It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.

 

Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.

 

How old is the American Empire?

page: 2
0
<< 1   >>

log in

join
share:

posted on Feb, 24 2006 @ 11:16 AM
link   

Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
Whether those facts fit the word "empire" is a matter of definition, and that is a function of will and choice, not subjective perception.

There is no such thing as an 'empire' out there. Its allways a subjective determination. Roman under Augustus is an empire, because we deem it so. But Rome under Sulla wasn't an empire, but wasn't substatively and objectively different from Rome under Augustus. And Athens is sometimes refered to as having had an Empire, yet that was an entirely different animal from Rome.


It is a fact that the U.S. exerts great power in the world for the benefit of its ruling elite, p

No, thats not a fact. You are adding a layer of interpretation. Its not an objective fact that US power is weilded for the benefit of 'the elite', which is another subjective grouping that has to be determined, some would include the rich, others only the powerful, and others would exclude different classes of business leaders from 'the elite', etc.


It is a fact that, since World War II, the U.S. has maintained the strongest military force in the world, far, far stronger than would be justified by any reasonable defensive calculations.

Again, no, not a fact. The US has a powerful military, including the nukes. But more than is necessary for defense??? Thats not an objective matter or a factual determination, there's no way to know what it would have to defend against. Also, the Soviet Military was far larger than the US military, and thats a single country. So how can the US miliatry, being smaller than the Soviet one, possibly be far too large than is 'reasonable'???

None of the stuff you mention later on has anything to do with a reasonable definition of Empire. You seem to merely be saying that Empire is 'anything that is strong'. Thats not a good definition of Empire. The United States doesn't invade, conquer, and incorporate other nations (not anymore, it did so in the 'westward expansion, and it did so in the epxeriences with the spanish empire, but that stopped). Iraq isn't a part of the US, anymore than Germany and Japan and Italy are. True, these nations are dominated by the US, and they are heavily influenced by the US. But that alone doesn't meet a good definition of Empire.


The Roman Republic was an empire.

Why? It had representation and the various cities that were incoporated into it and allied with it were involved in their governance also.

whereas after Augustus it became an empire governed by a constitutional monarch

Augustus wasn't limited by legal powers. He was an autocrat, his rule stemmed from himself, he took and held onto power, and cloaked it in constitional drapery.

Even by your definition, restricted to outright occupation and official provinces, most of the Roman Empire was conquered under the Republic, not the Imperium.

Exactly. We can look at the Republic and say 'it was acting as an empire". So what does it really matter if we can say 'the US is an Empire'? The US doesn't realted to Iraq or Germany in anythign like the same way that Rome under Augustus related to Spain. So America can't really be said to be an Empire. We can talk about the ways in which it behaves that are imperial, but why get hung up over the label 'empire'? Especially when, in the end, the US doesn't maintain an empire, the citizens of the US are living under a representative republic as a federation of states and territories, and their military occupies various lands beyond them. But the US doesn't collect taxes from germany, or have a draft in effect in Japan. Under any actual Empire, like Rome or the Khanate or the British Empire, the occupied were citizens of the empire, with duties and responsibilities and privileges. Not so with American occupation.

Germany and Japan are not part of the American empire because they have sufficient economic and diplomatic clout to escape domination

But if there was an American Empire then there wouldnt' be any such possiblity. Gaul can't get wealthy and thus influence the City of Rome. The City will just phyiscally take the money, it will ride roughshod over the province with taxes and duties so that its immpossible for wealth to accumulate in it. With US occupation, its just that, military occupation, not imperial domination. As far as other countries not being wealthy and falling under american influence because of that, well, so what? I mean, America is the only global superpower, therefore, all nations in the world have to relate to the US on an international level. But the US isn't in control of the world, and thus some countries which the US relates with will, of their own, or at least accorinding to the global economy, become wealthy, and others will become poor. Some will become strong, and others weak. But it isn't happening because of the decree of the US government. Ethiopia isn't poor because the US government taxes it so heavily. Somalia isn't going through a famine because americans are shipping food out of somalia and into DC or something.

