but from a reciprocating need to defend and protect growing interests. Again, the example: we “need” Spain to stop mucking around in the Caribbean; we kick them out; oops! Now we need to manage/police/protect/control the Caribbean. The action is not somehow “less” imperial because we did it for “legitimate” reasons rather than declaring that we would be taking the Caribbean for our own imperial glory or something. The same can be said for our numerous proxy states (i.e., client states) during the Cold War (the true epoch of American empire; I suppose, then, we could say that the empire is in decline, though I expect a reignition of imperial pursuits in the face of China’s pursuit of the same): we “needed” to ensure that the Middle East remained out of Soviet hands and amenable to American demands (and that is a true statement!), and so we did (and so we still do; there’s a reason we’re in Iraq and not Darfur).

    And please, stop pretending that the term “empire” is somehow intrinsically pejorative. It’s not. I’m not opposed to deeming the United States a superpower as well, but you can’t pretend that it isn’t also implicated in imperial behavior. Even Wikipedia–yours and Porcell’s hallowed and “authoritative” source throughout this discussion (far be it from me to shift our authority to the OED!)–agrees that America could be conceived as an empire. And this returns to my original point: in my opinion, calling America an empire just isn’t a very controversial point. Look around. Watch the news. Read some history. It’s much harder to make the case against empire. Usually, (neo)conservatives acknowledge such a fact and respond (somewhat validly) that there will always be someone “serving” as an empire (regarding the international realm as some sort of vacuum that requires a power for stability, etc.), and everyone’s better off if the empire is the United States as opposed to, say, China. But I’ve seldom run into folks who just flat-out deny the fact of empire altogether–and for flimsy reasons as well (the term is offensive! the President doesn’t call himself an Empire! Donald Rumsfeld denied it, after all! If you believe we’re an empire, you don’t love America!).

  • Cincinnatus

    “My point about the U.S. being benign was an attempt to stir some kind of feeling of good will in your heart toward your country. It was, obviously, a fail.”

    As I suspected: this debate isn’t really about whether America is an empire or not, but whether each of us “loves” America. But I humbly and seriously request that you stop reframing this discussion as a psychiatric interrogation into my love or lack thereof for my country: I do, and to insinuate otherwise is patronizing, offensive, and irrelevant. And really? Are you actually denying that the United States has numerous client states and dependencies? Really?

    And, geez, you’re like a broken record. Let me repeat one more time: the motive does not need to be the mere desire to extend territorial possession for its own sake in order to a nation to qualify as an imperial power (although, if that were the case, then we were an empire much earlier than even I am proposing). Once again, I repeat, Rome and Britain both initiated their empires not from a raw desire to expand territory, but from a reciprocating need to defend and protect growing interests. Again, the example: we “need” Spain to stop mucking around in the Caribbean; we kick them out; oops! Now we need to manage/police/protect/control the Caribbean. The action is not somehow “less” imperial because we did it for “legitimate” reasons rather than declaring that we would be taking the Caribbean for our own imperial glory or something. The same can be said for our numerous proxy states (i.e., client states) during the Cold War (the true epoch of American empire; I suppose, then, we could say that the empire is in decline, though I expect a reignition of imperial pursuits in the face of China’s pursuit of the same): we “needed” to ensure that the Middle East remained out of Soviet hands and amenable to American demands (and that is a true statement!), and so we did (and so we still do; there’s a reason we’re in Iraq and not Darfur).

    And please, stop pretending that the term “empire” is somehow intrinsically pejorative. It’s not. I’m not opposed to deeming the United States a superpower as well, but you can’t pretend that it isn’t also implicated in imperial behavior. Even Wikipedia–yours and Porcell’s hallowed and “authoritative” source throughout this discussion (far be it from me to shift our authority to the OED!)–agrees that America could be conceived as an empire. And this returns to my original point: in my opinion, calling America an empire just isn’t a very controversial point. Look around. Watch the news. Read some history. It’s much harder to make the case against empire. Usually, (neo)conservatives acknowledge such a fact and respond (somewhat validly) that there will always be someone “serving” as an empire (regarding the international realm as some sort of vacuum that requires a power for stability, etc.), and everyone’s better off if the empire is the United States as opposed to, say, China. But I’ve seldom run into folks who just flat-out deny the fact of empire altogether–and for flimsy reasons as well (the term is offensive! the President doesn’t call himself an Empire! Donald Rumsfeld denied it, after all! If you believe we’re an empire, you don’t love America!).

  • DonS

    Louis @ 108: An “admission”? Wow! :-) You win!

