November 21, 2010

NEW?:

BOOK REVIEW: Why America Is Not a New Rome by Vaclav Smil (Steve Forbes, 12/06/10, Forbes)

Another fly in the U.S.-is-another-Rome ointment is the fact that the U.S. is not an empire. Only in the late 1890s, during the Spanish-American War, did we play the imperialist game, and that was very short-lived. "No permanent colonial regime followed the [Spanish-American War]; by 1902 the U.S. Supreme Court made the U.S. Constitution applicable to the [Philippines, which] became independent in July 1946."

Even at the height of its relative power following World War II, Smil notes, "the U.S. did not behave like an imperial power: It did not annex any foreign territories or impose any direct permanent military rule in the defeated countries."

And when it comes to imposing its will on others, the U.S. often looks like a wimp compared with Rome. "The U.S. does not rule and it does not command. It leads; it has allies, not subjects; and a leader, unlike an absolute sovereign, cannot demand submission." China, for instance, has no hesitation in thumbing its nose at the U.S. on the subject of revaluing its currency.

Empires such as Rome have their conquered territories pay for the empire's upkeep. In contrast, the U.S. ends up paying for the defense of such allied countries as Germany, France, Japan and South Korea. In that sense "the U.S. is the exact opposite of the Roman Empire."

When it comes to innovation, the U.S. is light-years ahead of Rome. "America's unrivaled position in today's global technoscientific universe had no analogue in Roman achievements. Despite its long duration and no shortage of acute minds, the Roman Empire had . . . a truly minimal record in advancing scientific understanding, and its overall contributions to technical and engineering innovations were fairly limited."


If you draw back a bit and consider the civilizing process (by which we mean Westernization) historically, isn't America just the latest capital of the Empire? The means have certainly changed--for the better--but the ends remain the same: to make every state more like us.



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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 21, 2010 7:19 AM
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