American Empire
American imperialism is a term referring to the economic, military and cultural influence of the United States on other countries. The concept of an American Empire was first popularized during the presidency of James K. Polk
James K. Polk
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States . Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 12th Governor of Tennessee...

 who led the United States into the Mexican–American War
Mexican–American War
The Mexican–American War, also known as the First American Intervention, the Mexican War, or the U.S.–Mexican War, was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 in the wake of the 1845 U.S...

 of 1846 and the eventual annexation of the territories like California and the Gadsden purchase
Gadsden Purchase
The Gadsden Purchase is a region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that was purchased by the United States in a treaty signed by James Gadsden, the American ambassador to Mexico at the time, on December 30, 1853. It was then ratified, with changes, by the U.S...


Imperialism and empire

Thomas Jefferson, in the 1780s, awaited the fall of the Spanish empire: “… till our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece [sic].” In turn, historian Sidney Lens
Sidney Lens
Sidney Lens , also known by his party name Sid Okun, was an American labor leader, political activist, and author, best known for his book, The Day Before Doomsday, which warns of the prospect of nuclear annihilation, published in 1977 by Doubleday. He also wrote a history of U.S...

 notes that “the urge for expansion at the expense of other peoples goes back to the beginnings of the United States itself.”

Effects labelled "cultural imperialism
Cultural imperialism
Cultural imperialism is the domination of one culture over another. Cultural imperialism can take the form of a general attitude or an active, formal and deliberate policy, including military action. Economic or technological factors may also play a role...

" occur without overt government policy. Stuart Creighton Miller
Benevolent Assimilation (book)
."Benevolent Assimilation": The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903 is a non-fiction book documenting the history of the Philippine–American War by Stuart Creighton Miller , a professor at San Francisco State University, published in 1982 by Yale University Press. The title refers to U.S...

 says that the public's sense of innocence about Realpolitik
Realpolitik refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises...

 impairs popular recognition of U.S. imperial conduct. The resistance to actively occupying foreign territory has led to policies of exerting influence via other means, including governing other countries via surrogates, where domestically unpopular governments survive only through U.S. support.

The maximum geographical extension of American direct political and military control happened in the aftermath of World War II
Aftermath of World War II
After World War II a new era of tensions emerged based on opposing ideologies, mutual distrust between nations, and a nuclear arms race. This emerged into an environment dominated by a international balance of power that had changed significantly from the status quo before the war...

, in the period after the surrender and occupations of Germany and Austria in May and later Japan and Korea
United States Army Military Government in Korea
The United States Army Military Government in Korea, also known as USAMGIK, was the official ruling body of the southern half of the Korean Peninsula from September 8, 1945 to August 15, 1948...

 in September 1945
Japanese Instrument of Surrender
The Japanese Instrument of Surrender was the written agreement that enabled the Surrender of Japan, marking the end of World War II. It was signed by representatives from the Empire of Japan, the United States of America, the Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist...

 and before the independence of the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 in July 1946
Treaty of Manila (1946)
The Treaty of Manila is a treaty of general relations signed on July 4, 1946 in Manila, capital of the Philippines. Parties to the treaty were the governments of the United States and the Republic of the Philippines...


American exceptionalism

American exceptionalism
American exceptionalism
American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other countries. In this view, America's exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming "the first new nation," and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty,...

 refers to the theory that the United States occupies a special niche among the nations of the world in terms of its national credo
A credo |Latin]] for "I Believe") is a statement of belief, commonly used for religious belief, such as the Apostles' Creed. The term especially refers to the use of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the Mass, either as text, Gregorian chant, or other musical settings of the...

, historical evolution, political and religious institutions and origins.

Philosopher Douglas Kellner
Douglas Kellner
Douglas Kellner is a “third generation” critical theorist in the tradition of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, or Frankfurt School. Kellner was an early theorist of the field of critical media literacy and has been a leading theorist of media culture generally...

 traces the identification of American exceptionalism as a distinct phenomenon back to 19th century French observer Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

, who concluded by agreeing that the U.S., uniquely, was "proceeding along a path to which no limit can be perceived."

American exceptionalism is popular among people within the U.S., but its validity and its consequences are disputed.

As a Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

editorial opines on the phenomenon, "in Britain, empire was justified as a benevolent 'white man’s burden'
The White Man's Burden
"The White Man's Burden" is a poem by the English poet Rudyard Kipling. It was originally published in the popular magazine McClure's in 1899, with the subtitle The United States and the Philippine Islands...

. And in the United States, empire does not even exist; 'we' are merely protecting the causes of freedom, democracy, and justice worldwide."

Imperialism at the heart of U.S. foreign policy

Historian Donald W. Meinig says that imperial behaviour for the United States dates at least to the Louisiana Purchase
Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America of of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S...

, which he describes as an "imperial acquisition – imperial in the sense of the aggressive encroachment of one people upon the territory of another, resulting in the subjugation of that people to alien rule." The U.S. policies towards the Native Americans he said were "designed to remold them into a people more appropriately conformed to imperial desires."

Early twentieth writers academics like Charles A. Beard
Charles A. Beard
Charles Austin Beard was, with Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential American historians of the first half of the 20th century. He published hundreds of monographs, textbooks and interpretive studies in both history and political science...

 and Andrew Bacevich
Andrew Bacevich
Andrew J. Bacevich, Sr. is a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the United States Army...

, in support of non-interventionism (sometimes referred to in a derogatory manner as "isolationism"), discussed American policy as being driven by self-interested expansionism going back as far back as the writing of the Constitution. Some politicians today do not agree. Pat Buchanan
Pat Buchanan
Patrick Joseph "Pat" Buchanan is an American paleoconservative political commentator, author, syndicated columnist, politician and broadcaster. Buchanan was a senior adviser to American Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, and was an original host on CNN's Crossfire. He sought...

 claims that the modern United States' drive to empire is "far removed from what the Founding Fathers had intended the young Republic to become."

Bacevich argues that the U.S. did not fundamentally change its foreign policy after the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, and remains focused on an effort to expand its control across the world. As the surviving superpower at the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could focus its assets in new directions, the future being "up for grabs" according to former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Dundes Wolfowitz is a former United States Ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, President of the World Bank, and former dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University...

 in 1991.

Sidney Lens calls American exceptionalism a myth which allows any number of "excesses and cruelties, though sometimes admitted, usually [to be] regarded as momentary aberrations."

In Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, the political activist Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 argues that exceptionalism and the denials of imperialism are the result of a systematic strategy of propaganda, to "manufacture opinion" as the process has long been described in other countries. "Domination of the media", according to Chomsky, allows an elite to "fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place."

Views of American imperialism

Journalist Ashley Smith divides theories of the U.S. imperialism into 5 broad categories: (1) "liberal" theories, (2) "social-democratic" theories, (3) "Leninist" theories, (4) theories of "super-imperialism
Super-imperialism is a Marxist term with two possible meanings. It refers either to the hegemony of an imperialist great power over its weaker rivals, who then are called sub-imperialisms, or to a comprehensive supra-structure above a set of equal-righted imperialist states...

", and (5) "Hardt-and-Negri-ite" theories. There is also a conservative, anti-interventionist view as expressed by American journalist John T. Flynn
John T. Flynn
John Thomas Flynn was an American journalist best known for his opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and to American entry into World War II.-Career:...


The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

 to regenerate our victims, while incidentally capturing their markets; to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples, while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.

A "social-democratic" theory says that imperialistic U.S. policies are the products of the excessive influence of certain sectors of U.S. business and government—the arms industry
Arms industry
The arms industry is a global industry and business which manufactures and sells weapons and military technology and equipment. It comprises government and commercial industry involved in research, development, production, and service of military material, equipment and facilities...

 in alliance with military and political bureaucracies and sometimes other industries such as oil and finance, a combination often referred to as the "military–industrial complex". The complex is said to benefit from war profiteering
War profiteering
A war profiteer is any person or organization that profits from warfare or by selling weapons and other goods to parties at war. The term has strong negative connotations. General profiteering may also occur in peace time.-International arms dealers:...

 and the looting of natural resource
Natural resource
Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems....

s, often at the expense of the public interest. The proposed solution is typically unceasing popular vigilance in order to apply counter-pressure. Johnson holds a version of this view.

Alfred T. Mahan, who served as an officer in the U.S. Navy during the late 19th century, supported the notion of American imperialism in his 1890 book titled The Influence of Sea Power upon History
The Influence of Sea Power upon History
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783 is a history of naval warfare written in 1890 by Alfred Thayer Mahan. It details the role of sea power throughout history and discusses the various factors needed to support and achieve sea power, with emphasis on having the largest and most...

. In chapter one Mahan argued that modern industrial nations must secure foreign markets for the purpose of exchanging goods and, consequently, they must maintain a maritime force that is capable of protecting these trade routes. Mahan's argument provides a context that also justifies imperialism by industrial nations such as the United States.

A theory of "super-imperialism" says that imperialistic U.S. policies are driven not simply by the interests of American businesses, but by the interests of the economic elites of a global alliance of developed countries. Capitalism in Europe, the U.S., and Japan has become too entangled, in this view, to permit military or geopolitical conflict between these countries, and the central conflict in modern imperialism is between the global core
Core countries
In World Systems Theory, the core countries are the industrialized capitalist countries on which periphery countries and semi-periphery countries depend. Core countries control and benefit from the global market. They are usually recognized as wealthy nations with a wide variety of resources and...

 and the global periphery
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 rather than between imperialist powers. Political scientists Leo Panitch
Leo Panitch
Leo Panitch is a Distinguished Research Professor, renowned political economist, Marxist theorist and editor of the Socialist Register. He received a B.A. from the University of Manitoba in 1967 and a M.Sc. and PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1968 and 1974,...

 and Samuel Gindin hold versions of this view. Lenin argued this view was wishful thinking.


In the book "Empire
Empire (book)
Empire is a text written by post-Marxist philosophers Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. The book, written in the mid-1990s, was published in 2000 and quickly sold beyond its expectations as an academic work.-Summary:...

", Michael Hardt
Michael Hardt
Michael Hardt is an American literary theorist and political philosopher perhaps best known for Empire, written with Antonio Negri and published in 2000...

 and Antonio Negri
Antonio Negri
Antonio Negri is an Italian Marxist sociologist and political philosopher.Negri is best-known for his co-authorship of Empire, and secondarily for his work on Spinoza. Born in Padua, he became a political philosophy professor in his hometown university...

 argue that "the decline of Empire has begun". Hardt says the Iraq War is a classically imperialist war, and is the last gasp of a doomed strategy. This new era still has colonizing power, but it has moved from national military forces based on an economy of physical goods to networked biopower
Biopower was a term coined by French Social theorist and philosopher Michel Foucault it refers to the practice of modern states and their regulation of their subjects through "an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations." ...

 based on an informational and affective
Affect (philosophy)
Affect is a concept used in the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza and elaborated by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari...

 economy. The U.S. is central to the development and constitution of a new global regime of international power
Power in international relations
Power in international relations is defined in several different ways. Political scientists, historians, and practitioners of international relations have used the following concepts of political power:...

 and sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

, termed Empire, but is decentralized and global, and not ruled by one sovereign state; "the United States does indeed occupy a privileged position in Empire, but this privilege derives not from its similarities to the old European imperialist powers, but from its differences." Hardt and Negri draw on the theories of Spinoza, Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

, Deleuze, and Italian autonomist marxists.

Geographer David Harvey
David Harvey (geographer)
David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York . A leading social theorist of international standing, he received his PhD in Geography from University of Cambridge in 1961. Widely influential, he is among the top 20 most cited...

 says there has emerged a new type of imperialism due to geographical distinctions as well as uneven levels of development. He says there has emerged three new global economic and politics blocs: the United States, the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, and East Asia centered around China and Japan. He says there are tensions between the three major blocs over resources and economic power, citing the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

, whose goal was to prevent rivals from controlling oil. Furthermore, Harvey argues there can arise conflict within the major blocs between capitalists and politicians due to their opposing economic interests. Politicians, on the other hand, live in geographically fixed locations and are, in the U.S. and Europe, accountable to the electorate. The 'new' imperialism, then, has led to an alignment of the interests of capitalists and politicians in order to prevent the rise and expansion of possible economic and political rivals from challenging America's dominance.

U.S. military bases

Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Ashby Johnson was an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He served in the Korean War, was a consultant for the CIA from 1967–1973, and chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1972...

 argues that America's version of the colony is the military base. Chip Pitts
Chip Pitts
Chip Pitts is the Board President of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and former Chairman of Amnesty International USA.-Career:Pitts is an international attorney, human rights activist, and law educator who lectures on human rights and international business at law schools and universities...

 argues similarly that enduring U.S. bases in Iraq suggest a vision of "Iraq as a colony".

There have also been conflicting reports made by U.S. government officials as to how many military bases actually exist outside the country.

While territories such as Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

, the United States Virgin Islands
United States Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands of the United States are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.The U.S...

, the Northern Mariana Islands
Northern Mariana Islands
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , is a commonwealth in political union with the United States, occupying a strategic region of the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of 15 islands about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines...

, American Samoa
American Samoa
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of the sovereign state of Samoa...

, and Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 remain under U.S. control, the U.S. allowed many of its overseas territories or occupations to gain independence after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Examples include the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 (1946), the Federated States of Micronesia
Federated States of Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia or FSM is an independent, sovereign island nation, made up of four states from west to east: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It comprises approximately 607 islands with c...

 (1986), Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

 (1986), and Palau
Palau , officially the Republic of Palau , is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and south of Tokyo. In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a...

 (1994). Most of them still have U.S. bases within their territories. In the case of Okinawa, which came under U.S. administration after the battle of Okinawa
Battle of Okinawa
The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945...

 during World War II, this happened despite local popular opinion. As of 2003, the United States had bases in over 36 countries worldwide.

Benevolent imperialism

Max Boot
Max Boot
Max Boot is an American author, consultant, editorialist, lecturer, and military historian. He has been a prominent advocate for American power. He once described his ideas as "American might to promote American ideals." He self-identifies as a conservative, once joking that "I grew up in the...

 defends U.S. imperialism by claiming: "U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century. It has defeated communism and Nazism and has intervened against the Taliban and Serbian ethnic cleansing." Boot willingly used "imperialism" to describe United States policy, not only in the early 20th century but "since at least 1803".

Columnist Charles Krauthammer
Charles Krauthammer
Charles Krauthammer, MD is an American Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist, political commentator, and physician. His weekly column appears in The Washington Post and is syndicated to more than 275 newspapers and media outlets. He is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and The New...

 says, "People are now coming out of the closet on the word 'empire.'" This embrace of empire is made by many neoconservatives
Neoconservatism in the United States is a branch of American conservatism. Since 2001, neoconservatism has been associated with democracy promotion, that is with assisting movements for democracy, in some cases by economic sanctions or military action....

, including British historian Paul Johnson, and writers Dinesh D'Souza
Dinesh D'Souza
Dinesh D'Souza is an author and public speaker and a former Robert and Karen Rishwain Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is currently the President of The King's College in New York City. D'Souza is a noted Christian apologist and conservative writer and speaker....

 and Mark Steyn
Mark Steyn
Mark Steyn is a Canadian-born writer, conservative-leaning political commentator, and cultural critic. He has written five books, including America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, a New York Times bestseller...

. It is also made by some liberal hawks
War Hawk
War Hawk is a term originally used to describe members of the Twelfth Congress of the United States who advocated waging war against the British in the War of 1812...

, such as political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski is a Polish American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981....

, and Michael Ignatieff
Michael Ignatieff
Michael Grant Ignatieff is a Canadian author, academic and former politician. He was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Official Opposition from 2008 until 2011...


For instance, British historian Niall Ferguson
Niall Ferguson
Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson is a British historian. His specialty is financial and economic history, particularly hyperinflation and the bond markets, as well as the history of colonialism.....

 argues that the United States is an empire, but believes that this is a good thing. Ferguson has drawn parallels between the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and the imperial role of the United States in the late 20th century and early 21st century, though he describes the United States' political and social structures as more like those of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 than of the British. Ferguson argues that all these empires have had both positive and negative aspects, but that the positive aspects of the U.S. empire will, if it learns from history and its mistakes, greatly outweigh its negative aspects.

American imperialism as an aberration

Another point of view believes United States expansion overseas has been imperialistic, but this imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 as a temporary phenomenon, a corruption of American ideals or the relic of a past historical era. Historian Samuel Flagg Bemis argues that Spanish–American War expansionism was a short-lived imperialistic impulse and "a great aberration in American history", a very different form of territorial growth than that of earlier American history. Historian Walter LaFeber
Walter LaFeber
Walter LaFeber was a Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History and a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow in the Department of History at Cornell University...

 sees the Spanish–American War expansionism not as an aberration, but as a culmination of United States expansion westward. But both agree that the end of the occupation of the Philippines marked the end of U.S. empire, hence denying that present United States foreign policy is imperialistic.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson
Victor Davis Hanson
Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, political essayist and former classics professor, notable as a scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a commentator on modern warfare and contemporary politics for National Review and other media outlets...

 argues that the U.S. does not pursue world domination
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

, but maintains worldwide influence by a system of mutually beneficial exchanges.

Liberal internationalists
Neoliberalism in international relations
In the study of international relations, neoliberalism refers to a school of thought which believes that nation-states are, or at least should be, concerned first and foremost with absolute gains rather than relative gains to other nation-states...

 argue that even though the present world order is dominated by the United States, the form taken by that dominance is not imperial. International relations scholar John Ikenberry
John Ikenberry
John Ikenberry is a theorist of international relations and United States foreign policy, and a professor of Politics and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.- Career :...

 argues that international institutions have taken the place of empire.

International relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

 scholar Joseph Nye
Joseph Nye
Joseph Samuel Nye, Jr. is the co-founder, along with Robert Keohane, of the international relations theory neoliberalism, developed in their 1977 book Power and Interdependence. Together with Keohane, he developed the concepts of asymmetrical and complex interdependence...

 argues that U.S. power is more and more based on "soft power
Soft power
Soft power is the ability to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction. It can be contrasted with 'hard power', that is the use of coercion and payment...

", which comes from cultural hegemony rather than raw military or economic force. This includes such factors as the widespread desire to emigrate to the United States, the prestige and corresponding high proportion of foreign students at U.S. universities, and the spread of U.S. styles of popular music and cinema. Thus the U.S., no matter how hegemonic, can no longer be considered to be an 'empire' in the classic sense of the term.

Factors unique to the "Age of imperialism"

A variety of factors may have coincided during the "Age of Imperialism" in the late 19th century, when the United States and the other major powers rapidly expanded their territorial possessions. Some of these are explained, or used as examples for the various perceived forms of American imperialism.
  • The prevalence of racism, notably Ernst Haeckel
    Ernst Haeckel
    The "European War" became known as "The Great War", and it was not until 1920, in the book "The First World War 1914-1918" by Charles à Court Repington, that the term "First World War" was used as the official name for the conflict.-Research:...

    's "biogenic law," John Fiske's conception of Anglo-Saxon
    British people
    The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

     racial superiority, and Josiah Strong
    Josiah Strong
    Josiah Strong was an American Protestant clergyman, organizer, editor and author.-Overview:Josiah Strong was one of the founders of the Social Gospel movement that sought to apply Protestant religious principles to solve the social ills brought on by industrialization, urbanization and immigration...

    's call to "civilize and Christianize" – all manifestations of a growing Social Darwinism
    Social Darwinism
    Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

     and racism in some schools of American political thought.

  • Early in his career, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish–American War and was an enthusiastic proponent of testing the U.S. military in battle, at one point stating "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one".

Debate over U.S. foreign policy

Some scholars, however, defend the historical role of the U.S. Other prominent political figures, such as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Henry Rumsfeld is an American politician and businessman. Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and the oldest person to...

, for example, have argued that "[The U.S. does not] seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been."

Thorton wrote that "[...]imperialism is more often the name of the emotion that reacts to a series of events than a definition of the events themselves. Where colonization finds analysts and analogies, imperialism must contend with crusaders for and against." Political theorist Michael Walzer
Michael Walzer
Michael Walzer is a prominent American political philosopher and public intellectual. A professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, he is co-editor of Dissent, an intellectual magazine that he has been affiliated with since his years as an undergraduate at...

 argues that the term hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

 is better than empire to describe the US's role in the world; political scientist Robert Keohane
Robert Keohane
Robert O. Keohane is an American academic, who, following the publication of his influential book After Hegemony , became widely associated with the theory of neoliberal institutionalism in international relations...

 agrees saying, a "balanced and nuanced analysis is not the use of the phrase 'empire' to describe United States hegemony, since 'empire' obscures rather than illuminates the differences in form of rule between the United States and other Great Powers, such as Great Britain in the nineteenth century or the Soviet Union
Soviet Empire
During the Cold War, the informal term "Soviet Empire" referred to the Soviet Union's influence over a number of smaller nations who were nominally independent but subject to direct military force if they tried to leave the Soviet system; see Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and Prague Spring.Though...

 in the twentieth."

Other political scientists, such as Daniel Nexon and Thomas Wright, argue that neither term exclusively describes foreign relations of the United States
Foreign relations of the United States
The United States has formal diplomatic relations with most nations. The United States federal statutes relating to foreign relations can be found in Title 22 of the United States Code.-Pacific:-Americas:-Caribbean:...

. The U.S. can be, and has been, simultaneously an empire and a hegemonic power. They claim that the general trend in U.S. foreign relations has been away from imperial modes of control.

Cultural imperialism

Some critics of imperialism argue that military and cultural imperialism
Cultural imperialism
Cultural imperialism is the domination of one culture over another. Cultural imperialism can take the form of a general attitude or an active, formal and deliberate policy, including military action. Economic or technological factors may also play a role...

 are interdependent. American Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

, one of the founders of post-colonial theory, said that,
International relations scholar David Rothkopf disagree and argues that cultural imperialism is the innocent result of globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

, which allows access to numerous U.S. and Western ideas and products that many non-U.S. and non-Western consumers across the world voluntarily choose to consume. Matthew Fraser
Matthew Fraser (journalist)
Matthew William Fraser is a British-Canadian journalist, academic, and author known for his writing about the media industries...

 has a similar analysis, but argues further that the global cultural influence of the U.S. is a good thing.

See also

  • 51st state
    51st state
    The 51st state, in United States political discourse, is a phrase that refers to areas either seriously or derisively considered candidates for addition to the 50 states already part of the United States. Before 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii joined the U.S., the term "the 49th state" was used...

  • American (word)
  • American Anti-Imperialist League
    American Anti-Imperialist League
    The American Anti-Imperialist League was an organization established in the United States on June 15, 1898 to battle the American annexation of the Philippines as an insular area...

  • American Century
    American Century
    American Century is a term used to describe the United States' dominance of much of the 20th century, in political, economic and cultural terms. The United States' influence grew throughout the 20th century, but became especially dominant after the end of World War II, when only two superpowers...

  • Americanization
    Americanization is the influence of the United States on the popular culture, technology, business practices, or political techniques of other countries. The term has been used since at least 1907. Inside the U.S...

  • Anti-imperialism
    Anti-imperialism, strictly speaking, is a term that may be applied to a movement opposed to any form of colonialism or imperialism. Anti-imperialism includes opposition to wars of conquest, particularly of non-contiguous territory or people with a different language or culture; it also includes...

  • Criticism of American foreign policy
    Criticism of American foreign policy
    Criticism of United States foreign policy encompasses a wide range of sentiments about its actions and policies over time.-Common criticisms:...

  • Empire lite
    Empire lite
    Empire lite is a form of imperialism in which major powers shape world affairs using diplomacy and short-term military intervention rather than conquest, colonialism or direct governance of other countries...

  • Hyperpower
    A hyperpower is a state that dominates all other states in every sphere of activity. A hyperpower is traditionally considered to be one step higher than a superpower. The definition and use of the term varies....

  • Inverted totalitarianism
    Inverted totalitarianism
    Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe an "ideal type" government. Wolin uses the term to describe the government of the United States as it has evolved since World War II...

  • Neocolonialism
    Neocolonialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control a country in lieu of direct military or political control...

  • New Imperialism
    New Imperialism
    New Imperialism refers to the colonial expansion adopted by Europe's powers and, later, Japan and the United States, during the 19th and early 20th centuries; expansion took place from the French conquest of Algeria until World War I: approximately 1830 to 1914...

  • Non-interventionism
    Nonintervention or non-interventionism is a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy, and avoid all wars not related to direct self-defense...

  • Oil imperialism theories
    Oil imperialism theories
    Oil imperialism theories assert that direct and indirect control of world petroleum reserves is a root factor in current international politics.-Control of oil:...

  • Project for the New American Century
    Project for the New American Century
    The Project for the New American Century was an American think tank based in Washington, D.C. that lasted from 1997 to 2006. It was co-founded as a non-profit educational organization by neoconservatives William Kristol and Robert Kagan...

  • US Att. Gen. Ramsey Clark's List of US "Major Aggressions"

Further reading

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