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In praise of American empire

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America has become an empire, a fact that Americans are reluctant to admit and that critics of the United States regard with great alarm.

Since the end of the cold war, the US has exercised an unparalleled and largely unrivaled influence throughout the world – economically, politically, culturally, and militarily. Critics of America, at home and abroad, are right to worry about how US power is being used.

The critics charge that America is no different from other rapacious empires that have trampled the continents in previous centuries. Within the universities, intellectuals speak of American policies as "neo-imperialist," because they promote the goals of empire while eschewing the term.

America talks about lofty ideals, the critics say, but in reality it pursues its naked self-interest. In the Gulf War, for example, America's leaders asserted they were fighting for human rights, but in truth they were fighting to protect US access to oil. The critics point to past US support for dictators like Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and the Shah of Iran as evidence that Americans don't really care about democratic ideals.

Even now the US supports unelected regimes in Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. No wonder, the critics say, so many people around the world are anti-American and some even resort to terrorism to lash out.

Are the critics right? They are correct to note the extent of American influence, but wrong to suggest that the US is no different from such colonial powers as the British, French, and Spanish that once dominated the world. Those empires – like the Islamic, Mongol, and Chinese empires – were sustained primarily by force. The British ruled my native country of India with some 100,000 troops.

US domination is not sustained primarily by force. True, America has bases in the Middle East and Far East, and it can intervene militarily just about anywhere in the world.

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