I’ve been doing loads of reading lately, if not to find articles within these books for the Detroit Street Press then at least to keep my mind from going to mush. There are several articles in my head, that I can’t seem to translate to words on the screen. I recently found out that Russia has halted all emissions testing, that Obama’s limo was run aground in Dublin, that there are more Avon women in Brazil than armed forces and that the Diplomatic Security Service is pretty bad ass.
I’m not writing about any of those tonight though. Tonight, in a spat of unusual restlessness I fled to my computer to spew out an article that has been the main theme of the current book I’m reading. The Next Decade, by George Friedman.
Friedman entered my life in December. It was thanks to a gift from DSP contributor Louise Gallagher, one of his original books called The Next 100 Years. It was instantly captivating. Friedman is a pretty smart cookie, and has an uncanny ability to dissect the world in a way that I think only a few super intelligent people can (all of those people I’m talking about would rarely use the word ‘super’ to describe the intelligence of someone else’). Friedman spent a good portion of his life teaching at the university level, after getting his PhD at Cornell. He then founded Stratfor, a private intelligence company. Stratfor itself has had a pretty interesting history, offering a mixture of free and paid information services and who list just about everyone as their client (from companies, writers, academics and… yours truly). Stratfor’s hired a bunch of other really ‘super’ smart people to break down what’s going on around the world (including one of my new favourite writers, former cop and DSS agent Fred Burton).
I’ve found myself citing Friedman in my very own writing, conversations and arguments. In “The Next 100 Years” he argues that Russia will quickly rise and fall, China breaks up; Poland, Turkey and Japan will become rivals to the point of conflict against the USA and that Mexico will be the big threat in 100 years. The essence to all of those arguments (which… all of which I think are plausible now) and the entire first chapter of the current book of his that I’m reading (the Next Decade) is that currently, the United States of America is in an unwanted position of empire.
So my question posed to all three of my readers is this: Is America an Empire? Friedman sure thinks so. Page XV of his book, the first paragraph of his prologue:
I argue that the United States has become an empire not because it intended to, but because history has worked out that way. the issue of whether the Unites States should be an empire is meaningless. It is an empire.
He then goes on about managing said empire.
As a Canadian, the thought of the USA (which for me is literally… right over there. I’m so close I can hear it) as an Empire is unnerving. Perhaps that’s normal though, as Friedman argues that America itself is uncomfortable with it being an Empire, as the founders were so focused upon it not becoming one.
What an empire is itself is difficult to frame. According to the much used by students/loathed by professors around the world Wikipedia and empire can range from the Spanish Empire of yesteryears to the reach of a transnational corporation. I’m going to take empire in the Friedman-ian sense to mean the extreme version of empire. Power, money, might.
The question asked, the gauntlet thrown down is that of whether or not America is an Empire. At first glance, I would scoff. As an undergrad I would have given examples of the amount of debt the US has (at least until Economics 201 I would have). As an MA student, I would have cited American military losses in Vietnam and in Iraq. As a ski lift attendant a little more than a year ago, I would have pointed out that they lost the 2010 Olympic Hockey Gold Match. In (early) December 2010 I would have pointed out that the term ‘empire’ is dated, referring specifically to old-skool Prussia, Ottomans, Mongols or Russians.
Today, I’m going to say that… shit, Friedman is probably right. Again, I’m not happy about it.
Economically, nothing even touches the US. It produces a quarter of the world’s wealth. Again, it PRODUCES A QUARTER OF THE WORLD’S WEALTH. It’s companies are big, vast and have enormous power outside of the country itself. It is more than three times larger than the next largest economy of China, WHICH brings me to the next point.
Politically, the United States is very very strong. The federal government of the US is not, despite what a few fringe groups or sovereign citizens claim, in crisis or fractured. It is very strong within American borders, and very strong (if not stronger) outside it’s own borders. The US is involved politically with every single issue around the world. No other country can claim that. It’s strength makes it a player in all issues internationally. This past week, Obama called for the restoration of Israeli borders in 1967. Really pissed off Bibi. This past week PM Harper said Canada wouldn’t be supporting the same border restoration. No one cared. I’m sure the Bolivian, Botswanian, Senegalese and Kuwaiti governments all issued their own statements. No one cared about them either, because they don’t matter politically.
Militarily, the US is light years ahead, and has been for a long time. The last time the Americans could have (maybe)
been challenged was with the blight of the US Air Force in the 60′s and 70′s. They would have lost an air war against the Russians (as shown by the proxy wars with the MiG fighters in Vietnam and in the Middle East). Navy pilots would have still destroyed everyone else around them though, so it’s a moot point anyway. The US has the ability to strike anywhere it pleases. More importantly, the US is incredibly secure geo-politically. Canada to the North, Mexico to the south and oceans elsewhere. The US Navy literally controls who goes where around the world, including the valuable shipping lanes (showing how close the military is to the economy of the USA). The likelihood of any American cities being attacked and invaded is next to nothing. The likelihood of Russia, Germany, China, Japan or Israel being attacked and invaded is a real possibility.
That’s it. That’s the basic argument. America is so much bigger than everyone else, it dominates. Whether or not it wants to be, it’s involved in all of the worlds affairs. This is something that wasn’t true before 1991. The Cold War had the Soviet’s balancing the Americans. The World Wars had the borders of America being threatened. Today though, who competes?
I look forward to your responses.