There have been many empires in the history of mankind. In fact it seems as if every few hundred years a leader comes along or a dominant nation comes along that tries to spread it's influence in it's known world. Early examples include Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. Later came the Roman empire, the Huns and the British. Several other countries tried to exert their influence around the world, especially after the discovery of the "new" world, including the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese and the Dutch.
In more modern times we have seen this same tendency toward empire by the Nazi Germans and the Japanese of the same era. I think it could hardly be debated that from the end of WWII that the US and the Soviet Union competed to also establish an empire, if only to deny that empire to each other.
Still, if there is one thing that the pursuit of empire has taught humankind is that they are, ultimately, destined to fail. This holds true no matter what type of philosophy or political stance the empire building nation believes in. If you try to establish a militaristic empire like the Romans or the Huns, you fail. If you try to establish a political empire like the Greeks did, you still fail. If you try to establish a combination empire like the British did, you fail again. If history has taught us anything it's that one size does not fit all. That one form of government or political or religious philosophy does not translate well enough to include all comers and when any empire ties to force it's view upon the conquered, they fail. In the end, they all fail.
In October of 2001 the United States, along with several allies, rightfully launched a war against Afghanistan to (ostensibly) punish Al-qaeda who attacked us on 9-11. However that effort was corrupted by a group of people who were using that war as an excuse to try to establish a new American empire in the oil rich Middle-East. The Project for the New American Century believed that America could invade Iraq and that that action would set off a domino effect throughout the Middle-East and that democracy would bloom throughout the region. I'm sure it looked great on paper. Of course they were wrong since it didn't take into account that the people there might not want a Western style democracy, but instead preferred a religious Qur'an based government.
However, in many ways, thier motivation is not the question. The proper question is, IS America an empire in the making? Should we want to be? Is being an empire a step too far for us? Can we rule the world? Do we have the power and resources to rule the world? Why would we want to? If we somehow manged to take over the world, could we hold onto it? Could we introduce a political and even religious system that would satisfy enough of the world's population to allow us to maintain control?
We have a quarter million troops deployed around the world in dozens of different countries. Granted they are not occupying armies like with other empires, but there are several countries that only maintain their existence because of our troops, like South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. We protect them and that's fine, but does that protection make us an empire because we want to be one?
I think that America is dangerously close to becoming an empire, if it hasn't already become one. I say dangerously because I think that once a nation tries to become an empire in it's concept of the civilized world, that it signs it's own death warrant. No national or political or religious philosophy is broad enough to encompass the belief's and nationalism's to satisfy all people. Being an empire is not only morally wrong, it's economically unsustainable. We can no longer afford to have our armies guarding and conquering the far flung regions of the world. Yes, the world has grown smaller, but that does not mean we can afford to maintain the armies and bureaucracy to to control everywhere we seem to want to control.
I have no doubt that there are people on Newsvine who disagree with me (it's rather obvious actually. :), but I hope that others will participate in this poll and discussion because I think it's an issue facing us today in many parts of the world and as a nation and people.
I think America came close to trying to be an empire and that we should back off. It's more then we can chew.