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American Empire (American Imperialism) is a term referring to the political, economic, military and cultural influence of the United States. The concept of an American Empire was first popularized in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. The sources and proponents of this concept range from classical Marxist theorists of imperialism as a product of capitalism, to modern liberal and conservative theorists analysing U.S. foreign policy.


Issues concerning the concept of 'empire'

On the cover of Puck Magazine published on April 6, 1901, in the wake of gainful victory in the Spanish-American War, Columbia - the National personification of the US — preens herself with an Easter bonnet in the form of a warship bearing the words "World Power" and the word "Expansion" on the smoke coming out of its stack.

The term imperialism was coined in the mid-1800s.[1] It was first widely applied to the US by the American Anti-Imperialist League, founded in 1898 to oppose the Spanish-American War and the subsequent post-war military occupation and brutalities committed by US forces in the Philippines.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives three definitions of imperialism:

1. An imperial system of government; the rule of an emperor, esp. when despotic or arbitrary. 2. The principle or spirit of empire; advocacy of what are held to be imperial interests. 3. Used disparagingly. 3a. In Communist writings: the imperial system or policy of the Western powers. 3b. Used conversely in some Western writings: the Imperial system or policy of the Communist powers.[2]

Debate exists over whether the United States is an empire in the politically charged sense of the latter two definitions.[citation needed] Confusion also exists over the distinction between empire, a form of polity, and imperialism, a form of policy. Nevertheless, many polities that are not empires behave imperialistically at times, and vice-versa.[citation needed]

The term has become very controversial in the United States. From its founding there has been a dichotomy in American politics regarding the country's active and passive influence on other nations. On the one hand there is a strong imperialistic drive in terms of America's occupation of the North American continent, the development of a powerful trade empire and strong economic and cultural influences over other countries. On the other hand key American leaders have viewed with distrust "foreign entanglements" finding safety in non-interventionism.

"[America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benign' sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit." - John Quincy Adams, US House, 7/4/1821

This desire to be seen as a benign, positive influence on the world continues to the present. Even while America appears to behave as an empire, its leaders refute the idea as a motivation for their policy. Former President George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said: “We don’t seek empires. We’re not imperialistic; we never have been”

The anti-imperial stance is not universal. Thomas Jefferson, in the 1780s, awaited the fall of the Spanish empire: “. . . till our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece [sic]” [3][4] In turn, Leftist historian Sidney Lens notes that from its inception some in the US have used every means to try to dominate other nations.[5]

Identifying the United States as an empire by its international behavior is controversial. Those Americans who wish to see their nation as a positive influence on the world strongly resist accusations of behaving in an imperialistic manner. Others who are anti-American refuse to see that the sheer size and diversity of America will produce imperialistic effects even without any overt policy from its government. Stuart Creighton Miller posits that the public's sense of innocence about Realpolitik impairs popular recognition of US imperial conduct. The resistance to actively occupying foreign territory has led to policies of exerting influence via other means, including governing other countries via surrogates, where domestically unpopular governments survive only through U.S. support.[6]

William Jennings Bryan, Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1900, said:

Imperialism is the policy of an empire, and an empire is a nation composed of different races living under varying forms of government. A republic cannot be an empire, for a republic rests upon the theory that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and colonialism violates this theory [...] Our experiment in colonialism has been unfortunate. Instead of profit it has brought loss. Instead of strength it has brought weakness. Instead of glory it has brought humiliation.[7]

That same year, Mark Twain, a leader and founding member of the American Anti-Imperialist League, wrote:

I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.[8]

American exceptionalism

1900 Campaign poster for the Republican Party. "The American flag has not been planted in foreign soil to acquire more territory but for humanity's sake.", president William McKinley, July 12, 1900. On one hand, we see how the situation was in 1896, before McKinley's victory during the elections: "Gone Democratic: A run on the bank, Spanish rule in Cuba". On the other hand, we see how the situation was in 1900, after four years of McKinley's rule: "Gone Republican: a run to the bank, American rule in Cuba" (the Spanish-American War took place in 1898).

American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States occupies a special niche among the nations of the world[9] in terms of its national credo, historical evolution, political and religious institutions and origins.

