The United States is the most powerful nation in the world and it often acts unilaterally, but is it an Empire?
Though some insist that “empire” means only direct rule over large-scale conquered territory, the United States today looks decidedly imperial. The term empire has entered common usage, not only among critics but also among advocates of muscular US policy and global superiority. Economist Niall Ferguson has written about the British Empire as a lesson-book for contemporary US power. Influential Washington neo-conservatives are using the E-word freely, insisting that the United States is the world’s most benevolent nation and that it should use its imperial power robustly to expand “freedom” across the globe.
This section considers not only the utility of the Empire concept but also the way in which the United States (empire or not) deploys its economic, political and military power globally, limiting the force of international law, shrinking the capacity of international organizations, and reducing the possibility of multilateral action and democratic self-governance in an increasingly interdependent world. We ask also: what limits will this empire encounter, can it sustain “full spectrum dominance” for the forseeable future or will it provoke such broad opposition that its era of hegemony and prosperity comes swiftly and decisively to a close?