    I’m not going to speak for “many Americans” and their “Messiah complex”. I think, in general, Americans are proud of their country and the way it has led the world to an understanding of the importance of the individual over the collective, the concept of human rights, and the dignity and value of human life. Its economic might, and the freedoms it permits are proof that recognizing the freedoms of the individual unleash human potential to a degree never before seen in human history. The patriotic fervor you often see, for example, at tea party rallies is largely this recognition, coupled with the fear that we as a country are slipping back to an elitism which is the historic world norm, and the re-subjugation of the average citizen. I spoke in an earlier post of the fact that thoughout almost all of human history, the average person had no chance of looking forward to anything other than drudgery and subsistence, and an utter lack of real liberty. Many of us have a heartfelt concern that this special moment of 200 years, unique in world history, is coming to an end. If so, the world will be much the poorer for it.

    America is not ONLY exceptional because of its size. It was exceptional even when it was a tiny, brand new country, because it was founded on principles heretofore unknown in the western world — the priority of individual liberty, and a government of limited scope designed specifically for the purpose of preserving and promoting that liberty. Prior to the U.S., governments were generally purposed to subjugate and control the individual citizen, not to empower them.

    But the fact that the U.S. became the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and yet never sought to use that vast power to subjugate or control other nations, but rather to promote worldwide the fundamental principles of human liberty — that is truly amazing and exceptional. In my view, the Marshall Plan after WWII was a shining moment in history. A great nation, coming in and cleaning up a huge mess created by a truly evil and horrible empire, and then rebuilding it all, better than it was, at its own cost. And without expectation of repayment or quid pro quo. Amazing. Exceptional.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 108: An “admission”? Wow! :-) You win!

    I’m not going to speak for “many Americans” and their “Messiah complex”. I think, in general, Americans are proud of their country and the way it has led the world to an understanding of the importance of the individual over the collective, the concept of human rights, and the dignity and value of human life. Its economic might, and the freedoms it permits are proof that recognizing the freedoms of the individual unleash human potential to a degree never before seen in human history. The patriotic fervor you often see, for example, at tea party rallies is largely this recognition, coupled with the fear that we as a country are slipping back to an elitism which is the historic world norm, and the re-subjugation of the average citizen. I spoke in an earlier post of the fact that thoughout almost all of human history, the average person had no chance of looking forward to anything other than drudgery and subsistence, and an utter lack of real liberty. Many of us have a heartfelt concern that this special moment of 200 years, unique in world history, is coming to an end. If so, the world will be much the poorer for it.

    America is not ONLY exceptional because of its size. It was exceptional even when it was a tiny, brand new country, because it was founded on principles heretofore unknown in the western world — the priority of individual liberty, and a government of limited scope designed specifically for the purpose of preserving and promoting that liberty. Prior to the U.S., governments were generally purposed to subjugate and control the individual citizen, not to empower them.

    But the fact that the U.S. became the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and yet never sought to use that vast power to subjugate or control other nations, but rather to promote worldwide the fundamental principles of human liberty — that is truly amazing and exceptional. In my view, the Marshall Plan after WWII was a shining moment in history. A great nation, coming in and cleaning up a huge mess created by a truly evil and horrible empire, and then rebuilding it all, better than it was, at its own cost. And without expectation of repayment or quid pro quo. Amazing. Exceptional.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS – your ignorance of western history is so astounding, it is nigh incomprehensible. The fact that America was founded in that exact point in history is so key – if it wasn’t for a series of philosophers and thinkers in Europe, the US of A would not have happened. Right place, right time. It is as if somebody feels themselves superior because they are say Lutheran, because they were baptised in the church etc etc. Well, they are largely Lutheran because a Lutheran man copulated with a Lutheran woman. Thus they are not great within themselves, but because generations of people kept the faith etc etc.

    You have fallen prey to that view of history which sees what happened prior to 1776 in some sort of haze, with sudden golden rays eminating from Jefferson’s study, illuminating the world. The reason I’m so hard on you in this respect is that I grew up in exactly the same mindset, which held sway in Afrikanerdom. It is all BS.

    But I guess I am speaking to the wind.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS – your ignorance of western history is so astounding, it is nigh incomprehensible. The fact that America was founded in that exact point in history is so key – if it wasn’t for a series of philosophers and thinkers in Europe, the US of A would not have happened. Right place, right time. It is as if somebody feels themselves superior because they are say Lutheran, because they were baptised in the church etc etc. Well, they are largely Lutheran because a Lutheran man copulated with a Lutheran woman. Thus they are not great within themselves, but because generations of people kept the faith etc etc.