Stuart Creighton Miller points out that the question of U.S. imperialism has been the subject of agonizing debate ever since the United States acquired formal empire at the end of the nineteenth century during the 1898 Spanish-American War. Miller argues that this agony is because of United States’ sense of innocence, produced by a kind of "immaculate conception" view of United States' origins. In Miller's view, when European settlers came to the United States, they saw themselves as miraculously shedding their old ways upon arrival in the New World, as one might discard old clothing, and fashioning new cultural garments based solely on experiences in a new and vastly different environment. Miller believes that school texts, patriotic media, and patriotic speeches on which Americans have been reared do not stress the origins of America's system of government, that these sources often omit or downplay that the "United States Constitution owes its structure as much to the ideas of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes as to the experiences of the Founding Fathers; that Jeffersonian thought to a great extent paraphrases the ideas of earlier Scottish philosophers; and that even the unique frontier egalitarian has deep roots in seventeenth century English radical traditions."[10]

Philosopher Douglas Kellner traces the identification of American exceptionalism as a distinct phenomenon back to 19th century French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, who concluded by agreeing that the U.S., uniquely, was "proceeding along a path to which no limit can be perceived."[11]

American exceptionalism is popular among people within the U.S.,[12] but its validity and its consequences are disputed. Miller argues that U.S. citizens fall within three schools of thought about the question whether the United States is imperialistic:

  • Overly self-critical Americans tend to exaggerate the nation’s flaws, failing to place them in historical or worldwide contexts.
  • In the middle are Americans who assert that "Imperialism was an aberration."[13]
  • At the other end of the scale, the tendency of highly nationalist Americans is to deny such abuses and even assert that they could never exist in their country. As a Monthly Review editorial opines on the phenomenon, "in Britain, empire was justified as a benevolent 'white man’s burden'. And in the United States, empire does not even exist; 'we' are merely protecting the causes of freedom, democracy, and justice worldwide."[14]

Viewpoints of American imperialism


Imperialism at the heart of U.S. foreign policy

1898 political cartoon: "Ten Thousand Miles From Tip to Tip" meaning the extension of U.S. domination (symbolized by a bald eagle) from Puerto Rico to the Philippines. The cartoon contrasts this with a map of the smaller United States 100 years earlier in 1798.

Many Marxists, anarchists, members of the New Left, as well as some conservatives, tend to view U.S. imperialism as both deep-rooted and amoral. Imperialism as U.S. policy, in the view of historians like William Appleman Williams, Howard Zinn, and Gabriel Kolko, traces its beginning not to the Spanish-American War, but to Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory, or even to the displacement of Native Americans prior to the American Revolution, and continues to this day. Historian Sidney Lens argues that "the United States, from the time it gained its own independence, has used every available means—political, economic, and military—to dominate other nations."[15] Numerous U.S. foreign interventions, ranging from early actions under the Monroe Doctrine to 21st-century interventions in the Middle East, are typically described by these authors as imperialistic. Linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky ties imperialistic ambitions of US to its origin of what he calls "American Empire". He quotes some of the founding fathers of USA to highlight this idea :

"Benjamin Franklin, 25 years before the Revolution, complained that the British were imposing limits on the expansion of the colonies. He objected to this, borrowing from Machiavelli. He admonished the British (I'm quoting him), 'A prince that acquires new territories and removes the natives to give his people room will be remembered as the father of the nation.' And George Washington agreed. He wanted to be the father of the nation."[16]

Historian D.W. Meinig argues at length for the use of the words "empire" and "imperial" for the United States, rooted as early as the Louisiana Purchase which he describes as an "imperial acquisition—imperial in the sense of the aggressive encroachment of one people upon the territory of another, resulting in the subjugation of that people to alien rule. The Louisianans were suddenly annexed to the United States without the slightest gesture of interest on the part of either America or France as to how they might feel about it... Louisiana therefore became an unexpected experiment in empire... It began to give the word empire another and not altogether comfortable connotation for America: not just a theoretical term... but an America that included a bloc of captive peoples of foreign culture who had not chosen to be Americans." He also argues that U.S. policy toward Native American Indians was blatantly imperialistic, especially the Indian Removals under which entire peoples were moved to "specified reserves in an entirely different part of the empire" and resettled "under a program designed to remold them into a people more appropriately conformed to imperial desires." Another example given is the military occupation and reconstruction of the American South following the Civil War.[17]

The conservative critique of U.S. imperialism has been identified with historians such as Charles Beard and Andrew Bacevich, part of a tradition of non-interventionism, often referred to derogatorily, if inaccurately, as "isolationism". While Beard believed that American policy had been driven by self-interested expansionism as far back as the writing of the Constitution, many conservative critics of imperialism have a more positive view of America's early era. Writer and politician Patrick Buchanan argues that the modern United States' drive to empire is "far from what the Founding Fathers had intended the young Republic to become."[18] A conservative anti-imperialism is defended both by some on the Old Right, such as Buchanan, and by libertarians such as Justin Raimondo and Ron Paul.

