||This article may contain original research. (February 2011)|
American imperialism is the economic, military, and cultural influence of the United States on other countries. The concept of an American Empire was first popularized during the presidency of James K. Polk who led the United States into the Mexican–American War of 1846, and the eventual annexation of California and other western territories via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden purchase.
Imperialism and empire
Thomas Jefferson, in the 1790s, awaited the fall of the Spanish empire until “our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece.” In turn, historian Sidney Lens notes that “the urge for expansion – at the expense of other peoples – goes back to the beginnings of the United States itself.”
Stuart Creighton Miller says that the public's sense of innocence about Realpolitik impairs popular recognition of U.S. imperial conduct. The resistance to actively occupying foreign territory has led to policies of exerting influence via other means, including governing other countries via surrogates, where domestically unpopular governments survive only through U.S. support.
The maximum geographical extension of American direct political and military control happened in the aftermath of World War II, in the period after the surrender and occupations of Germany and Austria in May and later Japan and Korea in September 1945 and before the independence of the Philippines in July 1946.
American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States occupies a special niche among the nations of the world in terms of its national credo, historical evolution, and political and religious institutions and origins.
Philosopher Douglas Kellner traces the identification of American exceptionalism as a distinct phenomenon back to 19th century French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, who concluded by agreeing that the U.S., uniquely, was "proceeding along a path to which no limit can be perceived."
American exceptionalism is popular among people within the U.S., but its validity and its consequences are disputed.
As a Monthly Review editorial opines on the phenomenon, "in Britain, empire was justified as a benevolent 'white man’s burden'. And in the United States, empire does not even exist; 'we' are merely protecting the causes of freedom, democracy, and justice worldwide."
Imperialism at the heart of U.S. foreign policy
Historian Donald W. Meinig says that imperial behavior for the United States dates at least to the Louisiana Purchase, which he describes as an "imperial acquisition – imperial in the sense of the aggressive encroachment of one people upon the territory of another, resulting in the subjugation of that people to alien rule." The U.S. policies towards the Native Americans he said were "designed to remold them into a people more appropriately conformed to imperial desires."
Writers and academics of the early 20th century, like Charles A. Beard, in support of non-interventionism (sometimes referred to in a derogatory manner as "isolationism"), discussed American policy as being driven by self-interested expansionism going back as far as the writing of the Constitution. Some politicians today do not agree. Pat Buchanan claims that the modern United States' drive to empire is "far removed from what the Founding Fathers had intended the young Republic to become."
Andrew Bacevich argues that the U.S. did not fundamentally change its foreign policy after the Cold War, and remains focused on an effort to expand its control across the world. As the surviving superpower at the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could focus its assets in new directions, the future being "up for grabs" according to former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz in 1991.
In Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, the political activist Noam Chomsky argues that exceptionalism and the denials of imperialism are the result of a systematic strategy of propaganda, to "manufacture opinion" as the process has long been described in other countries.
Views of American imperialism
Journalist Ashley Smith divides theories of the U.S. imperialism into 5 broad categories: (1) "liberal" theories, (2) "social-democratic" theories, (3) "Leninist" theories, (4) theories of "super-imperialism", and (5) "Hardt-and-Negri-ite" theories.[page needed] There is also a conservative, anti-interventionist view as expressed by American journalist John T. Flynn:
The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims, while incidentally capturing their markets; to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples, while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.
A "social-democratic" theory[attribution needed] says that imperialistic U.S. policies are the products of the excessive influence of certain sectors of U.S. business and government—the arms industry in alliance with military and political bureaucracies and sometimes other industries such as oil and finance, a combination often referred to as the "military–industrial complex". The complex is said to benefit from war profiteering and the looting of natural resources, often at the expense of the public interest. The proposed solution is typically unceasing popular vigilance in order to apply counter-pressure. Johnson holds a version of this view.
Alfred T. Mahan, who served as an officer in the U.S. Navy during the late 19th century, supported the notion of American imperialism in his 1890 book titled The Influence of Sea Power upon History. In chapter one Mahan argued that modern industrial nations must secure foreign markets for the purpose of exchanging goods and, consequently, they must maintain a maritime force that is capable of protecting these trade routes.[page needed] Mahan's argument provides a context that also justifies imperialism by industrial nations such as the United States.
A theory of "super-imperialism" says[attribution needed] that imperialistic U.S. policies are driven not simply by the interests of American businesses, but by the interests of the economic elites of a global alliance of developed countries. Capitalism in Europe, the U.S., and Japan has become too entangled, in this view, to permit military or geopolitical conflict between these countries, and the central conflict in modern imperialism is between the global core and the global periphery rather than between imperialist powers. Political scientists Leo Panitch and Samuel Gindin hold versions of this view. Lenin argued this view was wishful thinking.