    You have fallen prey to that view of history which sees what happened prior to 1776 in some sort of haze, with sudden golden rays eminating from Jefferson’s study, illuminating the world. The reason I’m so hard on you in this respect is that I grew up in exactly the same mindset, which held sway in Afrikanerdom. It is all BS.

    But I guess I am speaking to the wind.

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis: Well, I’m actually with DonS on this one. The United States was certainly the first, if not the only, nation formed specifically and solely upon an ideology. We’ve had this discussion before, though. It’s really a matter of empirical fact.

    The rest of his earlier comment is BS, though (the Marshall Plan an act of pure benevolence? Really?)

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis: Well, I’m actually with DonS on this one. The United States was certainly the first, if not the only, nation formed specifically and solely upon an ideology. We’ve had this discussion before, though. It’s really a matter of empirical fact.

    The rest of his earlier comment is BS, though (the Marshall Plan an act of pure benevolence? Really?)

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus – special in the sense of the right place at the time in history ? Sure. Special like the rich kid in class whose wealth came from daddy? Humph.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus – special in the sense of the right place at the time in history ? Sure. Special like the rich kid in class whose wealth came from daddy? Humph.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Also Cincinnatus, in my mind the jury is still out on the benefit of basing a state on an ideology ALONE.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Also Cincinnatus, in my mind the jury is still out on the benefit of basing a state on an ideology ALONE.

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis: I don’t know if I wish to engage this discussion, but yes and no. Your comment implies that history is somehow deterministic, as if Jefferson couldn’t help but conceive of the principles enshrined in the Declaration or that the fledgling United States couldn’t help but revolt and become a new nation founded on principles rather than ethical or religious uniformity due to the nature of the ineluctable Weltgeist of the moment. Of course, America could not have come to be in, say, the 14th century; concepts such as individual liberty, etc., just didn’t exist yet; they were not part of the noetic framework available to the political theorist. In that sense, Jefferson, for instance, was dependent upon his historical moment and the stock of ideas available to him (Locke, republicanism, etc.). But it could have happened another way, and there was agency involved.

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis: I don’t know if I wish to engage this discussion, but yes and no. Your comment implies that history is somehow deterministic, as if Jefferson couldn’t help but conceive of the principles enshrined in the Declaration or that the fledgling United States couldn’t help but revolt and become a new nation founded on principles rather than ethical or religious uniformity due to the nature of the ineluctable Weltgeist of the moment. Of course, America could not have come to be in, say, the 14th century; concepts such as individual liberty, etc., just didn’t exist yet; they were not part of the noetic framework available to the political theorist. In that sense, Jefferson, for instance, was dependent upon his historical moment and the stock of ideas available to him (Locke, republicanism, etc.). But it could have happened another way, and there was agency involved.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 109: “As I suspected: this debate isn’t really about whether America is an empire or not, but whether each of us “loves” America” — What in the heck are you talking about? Go back to posts 18 and 19. In post 18, I stated that I didn’t consider the U.S. to be an empire. In post 19, you virulently responded by saying, essentially, that I was an idiot for thinking that. You started this debate. And it was about the definition of “empire”. I have been trying to figure out why you are so insistent on re-defining the term to label the U.S. an empire, when, clearly, other terminology is more appropriate. In the course of that discussion, I have been trying also to figure out why you never criticize constructively. I can’t believe that you don’t think there is ANYTHING good about the U.S., and so I thought that if I could get you to admit something you liked, it would give us a point of reference for discussing our differences. No such luck. I didn’t mean to imply that you don’t love your country. You have stated that you do, and I have no reason to dispute that. But, it is certainly “tough love” ;-)

    “Are you actually denying that the United States has numerous client states and dependencies? Really?” — Yes, I am. But it depends upon what you mean by these terms, which is why I asked you to identify one (you didn’t, I notice). I consider these terms to be substantially synonymous with “satellite states”, which evokes the countries of eastern Europe during the Cold War in my mind. We certainly have a plethora of countries who have chosen to let us provide a defensive umbrella for them, including most of western Europe. But, that hardly makes them client states, or dependencies, since we have little political control over them. Certainly not in the sense that is meant in the definition of “empire”, which requires “supreme control”.