For both leftists and conservatives, a critical historical view is typically continued to present U.S. foreign policy. Bacevich argues that the U.S. did not fundamentally change its foreign policy after the Cold War, and remains focused on an effort to expand its control across the world.[19] As the surviving superpower at the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could focus its assets in new directions, the future being "up for grabs" according to former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz in 1991.[20] Marxist sociologist John Bellamy Foster argues, in fact, that the United States' sole-superpower status makes it now the most dangerous world imperialist.[21]

Lens describes American exceptionalism as a myth, which allows any number of "excesses and cruelties, though sometimes admitted, usually [to be] regarded as momentary aberrations."[22] Chomsky argues, like many, that exceptionalism and the denials of imperialism are the result of a systematic strategy of propaganda, to "manufacture opinion" as the process has long been described in other countries.[23] "Domination of the media", according to Chomsky, allows an elite to "fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place."[24]

Ideological views and theories of the American Imperialism

Although writers of various schools may describe many of the same policies and institutions as imperialistic, explanations for alleged U.S. imperialism vary widely. Journalist Ashley Smith divides theories of the U.S. imperialism into 5 broad categories: (1) "liberal" theories, (2) "social-democratic" theories, (3) "Leninist" theories, (4) theories of "super-imperialism", and (5) "Hardt-and-Negri-ite" theories.[25]


A "liberal" theory asserts that imperial policies are the products of particular elected politicians (e.g. James K. Polk)[26] or political movements (e.g. neo-conservatism: the Bush Doctrine and other recent controversies).[27][28][29][30] It holds that these policies are not the natural result of U.S. political or economic structures, and are hostile and inimical to true U.S. interests and values. This is the original position of Mark Twain and the Anti-Imperialist League and is held today by a number of Democrats, who criticize the claimed imperialism and propose the election of officials opposed to it as a solution, notably Ramsey Clark among others.


A "social-democratic" theory asserts that imperialistic U.S. policies are the products of the excessive influence of certain sectors of U.S. business and government — the arms industry in alliance with military and political bureaucracies and sometimes other industries such as oil and finance, a combination often referred to as the "military-industrial complex". The complex is said to benefit from war profiteering and the looting of natural resources, often at the expense of the public interest.[31] The proposed solution is typically unceasing popular vigilance in order to apply counter-pressure.[32] The left-leaning Johnson holds a version of this view; other versions are typically held by conservative anti-interventionists, such as Beard, Bacevich, Buchanan, Raimondo, and, most notably, journalist John T. Flynn and Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler who wrote:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.[33]

A "Socialist" theory asserts that imperialistic U.S. policies are the products of the unified interest of the predominant sectors of U.S. business, which need to ensure and manipulate export markets for both goods and capital.[34] The Marxist-Leninist theory of imperialism explains that as a capitalist economy expands, business is threatened by falling profits, especially in the financial sector. After waves of mergers and concentration of ownership, business invests in overseas markets, and then will seek to the use the power of the state to protect those markets with military support. The influence of capitalist business on the government leads to international military competition as an extension of international economic competition, both driven by the inherently expansionist and crisis-prone nature of capitalism. This flow of causation from falling business profits to a world empire is quite simplistic, but reflects economic conditions in America leading up to its takeover of the Philippines. [35] Communists believe that the inevitable outcome of imperialism is revolutionary social and economic change. The theory was first systematized during the World War I by Russian Bolsheviks Vladimir Lenin and Nikolai Bukharin, although their work was based on that of earlier Marxists, socialists, and anarchists.[36] Chomsky, Foster, Kolko, Lens, Williams, Zinn, Marxist anthropologist David Harvey, Indian writer Arundhati Roy and Ashley Smith each hold some version of this view.


