[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
What is America's global role?
We discussed the US' role in the world with Sydney Blumenthal, former senior advisor to President Clinton.

The United States is now widely acknowledged as the world's sole superpower.

In terms of military superiority it has no equal and as an economic power-house its products and culture, from McDonalds to Disney, have infiltrated cultures all over the globe.

Despite President George W Bush's insistence that the US has no imperial ambitions, the word "empire" is increasingly used by academics and pundits when talking about America's role in the world.

The ubiquity of American power and influence is both admired and reviled around the globe. In particular, American foreign policy post 9/11 and the war in Iraq have been the subject of much condemnation worldwide.

Is the world's only superpower also an imperial power? Does it rely too heavily on military superiority to influence the world? Or is the world's greatest democracy the champion of freedom and liberty? What is America's role in the 21st Century?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

If only America would mind its own business instead of trying to boss around and poke its nose everywhere doing nothing but causing pain and tears. Power does not mean that they rule us and can make decisions for people who are not Americans. I would describe America's role in these few simple words: domineering and proud.
Megha Gupta, Australia

America will never have the global democratic legitimacy to act as a superpower
Nick Fraser, Jordan
America's role in the 21st century should be as a state committed to sharing its sovereignty with others through international institutions (WTO, International Criminal Court, UN, etc). All of the problems we face in the coming century will not be solved by nations acting unilaterally. America represents less than 5% of the world's population and will never have the global democratic legitimacy to act as a superpower determining the lives of the other 95%.
Nick Fraser, Jordan (EU Citizen)

I recon history will dictate and remember America for being the greatest country for the 20th century. America may have faults but the old parable "people in glass houses...." There is no other country that would do anything different if they were in the same position only, possibly worse. It is great to be able to sit on the side lines and comment without any commitment.
Greg, UK

I think the rest of the world should understand that a great many Americans are very strongly opposed to this Administration's foreign policy platform. Please do not buy into George W. Bush's assertion that the American people support his administration's policies because we do not.
Amy Hinton, Montgomery, Alabama, USA

History has shown that empires rise and fall, why should the US be any different?
Nabeel Hamarain, Abu Dhabi, UAE
With a dismal human rights record, disregard for international law and un resolutions particularly with regards to Israel & the pompous attitude of look at us "we are a shining example of democracy" & at the same time supporting dictators, who does the US think it kidding? History has shown that empires rise and fall, why should the US be any different?
Nabeel Hamarain, Abu Dhabi, UAE

America's role in the world? Here's a way to determine it: let's stop all the food exports, financial aid, technological assistance, & of course the military force we have to constantly provide to those who can't provide for themselves. Wonder how long it would take for the world to beg us for help. A day? Hard work & sacrifice built the USA; maybe the rest of you should try doing the same.
Jason Yount, Nashville Tennessee USA

I wonder how many of these critics of the U.S. actually has visited here and met the people? My guess is not very many. We sacrificed and died for you to make you free from tyranny twice, and we get spit upon. Yet the great thing is - if it happened again we would come to your aid again.
Scott Heise, Warren Illinois

We can improve our reputation by steady and reliable effort over time
Patricia Harris, Phoenix, AZ, USA
We have an awesome opportunity and responsibility to use our wealth and power to make the world a better place. We also have a duty to our citizens to protect them from terrorist attacks. Lately it seems the two goals are difficult to attain. Everyday I pray for my country to do a better job in its role in the world. Our reputation in the world has definitely suffered recently. Some of the tarnish has been self inflicted by bad policies and poor execution or underfunding of good policies. Some of the tarnish is, as many of my countrymen have pointed out, totally unfair and comes from the paranoid delusions of anti-US propagandists. We can improve our reputation by steady and reliable effort over time. The biggest impediment to the US recovering its reputation is the perception that we favour Israel over Palestine. We have to make a greater effort to help bring a resolution to this horrible crisis.
Patricia Harris, Phoenix, AZ, USA

Unless this superpower stop and start paying tribute to reason, there'll only be calamity ahead
Yen Chambrier, Hong Kong
By being the sole superpower, America sees itself as the XXIst century Messiah. They want to police the world, but are reluctant to be subject to international law. They want to build the world a safer place, but can wage war on the sole pretext of bringing democracy to another country. Unless this superpower stop and start paying tribute to reason, there'll only be calamity ahead.
Yen Chambrier, Hong Kong

