On Empire: America, War, and Global Supremacy
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In there four incisive and keenly perceptive essays, one of out most celebrated and respected historians of modern Europe looks at the world situation and some of the major political problems confronting us at the start of the third millennium.
With his usual measured and brilliant historical perspective, Eric Hobsbawm traces the rise of American hegemony in the twenty-first century. He examines the state of steadily increasing world disorder in the context of rapidly growing inequalities created by rampant free-market globalization. He makes clear that there is no longer a plural power system of states whose relations are governed by common laws--including those for the conduct of war. He scrutinizes America's policies, particularly its use of the threat of terrorism as an excuse for unilateral deployment of its global power. Finally, he discusses the ways in which the current American hegemony differs from the defunct British Empire in its inception, its ideology, and its effects on nations and individuals.
Hobsbawm is particularly astute in assessing the United States' assertion of world hegemony, its denunciation of formerly accepted international conventions, and its launching of wars of aggression when it sees fit. Aside from the naivete and failure that have surrounded most of these imperial campaigns, Hobsbawm points out that foreign values and institutions--including those associated with a democratic government--can rarely be imposed on countries such as Iraq by outside forces unless the conditions exist that make them acceptable and readily adaptable.
Timely and accessible, On Empire is a commanding work of history that should be read by anyone who wants some understanding of the turbulent times in which we live.
If the term “pax” has any meaning in this context it refers to the claim to establish peace within an empire and not internationally. And even then it is largely phony. The empires of history rarely ceased to conduct military operations on their territory and certainly they did so on their frontiers at all times, only such operations rarely impinged on metropolitan civil life. In the era of nineteenth- and twentieth-century imperialism, usually wars against nonwhites or other “inferiors,”
world. Through the 1950s, at least three-quarters of Britain’s enormous investments were in developing countries19 and even between the wars well over half of British exports went to the formal or informal British regions. That is why the British connection made the southern cone of Latin America prosperous while it lasted, while the U.S. connection with Mexico has produced chiefly a source of cheap labor for the northern neighbor. With European and U.S. industrialization, Britain soon ceased to
while the U.S. economy prospered. Nor were American governments unaware of the enormous boost this gave to dollar diplomacy. “We have got to finance the world in some important degree,” said Woodrow Wilson, “and those who finance the world must understand it and rule it with their spirits and their minds.”28 During and after World War II, from the Lend-Lease of 1940 to the British loan of 1946, Washington policy did not conceal that it aimed at the weakening of the British Empire as well as
superior military power and resources. In none of them has it so far produced stable solutions. In all the countries concerned, foreign military occupation and political supervision continue. In the best of cases—but plainly not in Afghanistan and Iraq—intervention has ended bloody wars and produced some kind of peace, but the positive results, as in the Balkans, are disappointing. In the worst of cases—Iraq—nobody would seriously deny that for the people whose liberation was the official excuse
But we may well ask how positive is the balance sheet of the colonial era for the inhabitants of the Americas other than the descendants of the European immigrants who settled there. Or, to take a more recent case, for the inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa. The memory of empire among its former subjects is more ambiguous. Most colonies or other dependencies of former empires have been transformed into independent states, which, like all states however new and unprecedented, need a history as