The British did not colonize India, yet India was certainly part of the British Empire.

The british injected their population into the provinces everywhere they went. In america, it meant building a city. In india or afghanistan, it meant sending anglos to living in their cities, to administer the local governments, spread and maintain british law and culture, and run the british economy. Not so with the US. True enough, L. Paul Bremmer could've been seen as the provincal governor of Iraq, except that there wasn't even the hint of permanence in his postition, and currently, there is no one occupying that position, indeed, the position doens't even exist.


An empire is a relationship among nations in which a dominant country dictates policy to weaker ones

Thats one definition of an empire. Another is a state that spreads its direct rule via military conquest. Another is a collection of states dominated by a hegemon. As noted before, there is no 'objective' thing as an empire. We can pick up a rock and say 'this is, objectively, a rock'. We can't say 'this is an empire, anything with these criteria and only things with these criteria are empires'.
What countries does the US dictate policy to? Germany? But they didn't agree with the US position on Iraq and haven't helped out in that occupation. If Bush was global emperor, then he'd sign a paper to draft a few million germans into an army and ship them off to Iraq. Thats policy through dictation. The US was strong enough to not have to listen to other nations dictates, with respect to not having an Iraq War, but why is that imperial? Unilateral, yes, but Imperial? Its a measure of independence, not their ability to rule other nations.

To call Israel an empire requires that we see her as dictating policy to weaker countries. I don't see Israel doing that, do you?

Israel dictates to the Palestinian government whether or not it can even exist. It withdraws from the sinai and golan heights at its leisure, and it informs other countries about whether or not they can have nuke plants or troops near their borders. It can certainly be seen as imperial in many respects. I wouldn't say its an empire though, anymore than I would say that the US is an empire.

Actually the Roman Empire was also defeated from without.

The reasons for the fall of the roman empire as as debatable as the definition of empire!


We're a good deal more like Great Britain than we are like the Soviet Union

Its in these ways that I think the idea is best considered. Rather than say 'is the US an empire", which is essentially an empty question anyway, to look at how the US relates to other countries. There isn't going to be one way in which they inter-relate, like with Rome (either you're in rome or you're a barbarian (more or less)).
The british empire was so successful in large part because it spread this idea of 'britishness', and with its empire came lots of privileges and protections. Consider, for example, South Africa. The british were motivated by the desire to maintain imperial domination in the south of africa, but also to no small degree by their ideals, that the native blacks shouldn't be made into slaves by the boers and mistreated by them, and that they, as humans, deserved a certian measure of humanity. And from that we get the south african war and ultimately the british colony of south africa. Or look at india. The british brought western law and governmental administration and trade methods to india, and also built a fine infrastructure of rails and roads through out the country. They didn't just come in and say 'give us this much gold and let our ships pass by unharrased or we'll blow yer heads off'. They maintained their dominance through other non-militaristic means (with, of course, the threat of military action allways present. Though, if you think about it, one tiny island of only a few million people in total, england, ruling over a 1/4 of the globe, its going to require more than muscle, cause there ain't enough people in england to do it purely militaristically).
So, in relation to the US, the US can sustain its 'empire' by doing many of the same things. And in that case, it can 'hold on to it', or maintain the status quo, as long as it wants really, because the british only gave up their empire when it became too distasteful for them and too much of a hassle.
But, on the other hand, Britain also 'just happened' to loose its empire after a series of bitterly destructive world wars and some degree of econimic collapse. The US, in this sense, is more like rome, in that, there is no competition. The british empire had to deal with the spanish empire, the german empire, the russian, even the french, empires, and the rising american 'empire'. Rome only had two problems, externally, Parthia and german barbarians. When rome would suffer a 'defeat' at the hands of the parthians, it would mean loosing what they had previously gained, or perhaps not having their favoured regent on the armenian throne. But when the British would loose against their enemies, hell when they'd win, it'd be at the cost of huge losses of people and industry. Just look at the city of Rome after a loss to the parthians, or after a barbarian raid in gaul, compared to London after winning WWII!
Its difficult to see anything like that happening to the US, to actual devastation being brought down upon the masses of the US. So, potentially, that in combination with american 'empire' being supported by 'british like' culture and legal spread, might potentially last for a very very long time.

