I Dream of Empire

Empires have always inspired American imagination, for good and for ill.

Issue: Spring 2004

Empires have always inspired American imagination, for good and for ill. In the Star Wars saga, "the Empire" represented the forces of darkness and conformity, seeking to destroy all vestiges of individualism and creativity. Yet at the same time, the attractions of universality, of unity within diversity, of peace and security writ large, have also sung a siren's song.  Consider the wonderful scene in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), when representatives of all the nations under Roman tutelage arrive to pay homage to Marcus Aurelius (played by Alec Guiness, who later would take up the fight against the "Empire" as Obi-Wan Kenobi). Here, the message is that under Rome's rule of law, all people are equal in brotherhood and shared citizenship.

The plethora of books examining the themes of America as empire continues to expand, as successful hardcover books are re-issued in paperback form and new contenders enter the fray.

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