American Empire Foreclosed? (Mark Engler)

One of the people that we (D&S collective member and blogger Larry Peterson and I) got to hang out with while we were in New York for this year’s Left Forum was Mark Engler (author of this review that we published online a couple of months ago).

Mark has a great skewering of Niall Ferguson in the Spring issue of Dissent (it looks like that article is not (yet?) online; and there was a nice review of Mark’s book How to Rule the World in the Winter issue of Dissent. (Our table at the Left Forum book exhibit was next to Dissent‘s, and we enjoyed chatting with Maxine, Neil, and David.)

Mark has an interesting new piece on U.S. imperialism, recently posted to the website of Foreign Policy in Focus, where Mark is a senior analyst.

Empire Foreclosed?
Mark Engler | April 17, 2009

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 jodhpurs and pith helmets.”

It’s hard to believe 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 experienced a catastrophic occupation in Iraq, and voters have ousted the Republican vanguard of the “War on Terror.” Overt defenders of imperialism have found good reason to creep back into their wardrobes.

And that, of course, is to say nothing of the bursting of the housing bubble, the fall of Lehman, and the end of the hedge fund era. With unemployment rising and Wall Street shamed, we have entered a period of economic downturn acute enough to raise serious questions about the viability of U.S. power. The pressing issue today is: How will the economic crisis affect our country’s role in the world? Or, more bluntly: Is America’s empire facing foreclosure?

The answer involves more than just quibbles over the semantics of U.S. dominance. Together, the fallout from the imperial hubris of the Bush administration and the discrediting of the deregulated market fundamentalism that thrived even under Bill Clinton have opened new possibilities for reshaping the global order in the Obama years.

Read the rest of the article.


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