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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February 2004, 14:43 GMT
America: The accidental empire?
In the second of a six-part series entitled Age of Empire, the BBC's Jonathan Marcus visits Cuba in a continuing investigation into whether the United States is an imperial power.


On the Havana sea-front, on what is now little more than a large traffic-island, stands an unlikely memorial to the more than 260 US sailors who died when the USS Maine battleship blew up in Havana harbour in February 1898.

Nobody knows exactly what caused the Maine to blow up. Many now believe that a spontaneous fire in a coal bunker may have ignited an ammunition store. But at the time there were few doubts that the explosion was due to sabotage.

But what was the Maine doing in Havana Harbour in the first place? The warship was there to protect American nationals and interests.

Jonathan Marcus in Havana
Jonathan Marcus and series producer Caroline Finnigan stand at the foot of the USS Maine memorial
Riots had erupted. The Spanish Government, responding to demands by Cuban rebels for independence, had offered a measure of home rule. But this angered pro-Spanish groups in Havana who went on the rampage.

The Cuban rebellion had prompted strong sympathy in the United States. The sinking of the Maine only hardened opinion and on the 23 April 1898 the US declared war on Spain.

In short order the Spanish Navy was defeated and Spanish troops ejected from Cuba. So began a long period of US interference in the island's affairs.

Imperial change of guard

The year 1898 marked, if you like, a changing of the imperial guard. The United States flexing its muscles. Spain very much in decline.

The Spanish-American war in 1898 saw the US take control of three key territories:
Cuba: Destruction of USS Maine in Havana provokes war with Spain. US invades Cuba, captures Havana on 20 September 1898
Philippines: Spain cedes control of the islands to the US
Puerto Rico: To deny Spanish ships a base in the Caribbean, US invades the island, captures the island 12 August

But the implications of the Spanish-American War extended far beyond the Caribbean. Warren Zimmerman, a historian and former US diplomat who is an expert on American foreign policy of this period, says that after Cuba, one thing led to another.

"Once we had taken Cuba we had to take Puerto Rico because we couldn't give the Spanish fleet another island in the Caribbean to re-fit and re-fuel and base their fleet, and the most interesting was taking the Philippines because nobody was really thinking about the Philippines except some officers in the US navy who felt that it would be very good to have a large island chain close to the Asian mainland that we could exploit to become an Asian power."

Formal American empire proved short-lived. But the overall result of this burst of imperial activity was that the United States obtained a jagged line of bases or coaling stations running from California to Hawaii to Midway in the Pacific and then to Wake Island, Samoa, Guam and the Philippines.

Domestic opinion in the US will not produce the resources or the public support for an imperial mission over the long run
Joseph Nye
Harvard University

This chain of bases enabled the extension of US political and economic influence all the way to China. This was America's first real taste of Empire and as Warren Zimmerman explains it marked a turning point in the way in which it saw the world.

In 1898, he says, Americans were given a sense of confidence which they never really lost, a sense of vocation about being a power that stood for something in the world.

One remaining superpower

Through the 20th Century and now into the 21st Century, the US secured its position, first as one of a concert of great powers and then as the only remaining global superpower.

Now America's foreign policy matters to all of us. That's perhaps one of the reasons why the US evokes such strong emotions.

Policy-making results from the complex interplay of a huge variety of actors. Foreign policy is never made in a vacuum, people factor in what it is they think is popular, what they think is affordable what they think is sustainable politically
Richard Haas
Council on Foreign Relations
I decided to explore one small aspect of US foreign policy to try to throw some light on the complexities of the policy-making process - the US embargo on trade and travel to Cuba.

Tourism is now Cuba's biggest earner of foreign currency. Most of the visitors coming here are Europeans and Canadians. There's a fair sprinkling of Americans sipping their rum cocktails. But the Bush Administration doesn't want them to be here.

For over 40 years there has been a US embargo on trade and tourism with Cuba. Some exceptions are made but by and large if Americans want to come as ordinary tourists they have to travel via another country and make sure the Cuban authorities don't stamp their passports.

It is a policy that a growing number of Americans believe is simply counter-productive. Isolation and poverty, they say, has done more to prop up Cuba's regime than communist ideology ever could.

On Capitol Hill in Washington the long-standing ban on travel to Cuba is now coming under growing pressure. And it's a political battle that tells us a lot about how US foreign policy is made and who makes it.

Tightening Cuba restrictions

Last year in both the Republican-controlled Senate and the House of Representatives resolutions were passed to lift the travel ban by large margins.