    “And, geez, you’re like a broken record. Let me repeat one more time: the motive does not need to be the mere desire to extend territorial possession for its own sake in order to a nation to qualify as an imperial power ” — I have never said or implied that it had to be “for its own sake”. The definition is silent as to motivation. But it does require a nation to expand beyond its own borders and to assume supreme control over satellite states. To expand the term to include simply bringing economic or political pressure to bear to try to persuade another nation to do what you want is to water it down into meaninglessness. That definition would apply to any country in the first world, and a good number of second world countries, at least in their respective spheres of influence. How is tossing Spain, which was, itself, clearly imperialistic at that time, out of the Caribbean, an example of imperialism? Our point of view was that they didn’t belong there — they are a European nation. It’s, more accurately, an example of anti-imperialism.

    “The same can be said for our numerous proxy states (i.e., client states) during the Cold War (the true epoch of American empire; I suppose, then, we could say that the empire is in decline, though I expect a reignition of imperial pursuits in the face of China’s pursuit of the same)” — Proxy states? More like states that were right up against the communist empires of the Soviet Union or Red China, and wanted to be defended against their otherwise inevitable fall to communism. Again, our design was not on taking or holding territory for ourselves. It was on defending nations from being subsumed into another expanding empire. That’s “anti-imperialism”.

    I object to the term “empire” because it is inaccurate, not because it is inherently pejorative. But, that being said, those promoting its usage as a descriptor on this thread have been pretty darn negative about the U.S. It’s kind of hard not to see the persistent effort to justify the use of “empire” to be other than pejorative in that light.

    “Even Wikipedia–yours and Porcell’s hallowed and “authoritative” source throughout this discussion (far be it from me to shift our authority to the OED!) — Porcell indicated that he used the “Oxford” definition @ post 23. You said it was Wikipedia. I don’t know what is the truth on that. The definition I was about to insert before I saw that Porcell beat me to it was from American Heritage. It doesn’t matter — the defintions all agree, and they all exclude the U.S., quite clearly. I really don’t care that other people mis-use the term. Other people also don’t have a clue as to what our Constitution says or means, and think that to “promote the general welfare” means to load up our children with a host of unfunded social welfare transfer payment programs that they can pay for after we’re dead. “Other people” aren’t necessarily an impressive standard for me. My reason for objecting to the term, from the beginning, is that it is wrong. That’s all.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 109: “As I suspected: this debate isn’t really about whether America is an empire or not, but whether each of us “loves” America” — What in the heck are you talking about? Go back to posts 18 and 19. In post 18, I stated that I didn’t consider the U.S. to be an empire. In post 19, you virulently responded by saying, essentially, that I was an idiot for thinking that. You started this debate. And it was about the definition of “empire”. I have been trying to figure out why you are so insistent on re-defining the term to label the U.S. an empire, when, clearly, other terminology is more appropriate. In the course of that discussion, I have been trying also to figure out why you never criticize constructively. I can’t believe that you don’t think there is ANYTHING good about the U.S., and so I thought that if I could get you to admit something you liked, it would give us a point of reference for discussing our differences. No such luck. I didn’t mean to imply that you don’t love your country. You have stated that you do, and I have no reason to dispute that. But, it is certainly “tough love” ;-)

    “Are you actually denying that the United States has numerous client states and dependencies? Really?” — Yes, I am. But it depends upon what you mean by these terms, which is why I asked you to identify one (you didn’t, I notice). I consider these terms to be substantially synonymous with “satellite states”, which evokes the countries of eastern Europe during the Cold War in my mind. We certainly have a plethora of countries who have chosen to let us provide a defensive umbrella for them, including most of western Europe. But, that hardly makes them client states, or dependencies, since we have little political control over them. Certainly not in the sense that is meant in the definition of “empire”, which requires “supreme control”.

    “And, geez, you’re like a broken record. Let me repeat one more time: the motive does not need to be the mere desire to extend territorial possession for its own sake in order to a nation to qualify as an imperial power ” — I have never said or implied that it had to be “for its own sake”. The definition is silent as to motivation. But it does require a nation to expand beyond its own borders and to assume supreme control over satellite states. To expand the term to include simply bringing economic or political pressure to bear to try to persuade another nation to do what you want is to water it down into meaninglessness. That definition would apply to any country in the first world, and a good number of second world countries, at least in their respective spheres of influence. How is tossing Spain, which was, itself, clearly imperialistic at that time, out of the Caribbean, an example of imperialism? Our point of view was that they didn’t belong there — they are a European nation. It’s, more accurately, an example of anti-imperialism.

    “The same can be said for our numerous proxy states (i.e., client states) during the Cold War (the true epoch of American empire; I suppose, then, we could say that the empire is in decline, though I expect a reignition of imperial pursuits in the face of China’s pursuit of the same)” — Proxy states? More like states that were right up against the communist empires of the Soviet Union or Red China, and wanted to be defended against their otherwise inevitable fall to communism. Again, our design was not on taking or holding territory for ourselves. It was on defending nations from being subsumed into another expanding empire. That’s “anti-imperialism”.