There are many countries in the world that are not empires, nor being dominated by the United States

If the US is the sole global-super-hyper-uber-power, able to dictate policy at will, then how can there be any countries that are not part of its empire without also being empires in and of themselves, standing in local opposition to the US empire?


We cannot dominate and exploit India, say, the way we do Guatemala. We are stronger than India, but not enough stronger that India can't hold her own, or at least not without a greater sacrifice than we are willing to make.

BUt this is the problem. The US dominates very small and very weak countries merely by virtue of it being so incredibly powerful, that none of those small countries would oppose it. Thats not empire, thats just incredible strength and influence. Most countries have some set of countries that are much weaker and more suseptible to their influence. Its the mode of influence (and also, if you think about it, how exclusive it is), that would determine 'how imperial' that relationship is. If one country was to have occupying troops in another and demmand that, say, a particular tribute was paid, or else the garrisoned troops would attack the other countries government offices, that'd be pretty imperial. But this isn't what the US does. There's allways this 'background threat' of military action, but its not actually used to reinforce US demands. THe US, for example, wants less interference from China in latin america and more openness in terms of latin american protective tarrifs on trade goods. It doesn't actually manage to get this, even though its military abilities blow latin america out of the water. It has to work with them.

The Constitution gives Congress the authority over whether or not we go to war, but in practice, that authority has moved to the White House. The Founding Fathers warned against entangling alliances and standing armies, but we now maintain massive versions of both.

True enough. All problems. Then again, if the US is an empire, then the wisdom of the founders doesn't apply, as they were talking about a small federal collection of new and weak republics. Washington feared that the states would get subsumed in foreign alliances and be taken advantage of, made to act against their own interests, but, especially if the US is an empire, thats not happening anytime soon.



Senators were not allowed to have private armies. That is not true. Also, only two men in the entire history of the Republic ever marched on Rome and made themselves dictator: Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Gaius Julius Caesar

Both at the heads of their private armies, armies that were loyal to them, not to the Republic.

Also, in order to get the troops he needed to defeat the Germans, Marius himself set aside certain other traditions. He recruited legions from the urban poor, rather than the small farmers. This was militarily necessary, but it also created a class of professional soldiers, which Rome had never possessed before.

Indeed, and this newness of the experience and the reliance of the payment of these troops upon the purse of the wealthy aristocrat that managed to lead them was the biggest threat to the old order. It was this that permited people like sulla to come to command, and it was these sorts of struggles that made people like caesar, pompey, and crassus to form their 'triple alliance' their triumvirate, to balance out their respective powers, to form, as it were, a check on one another, and to broaden the power of all three, (pompey having the support of his powerful legions, crassus the money, and caesar the political cash with the plebs). This solution, co-ordinating power, was against the problem, the unrestricted (or at least difficult to restrict) power of the senators at the heads of legions loyal only to them.

became Dictator (which was an actual office of the Republic)

It is interesting how such a dirty little word today had such a mundane meaning origianlly. Sort of like how a 'tyrant' amoung the greek city-states was really just the one guy who managed to overthrown the despotic and corrupt oligarchs that had been abusing the city. Likewise, a 'dictator' seems to draw his power from his ability to, perhaps, literally 'dictate' laws to the republic, like a boss dictating a memo to his secretary.

. It was also due to his opponents being able to manipulate the Senate and the courts to force him into trial on trumped-up charges and send him into permanent exile

True enough, but this only represented an emergency that threatened the state itself because of Caesar's loyal legions and Pompey's loyal legions. What in the past would've been legal and social manuvouring by rich senators now had become dangerous and society threatening warfare between armies.

Everything in Caesar's life, except the crossing of the Rubicon itself, indicates that he was dedicated to the idea of the Republic and had no intention of destroying it, but destroy it he did.

