Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Is America an Empire?

An interesting question is, “Is America an Empire”? The question has implications for world stability and our own self-image. Generally, if you ask an American, we will quickly respond no. We tend to think of Empires, like The British, French, Spanish, Roman and Russian Empires of their time, as relics of a different era. They had physical colonies around the world. Some people know that the colony <-> home country trade was a way of extracting natural resources to the detriment of the colony. We believe in open trade, open communication, self-determination, and sanctity of international institutions. So we say no.

But if ask non-Americans you will get a different answer. Outside of America, the reach of our military and the domination of soft power (TV, movies, and fashion) has always been massive. But, they will also note, that America is losing power. Not only to others in terms of economic, military, and cultural power only to others (like China and the EU) but we are losing our own will to function as a major power. 

(more after jump)

So, what’s the deal?

Well American is an Empire, but a unique one that we created ourselves with our own rules. We don’t have great colonies anymore, we gave those we did have up - Guam, Puerto Rico and American Samoa have all voted to stay in the US. 

BUT, we do have a huge military and more bases overseas than anyone in history. So, while we do not claim territory, we do claim the right to invade / fight terrorism / support our allies when trouble arises. Why do we do this?

You can select it to get a bigger image. Suffice it to say, we have a ton of bases on every continent - yes including 1 in Antarctica.

Our stated reasons

  • To protect the “homeland” from terrorism. This is a pretty lose catch all that allows us to bomb people in Yemen, Somalia, Niger, Pakistan, and others.
  • To protect the homeland from Communism. This should be obsolete, but it isn’t. Our communist enemies now are limited to China, North Korea and Cuba, but we still keep troops in place for this reason.
  • To protect our allies from more powerful forces. Some of our allies are, and many more were, subject to threats by more powerful neighbors. Such diverse places as West Germany (still home to hundreds of military bases), Taiwan, Diego Garcia, Kuwait, Turkey ,Greece and Thailand, to name a few.
  • To protect major commercial navigation: Strait of Hormuz, South China Sea, Singapore and the North Sea.

Our unstated reasons:

  • To protect American Business, American employees and market access which have spread around the world. Our Embassies and Consulates are the first line of support. But the tacit understanding that fucking with our citizens might bring the wrath of the US down on them is another reason for our bases.

These various reasons, alone, do not an Empire make. Combined however, it is hard to see much of a difference.

Well, that is the military side. What about the colony side of this? We don’t take colonies.

Yes. And no. While it is true that we don’t take the land of people, they do have to bend to our will regarding trade. We set up the WTO (the World Trade Organization) to help “streamline” world trade. Usually to the US rules and regulations.

And, if a country needs a loan, they must apply to the institutions we created, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These institutions were set up by “the west” but again, they use US (and British) rules to manage money. And, if you want a loan from the IMF, or either body to wave loan or loan fees, you must follow our advice. 

If you don’t believe me, look at Eastern Europe (like Poland). After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, they turned to the west for advice and economic support. The condition was they must immediately privatize their companies (called a Big Bang). The had to set up banking under international rules. Privatization threw many of these populations into chaos. It wasn’t the only way. West Germany integrated East Germany with the immediate privatization. While some countries (cough, Russia, cough) used privatization cover to give Putin’s allies corporations and media.

So International Economic Rules are a place where America acts like an Empire.

And we can do this because of our economic power - which is relatively waning. That is, our economy is as strong as ever, but other countries are growing faster from a lower base. And this is great. This is what we designed the system for. Therefore, even if it is unnerving, it was one of the US’ projects.

Our biggest “Imperial” power is the US Dollar. Most international trade runs through the United States, simply because everyone uses dollars to settle international accounts. When a country like Portugal buys or sells something from Brazil or China, they don’t want to use local Reals or Yen. They use dollars to settle the accounts. That is one reason why we can run a deficit cheaply. It is also why raising the debt ceiling is so important. If the US Dollar appears, even monetarily, possible to default, then world trade is kind of screwed. And, the US will not be able to afford its own debt.

So, are we an Empire? 

Yes. We have been an empire since the end of World War II. We forced other countries to give up their colonies (via the UN, another institution planned by America and the United Kingdom). Are we a more benevolent type of Empire? I would say yes, albeit one that has a very hard time changing in response to a different world.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wells Cathedral

 While in England, we visited Wells Cathedral. It is a famous Cathedral in England and was the seat of Catholic Bishops, then the Church of ...