    I object to the term “empire” because it is inaccurate, not because it is inherently pejorative. But, that being said, those promoting its usage as a descriptor on this thread have been pretty darn negative about the U.S. It’s kind of hard not to see the persistent effort to justify the use of “empire” to be other than pejorative in that light.

    “Even Wikipedia–yours and Porcell’s hallowed and “authoritative” source throughout this discussion (far be it from me to shift our authority to the OED!) — Porcell indicated that he used the “Oxford” definition @ post 23. You said it was Wikipedia. I don’t know what is the truth on that. The definition I was about to insert before I saw that Porcell beat me to it was from American Heritage. It doesn’t matter — the defintions all agree, and they all exclude the U.S., quite clearly. I really don’t care that other people mis-use the term. Other people also don’t have a clue as to what our Constitution says or means, and think that to “promote the general welfare” means to load up our children with a host of unfunded social welfare transfer payment programs that they can pay for after we’re dead. “Other people” aren’t necessarily an impressive standard for me. My reason for objecting to the term, from the beginning, is that it is wrong. That’s all.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 111: Wow. Obviously, the enlightenment played into this recognition of human value and rights at this particular point in time. But, sheesh, you’ve gotta at least admit that it took foresight and courage to enshrine those principles in a constitution that has been a role model for many other nations since, risking death and ruin in the face of what was then the most powerful empire on earth.

    To correlate the founding fathers to the rich kid who got his wealth from daddy is the most uncharitable, ridiculous statement I’ve read in a long time. If this was so easy, why weren’t other countries falling over themselves to adopt these principles for themselves? And why did the French screw it up so badly twenty years later?

  • DonS

    Louis @ 111: Wow. Obviously, the enlightenment played into this recognition of human value and rights at this particular point in time. But, sheesh, you’ve gotta at least admit that it took foresight and courage to enshrine those principles in a constitution that has been a role model for many other nations since, risking death and ruin in the face of what was then the most powerful empire on earth.

    To correlate the founding fathers to the rich kid who got his wealth from daddy is the most uncharitable, ridiculous statement I’ve read in a long time. If this was so easy, why weren’t other countries falling over themselves to adopt these principles for themselves? And why did the French screw it up so badly twenty years later?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus@115 – noted. Whereas I’m not a determinist myself, it is true that “birth conditions” should be right for something to happen.

    I guess what I’m really saying is yes, yes, we know history, but stop being such a bunch of arrogant sods! :)

    History is complicated, messy, and there are some cupboard doors that are left unopened – thus the lessons of history are left unlearned.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus@115 – noted. Whereas I’m not a determinist myself, it is true that “birth conditions” should be right for something to happen.

    I guess what I’m really saying is yes, yes, we know history, but stop being such a bunch of arrogant sods! :)

    History is complicated, messy, and there are some cupboard doors that are left unopened – thus the lessons of history are left unlearned.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    No DonS. The founding fathers are not the rich kid. You are.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    No DonS. The founding fathers are not the rich kid. You are.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 119: Fair enough. We Americans are fortunate to have been born and to live in the U.S. No question.

    But, it is our duty to continue and to carry the ideals that underpin America to the next generation. To do that, we need to understand and remember what so many of our forefathers sacrificed and died to preserve and uphold. My fear is that the current generation of Americans doesn’t have any comprehension of why America is so unique and special, and what will be required to prevent us from falling into corrosive elitism, and the inevitable devaluation of individual rights and liberties that will follow.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 119: Fair enough. We Americans are fortunate to have been born and to live in the U.S. No question.

    But, it is our duty to continue and to carry the ideals that underpin America to the next generation. To do that, we need to understand and remember what so many of our forefathers sacrificed and died to preserve and uphold. My fear is that the current generation of Americans doesn’t have any comprehension of why America is so unique and special, and what will be required to prevent us from falling into corrosive elitism, and the inevitable devaluation of individual rights and liberties that will follow.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Ok Don – you might gather that I got out the wrong side of the bed this morning. Sorry.

    The thing is, it is very difficult to see how one’s behaviour, actions and even philosophy is experienced and perceived outside of one’s own circle/country. We tend to be captive to our own milieu. The Americans I know that are most open to perceive the experiences and viewpoints of others, without going all superior on them, are ones that had been forced, wittingly or unwittingly, to get into a vastly unfamiliar mindset / culture.