In the book "Empire", Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that "the decline of Empire has begun". Hardt says the Iraq War is a classically imperialist war, and is the last gasp of a doomed strategy. This new era still has colonizing power, but it has moved from national military forces based on an economy of physical goods to networked biopower based on an informational and affective economy. The U.S. is central to the development and constitution of a new global regime of international power and sovereignty, termed Empire, but is decentralized and global, and not ruled by one sovereign state; "the United States does indeed occupy a privileged position in Empire, but this privilege derives not from its similarities to the old European imperialist powers, but from its differences." Hardt and Negri draw on the theories of Spinoza, Foucault, Deleuze, and Italian autonomist marxists.
Geographer David Harvey says there has emerged a new type of imperialism due to geographical distinctions as well as uneven levels of development. He says there has emerged three new global economic and politics blocs: the United States, the European Union, and Asia centered around China and Russia.[verification needed] He says there are tensions between the three major blocs over resources and economic power, citing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, whose goal was to prevent rivals from controlling oil. Furthermore, Harvey argues there can arise conflict within the major blocs between capitalists and politicians due to their opposing economic interests. Politicians, on the other hand, live in geographically fixed locations and are, in the U.S. and Europe, accountable to the electorate. The 'new' imperialism, then, has led to an alignment of the interests of capitalists and politicians in order to prevent the rise and expansion of possible economic and political rivals from challenging America's dominance.
Neoconservative Victor Davis Hanson dismisses the notion of an American empire altogether, mockingly comparing it to other empires: "We do not send out proconsuls to reside over client states, which in turn impose taxes on coerced subjects to pay for the legions. Instead, American bases are predicated on contractual obligations — costly to us and profitable to their hosts. We do not see any profits in Korea, but instead accept the risk of losing almost 40,000 of our youth to ensure that Kias can flood our shores and that shaggy students can protest outside our embassy in Seoul."
U.S. military bases
While territories such as Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico remain under U.S. control, the U.S. allowed many of its overseas territories or occupations to gain independence after World War II. Examples include the Philippines (1946), the Panama canal zone (1979), Palau (1981), the Federated States of Micronesia (1986), and the Marshall Islands (1986). Most of them still have U.S. bases within their territories. In the case of Okinawa, which came under U.S. administration after the battle of Okinawa during World War II, this happened despite local popular opinion. As of 2003, the United States had bases in over 36 countries worldwide.
Max Boot defends U.S. imperialism by claiming: "U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century. It has defeated communism and Nazism and has intervened against the Taliban and Serbian ethnic cleansing." Boot willingly used "imperialism" to describe United States policy, not only in the early 20th century but "since at least 1803".
Columnist Charles Krauthammer says, "People are now coming out of the closet on the word 'empire.'" This embrace of empire is made by many neoconservatives, including British historian Paul Johnson, and writers Dinesh D'Souza and Mark Steyn. It is also made by some liberal hawks, such as political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Michael Ignatieff.
For instance, British historian Niall Ferguson argues that the United States is an empire, but believes that this is a good thing. Ferguson has drawn parallels between the British Empire and the imperial role of the United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, though he describes the United States' political and social structures as more like those of the Roman Empire than of the British. Ferguson argues that all these empires have had both positive and negative aspects, but that the positive aspects of the U.S. empire will, if it learns from history and its mistakes, greatly outweigh its negative aspects.[page needed]
Another point of view believes United States expansion overseas has been imperialistic, but this imperialism as a temporary phenomenon, a corruption of American ideals or the relic of a past historical era. Historian Samuel Flagg Bemis argues that Spanish–American War expansionism was a short-lived imperialistic impulse and "a great aberration in American history", a very different form of territorial growth than that of earlier American history. Historian Walter LaFeber sees the Spanish–American War expansionism not as an aberration, but as a culmination of United States expansion westward. But both agree that the end of the occupation of the Philippines marked the end of U.S. empire, hence denying that present United States foreign policy is imperialistic.
Liberal internationalists argue that even though the present world order is dominated by the United States, the form taken by that dominance is not imperial. International relations scholar John Ikenberry argues that international institutions have taken the place of empire.
International relations scholar Joseph Nye argues that U.S. power is more and more based on "soft power", which comes from cultural hegemony rather than raw military or economic force. This includes such factors as the widespread desire to emigrate to the United States, the prestige and corresponding high proportion of foreign students at U.S. universities, and the spread of U.S. styles of popular music and cinema. Thus the U.S., no matter how hegemonic, can no longer be considered to be an 'empire' in the classic sense of the term.