You might like Parenti' "The Assasination of Julius Caesar, a people's history", which looks upon Caesar very much in the grain of the Gracchi.

People became resigned to the idea of despotic government because the despot was benign[/quoite]
And, importantly, because of the cruel history of civil/social wars. Without the disasterous rule of marius, sulla, and the destructive worldwide wars between caesar and pompey, and later octavian and the conspirators, and then octavian and mark anthony, the people would've never accepted this kingship-except-in-name rule of augustus. "Marius's mules" and his reforms to the army were what permited the republic to survive on the one hand, but at the same time they were the seeds of its doom.




posted on Feb, 24 2006 @ 11:54 AM
link   

Originally posted by rich23
And an earlier poster suggested that the British Empire lasted until World War II. This is true, but it didn't just 'disappear': it was dismembered by the US. Trading agreements between the UK and the commonwealth were dismantled during the negotiations for Marshall Plan aid, giving the US the chance to sweep up those portions of Central America and the Caribbean that had been under British control.


umm, no! - fighting 2 world wars from start to finish broke britains back - FINANCIALLY and after that we could no longer hold onto the 'empire!!'

but you've got to also look, during WW1 there was just 2 'superpowers' (germany was classed as a superpower) and britain with its 'empire' - the 1st world war sucess was mainly due to britains 'empire' status (and after WW1 the empire was at it stongest since the 15th century)!!


during WW2, 5 countrys now had 'superpower status'

1) again britain with its 'empire'
2) germany built back-up and was now classed as a 'superpower' AGAIN
3) russia had superpower status
4) and the US was a superpower (but was a neutral at the beginning of the war)
5) japan was also a superpower.

after the war, all europe was battered FINANCIALLY - yet the US never really felt the full effects of world war 2 'financially' because they wasn't there from the beginning and america only got hit once during pearl arbour (due to the distance).

therefor after WW2, the US remained the only 'superpower' out of all these countrys (and still do to this day)!!

russia got back on its feet again, but they destroyed themselfs AGAIN during the cold war


so i don't agree with what you said mate, maybe you are right (deals was made), but the US never 'dismantled' the british empire (as you said).

fighting 2 world wars from start to finish did that for us


(do a search on google about 'the rise and fall of powers WW2')


[edit on 24-2-2006 by st3ve_o]



posted on Feb, 26 2006 @ 11:24 AM
link   

Originally posted by Nygdan
There is no such thing as an 'empire' out there. Its allways a subjective determination.


No, it's not subjective. Once we agree on a definition, then determining what is or is not an empire is objective. All we're arguing about is the definition here, and if you want to define "empire" in such a way that the U.S. doesn't have one, I'm cool with that -- as long as we recognize the objective nature of what it does have. Call it something else. Call it a "sphere of domination" or a "sphere of exploitation" or a "sphere of overwhelming influence." That's fine. I personally think "empire" is a good word for it, but no worries.



Roman under Augustus is an empire, because we deem it so. But Rome under Sulla wasn't an empire


Yes, it was. Every bit as much an empire as Rome under Augustus. You're getting confused here because the term "Roman Empire" means two different things. On the one hand, it means the same sort of thing as "British Empire" or "Ottoman Empire," a sphere of domination/exploitation/overwhelming influence centered on Rome. On the other hand, it's a proper name for the form of government this empire experienced after the Republic died. The Roman Empire in the first sense existed long before the Roman Empire in the second sense.



Its not an objective fact that US power is weilded for the benefit of 'the elite'


Well, it's an objective fact that the elite (by which I mean the enormously wealthy who make most of their money off investments rather than labor) are the ones who benefit from U.S. power, while the rest of us pay the price. I suppose I am making an assumption that this is deliberate rather than accidental, but I consider that a pretty reasonable assumption.



Again, no, not a fact. The US has a powerful military, including the nukes. But more than is necessary for defense??? Thats not an objective matter or a factual determination, there's no way to know what it would have to defend against.