    This is not always the case when merely travelling – there is an individual I know ;) that has property in several countries, that is as ignorant about the experiences and feelings of other’s as the man in the moon.

    For instance, some of my favourite US bloggers are Orthodox. Why? Not because Im an Orthodox wannabee, but because of the radical different culture associated with that “denomination”, they have left their comfort zones behind, and have critiqued their own previous perceptions.

    For instance, would you honestly be able to critique the philosophy and “worldview” (I hate that word) of the founding fathers? Would you be able to re-examine the foundation of the IDEAL (as you put it) on which the US was founded? Are you willing to re-examine history, from as neutral a point as you can?

    These are big questions. And these are the questions that concern me. Because when Washington sneezes (Just like London, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome, Persepolis etc etc before it), the rest of the planet catches a cold. It is a BIG responsibility.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Ok Don – you might gather that I got out the wrong side of the bed this morning. Sorry.

    The thing is, it is very difficult to see how one’s behaviour, actions and even philosophy is experienced and perceived outside of one’s own circle/country. We tend to be captive to our own milieu. The Americans I know that are most open to perceive the experiences and viewpoints of others, without going all superior on them, are ones that had been forced, wittingly or unwittingly, to get into a vastly unfamiliar mindset / culture.

    This is not always the case when merely travelling – there is an individual I know ;) that has property in several countries, that is as ignorant about the experiences and feelings of other’s as the man in the moon.

    For instance, some of my favourite US bloggers are Orthodox. Why? Not because Im an Orthodox wannabee, but because of the radical different culture associated with that “denomination”, they have left their comfort zones behind, and have critiqued their own previous perceptions.

    For instance, would you honestly be able to critique the philosophy and “worldview” (I hate that word) of the founding fathers? Would you be able to re-examine the foundation of the IDEAL (as you put it) on which the US was founded? Are you willing to re-examine history, from as neutral a point as you can?

    These are big questions. And these are the questions that concern me. Because when Washington sneezes (Just like London, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome, Persepolis etc etc before it), the rest of the planet catches a cold. It is a BIG responsibility.

  • Cincinnatus

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_military_bases_in_the_world.svg

    A helpful graphic. Did you know that during the height of the British Empire’s power (around 1850), the official British policy was only to maintain military facilities in its various colonies, dependencies, etc., and not actually occupy the entire nation? Sounds vaguely familiar. And no one denies that Britain was an empire throughout this period, regardless of its stated or enacted policies.

    You say I lack evidence of actual client states? Well, aside from the exceedingly numerous client states (proxy states) maintained by the United States through the Cold War, especially in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East (the question of why we used them as proxy states is immaterial), we could name Iraq and, on good days, Afghanistan as very obvious examples today. South Korea, Japan, Canada, and Western Europe might count too (if we expand the rubric to include those nations which are entirely dependent upon the United States for protection and continued existence). We could include Israel and Taiwan certainly. Really, the list is almost as long as the list of U.N. member nations. Tell me that a nation which can, is quite willing, and expressed a need to project overwhelming military force anywhere on the globe within hours isn’t some kind of empire. Really.

    And don’t even get me started with America’s internal empire of the federal government over the states.

  • Cincinnatus

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_military_bases_in_the_world.svg

    A helpful graphic. Did you know that during the height of the British Empire’s power (around 1850), the official British policy was only to maintain military facilities in its various colonies, dependencies, etc., and not actually occupy the entire nation? Sounds vaguely familiar. And no one denies that Britain was an empire throughout this period, regardless of its stated or enacted policies.

    You say I lack evidence of actual client states? Well, aside from the exceedingly numerous client states (proxy states) maintained by the United States through the Cold War, especially in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East (the question of why we used them as proxy states is immaterial), we could name Iraq and, on good days, Afghanistan as very obvious examples today. South Korea, Japan, Canada, and Western Europe might count too (if we expand the rubric to include those nations which are entirely dependent upon the United States for protection and continued existence). We could include Israel and Taiwan certainly. Really, the list is almost as long as the list of U.N. member nations. Tell me that a nation which can, is quite willing, and expressed a need to project overwhelming military force anywhere on the globe within hours isn’t some kind of empire. Really.

    And don’t even get me started with America’s internal empire of the federal government over the states.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus – to be fair, one of the reasons Canada falls within that group has to do not with American expansionism so much as it has to do with bad decisions here – read about Diefenbaker, Kennedy and the Avro Arrow (the favourite conspiracy theory here in Canada ). Remember, before Vietnam, America had only been worsted in one other war :) :) .