Factors unique to the "Age of imperialism"
A variety of factors may have coincided during the "Age of Imperialism" in the late 19th century, when the United States and the other major powers rapidly expanded their territorial possessions. Some of these are explained, or used as examples for the various perceived forms of American imperialism.
- The prevalence of racism, notably Ernst Haeckel's "biogenic law," John Fiske's conception of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, and Josiah Strong's call to "civilize and Christianize" – all manifestations of a growing Social Darwinism and racism in some schools of American political thought.
- Early in his career, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish–American War and was an enthusiastic proponent of testing the U.S. military in battle, at one point stating "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one".
Debate over U.S. foreign policy
Some scholars defend the historical role of the U.S., and certain prominent political figures, such as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have argued that "[The U.S. does not] seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been."
Thorton wrote that "[...]imperialism is more often the name of the emotion that reacts to a series of events than a definition of the events themselves. Where colonization finds analysts and analogies, imperialism must contend with crusaders for and against." Political theorist Michael Walzer argues that the term hegemony is better than empire to describe the US's role in the world; political scientist Robert Keohane agrees saying, a "balanced and nuanced analysis is not aided...by the use of the phrase 'empire' to describe United States hegemony, since 'empire' obscures rather than illuminates the differences in form of rule between the United States and other Great Powers, such as Great Britain in the 19th century or the Soviet Union in the twentieth."
Other political scientists, such as Daniel Nexon and Thomas Wright, argue that neither term exclusively describes foreign relations of the United States. The U.S. can be, and has been, simultaneously an empire and a hegemonic power. They claim that the general trend in U.S. foreign relations has been away from imperial modes of control.
|“||[...], so influential has been the discourse insisting on American specialness, altruism and opportunity, that imperialism in the United States as a word or ideology has turned up only rarely and recently in accounts of the United States culture, politics and history. But the connection between imperial politics and culture in North America, and in particular in the United States, is astonishingly direct.||”|
International relations scholar David Rothkopf disagrees and argues that cultural imperialism is the innocent result of globalization, which allows access to numerous U.S. and Western ideas and products that many non-U.S. and non-Western consumers across the world voluntarily choose to consume. Matthew Fraser has a similar analysis, but argues further that the global cultural influence of the U.S. is a good thing.
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Notes and references
- George Thomas Kurian (1997). The encyclopedia of the Republican Party. Sharpe. pp. 91. ISBN 978-1-56324-729-3.
- However, regarding "American rule in Cuba", the 1898 Teller Amendment had mandated that the U.S. could not annex Cuba but only leave "control of the island to its people." After Spanish troops left the island in December 1898, the United States occupied Cuba until 1902 and, as promised in the Teller Amendment, did not attempt to annex the island. Under the Platt Amendment, crafted in 1901 by U.S. Secretary of War Elihu Root to replace the Teller Amendment, however, important decisions of the government of Cuba remained subject to override by the United States. This suzerainty bred resentment toward the U.S.
- Lens, Sidney; Zinn, Howard (2003) . The Forging of the American Empire. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 0-7453-2100-3.
- Field, James A., Jr. (June 1978). "American Imperialism: The Worst Chapter in Almost Any Book". The American Historical Review 83 (3): 644–668. doi:10.2307/1861842. JSTOR 1861842.
- Susan Welch; John Gruhl; Susan M. Rigdon; Sue Thomas (2011). Understanding American Government. Cengage Learning. pp. 583, 671 (note 3). ISBN 978-0-495-91050-3.
- Walter LaFeber (1993). Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-393-30964-5.
- Johnson, Chalmers, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000), pp.72–9
- Frederick Jackson Turner, "Significance of the Frontier", sagehistory.net (archived from the original on May 21, 2008).
- Kellner, Douglas (April 25, 2003). "American Exceptionalism". Archived from the original on February 17, 2006. Retrieved February 20, 2006.
- Edwords, Frederick (November/December 1987). "The religious character of American patriotism. It's time to recognize our traditions and answer some hard questions.". The Humanist (p. 20-24, 36).
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- Meinig, Donald W. (1993). The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2: Continental America, 1800–1867. Yale University Press. pp. 22–23, 170–196, 516–517. ISBN 0-300-05658-3.
- Buchanan, Pat (1999). A Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America's Destiny. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-272-X. p. 165.
- Bacevich, Andrew (2004). American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01375-1.
- ERIC SCHMITT, "Washington at Work; Ex-Cold Warrior Sees the Future as 'Up for Grabs'" The New York Times December 23, 1991.
- Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919–1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, 1939.
- Smith, Ashley (June 24, 2006). "The Classical Marxist Theory of Imperialism". Socialism 2006. Columbia University.
- Flynn, John T. (1944) As We Go Marching. p.240
- C. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War Three, Simon and Schuster, 1958, pp. 52, 111
- Flynn, John T. (1944) As We Go Marching.
- Alfred Thayer Mahan (1987). The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-25509-5.
- Leo Panitch, "What you need to know about May Day"
- Leo Panitch, "Whose Violence? Imperial State Security and the Global Justice Movement" Jan, 2005
- Leo Panitch, "Putting the U.S. Economic Crisis in Perspective" January 31, 2008
- Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, "The Current Crisis: A Socialist Perspective" September 30, 2008
- BRIAN JONES, "Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism" International Socialist Review Issue 44, November–December 2005
- Empire hits back. The Observer, July 15, 2001.
- Hardt, Michael (July 13, 2006). "From Imperialism to Empire". The Nation.
- Negri, Antonio; Hardt, Michael (2000). Empire. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00671-2. Retrieved October 8, 2009. p. xiii–xiv.
- Michael Hardt, Gilles Deleuze: an Apprenticeship in Philosophy, ISBN 0-8166-2161-6
- Harvey, David (2005). The new imperialism. Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-19-927808-4.
- Harvey 2005, p. 31.
- Harvey 2005, pp. 77–78.
- Harvey 2005, p. 187.
- Harvey 2005, pp. 76–78
- VDH's Private Papers::A Funny Sort of Empire
- America's Empire of Bases
- Pitts, Chip (November 8, 2006). "The Election on Empire". The National Interest. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
- Patrick Smith, Pay Attention to Okinawans and Close the U.S. Bases, International Herald Tribune (Opinion section), March 6, 1998.
- "Base Structure Report" (PDF). USA Department of Defense. 2003. Archived from the original on January 10, 2007. Retrieved January 23, 2007.
- American Imperialism? No Need to Run Away From the Label USA Today May 6, 2003
- Neither New nor Nefarious: The Liberal Empire Strikes Back Current History, Vol. 102 No. 66 November, 2003
- Heer, Jeet (March 23, 2003). "Operation Anglosphere". Boston Globe. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
- Ferguson, Niall (June 2, 2005). Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-101700-7.
- Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982). "Benevolent Assimilation" The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899–1903. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02697-8. p. 3.
- Lafeber, Walter (1975). The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860–1898. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9048-0.
- Hanson, Victor Davis (November 2002). "A Funny Sort of Empire". National Review. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
- Ikenberry, G. John (March/April 2004). "Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order". Foreign Affairs.
- Cf. Nye, Joseph Jr. 2005. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. Public Affairs. 208 pp.
- Thomas Friedman, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree", p. 381, and Manfred Steger, "Globalism: The New Market Ideology," and Jeff Faux, "Flat Note from the Pied Piper of Globalization," Dissent, Fall 2005, pp. 64–67.
- Brands, Henry William. (1997). T.R.: The Last Romantic. New York: Basic Books. Reprinted 2001, full biography OCLC 36954615, ch 12
- "April 16, 1897: T. Roosevelt Appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy". Crucible of Empire – Timeline. PBS Online. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
- "Transcript For "Crucible Of Empire"". Crucible of Empire – Timeline. PBS Online. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
- Tilchin, William N. Theodore Roosevelt and the British Empire: A Study in Presidential Statecraft (1997)
- See, for instance, Michael Mann (2005), Incoherent Empire (Verso); Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (2005), "The American Empire? Not so fast", World Policy, Volume XXII, No 1, Spring;
- Bookman, Jay (June 25, 2003). "Let's just say it's not an empire". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
- Thornton, Archibald Paton (September 1978). Imperialism in the Twentieth Century. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-24848-1.
- Walzer, Michael. "Is There an American Empire?". www.freeindiamedia.com. Archived from the original on October 21, 2006. Retrieved June 10, 2006.
- Keohane, Robert O. "The United States and the Postwar Order: Empire or Hegemony?" (Review of Geir Lundestad, The American Empire) Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 28, No. 4 (November , 1991), p. 435
- Nexon, Daniel and Wright, Thomas "What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate" American Political Science Review, Vol. 101, No. 2 (May 2007), p. 266-267
- Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism, speech at York University, Toronto, February 10, 1993. (archived from the original on October 13, 2007).
- Rothkopf, David In Praise of Cultural Imperialism? Foreign Policy, Number 107, Summer 1997, pp. 38-53
- Fraser, Matthew (2005). Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire. St. Martin's Press.
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