Empire lite

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Empire lite is a form of imperialism in which major powers shape world affairs using diplomacy and short-term military intervention rather than conquest, colonialism or direct governance of other countries. It differs from classical imperialism in two ways: it involves a much smaller commitment of resources, and it does not involve new settlement by the imperial power.

The term was first popularized by Canadian author Michael Ignatieff in his book Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (2003). Here and in other writings, Ignatieff identifies the author of empire lite as the United States, the world's last military superpower. The purpose of empire lite, Ignatieff believes, is to build a global "humanitarian empire" of free, self-governing countries through long-term nation building — including the use of military force — in failed or failing states.

Ignatieff supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 because he saw it as one such intervention, a step he later regretted.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  • Michael Ignatieff, Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (Penguin Canada, 2003).
  • Michael Ignatieff, "America's Empire is an Empire Lite," New York Times Magazine, Jan. 10, 2003. (Last accessed Aug. 7, 2006.)
  • Michael Ignatieff, "Getting Iraq Wrong" New York Times', August 5, 2007. (Last accessed Sep. 4, 2008.)