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus – to be fair, one of the reasons Canada falls within that group has to do not with American expansionism so much as it has to do with bad decisions here – read about Diefenbaker, Kennedy and the Avro Arrow (the favourite conspiracy theory here in Canada ). Remember, before Vietnam, America had only been worsted in one other war :) :) .

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    This somehow seemed relevant:

    For the popular American consciousness, democracy is fundamentally thought of as one more technology, one more technocratic way of assuring something called “freedom,” which is popularly understood as the absence of obstacles to consumption.

    Do not be fooled: it fits right in with the older Ancient Near Eastern models of the Chaoskampf, the war or struggle against Chaos.

    Do not be fooled: here any country (let’s say any given one in Africa or the Middle East) that is not a consumeristic totalitarianism is seen as a backwards one, fueled by ethnic/tribal solidarities or religion or represive ideologies. It is seen as Chaos, to be made Cosmos by technology, or technocracy (power, governance or rule by method or technique). “One person, one vote.” Democracy is one more machine to export, the mother of them all and their right use.

    Real fundamental alleigances and commitments (in terms of God, country, tribe) must not be pre-given, for this restricts the licentiousness of the Appetite, and of the gods in their towers. These gods wish to pen this Appetite in where it is manageable, and where they will have sole ownership and feeding rights to this pet that has birthed them.

    From here: http://stackpole.typepad.com/attention/2010/12/the-tower-and-the-wastes-prelude-1-air-dropping-machine-supplies-into-a-foreign-land-sending-bombs-i.html

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    This somehow seemed relevant:

    For the popular American consciousness, democracy is fundamentally thought of as one more technology, one more technocratic way of assuring something called “freedom,” which is popularly understood as the absence of obstacles to consumption.

    Do not be fooled: it fits right in with the older Ancient Near Eastern models of the Chaoskampf, the war or struggle against Chaos.

    Do not be fooled: here any country (let’s say any given one in Africa or the Middle East) that is not a consumeristic totalitarianism is seen as a backwards one, fueled by ethnic/tribal solidarities or religion or represive ideologies. It is seen as Chaos, to be made Cosmos by technology, or technocracy (power, governance or rule by method or technique). “One person, one vote.” Democracy is one more machine to export, the mother of them all and their right use.

    Real fundamental alleigances and commitments (in terms of God, country, tribe) must not be pre-given, for this restricts the licentiousness of the Appetite, and of the gods in their towers. These gods wish to pen this Appetite in where it is manageable, and where they will have sole ownership and feeding rights to this pet that has birthed them.

    From here: http://stackpole.typepad.com/attention/2010/12/the-tower-and-the-wastes-prelude-1-air-dropping-machine-supplies-into-a-foreign-land-sending-bombs-i.html

  • DonS

    Louis @ 121: Fair enough. We all have those kinds of days.

    There is a balance between calling your countrymen out to greatness, and appearing “all superior”, as you put it. I am sure that many Americans come across that way to those of other nationalities, such as yourself, because of a certain brashness and boldness which is a characteristic of American “can do” bravado. Most Americans, I believe, consider our system of government (the system, not the actual government ;-) ) to be a superior one. However, I don’t think most Americans consider themselves, as people, to be superior to other people. I hope not. I love traveling, and I find that people the world over don’t even think about their nationalities when they are in direct contact with one another. People are people, and it’s a lot of fun to meet those from other lands and backgrounds.

    This blog is an American one, by and large, to which you and a few other non-Americans are very welcome guests. So you see a lot of our internal discussions, which could give an unsavory impression of Americans and their attitudes, I dare say. But it’s not reflective of my attitude with respect to non-Americans, and I think that is true for almost all of us here. We recognize, as you say, that we as Americans have a very big responsibility as leaders in the world, and it is a sobering thing.

    For instance, would you honestly be able to critique the philosophy and “worldview” (I hate that word) of the founding fathers? Would you be able to re-examine the foundation of the IDEAL (as you put it) on which the US was founded? Are you willing to re-examine history, from as neutral a point as you can?

    Good question. I have my biases, both political and faith-based, which certainly don’t allow me to re-examine things without any preconceptions. The ideal on which America was founded, that of individual liberty and the dignity of the common man — kind of hard to improve on that, isn’t it? The ideal is awesome, it is the execution that is difficult. We tend to fall back on the state as security. But when the state gains power, individuals lose power. It’s one or the other.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 121: Fair enough. We all have those kinds of days.

    There is a balance between calling your countrymen out to greatness, and appearing “all superior”, as you put it. I am sure that many Americans come across that way to those of other nationalities, such as yourself, because of a certain brashness and boldness which is a characteristic of American “can do” bravado. Most Americans, I believe, consider our system of government (the system, not the actual government ;-) ) to be a superior one. However, I don’t think most Americans consider themselves, as people, to be superior to other people. I hope not. I love traveling, and I find that people the world over don’t even think about their nationalities when they are in direct contact with one another. People are people, and it’s a lot of fun to meet those from other lands and backgrounds.

    This blog is an American one, by and large, to which you and a few other non-Americans are very welcome guests. So you see a lot of our internal discussions, which could give an unsavory impression of Americans and their attitudes, I dare say. But it’s not reflective of my attitude with respect to non-Americans, and I think that is true for almost all of us here. We recognize, as you say, that we as Americans have a very big responsibility as leaders in the world, and it is a sobering thing.

    For instance, would you honestly be able to critique the philosophy and “worldview” (I hate that word) of the founding fathers? Would you be able to re-examine the foundation of the IDEAL (as you put it) on which the US was founded? Are you willing to re-examine history, from as neutral a point as you can?

    Good question. I have my biases, both political and faith-based, which certainly don’t allow me to re-examine things without any preconceptions. The ideal on which America was founded, that of individual liberty and the dignity of the common man — kind of hard to improve on that, isn’t it? The ideal is awesome, it is the execution that is difficult. We tend to fall back on the state as security. But when the state gains power, individuals lose power. It’s one or the other.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 122: I take your point. I don’t disagree with you about a lot of what you are saying. I am not a Ron Paul devotee, but I do have my fairly strong libertarian streak, and I’m not a particularly big fan of interventionism. We do tend to get entangled militarily far more than we should, and these entanglements are seldom easy to disengage from. They tend to bleed both the blood of our young men and women, and our treasure. We need leadership which understands and measures these potential conflicts a lot more carefully before taking brash action.

    So our primary disagreement, at least on this thread, is just definitional. Why is that important? Because, to me, it is important to recognize that, while the U.S. certainly acts in its own interests in conducting its foreign policy, it respects the territorial rights of other nations, and is not in the business of subjugation or exploitation.

    The worldwide military bases the U.S. operates are a vestige of WWII and the subsequent Cold War. They were not put in place for imperial purposes, but as defensive measures against the forces of other empires. I think that is an important distinction. This, of course, was not the case with the British Empire, which was clearly an aggressor, taking territory and governing it as its own.

    I am quite in favor, by the way, of greatly reducing our military footprint around the world. I do not understand why we continue to garrison thousands of troops in places like western Europe and Japan, for example. These things need re-evaluation, and a fresh sheet of paper, regarding which bases are really essential in this modern age.

    Thank you for naming the client states you were thinking of. Certainly many of them have grown very reliant on our defense capabilities for their protection. But we don’t rule any of them, and they would take great umbrage if we were to at all insinuate that we did.

    As for the federal government’s imperial designs on the several states — i.e. an “internal empire” of sorts — I’m with you on that one :-)

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 122: I take your point. I don’t disagree with you about a lot of what you are saying. I am not a Ron Paul devotee, but I do have my fairly strong libertarian streak, and I’m not a particularly big fan of interventionism. We do tend to get entangled militarily far more than we should, and these entanglements are seldom easy to disengage from. They tend to bleed both the blood of our young men and women, and our treasure. We need leadership which understands and measures these potential conflicts a lot more carefully before taking brash action.

    So our primary disagreement, at least on this thread, is just definitional. Why is that important? Because, to me, it is important to recognize that, while the U.S. certainly acts in its own interests in conducting its foreign policy, it respects the territorial rights of other nations, and is not in the business of subjugation or exploitation.

    The worldwide military bases the U.S. operates are a vestige of WWII and the subsequent Cold War. They were not put in place for imperial purposes, but as defensive measures against the forces of other empires. I think that is an important distinction. This, of course, was not the case with the British Empire, which was clearly an aggressor, taking territory and governing it as its own.

    I am quite in favor, by the way, of greatly reducing our military footprint around the world. I do not understand why we continue to garrison thousands of troops in places like western Europe and Japan, for example. These things need re-evaluation, and a fresh sheet of paper, regarding which bases are really essential in this modern age.

    Thank you for naming the client states you were thinking of. Certainly many of them have grown very reliant on our defense capabilities for their protection. But we don’t rule any of them, and they would take great umbrage if we were to at all insinuate that we did.

    As for the federal government’s imperial designs on the several states — i.e. an “internal empire” of sorts — I’m with you on that one :-)


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