America the beautiful, and powerful
Empire has become something of a buzz word that divides two factions. There are people who accuse the U.S. of empire building; this group is generally against Bush’s foreign policy. Then there are those who will adamantly testify that the U.S. is not trying to building an empire; they generally are supportive of the president’s foreign policy.
We do not rule directly over other nations. However, America’s ability to influence other nations, a $9.7 trillion GNP, a leader in technology, a cultural icon, and an uncontested military. It would appear that in the dawn of the age of information, the U.S. has already achieved the status of an empire.
The United States emerged from World War II with the most widespread system of military bases the world has known. Post WWII, the U.S. had 1,100 oversea bases. The number of military installations has fluctuated over the last 50 years and settled around 800 in 1988. The Department of Defense reported in the 2001 “Base Structure Report” that there are 60 countries in which the U.S. has FOLs (forward operating location).
Currently, the U.S. defense budget is in the ballpark of $399 billion. This helps fund the 255,000 peacetime troops that are stationed abroad. This force does not passively sit around. The Defense Department estimated that on any day, prior to 9-11, about 60,000 U.S. troops were involved in temporary operations in some 100 countries. A web of military might so powerful with such a global reach, would have made the likes of Alexander the Great envious.
Despite our military might, the tactics of expanding an empire have become as polite and conscience as the politically correct society it promotes. Rather then the barbaric methods of burning and looting, pillaging and raping, the U.S. has evolved to more gentlemen-like methods of gaining allies and the art of persuasion. Aid packages, military hardware at a good price, trade agreements and other you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours methods have contributed to the U.S. reaching the top of the food chain. Through refined methods of persuasion, it is possible to strengthen the empire’s global influence and ultimately their power.
Lessons of past empires have been learned: From the British, we’ve learned that colonization is unpopular, resource intensive and a culturally intrusive means of gaining global leverage. From the Romans, that expanding the physical size of the empire and to maintain such a large state only weakens the central command and is taxing on resources.
The American empire is not interested in acquiring land. Modernday empire building is not concerned with physical size, but in securing national interests and promoting ideologies. For the aspiring empire in the age of information, strategic alliances and savvy business deals are far more beneficial then attempting to push its borders into its neighbors.
In many countries, economic mobility is still limited to sideways, women’s rights are still in the dark ages, and tyrants still rule with an iron fist. As the U.S. power binge rolls on, America attempts to correct some of the injustices. However, as we continue to force our will upon other nations, how will our heavy handed methods be remembered in the future? What will the legacy of the United States be?
Will we be remembered as an empire with a self-serving agenda and a tremendous appetite for things that go bang? Or a country that promoted freedom, contributed major advancements in science and technology, and ultimately made the world a better place?
It is not for me or pundits to decide. History will ultimately cast the vote that will determine the legacy of America.