The Pentagon disagrees with you, and they're the experts. To defend the country, you have to have a military force capable of defeating any likely (not "conceivably possible if the entire world gangs up on us") assault. Having such a force usually deters the assault from being attempted. A defensive military force will be designed for this and only this purpose; an aggressive or imperial force is designed for the purpose of projecting national power abroad.

If you wish to determine which type of military force we have, I suggest that you read the current National Security Strategy, issued in 2002. It's long and somewhat dry, but the overall concept of a force designed for projecting national power abroad, i.e., of an imperial military, is clear.



Also, the Soviet Military was far larger than the US military, and thats a single country.


No, it was not. The Red Army was larger in manpower than the U.S. Army (although not necessarily stronger in effectiveness), but our Navy and Air Force were both larger and more advanced than that of the Soviet Union. The general consensus among military experts throughout the years of the Cold War was that the U.S. military was stronger than the Soviet military. Only politicians occasionally said otherwise, and then only to scare people into voting for them.

(And, just in case we get diverted here, I'll say up front that pols of both parties did it. Kennedy's "missile gap" comes to mind.)



You seem to merely be saying that Empire is 'anything that is strong'.


If that's what you think I was saying, then I suggest you re-read what I said. I think it's clear that the concept of "empire" requires, not only strength, but also a willingness to use that strength to dominate other nations.



The United States doesn't invade, conquer, and incorporate other nations


No, we've become smarter and subtler. Instead, we invade, conquer, and set up native puppet governments. That way, people like you, who are motivated to believe that we have no empire, find themselves in a position of plausible deniability. The end result is the same, however.



True, these nations are dominated by the US, and they are heavily influenced by the US. But that alone doesn't meet a good definition of Empire.


As I said, if you prefer to use another word or phrase for what we have going, I'm cool with that. Just as long as we agree on the facts.



The US doesn't realted to Iraq or Germany in anythign like the same way that Rome under Augustus related to Spain.


Since you used "or," not "and," I disagree. The U.S. relates to Iraq much the same way that Rome under Augustus related to Spain (even more like the Republic related to Spain, which was similarly restive and rebellious). However, that is not the case with Germany, which is not part of our empire.



Especially when, in the end, the US doesn't maintain an empire, the citizens of the US are living under a representative republic


But weren't the people of England living under (in effect) a representative republic during the reign of Queen Victoria? OK, technically Britain isn't a republic because they do have a monarch, but the real power lies with the House of Commons, and that makes Great Britain a de facto republic. Yet the reign of Queen Victoria is generally regarded as the height of the British Empire.



But the US doesn't collect taxes from germany, or have a draft in effect in Japan.


Neither of those countries is part of our empire. However, we do in effect collect tributes from Latin America, in the form of cheap oil, cheap produce, and cheap labor. If we don't directly tax the people of those countries, the accounting still works out to favor our own ruling class at those people's expense.




Germany and Japan are not part of the American empire because they have sufficient economic and diplomatic clout to escape domination

But if there was an American Empire then there wouldnt' be any such possiblity.


Nonsense. I didn't say that the American Empire ruled the whole friggin' world. We don't. Nor did I say, and I'm sorry if you think I implied, that our empire is, as empires go, especially bad. It's not. There's no such thing as a good empire, really, and ours is bad because it's an empire and that's a given, but compared to a lot of other empires in history it's not all THAT bad.

So having an empire, and having reasonably honorable motives in our occupation of Germany and Japan after WWII (i.e., intending for those countries to end up as independent nations not satellites), are not mutually exclusive. I personally believe that what we did in Europe after the war is a high point in American history, very much showing our good side. But that doesn't change the fact that we have an empire.

Or a sphere of domination/exploitation/overwhelming influence, if you prefer.



Israel dictates to the Palestinian government whether or not it can even exist.


You're right. That means that Israel does, technically, own an empire, but that empire is limited to Palestine.



But, on the other hand, Britain also 'just happened' to loose its empire after a series of bitterly destructive world wars and some degree of econimic collapse.


