1 Running Head: IS THE UNITED STATES AN EMPIRE?
Is the United States an Empire? George W. Lamping Stevens~Henager College
2 WORKING CONDITIONS: IS THE UNITED STATES AN EMPIRE? Introduction The American Empire and its association with everything global is an appellation that has gained in popularity over the decades. The term empire in particular has perhaps become synonymous with the U.S. and the means upon which it conducts business globally on a political basis with other countries. But is the United States of America truly an American Empire, or is this purely the ignorance of popular public opinion given its current world status? For the duration of this paper, my goal is to shed more light on the true definition of what an empire is, the myth of America as an empire, and finally my take on whether or not I believe the U.S. is truly an empire. The Definition of an Empire By definition an empire is, â€œA major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority; especially: one having an emperor as chief of stateâ€? (Merriam-Webster.com, 2012). What this means by the appropriate definition is that for the U.S. to be an empire, it would essentially need to be ruled by a single sovereign authority as well as having territory of great extent. In many ways, I tend to believe that it is more of a romanticism germ of an idea based on past imperialistic actions the U.S. has taken in acquiring territories that may seem to be similar to the Roman and Ottoman empires. It is, however, a mistake by definition to confuse or compare the U.S. as being an empire to the characteristics and actions of European nations of the 19th and 20th centuries and earlier empire civilizations. European and early world history empires were distinctly different because they used final authority by one entity over the vital political decisions of another (Schroeder, 2003). This often was a messy process that ended in much barbaric bloodshed. Furthermore and again focusing on the true definition of what empire means in this particular context, it is
3 WORKING CONDITIONS: IS THE UNITED STATES AN EMPIRE? erroneous to form an assumption that America is an empire simply because its past imperialistic actions were based on political power by virtue of its military supremacy, and economic power. The Myth of the American Empire The notion that the U.S. is an empire in lieu of the media shaping popular public opinion is as alluring as it is misleading. History tells us that we cannot afford to ignore specific facts and or characteristics of events that essentially tell the full story. There are, in other words, distinctions between the true definition of empire and other associations in international affairs that in any particular instance could serve to obscure crucial truths about the true fate and consequences an empire would undoubtedly face in today’s modern international system. This for example, would be extremely erroneous in thinking because an empire in itself is the refutation of political freedom, liberation, and self determination (Schroeder, 2003). The U.S. for all intensive purposes does not have the aforementioned characteristics of a true empire. Yes it is true that there are many instances of exercised imperialism over other countries in its history, however, the U.S. doesn’t have a monarchy or dictatorship, its government and leadership doesn’t seek to negate political freedom, stifle liberation of any other nation and its citizens, and crush self determination in order to achieve empire based objectives. Although the U.S. certainly has unequal relations with weaker powers, it actually has less power and doesn’t have the empire control in the sense of changing other countries’ internal behavior (Nye, 2004). Moreover and ironically speaking, if the U.S. truly was an empire and behaved in the traditional sense, its motives with the war in Iraq would have been more lucid politically speaking. They simply were not.
4 WORKING CONDITIONS: IS THE UNITED STATES AN EMPIRE? My Take on the Matter In a global international setting as is the case today, the U.S., as an empire could not succeed with anti imperialism policies. The consequences of sustaining itself as an empire would be very great leading to a path of violence, social unrest, war, and eventual destruction. A global economy in an information age requires favorable relations and cooperation with other countries in order to survive. The world simply won’t tolerate empires to the extent of the definition nor can the U.S. really satisfy the requirements of being a true empire. It’s simply too overextended. America as an empire simply isn’t so and if it were the days of its existence would be tragically numbered. Discussion The myth of the American Empire is alive and well today thanks to popular public opinion shaped eloquently from the media. Empire by definition in comparison to the U.S. is truly different in many ways. Such characteristics of a true empire are drastically different to the way the U.S. conducts itself today in foreign relations. In the information age of today with a strong focus on a global economy, the world and its great diversity of people will not tolerate or support empires in their traditional sense. Overall, the U.S. and its position as a world super power is simply the best way to describe a great nation and its continuous challenges of adapting to an ever changing world stage.
5 WORKING CONDITIONS: IS THE UNITED STATES AN EMPIRE? References Empire. (2012). Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, Inc. Retrieved August, 9, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empire?show=1&t=1344550482 Nye, J.S. (2004). Is america an empire? Retrieved from http://www.projectsyndicate.org/commentary/is-america-an-empireSchroeder, P. (2003). Is the u.s. an empire? Retrieved from http://hnn.us/articles/1237.html