People used to think of America as a global leader. Now a majority of the world thinks of America as a rogue power. Why? The answer to this question has to a large degree to do with what America has become. America has made the transition from republic to empire. It is no longer what it was. It was founded to be a beacon of light unto the nations, a democratic and egalitarian haven to which those seeking freedom could come. It has now become an unrivalled empire among the nations, exercising dominion over them. How it behaves and what it represents have fundamentally changed. It used to represent freedom. Now it represents power.
It was when I began to realize that my country had crossed the threshold from republic to empire that I began to study the history of empire. It was the only concept large and dynamic enough to explain what was going on, providing a larger framework, a more complex metaphor with which to understand America and the world. Republics imply single nations democratically governed, which was what America was founded to be. The very essence of empire is the control of one nation over other nations. While America remains a republic within its own borders, it has become an empire in relationship to the rest of the world.
The inordinate power of the United States disturbs people on the American left and excites people on the American right. Liberals are uncomfortable with the notion of an American empire because they are uneasy with the fact that America has so much power, especially military power. They would prefer that America simply be part of the community of nations, perhaps a first among equals but an equal nevertheless, and use its power to further human welfare. Conservatives, on the other hand, are jubilant that America is finally breaking out of multilateral strictures and is unilaterally asserting its imperial prerogatives abroad. For them, national self-interest, enforced by military supremacy, should be the guiding principle of U.S. policy.
This is a reprint from WIEnlightenment? Magazine. Continue reading America as Empire by Jim Garrison.