A theory of "super-imperialism" asserts that imperialistic U.S. policies are driven not simply by the interests of American businesses, but by the interests of the economic elites of a global alliance of developed countries. Capitalism in Europe, the U.S., and Japan has become too entangled, in this view, to permit military or geopolitical conflict between these countries, and the central conflict in modern imperialism is between the global core and the global periphery rather than between imperialist powers. Political scientists Leo Panitch and Samuel Gindin hold versions of this view.[37][38][39][40] Lenin argued this view was wishful thinking.[41]


A "Hardt-and-Negri-ite" theory is closely related to the theory of "super-imperialism", but has a different conception of power. According to political theorists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, the world has passed the era of imperialism and entered a new era. They no longer hold that the world has already entered the new era of Empire, but only that it is emerging. According to Hardt, the Iraq War is a classically imperialist war, but represents the last gasp of a doomed strategy.[42] This new era still has colonizing power, but it has moved from national military forces based on an economy of physical goods to networked biopower based on an informational and affective economy. On this view, the U.S. is central to the development and constitution of a new global regime of international power and sovereignty, termed "Empire", but the "Empire" is decentralized and global, and not ruled by one sovereign state; "the United States does indeed occupy a privileged position in Empire, but this privilege derives not from its similarities to the old European imperialist powers, but from its differences."[43] Hardt and Negri draw on the theories of Spinoza, Foucault, Deleuze, and Italian autonomist marxists.[44][45] Many in the traditions of postcolonialism, postmodernism and globalization theory hold related views.

U.S. military bases abroad as a form of empire

US military bases in the world in 2007

Chalmers Johnson argues that America's version of the colony is the military base.[46] Chip Pitts argues similarly that enduring U.S. bases in Iraq suggest a vision of "Iraq as a colony".[47] In this context, it is interesting to note that certain historians of the British Empire have emphasised that, prior to 1850, official government policy was generally in favour of acquiring military (especially naval) bases overseas but opposed to the government-backed acquisition of new colonial territories. It is seldom doubted, however, that British policy pre-1850 was nevertheless essentially imperial in nature.[48]

While territories such as Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico remain under U.S. control, the U.S. allowed many of its overseas territories or occupations to gain independence after World War II. The Philippines (1946), the Federated States of Micronesia (1986), Marshall Islands (1986), and Palau (1994) are examples. However most of those former possessions continue to have U.S. bases within their territories. In the case of Okinawa, which came under US administration after the battle of Okinawa during World War II, this happened despite local popular opinion.[49] As of 2003, the United States had bases in over 36 countries worldwide.[50]

Benevolent imperialism

Military historian Max Boot defends U.S. imperialism of past eras:

U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century. It has defeated communism and Nazism and has intervened against the Taliban and Serbian ethnic cleansing. It has also helped spread liberal institutions to countries as diverse as South Korea and Panama.[51]

Boot argues that the United States altruistically went to war with Spain to liberate Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos from their tyrannical yoke. If U.S. troops lingered on too long in the Philippines, it was to protect the Filipinos from European predators waiting in the wings for American withdrawal and to tutor them in American-style democracy. In the Philippines, the U.S. followed its usual pattern:

The United States would set up a constabulary, a quasi-military police force led by Americans and made up of local enlisted men. Then the Americans would work with local officials to administer a variety of public services, from vaccinations and schools to tax collection. American officials, though often resented, usually proved more efficient and less venal than their native predecessors... Holding fair elections became a top priority because once a democratically elected government was installed, the Americans felt they could withdraw.[52]

Boot argues that this was far from "the old-fashioned imperialism bent on looting nations of their natural resources." Just as with Iraq and Afghanistan, "some of the poorest countries on the planet", in the early 20th century:

The United States was least likely to intervene in those nations (such as Argentina and Costa Rica) where American investors held the biggest stakes. The longest occupations were undertaken in precisely those countries--Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic--where the United States had the smallest economic stakes... Unlike the Dutch in the East Indies, the British in Malaya, or the French in Indochina, the Americans left virtually no legacy of economic exploitation.[52]

Boot willingly uses the term "imperialism" to describe United States policy, not only in the early 20th century but "since at least 1803".[52] This marks a difference in terminology rather than a difference of fundamental historical interpretation from observers who deny that the U.S. has ever been an empire, since Boot still argues that U.S. foreign policy has been consistently benevolent.[51] Boot is not alone; as columnist Charles Krauthammer puts it, "People are now coming out of the closet on the word 'empire.'" This embrace of empire is made by many neoconservatives, including British historian Paul Johnson, and writers Dinesh D'Souza and Mark Steyn. It is also made by some liberal hawks, such as political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Michael Ignatieff.[53]

