Thursday, December 08, 2005

The question of empire

I'm reading American Empire right now. This book is not to be confused with the hard left American Empire Project series of books. It is actually written from a conservative perspective that questions the predominant narrative about American power. The standard line is that the US was only reluctantly brought into global leadership and stumbled into it in the post-Cold War world. Bacevich argues that the US has actively sought global dominance since at least Wilson and has developed institutions, both national and international, to support that goal.

I'm not done with the book and I am not sure how I feel about it. I agree that on a number of issues the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations are similar, most importantly on American dominance. The means differ greatly though. I also dislike the use of the word empire. That is such a loaded and imprecise word. The American system is quite different from the British, Russian, Chinese or Roman models and may be something else entirely. So far, the most valuable question the books asks is whether the world really needs American involvement and whether that involvement can ever be anything other than intrusive.

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