Ah, now we return to the thread topic. How did the British Empire actually fall? That's probably more pertinent to the question of our own future than what happened to the Romans.

We can date the British Empire's beginning from the reign of Elizabeth I, when the first British colonies in the New World were established in the 1580s. Britain's dominance in world affairs dates from a little later than that, from the destruction of the Spanish Armada. And we can say that it ended (or at least shrank to insignificance) with the independence of India in 1947. That's a span of almost 400 years. During that time, many changes occurred.

You referred to world wars and economic distress. But Britain went through many, many economic downturns during those 400 years without losing her empire, and also went through four great wars during those years but prior to 1914. Those were:

1. The war of the Spanish Armada
2. The Seven Years War, 1756-1763
3. The American Revolution and war with France, 1775-1783
4. The wars with Republican France and Napoleon, 1795-1815

Note that during the latter half of the 18th and early years of the 19th century, the British Empire was almost constantly at war. Yet her power did nothing but grow. Her net power even grew after the American Revolution, despite the loss of the American colonies, because of the improved position she enjoyed with respect to France afterwards; it was during this period of protracted war that Britain acquired Canada and India, which more than compensated for the loss of America.

So the question is this. Why did World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II mean the end of the British Empire, when prior great wars and depressions only saw it become stronger?

There are a number of possible explanations, but my own belief is that the signal difference between Britain in the 1580s and Britain in the 1940s is that the former was not a democracy and the latter was one. And democracy and empire do not mix. Empire does not benefit the imperial nation as a whole. It benefits the imperial nation's ruling elite, ultimately at the expense of its common people. When the common people have no voice in government, empire can be maintained. But under a democracy, the people have to be fooled into supporting it, and that cannot be continued indefinitely.

And that is why I believe the American Empire is not going to last all that long. I do not believe the American people will allow it to do so. For a while, as long as most of us can be kept afraid of "communism" or "terrorism" or whatever turnip ghost, it can limp along. But the tide of public opinion is already turning against the war in Iraq, and that will make it increasingly difficult to engage in other similar adventures.

At any rate, I sincerely hope I'm right. Because indeed, democracy and empire don't mix. And so if we do remain an empire, we shall not remain a democracy.



If the US is the sole global-super-hyper-uber-power, able to dictate policy at will, then how can there be any countries that are not part of its empire without also being empires in and of themselves, standing in local opposition to the US empire?


No matter how large or strong a country is, if everyone in that country considers him/herself a citizen and/or an ethnic member of the nationality, it is not an empire. India is not an empire, because all of its huge population sees itself as Indian. China is an empire, because it rules Tibet, and Tibetans don't see themselves as Chinese, but the vast majority of people who live under Chinese domination do see themselves as Chinese. So even without its little empire, China would be too strong for the U.S. to totally dominate.

The U.S. has an empire, and is the greatest world power today. But there are limits to our power.



BUt this is the problem. The US dominates very small and very weak countries merely by virtue of it being so incredibly powerful, that none of those small countries would oppose it.


You seem to suggest that this happens without us doing anything to make it happen, just because we're there. This is not the case. We have a long history in Latin America of dictating what governments can exist there. When one does oppose us, we use covert action teams or economic pressure or, as a last resort, outright military invasion to overthrow them. That process is currently in the works w/r/t Venezuela, you can be sure. We haven't invaded yet, so less drastic measures have probably not been abandoned. If we never do invade, and if Venezuela continues its opposition, that will be a sign that the empire is truly crumbling. It will encourage other Latin American countries to follow suit.



Then again, if the US is an empire, then the wisdom of the founders doesn't apply.


That is exactly what I'm worried about.

I'm going to skip the discussion on Rome, as this post is already growing very long. I believe there is a thread on the Historical Discourse subforum called "Ave Rome," if you want to cut/paste and move it there, I'll join you.

[edit on 26-2-2006 by Two Steps Forward]



new topics
 
0
<< 1   >>

log in

join