For instance, British historian Niall Ferguson argues that the United States is an empire, but believes that this is a good thing. Ferguson has drawn parallels between the British Empire and the imperial role of the United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, though he describes the United States' political and social structures as more like those of the Roman Empire than of the British. Ferguson argues that all these empires have had both positive and negative aspects, but that the positive aspects of the U.S. empire will, if it learns from history and its mistakes, greatly outweigh its negative aspects.[54]

American imperialism as an aberration

Another point of view believes United States expansion overseas has been imperialistic, but sees this imperialism as a temporary phenomenon, a corruption of American ideals or the relic of a past historical era. Historian Samuel Flagg Bemis argues that Spanish-American War expansionism was a short-lived imperialistic impulse and "a great aberration in American history", a very different form of territorial growth than that of earlier American history.[55] Historian Walter LaFeber sees the Spanish-American War expansionism not as an aberration, but as a culmination of United States expansion westward.[56] But both agree that the end of the occupation of the Philippines marked the end of US empire, hence denying that present United States foreign policy is imperialistic.

The United States Information Agency writes:

With the exception of the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, American territory had remained fixed since 1848. In the 1890s a new spirit of expansion took hold... Yet Americans, who had themselves thrown off the shackles of empire, were not comfortable with administering one. In 1902 American troops left Cuba... The Philippines obtained... complete independence in 1946. Puerto Rico became a self-governing commonwealth... and Hawaii became a state in 1959.[57]

Historian Victor Davis Hanson argues that the US does not pursue world domination, but maintains worldwide influence by a system of mutually beneficial exchanges:

If we really are imperial, we rule over a very funny sort of empire... The United States hasn't annexed anyone's soil since the Spanish-American War... Imperial powers order and subjects obey. But in our case, we offer the Turks strategic guarantees, political support — and money... Isolationism, parochialism, and self-absorption are far stronger in the American character than desire for overseas adventurism.[58]

Liberal internationalists argue that even though the present world order is dominated by the United States, the form taken by that dominance is not imperial. International relations scholar John Ikenberry argues that international institutions have taken the place of empire;

the United States has pursued imperial policies, especially toward weak countries in the periphery. But U.S. relations with Europe, Japan, China, and Russia cannot be described as imperial... the use or threat of force is unthinkable. Their economies are deeply interwoven... they form a political order built on bargains, diffuse reciprocity, and an array of intergovernmental institutions and ad hoc working relationships. This is not empire; it is a U.S.-led democratic political order that has no name or historical antecedent.[59]

International relations scholar Joseph Nye argues that US power is more and more based on "soft power", which comes from cultural hegemony rather than raw military or economic force.[60] This includes such factors as the widespread desire to emigrate to the United States, the prestige and corresponding high proportion of foreign students at US universities, and the spread of US styles of popular music and cinema. Thus the US, no matter how hegemonic, can no longer be considered to be an 'empire' in the classic sense of the term.

Factors unique to the "Age of imperialism"

A variety of factors may have coincided during the "Age of Imperialism" (late nineteenth century, when the US and the other major powers rapidly expanded their territorial possessions) to spur on American expansion abroad:

Debate over the nature of American foreign policy

Some scholars, however, defend the historical role of the U.S. against allegations of imperialism.[66] Other prominent political figures, such as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for example, have argued that "[The U.S. does not] seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been."[67] Stuart Creighton Miller, however, stated in 1982 that this interpretation was no longer heard very often by historians.[68]

Historians Archibald Paton Thorton and Stuart Creighton Miller argue against the very coherence of the concept. Miller argues that the overuse and abuse of the term imperialism makes it nearly meaningless as an analytical concept.[69] Thorton wrote that "[...]imperialism is more often the name of the emotion that reacts to a series of events than a definition of the events themselves. Where colonization finds analysts and analogies, imperialism must contend with crusaders for and against."[70] Political theorist Michael Walzer argues that the term "hegemony" is better than "empire" to describe the US's role in the world,[71] a standpoint shared by political scientists such as Robert Keohane, for whom a "[...]balanced and nuanced analysis is not aided, however, by the use of the phrase 'empire' to describe United States hegemony, since 'empire' obscures rather than illuminates the differences in form of rule between the United States and other Great Powers, such as Great Britain in the nineteenth century or the Soviet Union in the twentieth."[72]

Cultural imperialism

The controversy regarding the issue of U.S. cultural imperialism is largely separate from the debate about U.S. military imperialism; however, some critics of imperialism argue that the two concepts are interdependent. Edward Said, one of the founders of post-colonial theory, argues that,