But a few weeks later the legislation was quietly dropped after President Bush made it clear that he actually wanted quite the opposite - even tighter restrictions on dealings with Cuba.

With an election looming the cynics said that Mr Bush was simply courting the votes of Cuban expatriates in Florida - a State that could be crucial in helping to determine the Presidential outcome in November.

The Cuba legislation was mixed up with other spending bills and this gave the President the leverage he needed.

Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee emphasised that this was "less a case of a foreign policy clash than the technical problems of passing legislation in a very closely divided Congress".

Senators did not want their cherished spending projects to collapse and so agreed to back down once Mr Bush insisted that he didn't want any liberalisation in dealing with Cuba.

Rejecting empire

Process, political calculation or fudge, the fact remains that it is sometimes very hard for outsiders to determine just who makes foreign policy in Washington.

Havana street scene
While the senate wants to ease restrictions on Cuba, the administration wants to tighten them
"There's no factory that churns out American foreign policy like hot cakes or doughnuts," says Richard Haas, a former senior State Department official in the current Bush Administration and now President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Policy-making results from the complex interplay of a huge variety of actors. Foreign policy is never made in a vacuum, people factor in what it is they think is popular, what they think is affordable what they think is sustainable politically."

So much for normal times; but in war-time, the President's influence over foreign policy making grows significantly.

As professor Michael Mandelbaum of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies noted: "After 11 September 2001 Americans felt that once again they were involved in an open-ended conflict and that had the effect of making this President more powerful in foreign policy, at least for now, than his predecessor was."

We also tried to take soundings of American public opinion, which revealed little appetite for long-term foreign entanglements along with a sense of unease that America's role in the world was, as many people put it, so misunderstood by their friends and allies abroad.

This confirmed the view of Joseph Nye, Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, that there is no appetite among the American public for "empire". He calls it "imperial under-stretch".

"Domestic opinion in the US will not produce the resources or the public support for an imperial mission over the long run," Mr Nye says.

The Age of Empire series is broadcast on Mondays at 09:05GMT on BBC World Service Radio.

Your comments:

America may value democracy over all else, but when it comes to the realm of foreign policy it will act, like any other country, in its own self interest. I recall that France came in for heavy criticism from America for representing the views of its people and exercising its democratic right to oppose the waging of war in Iraq. The US also opposes referendum on (among other topics) independence in Taiwan, for fear of 'regional instability' - a policy which seems to be in stark contrast to their current excuse for the aforementioned war in Iraq; that is, the use of military force to bring democracy to the region.

Whether America can be classed as an empire is irrelevant. In the context of this discussion, it is tempting to assume that 'empire = bad thing', but although the building of empires often leads to the suffering of indigenous peoples (including, lest we forget, the native peoples of North America), it is important to remember that they carry with them knowledge, experience and technology. Just as I owe the alphabet I use to write these words to the Roman Empire, I owe the computer I type these words on to America. To say that America is an empire draws no conclusions; one must examine the policies of the representatives of the country in order to say anything that is at all meaningful.
Chris Walker, Aberdeen, Scotland

The Oxford Dictionary defines Empire as "an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly especially an emperor or empress" To speak of ancient Athens or the present-day United States as Empires stretches the meaning. Both were great political powers who used trade, military power and alliances to exert a large amount of influence. Neither can be considered formal empires like Rome and Britain or France, where nations were ruled by Imperial administrators. This word is used for its emotive overtones and does not really fully describe the complexity of the situation. Interestingly, both Athens and the USA are overtly democratic systems that grew powerful beyond their border and faced the contradiction: How to wield power and remain democratic. Great Britain later faced it. Good on the BBC, however for putting the subject up for debate!
John Hemmings, England

One thing will remain true as long as men live: people with power want more power
Fadil El Mansour, Lawrence, Kansas, USA
I find it interesting that most people who posted are from America and do not believe in the idea that the USA is a global Empire. Of course the idea of imperialism is viewed as a negative one after Europe has had its "share" of the world. But one thing will remain true as long as men live: people with power want more power. Seen from within the States, America is doing it's job as a promoter of freedom and democracy and, in that respect, does not qualify as an Empire. But for those outside the States, the presence of the USA is evident, even overwhelming. What was for a while carefully masked from the rest of the world - the 'need' for control and power - under the excuses of promoting freedom, democracy and modernization (which were, after all, the same motives presented by colonial Europe) is now blatantly unveiled for everyone in the world to see, under the presidency of Mr. Bush. What I find outrageous, is that the American people are most probably the only nation on the planet to not realize it.
Fadil El Mansour, Lawrence, Kansas, USA

That the US is an empire is beyond question. What sort of empire, rightly, is the subject of this series. What I think defines the empire (today and regularly throughout US history) is that there really aren't any ideological values that shape the policies of the empire beyond the ideological universe of capitalism. The most important factor in decisions is the bottom line, even terrorism serves more to line the pockets of government contractors than to genuinely threaten US hegemony. I don't mean this as a judgement on capitalism or America's empire. But I think we've got to be honest with one another and make the obvious connections between America's wealthy economy and the military power that both sustains and feeds off it.
Greg Phillips, Evanston, Illinois

I served the US Army for over 10 years and exiting service as a Captain, I can honestly say that I never heard domination once. Motives were always that of lofty and sometimes the unattainable ideals of freedom, liberty and justice not only to ourselves but to other peoples as well. I always thought it inspiring and defining to look down the line at young soldiers of different races, religions, and economic backgrounds who were willing not only to put themselves in harm's way for their country, but also, and somewhat more importantly, those peoples of the world in which they did not know, or ever could understand. This defines not only the soldiers of America but to the greatest extent that which binds us that are so different into one.
Brandon McDonald, Louisville, Kentucky

In its current form, the United States of America hardly constitutes an Empire. As the most powerful country in the world, it is hegemonic in nature; however, it has been very selective in its decisions to project power. Whether Iraq was a unilateral action of imperialism or a pseudo-altruistic pre-emptive strike, it's all debatable. If America wants to leave a legacy that will be looked upon favourable, it will need to become more altruistic in its foreign policy. What will the US do when another Rwanda erupts? Altruism and initiative will score points with the world community, but only decrease approval ratings back home. It all goes back to our personal desires for our country versus the worlds. The choice of Americans.
li-chung wang, Evanston, Illinois USA

To call America an empire is an abuse of language
Ralf Long, Roswell, GA, USA
To call America an empire is an abuse of language. What lands does America rule? Japan, Italy, and Germany - the nations it defeated in WWII? South Korea - the nation it rescued from the dire fate of its northern neighbour? Panama - the nation in which it built a canal that is the cornerstone of its economy? Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian Gulf states - nations made wealthy via American technology and purchases and saved from the hands of that butcher of Muslims, Saddam Hussein? Kosovo - the land of a people saved from ethnic expulsion? Or is it Afghanistan - where NATO troops are now stationed? Ask the inhabitants of those nations -- or those of any other. Who among them considers themselves part of an American empire?

At this time, only Iraq is ruled by Americans (along with Brits and others). And that is only temporary. The presence of American businesses abroad no more makes those lands outposts of an American empire than does the presence of BMW and Toyota dealerships and factories in America make America an outpost of a Japanese or a German empire. Let's be conceptually and linguistic clear-headed. Please.
Ralf Long, Roswell, GA, USA

America is an empire at the peak of its power. What happens when an empire reaches the peak of its power is that its leaders start to make ill-considered decisions that eventually lead to its downfall. And military power is usually the last to go. Everything is cyclical, including empires, and most Americans are not wise enough to understand that. It wasn't that long ago that Americans were laughing at the British as they tried to make the best of losing their own empire. Well their turn will come soon enough. Enjoy it while you can!
Adzhar Ibrahim, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Strange that one would compare America to an Empire... Empires are built on the backs of others denying their Freedom and basic human rights. Americans demand Freedom not only for ourselves but everyone. The fact that America's lifestyle holds a fascination around the world doesn't mean we are imposing our lifestyle on others. It is the other way around. People all over the world want to be like Americans - when one eats American fast food, wears American clothes, or watches American movies and TV or music... for those brief moments they can be Americans. America is much more than Economic and Military might. America is the embodiment of the dream of Freedom and the outward expression of the power of Freedom. Our system of governance is being copied in Europe (EU), Asia, Africa and around the world - simply for the fact that all other systems fail their governed populations. America is not an Empire it is more like heavy rain falling on a parched landscape.
Dennis, Shreveport, Louisiana

