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World Association of International Studies

Post What Is Meant by the US "Empire"?
Created by John Eipper on 10/01/21 11:00 AM

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What Is Meant by the US "Empire"? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 10/01/21 11:00 am)

I have been following the WAIS debate that has arisen over the term Empire, which Eugenio Battaglia has repeatedly associated with the United States.

It seems to me that this difference of opinion is leading nowhere. Essentially because "empire" associates a concept of the historical past with a contemporary reality and it does not make much sense.

I understand that empires arose in the past through invasions and military conquests, or else through coalitions of monarchical powers. An "empire" today is not built on military action or political coalitions, nor is it necessarily exercised only through hegemony or dominance over internal or external politics. In that sense, the foreign policy of the USA, exercised through the influence of its supposed military power and control, its bases abroad and its political influence, has been rather clumsy and erratic, if not failed.

It seems to me that an "empire" in the modern sense is built on other combined vectors of influence and control--political, economic, cultural, or technological. There is no doubt that the US exercised these influencing factors quite effectively after the Second World War.  In that sense we could call the United States a modern empire, hegemonic and dominant at the same time around the world. This is nothing to be ashamed of for the sake of political correctness; on the contrary it has played a positive historical role in many ways.

China, the most likely candidate to succeed it, is still on the way to becoming an empire; Russia, it seems to me, has lost a lot of influence and will have a hard time regaining it, and Europe can hardly become an empire in the modern sense.

JE comments:  I see all sides here.  For Eugenio Battaglia, the US military bases in his native Italy have an imperial vibe to them.  That's what empires do:  occupy militarily, even if they are welcomed by the occupied peoples.

Ultimately, "empire" is a metaphor, but metaphors can have deep meaning.  I still prefer to talk about hegemons and spheres of influence.  

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  • On Empires and Fish: Both Smell (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/02/21 3:57 AM)
    John E mentioned the US military bases in Italy. The foreign military forces in any country are like fish. Eventually they begin to smell and are no longer welcomed.

    There have been US military forces with nuclear weapons in Italy since after WWII. Let's say that until 1991 they may have had a reason to stay. Afterwards this has not been the case, and do not believe that the average Italian welcomes them. Of course, some local suppliers of the GIs would like them to stay forever.

    I fully understand that you prefer to use the concept of hegemony and spheres of influence. Any good American rejects the idea that the US has become an Empire. Unfortunately, it is an empire run by the Deep State, not by the people, in spite of controversial, big-money dominated, elections.

    JE comments:  The ever-wise Margaret Eipper (Mom) always compares house guests with fish:  both smell very bad after three days.  Seventy-six years is a long, long time for a houseguest/house guest.  (One word or two?  The 'Net cannot make up its mind.)

    One constant of all US administrations has been their reluctance to re-think the foreign military bases.  Lots of bluster about "coming home" and putting more of the cost on the hosts, but little substantive change.  Does this fact give fuel to sundry Deep State theories?  Yet beyond the armaments industry, how does the DS supposedly benefit from foreign bases?

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