Every Empire has its end.
Ivan Bunag, Philippines

Perhaps one difference is that we try not to assume everyone foreign is our enemy!
Anon, UK

Only an arrogant country can think that the hostility it brings, is due to jealousy instead of some more pertinent element, bullying, abusive use of military of power. And, please Americans, stop daydreaming, if people around the world want to go to US, it has nothing to do with liberty, security, or other thing, that's for the same reasons Africans and Arabs come to Europe. It's for economical purpose. Don't fool yourself, they don't like you.
Luc, France

The key to American hegemony is to give democracy, liberty, free trade, and free enterprise to the world. How evil!
Drew, USA

The US just wants exploitation without political domination
Rey, Spartanburg, USA
The US does not want to dominate other countries they way imperial powers did in past centuries. In the past countries were ruled and exploited. The US just wants exploitation without political domination. This explains previous cosiness with murderous right-wing dictators. This hang-up on democracy of late is really just a pretence and a convenience to facilitate more economic domination. If we could have done it without the war I suspect we would have. Then again there are some people in our government who overestimated what can be accomplished with firepower in a mostly civilized society. How much carnage will US citizens tolerate for no good reason?
Rey, Spartanburg, SC USA

Economic powerhouse? USA is the world's leading debtor nation, and the debts rise each year. They live beyond their means, at our expense, and then we call them great for doing so? Defenders of liberty? Tell it to those locked up without charge or trial in Guantanamo! History will laugh at the way these latter-day Stalins conned the world.
Neil McGowan, Brit, resident in Moscow

Bite sized nations who used to have colonial empires to be admired
Dan Braverman, Minnesota, USA
I find it funny to get critical opinions fired our way from bite sized nations who used to have colonial empires to be admired. Some accepted the fact they are not what they used to be, like Portugal. Others, like France, have not accepted this. Someone will replace America on top of the food chain down the line, but not right now.
Dan Braverman, Minnesota, USA

I truly get a kick receiving a lecture on morals from the likes of Stuart from the UK. Killing of native peoples, imperialist occupations and raping of natural resources were skills Europe in general, and the UK in specific, raised to a level the US could never hope to emulate.
Ron, Chicago USA

To continue to protect and spread the values of democracy.
Richard Hicks, Amarillo Texas USA

Please tone down the rhetoric on both sides. As a mother of a child serving in Iraq I find this discourse not only painful but wasteful. Many of us are trying to live in the present as we are very unsure of the future. As long as my child serves I must believe he is serving for a truly better and more open world.
Diana, Rochester Hills Michigan USA

All their interventions are about gaining a foothold in particular areas of the world
Mike, London, England
I find it incredible that some people appear to believe the US intervenes in countries for good moral reasons. All their interventions are about gaining a foothold in particular areas of the world and installing governments which will help them achieve their imperialistic ambitions. Does anyone really believe Iraq was invaded to liberate its people? Get real! It was purely done for the US to gain a foothold in an oil-rich area of the world, just like the Afghani government was changed to one which allowed the US to begin work on a trans-Asia oil pipeline. People need to wake up to the reality!
Mike, London, England

The average American believes in democracy freedom and justice. The Bush administration believes in profit and war.
John, NY City, UK

America's global role seems to be as a peddler of myths. Thus we have a nation "built by struggling outcasts from the Old World" rather than a nation built on the genocide of the native Indian peoples and a nation that "liberated the Afghani and Iraqi peoples" rather than a nation who (under Reagan) gave massive support to the Taliban and to Saddam Hussein because they were fighting America's proxy wars against Russia and Iran. Domestic ignorance of world affairs plus the international spread of the MTV/Fox/CNN dumbed-down propaganda machines means that the "American dream" always overshadows the global reality.
Stuart W, London, UK

I want to encourage the American spirit of freedom and liberty in face of its strengthening opposition, manly in Europe. It is true that no country is perfect, but in comparison to former European superpowers and their brutal, greedy and selfish policy's, the U.S is a model for the world to see and admire.
Avner S., Tel Aviv, Israel

