The American Empire
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
An empire is a state which controls substantial territory beyond its homeland. The Roman Empire conquered territory far beyond the Italian homeland of the Romans. France became an empire by expanding into the Americas, Africa, and the South Pacific. The British Empire had Canada, much of the West Indies, India, a third of Africa, Hong Kong, Malaya, and dozens of islands. After World War I, the British expanded their empires into the Middle East, the realm of the expired Turkish Empire. The British held Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, Aden, and what is now the United Arab Emirates. The French held Syria and Lebanon.
The United States became an empire in 1898, when it started a war with Spain. The U.S. took over Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and several Pacific Island territories, including the kingdom of Hawaii. The American empire also held sway over the Americas, taking the Canal Zone in Panama and sending troops to several countries to maintain American dominance.
Empires eventually collapse as they become weakened by war or internal tyranny. The British Empire was weakened by the world wars, and imperialism lost popular support. The French tried to hang on to Indochina and Algeria, but gave up, as colonized people no longer tolerated being ruled by European foreigners. Meanwhile, the Soviet empire expanded beyond the USSR, which itself was an empire, into satellite states in Eastern Europe, Cuba, and Afghanistan. The world was dominated by the American and Soviet empires, which controlled and influenced many of the world's states.
The Soviet Empire depended on propaganda as well as force for its existence, and as the tyranny of Soviet rule became more exposed, totalitarian socialism lost its intellectual foundation. The Soviet empire collapsed, and the republics of the USSR became independent states. Russia is still an empire, having previously expanded into Islamic territory and other lands inhabited by non-Russians. The Chechen war is an attempt to maintain the lesser Russian empire.
After the collapse of the Soviet realm, the American empire expanded into middle and eastern Europe under the rubric of NATO. The last obstacle to American dominance in Europe was Serbia, and the Clinton administration fought the Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo to crush this futile resistance to American might.
The current war in Iraq really started with the first Gulf War and continued under Clinton with bombings and trade barriers. The current stage of the war in Iraq can be seen as an expansion of the American empire into the heart of the Middle East, eliminating a tyrant who defied American dominance. Afghanistan too is now under American dominance. Israel, of course, has long been an American ally in the Middle East.
The states defying American dominance now include China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Burma. Cuba especially rankles the U.S. chiefs because it was part of the original U.S. 1898 expansion and got away. It's more than Cuban exiles that makes the U.S. chiefs of both political parties hostile to the elimination of trade and travel barriers. The chiefs want Cuba back into the American empirical fold, impossible so long as Castro rules.
The anti-American feelings around the world stem from an opposition to imperial American rule. People world-wide admire the American republic, with the liberty for which it stands. But they don't like the American empire that overthrows governments, wages wars, and props up dictatorships. Perhaps some of this could be excused during the Cold War, but after 1990 there would have been no intellectual rational for empire building if the Muslim supremacists had not provided one in 9/11/2001.
Empires thrive on conflict, and immediately after the Cold War ended, a new global conflict emerged with Muslim supremacists. Ultimately, the supremacists cannot win, because their terrorist ideology is as weak as that of the old totalitarian socialists. Their use of terror only strengthens the American empire. Their attack in 2001 enabled the U.S. government to obtain unprecedented internal power and an excuse to extend the American empire into the Middle East. Just as Israeli expansion and control over Palestinians thrives on the violence of the Palestinian 'resistance,' American dominance requires an enemy, and the Middle Eastern supremacists have handed the imperial American chiefs a new intellectual rationale for the empire.
The American empire is bipartisan. Both Democrats and Republicans have expanded the empire. Only the minor parties, such as the Greens and Libertarians, fundamentally oppose the American empire. Many Americans don't like the empire, but they maintain it by voting for the major party they think is the lesser evil. We now hear the mantra, 'anyone but Bush.' The chiefs of empire laugh, because the greatest expansion of the American empire was under 'progressive' Democrats such as Wilson and Truman. The U.S. Constitution was designed to limit empire building, but like the requirement for Congress to declare war, the safeguards of the Constitution are ignored by both parties.
Ultimately it is the American voter who maintains the empire by voting for the illusion of a lesser imperial evil. Unfortunately for America, just as other empires collapsed, so too will the American empire eventually fall to internal decay and external over-expansion unless Americans support a political party that will let go the empire.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2004 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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