Great discussion on Imperialism and the USA. Is the US an Imperial country? Depends on your definition of Imperial. A country that represents almost 30% of the worlds economy and 40% of worlds military spending is a big whale of an animal. And a whale in an aquarium, when it moves, stirs all the water and all that is in it. As such, it is difficult for the US to move without affecting and sometimes agitating the rest of the world. Sometimes we move unwisely and have to straighten up. But is the US a classic empire? No. We do not impose our laws on other countries at the end of a bayonet or any other method (except political pressure for innate human rights). We do not tax the countries where we keep our troops or exert our influence. Our troops are indeed in countries all over the world, but by invitation. When asked to leave we leave (as in the Philippines). Even countries we "possess" like Puerto Rico, et.al. can vote to sever ties with us at anytime but never do. It still seems that being a citizen of the United States of America is still a desired thing and people all over the world still aspire to obtain that. You don't get that by being an imperialistic bully.
David Parker, Carson, California, USA

We are indeed an Empire but I like to believe we're a fair Empire
Dave Mrsich, Las Vegas, NV, USA
I had to think long and hard about the idea of America as an Empire to form my opinion of this matter. In the end I decided that America is indeed an imperial power. Taking a look at other Empires of the past, such as the British Empire, it became obvious that these nations basically extended their political and military influence to expand their economies. This is no different from what the U.S. is doing. It is certainly going about it in a much more "friendly" way, so to speak, under the guise of liberation and freedom and free trade, but aren't we just setting up our own way of life in these other countries so we can reap the benefits? Dictatorships and communist nations aren't good for business! It makes sense that certain groups feel their very existence is threatened by our country. So we are indeed an Empire but I like to believe we're a fair Empire. And much like the most loyal British subjects in 1776, most Americans in 2004 don't see what all the hub-bub is about around the world.
Dave Mrsich, Las Vegas, NV USA

I think US can be called an Empire for lack of better word. It is true that US influence can be seen and felt in almost any part of the world by way of economic or military fashion. Whether it's their political ambition or just selling capitalism, US has fashioned their strategy similar to that of colonial Europe, Business Interest precedes political interests. US have in past abused many global agreements including the UN to further its own interests, and shamelessly done business with dictators (Suharto, Saddam Hussein). Americans are blissfully unaware of what really happens outside of US simply because they don't see it happen on TV and aren't taught enough in schools. They cannot be honestly expected to understand the awesome power that American corporations wield in third world countries that many have come to resent. 9-11 simply reinforced the belief that America can do no wrong. The growing military muscle that Bush has at his disposal, not surprisingly is seen by many, including the "old allies" as a threat. All great empires (Brits, Rome) rise and eventually fall. I guess America has already reached its zenith, and it will sometimes have to fall.
Surti, Buffalo, NY

Leave us alone and focus on your own problems
Kevin, Somers, New Yorke
We in the United States don't want to be a world power. We don't want to be the policeman whenever there's a problem. We don't want to be the rich uncle that gets called upon every time someone has a family crisis. We don't want to be the political scapegoat for a country's domestic economic troubles. We don't want to be on the evening news with our flag being burned by someone who feels left out in his/her own country. We don't want people who insist we are something that we don't want to be. Leave us alone and focus on your own problems and do not put the blame on us.
Kevin, Somers, New York

America is an empire. But only to the extent that it can place its commercial outposts in key places. These outposts of American imperial might go by the names of McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks among others. These outposts are everywhere (Just take a walk outside of Windsor Castle). Historically speaking, it is a pretty benign for the most part.
Jose Palacios, Miami, FL

People seem to forget the States themselves are empire. There were people living hear before the Mayflower arrived you know. It's said that when an evil rises, other nations bond as strange bedfellows to put that evil down. The USSR, Britain, and the USA did it to end Nazism. Maybe we've seen a sneak preview of another "bonding for the world's sake" via the Russian, French, and German opposition to the American Blitz in Iraq. I just hope the Europeans resolve holds out as the American people have failed to check our own extremist leaders.
Stan McPeek, Duluth, Minnesota

I find it interesting that the United States is actively involved in 140 countries
John Hastie, Darlington, WI USA
I find it interesting that the United States is actively involved in 140 countries. This was stated a while ago on a news cast I had been casually listening to about the CIA. More importantly, I thought that might not be a good idea until I heard the US being beat up about our failure to provide support to Afghanistan after the Russians left. Now, wait a minute. We are cursed for our interference around the world, but now, we are cursed for not entering another country? So, if we are damned both ways by world opinion, maybe it is better to just go it our way?
John Hastie, Darlington, WI USA

Bravo to Mr. Marcus and his very even-handed approach to a long unasked question. In my opinion, the American people aren't very informed regarding the actions of their government. Benjamin Franklin once said "We have simple solutions, what we need are simple problems," and I think those words still ring true today. America is a massive, complex entity which can no longer live in the vacuum George Washington once prescribed. Like it or not, we can't hide behind the two oceans on our borders forever. The American people need to get away from the idea that more money, more technology, and less oversight will solve their problems. I guess what's most astounding to me is the unshakable faith some Americans continue to have in their government after so many miscues, from the Bay of Pigs to the War in Iraq. It's this naive, self-blinding approach which hurts America more than any other single force. If America really is a superpower, and if it really is an Empire, it will almost certainly crumble from within, not without.
Dan Weber, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

I think more attention needs to be paid to the economic underpinnings of imperial ambitions. They say the British Empire was acquired in "a fit of absence of mind", mainly by businesses like The East India Company and the Hudson's Bay Company. Is this not also true of the United States? And having become economically dependent on a commanding position in world trade, is the development of a giant military to defend that position not inevitable? But the costs of defending an ever-expanding Empire always outweigh the benefits in the long run - witness the present American balance of trade and currency troubles. Not too different from the British, and for the same reasons. Didn't the Vietnam War kill the US gold standard, the height of the Cold War cause the 1985 dollar devaluation, and the Gulf Wars cause the current devaluation? Just like the Brits going into debt in the World Wars, eh?
Paul Connor, Toronto, Canada

We need to pay more, not less, attention to the rest of the world
Kate, NYC
Empires have existed for nearly all of human history, and there's no reason to think that the U.S. is somehow immune to this tendency. If we are to be an empire, let's have it be an empire that does more than what is good for us and us alone in the short term. We need to pay more, not less, attention to the rest of the world, and grant other peoples the respect we want to receive. That's the way to distinguish this empire. Denial is just denial.
Kate, NYC

The United States is an empire. Like the Roman Empire, the US expanded and expanded, gobbling up its neighbours until it reached a sort of geographic equilibrium between centrifugal and centrifugal tendencies. Then, like Rome, it sought to dominate other nations through a system of treaties and economic domination. And the Romans were happy with this arrangement, until one of their clients, or allies, or any weaker nation in general, got too uppity, and then it was smashed down, much in the same way the US has done to the third world, especially Latin America. So yes, the US is definitely an empire, by any definition. And I think this Bush neo-Conservative doctrine merely confirms this. However, the average American is not particularly interested in empire; all s/he wants is for the prospect of a better life for him/her and his/her children. Americans better wake up and make a choice; if you want empire and it's benefits, then you have to be willing to go along with the empire-sized problems that come with; if not, then Americans need to undergo a radical change in lifestyle and attitude. We want our cake and to eat it too, but in the long run life doesn't work that way.
Bennett, Los Angeles

America an Empire!?! The perspective that the world views America as an Empire is very ironic. Americans as a whole have no interest in ruling other lands. We're more concerned with our own lives then the rest of world (whether right or wrong). The Globe however tends to criticize the US then holds out their needy hands whenever a conflict arises. The world at every conflict looks to the US for help. I think a good story might be how the US got nominated as a scapegoat by the rest of their Global neighbours. It might be interesting if the US ever turned their back and said 'fend for yourself'. By the way how far in left field are Californians from the rest of the US?
JS, Ohio, USA

As America controls more resources than any other country on the planet it is necessarily an imperial power. How it chooses to exercise that power is another question. Presently there is a malign administration at the wheel with thinly disguised ambitions to control Middle East energy resources and to eliminate any resistance thereof. In support the US imperial lords have an isolated, uninformed and bovine electorate to support hysterical ravings regarding 'freedom and democracy'. Imperial ambitions are only viable in the US political process under this arrangement. Once elected the emperor can do what he wants.
Robert Taylor, Pasadena, California USA

The US is probably the most benign empire in history
Michael Cortelletti, USA & Germany
The US is probably the most benign empire in history, due to its people's reluctance to pursue an imperial policy. The US holds a significant economical and military power, which today has a global reach. This power has been rising since the end of the Civil War: the US has taken advantage of its huge natural resources, its solid social and political system, the geographical isolation and thus the absence of competing neighbours and finally over 130 years without a war fought on its territory. Inevitably, the US interests make "imperial decisions" at times, and its power makes them possible, in order to protect the security and standard of living of its citizens. But these "imperial decisions" do not amount to a classic empire. In fact, they are strongly restrained by a culture reluctant to dominate and exploit. Thus, the US governments had to justify any "imperial decision" through higher ideals, and prove them by a great deal of sharing with other nations. T
Michael Cortelletti, Ithaca, NY USA & Berlin, Germany

