It’s all just a little bit of history repeating. As the rest of the world’s technology catches up, and the exclusivity of information and knowledge becomes a thing of the past, the US Empire, much like its predecessors, is seeing the beginning of its regression.
“Empire” isn’t a term that is used often in political discourse in the US. It has been given a sort of taboo connotation, congruent with oppression, exploitation, and melancholy British men in Burma who drink tonic in social clubs. But much like anything else, the idea of what it means to be an empire evolves, and the US is most certainly the modern manifestation of the term.
There are many different ways to define an empire. Geo-politically, empires take form in many different extremes. From large conquering military and religious states, to those that simply want to do business, empires have sprung up and much more importantly recoiled, since the beginning of civilized society. Why should we think the current US Empire will be any different?
Some might argue that the US is NOT an empire, and therefore immune to any sort of “collapse” or regression like empires of the past. But just because the term isn’t used as freely as say, the British, whose colloquial motto actually included the term: “The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire” doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable. Can anyone guess what the sun never sets on today? Many things of course, including some multi-national corporations, but in terms of state power symbols, particularly in the context of military might, it is the US Navy. No other maritime military force even comes close.
The objective truth of the matter is that since WWII, and in many instances before then, the United States has systematically and progressively extended its sphere of influence outwards into other countries. From Puerto Rico to the Philippines, and now bases on sovereign, foreign state soil like Germany and Turkey, coupled with two urban wars fighting insurgents (not standing military), with a handful of peripheral “conflicts” where our robots just do the killing for us, we would be hard pressed to NOT call ourselves an empire at this point, and that’s just the military aspect. US Imperialism brings economic mobility for developing regions, aid and care in times of disaster, and, of course, our finest export, the great ideal we somehow continuously choose to defend with tank and bomb offensives, democracy!
The United States congruently has a very large economic empire as well. Say what you will about the sovereignty that the developed Arab world enjoys today, but the lines on their maps and the infrastructure for their most precious resource and most profitable export was all implemented by the United States (with some help from the UK). So, does it surprise anyone that since the establishment of “The Kingdom”, the United States has in, some way, shape, or form, been involved either diplomatically, clandestinely, or militarily in the Middle East? Heck, we even established a monarchy in Iran before it crumbled to extremist theological revolution. But not all of our economic imperialism has enriched our “subjects”, just take a look at the history of clandestine operations in South America, which aimed to indebt developing countries to force them to bend under the political pressures from the US regarding myriad of issues.
But is it all about to crumble? Is it all about to recoil like a snake? It seems so, and, in most cases, it is a good thing. The truth is we can no longer afford it. The globalization of economies has left American manufacturing scrambling to maintain its lead in the world. Technological evolution and the flattening of the first world have left American workers competing with international counter-parts for the same jobs. A deteriorating educational system continues to plant the seeds for what might be the first generation in the history of this country that will actually be LESS EDUCATED than their parents.
Decades long wars against ambiguous things like “terrorism” and “drugs” have left our military spread too thin and exhausted, not to mention the subsequent budgetary issues of funding the occupation of a large portion of the Middle East for over a decade now, and a cyclical drug trade with no end in sight. The United States can no longer afford to police the earth, and exploit every single economic opportunity (most of which are not mutually beneficial) in the developing world.
Recoil is exactly what this country needs, as domestic problems have overshadowed any international and foreign policy issues we might have. As our infrastructure ages and crumbles, and our education system goes from the gold standard to the laughing stock of the world, it’s about time the US empire looked inward and addressed issues of US “nation building”.
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Our military and economic imperialism has simultaneously enriched and uplifted many people, states, and organizations outside of the US, while at the same time demolished and oppressed a large number of those same entities. As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.” Those waves of both evil and good in terms of the United States need to recede, before our home deteriorates beyond repair while we are too busy worrying about the neighbors.