Please look at what we have done to help Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala
Eric, Austin, USA
Yes, Americans do have a narrow view of the world. But in our defence, the curriculum in public schools as well as our mass media distort and shape our self image. Most Americans have never even left the US to experience another culture. To anyone who knows their history, the US supports pro-US regimes around the world whether they are democracies or dictatorships. For those sceptical Americans out there, please look at what we have done to help Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala to see what I mean.
Eric, Austin, USA

Something I have always admired about the Americans is their sense of patriotism and loyalty to their country. No wonder they look down at us UK "whiners" who are so weak and malleable we will give in to any incomer who doesn't like our flag, the fact that we celebrate Christmas etc, and start beating ourselves up. Now wonder the sun has set on the British Empire and the USA is now the superpower.
Caroline, Bristol, UK

America must continue to be a global leader ... If we do not, no one else will. There will be ups and downs along the way, and some will approve while others don't. But we must always be held up as the leader - in various categories - for if we aren't, there'll be no leader..
Rick, Missouri, USA

Most people would like some of the Americans' money, but not at the cost of becoming like them.
Ian, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Ride on the great US of America
Olanrewaju Wale, Kaduna Nigeria
Those who are making hell of noise about US becoming imperial are only selfish and short-sighted. Tell me George Bush's foreign policy is too hard and lack human face, I may agree. But, condemning the entire States is wrong. After all, Bill Clinton ruled the States and was globally accepted. What the States need is change of tenure which 50-50 imminent. Ride on the great US of America.
Olanrewaju Wale, Kaduna Nigeria

That America is an unrivalled superpower, indeed perhaps a hyper power, is an undeniable reality of our times. What seems to have gone wrong in much of the world's eyes is that the present US administration seems infatuated with maintaining its global leadership through hard power whereas in the past it was mainly the judicious use of soft power that genuinely gave it not only its superpower status but its moral validation as a beneficial leader of democracy and champion of freedom.
Saj Chakkalakal, UK/India

We gave the world "The Simpsons." That should put an end to this tiff.
Dikran, Chicago, USA

America's current global role is entirely determined by nationalism and self interest. Any proof that their current policies serve global interests and global democracy are purely coincidental and are too often used for propaganda. It's the claims that their policies serve global freedom and security, when they don't, that worries people most.
Glenn Herbert, Matlock

It amazes me that when accused of being arrogant, our response in America is that the rest of the world is just jealous of how great we are. Isn't that the arrogance the world is tired of?
M Sands, USA

When there were two, USA and USSR, everyone rightly praised America as the defender of freedom
Gavin D, Manchester

America is in the sometimes unenviable situation of being the world's only superpower. When there were two, USA and USSR, everyone rightly praised America as the defender of freedom. Now they are the tyrant, how so? Every country will make mistakes (Guantanamo) but they are driven by the protection of good ideals and not fascist policies. And as for British citizens attacking America, do you not consider that we are wholly complicit and politically instrumental with foreign policy around the world?
Gavin D, Manchester, England

Japan is the reason why America is where it is today. They were politically neutral during WW2, and then they got embroiled in their own battle. Now they feel that they can conquer all, and still haven't learned from past mistakes or resulting action of past mistakes such as 9/11.
David Boyce, Dewsbury, UK

America is a country which we really admire. It is a peaceful country, its people are very loving and understanding. The contributions America has done to the world cannot go unnoticed. Yes America is a wonderful country. The only thing we feel that has daunted America's image (in the whole universe) is George W Bush...!
Kabvuto, Lusaka, Zambia

If I were the US I would withdraw into myself and see how the world becomes a better place without me. This is the only way the world would know it cannot do without the US.
Arrah, Abidjan

When Bush shows up somewhere in the world, there is massive protest. This was not the case in Clinton's time. Has the world changed or has America?
Jan, Belgium

We may be the superpower but we need the rest of the world just as much as they need us
Maria, Los Angeles

Being a superpower does not automatically make the US an empire. It does not compare to the Roman Empire or the British Empire. However many Americans are snobs and very arrogant. We sometimes want to control other countries but yet we do not want to admit it is imperialism. We were quick to criticize France but happily accepted French assistance and money when they helped us become a country. Our president is a cowboy and has no idea of working together with the rest of the world. The EU challenges us daily and our goods superiority is dwindling. We should not be too arrogant. We are not an island. We may be the superpower but we need the rest of the world just as much as they need us.
Maria, Los Angeles, USA


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific