American Empire Foreclosed?

Not long ago, excitement over American imperialism reached levels not seen in a century. “People are coming out of the closet on the word ‘empire,’” the right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer told The New York Times in early 2002. Neoconservatives were on the rise in Washington, and their leading propagandists were not shy in making the case for aggressive expansionism. 


Wall Street Journal editor Max Boot, for instance, took issue with Pat Buchanan’s belief that the United States should be a “republic, not an empire.” “This analysis is exactly backward,” Boot wrote. “[T]he Sept. 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition; the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation.” He added, “troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodphurs and pith helmets.”


It is hard to believe that those sentiments, hallmarks of George W. Bush’s first term, were features of our very recent history. The debate they were a part of now seems distinctly strange and foreign. Since then, the world has experi

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