An Empire, If You Can Keep It

An empire is functionally distinct from a mere great power. If the United States adopts an imperial vocation, it will need to learn new ways to manage its national security challenges.

Issue: Spring 2003

Without too much difficulty, an interested reader can in these early months of 2003 find numerous references to contemporary American imperialism in newspapers and journals of opinion. Attacks on American imperialism were, of course, easy to find in the 1960s and 1970s. What is new is that many such references are neither hostile nor apologetic. Writers from the political Left and Right such as Michael Ignatieff, Paul Kennedy, Max Boot and Tom Donnelly not only discuss American imperialism but call for more of it in the name of humanitarian nation-building or global stability. Moreover, what is being discussed is not simply the reach and influence of American capitalism or culture, but the harder kind of imperialism-the kind exercised by coercive intimidation and actual soldiers on the ground.

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