So influential has been the discourse insisting on American specialness, altruism and opportunity, that imperialism in the United States as a word or ideology has turned up only rarely and recently in accounts of the United States culture, politics and history. But the connection between imperial politics and culture in North America, and in particular in the United States, is astonishingly direct.[73]

He believes non-U.S. citizens, particularly non-Westerners, are usually thought of within the U.S. in a tacitly racist manner, in a way that allows imperialism to be justified through such ideas as the White Man's Burden.[73]

Scholars who disagree with the theory of U.S. cultural imperialism or the theory of cultural imperialism in general argue that what is regarded as cultural imperialism by many is not connected to any kind of military domination, which has been the traditional means of empire. International relations scholar David Rothkop argues that cultural imperialism is the innocent result of globalization, which allows access to numerous U.S. and Western ideas and products that many non-U.S. and non-Western consumers across the world voluntarily choose to consume. A worldwide fascination with the United States has not been forced on anyone in ways similar to what is traditionally described as an empire, differentiating it from the actions of the British Empire--see the Opium Wars--and other more easily identified empires throughout history. Rothkop identifies the desire to preserve the "purity" of one's culture as xenophobic.[74] Matthew Fraser has a similar analysis, but argues further that the global cultural influence of the U.S. is a good thing.[75]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (1989). "imperialism". Retrieved 2006-04-12. 
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (1989). "empire". Retrieved 2006-04-12. 
  3. ^ LaFeber, Walter, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America (1993) 2nd edition, p.19
  4. ^ Max Boot (May 6, 2003). American Imperialism? No Need to Run Away from Label. Council on Foreign Relations OP-Ed, quoting USA Today. Retrieved 2008-01-06. 
  5. ^ Lens & Zinn 2003, p. Back cover.
  6. ^ Johnson, Chalmers, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000), pp.72–9
  7. ^ Robert McHenry (October 29th, 2008). "The ‘08 Campaign, Part II (1908, that is)". Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  8. ^ Mark Twain (October 15, 1900.). letter to the editor. New York Herald. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Miller (1982), op. cit. p. 1.
  11. ^ Kellner, Douglas (2003-04-25). "American Exceptionalism". Retrieved 2006-02-20. 
  12. ^ Edwords, Frederick (November/December 1987). "The religious character of American patriotism. It's time to recognize our traditions and answer some hard questions.". The Humanist (p. 20-24, 36). 
  13. ^ Miller (1982), op. cit. p. 1-3.
  14. ^ Magdoff, Harry; John Bellamy Foster (November 2001). "After the Attack...The War on Terrorism". Monthly Review 53 (6): 7. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  15. ^ Lens, Sidney (2003). The Forging of the American Empire. Haymarket Books and Pluto Press. ISBN 0-7453-2100-3.  Book jacket.
  16. ^ {{cite book | author=chomsky, Noam | title=Modern-Day American Imperialism: Middle East and Beyond| publisher=Boston University Publishing | year= April24, 2008|
  17. ^ Meinig, D.W. (1993). The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2: Continental America, 1800-1867. Yale University Press. pp. 22–23, 170–196, 516–517. ISBN 0-300-05658-3. 
  18. ^ Buchanan, Patrick (1999). A Republic, Not and Empire. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-272-X.  p. 165.
  19. ^ Bacevich, Andrew (2004). American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01375-1. 
  20. ^ ERIC SCHMITT, "Washington at Work; Ex-Cold Warrior Sees the Future as 'Up for Grabs'" The New York Times December 23, 1991.
  21. ^ Foster, John Bellamy (July-August 2003). "The New Age of Imperialism". Monthly Review. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  22. ^ Lens (2003), op. cit. Book jacket.
  23. ^ Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, 1939.
  24. ^ Chomsky, Noam (1988). Manufacturing Consent. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-71449-9. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  25. ^ Smith, Ashley (June 24, 2006). "The Classical Marxist Theory of Imperialism". Socialism 2006. Columbia University. 
  26. ^ who threatened war with Britain and caused the Mexican–American War by annexing Texas and all its territory disputed with Mexico
  27. ^ CNN: Putin accuses U.S. of orchestrating Georgian war, September 12, 2008
  28. ^ CNN: Bolivian president calls for ouster of U.S. ambassador, September 12, 2008
  29. ^ CNN: Venezuela to expel US ambassador over coup plot, September 12, 2008
  30. ^ TIME: U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy given 72 hours to leave Venezuela, September 12, 2008
  31. ^ C. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War Three, Simon and Schuster, 1958, pp. 52, 111
  32. ^ Flynn, John T. (1944) As We Go Marching.
  33. ^ Butler, Common Sense, 1935.
  34. ^ Lenin, Vladimir (1916) Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
  35. ^ "Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?" - Woodrow Wilson, September 11, 1919, St. Louis.The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Arthur S. Link, ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990), vol. 63, pp. 45–46.
  36. ^ Ibid. Lenin.
  37. ^ Leo Panitch, "What you need to know about May Day"
  38. ^ Leo Panitch, "Whose Violence? Imperial State Security and the Global Justice Movement" Jan, 2005
  39. ^ Leo Panitch, "Putting the U.S. Economic Crisis in Perspective" Jan. 31, 2008
  40. ^ Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, "The Current Crisis: A Socialist Perspective" Sept. 30, 2008
  41. ^ BRIAN JONES, "Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism" International Socialist Review Issue 44, November–December 2005
  42. ^ Hardt, Michael (July 13, 2006). "From Imperialism to Empire". The Nation. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  43. ^ Negri, Antonio; Hardt, Michael (2000). Empire. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00671-2. Retrieved 2009-10-08.  p. xiii-xiv.
  44. ^ Michael Hardt, Gilles Deleuze: an Apprenticeship in Philosophy, ISBN 0-8166-2161-6
  45. ^ Autonomist_marxism#Italian_autonomism
  46. ^ America's Empire of Bases
  47. ^ Pitts, Chip (November 8, 2006). "The Election on Empire". The National Interest. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  48. ^ See, for example, Bernard Porter The Lion's Share
  49. ^ Patrick Smith, Pay Attention to Okinawans and Close the U.S. Bases, International Herald Tribune (Opinion section), March 6, 1998.
  50. ^ "Base Structure Report" (PDF). USA Department of Defense. 2003. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  51. ^ a b Boot, Max (May 6, 2003). "American Imperialism? No Need to Run Away From the Label". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  52. ^ a b c Boot, Max (November 2003). "Neither New nor Nefarious: The Liberal Empire Strikes Back". Current History 102 (667). Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  53. ^ Heer, Jeet (March 23, 2003). "Operation Anglosphere". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  54. ^ Ferguson, Niall (June 2, 2005). Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-101700-7. 
  55. ^ Miller (1982), op. cit. p. 3.
  56. ^ Lafeber, Walter (1975). The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9048-0. 
  57. ^ ed. George Clack (September 1997). "A brief history of the United States". A Portrait of the USA. United States Information Agency. Retrieved 2010-1-12. 
  58. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (November 2002). "A Funny Sort of Empire". National Review. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  59. ^ Ikenberry, G. John (March/April 2004). "Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order". Foreign Affairs. 
  60. ^ Cf. Nye, Joseph Jr. 2005. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. Public Affairs. 208 pp.
  61. ^ Thomas Friedman, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree", p. 381, and Manfred Steger, "Globalism: The New Market Ideology," and Jeff Faux, "Flat Note from the Pied Piper of Globalization," Dissent, Fall 2005, pp. 64-67.
  62. ^ Brands, Henry William. (1997). T.R.: The Last Romantic. New York: Basic Books. Reprinted 2001, full biography OCLC 36954615, ch 12
  63. ^ "April 16, 1897: T. Roosevelt Appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy". Crucible of Empire - Timeline. PBS Online. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  64. ^ "Transcript For "Crucible Of Empire"". Crucible of Empire - Timeline. PBS Online. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  65. ^ Tilchin, William N. Theodore Roosevelt and the British Empire: A Study in Presidential Statecraft (1997)
  66. ^ See, for instance, Michael Mann (2005), Incoherent Empire (Verso); Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (2005), "The American Empire? Not so fast", World Policy, Volume XXII, No 1, Spring;
  67. ^ Bookman, Jay (June 25, 2003). "Let's just say it's not an empire". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  68. ^ Miller (1982), op. cit. p. 136.
  69. ^ Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982). "Benevolent Assimilation" The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02697-8.  p. 3.
  70. ^ Thornton, Archibald Paton (September 1978). Imperialism in the Twentieth Century. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-24848-1. 
  71. ^ Walzer, Michael. "Is There an American Empire?". Archived from the original on 2006-10-21. Retrieved 2006-06-10. 
  72. ^ Keohane, Robert O. "The United States and the Postwar Order: Empire or Hegemony?" (Review of Geir Lundestad, The American Empire) Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Nov., 1991), p. 435
  73. ^ a b Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism, speech at York University, Toronto, February 10, 1993.
  74. ^ Rothkop, David (June 22, 1997). "Globalization and Culture" ( – Scholar search). Foreign Policy. 
  75. ^ Fraser, Matthew (2005). Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire. St. Martin's Press. 

Further reading


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

This page is for quotes about American imperialism and notions of an American Empire.

  • The United States does not, and indeed no nation-state can today, form the center of an imperialist project. Imperialism is over. No nation will be world leader in the way modern European nations were.
  • The term "imperialism" is no more precise, and its overuse and recent abuse is making it nearly meaningless as an analytical concept...."imperialism" is "more often the name of the emotion that reacts to a series of events than a definition of the events themselves. Where Colonization finds analysts and analogies, imperialism must contend with crusaders for and against.
    • Professor Archibald Paton Thorton author of the book Doctorines of Imperialism as quoted in Benevolent Assimilation The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903, by Stuart Creighton Miller, (Yale University Press, 1982): page 3
  • For decades, the West tolerated large-scale suppression by certain regimes of their own ethnic minorities, such as the measures taken by the government of Saudi Arabia against the Shia population in the eastern provinces and the laws passed by the Turkish government of Saudi Arabia against the Kurds, prohibiting any activates which displayed any aspects of Kurdish national culture and forbidding the use of the Kurdish language in public. On numerous occasions the West looked the other way when large ethnic populations suffered aggression and genocide of the kind perpetuated by the Iraqi regime against the Kurds. During the Gulf War, Iraqi forces used chemical weapons against Kurdish guerillas with the full knowledge of Western diplomats who reported to their foreign ministers.
    In fact, the first proven use by Iraq of chemical weapons was reported as early as 1982, when they were used against Iranian troops on the Majnoon Islands in the southern marshes. But it was not until March 1988 that some politicians in the West decided to condemn the use of such weapons, and even then this was due to a coincidence rather than a planned policy. On 16th March 1988, only hours before Saddam Hussein gave his approval for the use of hydrogen cyanide and mustard gas against its seven thousand inhabitants, the Kurdish mountain village of Halabaja fell into Iranian hands. It was thus subsequently possible for the Iranians to fly Western television camera crews to the village and for the world to see the horrific effects of Iraqi genocide which had resulted in the deaths of over five thousand Kurds, mainly women and children.
    When Western interests were at stake, such behavior was met with only muted condemnation or was simply ignored. Maintenance of the status quo, as long as it was compatible with Western interests, was the main concern. This was the case with Iraq during the Gulf War, Israel in the occupied territories in Palestine and in Lebanon in 1978, 1981 and 1982, and Syria in Lebanon in 1976, 1988 and 1990.--Darwish, Adel and Alexander, Gregory "Unholy Babylon, The Secret History of Saddam's War" (Victor Gollenz Ltd London, 1991): page 74
  • Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or "disappeared", at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame.
  • (America) goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benign' sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of envy, and amibition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
  • I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.
  • To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
  • Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?
  • War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
    • Smedley Butler, two Congressional Medals of Honor, for capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 1914, and for capture of Ft. Riviere, Haiti, 1917, Distinguished Service Medal, 1919. Republican primary candidate for Senate, 1932. - I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. ... I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. in 'Common Sense', Nov., 1935.
  • The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.
    • John T. Flynn (1882-1964), conservative American writer, 1944
  • In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
  • The lack of objectivity, as far as foreign nations are concerned, is notorious. From one day to another, another nation is made out to be utterly depraved and fiendish, while one's own nation stands for everything that is good and noble. Every action of the enemy is judged by one standard - every action of oneself by another. Even good deeds by the enemy are considered a sign of particular devilishness, meant to deceive us and the world, while our bad deeds are necessary and justified by our noble goals which they serve.
  • The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this.
  • It is not our affluence, or our plumbing, or our clogged freeways that grip the imagination of others. Rather, it is the values upon which our system is built. These values imply our adherence not only to liberty and individual freedom, but also to international peace, law and order, and constructive social purpose. When we depart from these values, we do so at our peril.
  • The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy. - Alex Carey, Australian social scientist, 1995

See Also


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