Certainly the US is an empire. Yes we have the elements of a militaristic empire. However the strength lies in our true empire, an economic one. I don't know that we ever set out to become an empire, rather I would say the world asked us to.
Kevin Norsen, Buffalo, New York

Somebody is going to be King of the Hill, better the Americans than the Chinese or the Germans, for lord's sake. I was personally involved in American politics, and yes I wanted power, not so I could rub someone else's face in it, but to keep them from rubbing mine! Say what you will but it can be a whole lot worse. An American will kick the devil out of you but buy you a beer afterwards.
Reed Schrichte, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

I think it's time we, Americans, admit we are imperialists. What else is it called when you litter the globe with military bases, thus bringing every nation on the planet within your military reach? Now that's influence. I'm thankful for this article, as maybe Americans might become more honest with themselves when they talk foreign policy. Then hopefully we can do something to change it.
Dan Bluemel, Hollywood, California, USA

America has no desire to physically dominate others or occupy another country long term
Mark Seiler, Harrison

Empire? No not really, we dominate in the economic sphere, because we have created a competitive system. This was necessary because of the vast physical size of the USA, which has given rise to literally hundreds of key industries. Most countries are small and do not have much real competition. Usually, small countries have only a few key players or industries which control everything. America has no desire to physically dominate others or occupy another country long term. Our nation is one of immigrants and they came here to get away from that.
Mark Seiler, Harrison, Ohio

Empire yes, what do we think we are when we run around (and have since our inception) the world influencing the political systems of other countries for the good of American Corporations? The good guys? I suspect it is hard for people who have never read about history outside of a public school, to fully understand what we are. We are an Empire whether we like it or not, and I suggest if you feel uncomfortable with the term do something about it, read something other than the news feed to us by big business, and vote, and be vocal.
Elizabeth Bernard, Greenfield, America

Bravo for really trying to understand what makes Americans tick and not some knee-jerk reactionary pre-drawn conclusion statements. Ok, with that said, the US has an identity of not even wanting to deal with the rest of the world. All of the people here came to get away from the mess "over there". We have a national collective desire to be "left alone" to raise our kids and live our lives in peace. However, when someone threatens that peace, we will destroy the threat. We are also a land of fighters and winners.
Once you get the national will behind a cause, there is NO nation on earth that can stop us. We didn't start this war, but "WE will finish it!" As for empire? Only because Europe embraces socialism, has it been left behind. Look seriously at the other world players. The only three countries in the world that have a chance to be our equal are UK, India and China. The rest are either corrupt, socialist or just now beginning to industrialize.
Craig Traylor, Houston, Texas

Sorry Doug, but the US population has supported imperial ambitions for the past, oh, 200 years, I think. The US is a nation very much at home with conquest and dominance, beginning, first, with the westward "expansion" and continuing to this day through various episodes such as the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II (which made the US a power on the European continent by setting us up in the vacuum left by Germany's defeat), and the Persian Gulf Wars (giving us imperial control over an enormous oil reserve). The US population does, indeed, support "all" such imperial ventures; however, it supports them in a state of almost pathetic denial whereby it believes it is supporting good and noble efforts ("the war to end all wars", etc.) while, in fact, it is, in reality, being misled and duped.
Chris Edmonds, Walnut Creek, California

I've read with great interest the piece on the US and the perception of it being an empire. Likewise the other responses to it. Which at times were quite amusing. Whether it actually is or not an empire is irrelevant. It will be called one by certain people outside it as they seem unable to grasp what America is well enough to offer up any meaningful critique aside of the very old, very tired rhetoric their indoctrination leads them to believe. And people on the inside, such as Chris Edmonds from California, will chime in when they can. Which is a shame. Statements such as those claiming we have "imperial control" of vast oil reserves reinforces for many the "uninformed American" cliché. Chris if you'd kindly detail where these imperial holdings exist, other than the fantasy inspired pages of one of Chomsky's political hate screeds, some of us would be quite interested to see them.
Mike Stevens, Seattle, USA

Anyone who believes the US population would support long-term Imperial ambitions has little understanding of Americans. The vast bulk of us carry family histories replete with suffering from Imperialistic expansions of others in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. Empire USA? No way, except perhaps in the case of the moon.
Doug Petersen, Twin Falls, Idaho USA

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