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
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
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
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
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
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
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
, 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
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
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
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.