On Empire: America, War, and Global Supremacy

On Empire: America, War, and Global Supremacy

Language: English

Pages: 128

ISBN: 0375425373

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In there four incisive and keenly perceptive essays, one of out most celebrated and respected historians of modern Europe looks at the world situation and some of the major political problems confronting us at the start of the third millennium.

With his usual measured and brilliant historical perspective, Eric Hobsbawm traces the rise of American hegemony in the twenty-first century. He examines the state of steadily increasing world disorder in the context of rapidly growing inequalities created by rampant free-market globalization. He makes clear that there is no longer a plural power system of states whose relations are governed by common laws--including those for the conduct of war. He scrutinizes America's policies, particularly its use of the threat of terrorism as an excuse for unilateral deployment of its global power. Finally, he discusses the ways in which the current American hegemony differs from the defunct British Empire in its inception, its ideology, and its effects on nations and individuals.

Hobsbawm is particularly astute in assessing the United States' assertion of world hegemony, its denunciation of formerly accepted international conventions, and its launching of wars of aggression when it sees fit. Aside from the naivete and failure that have surrounded most of these imperial campaigns, Hobsbawm points out that foreign values and institutions--including those associated with a democratic government--can rarely be imposed on countries such as Iraq by outside forces unless the conditions exist that make them acceptable and readily adaptable.

Timely and accessible, On Empire is a commanding work of history that should be read by anyone who wants some understanding of the turbulent times in which we live.

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history—that is to say, the process of change in human life and society and the human impact on the global environment—has been accelerating at a dizzying pace. It is now proceeding at a speed which puts the future of both the human race and the natural environment at risk. In the middle of the last century, we suddenly entered a new phase in world history which has brought to an end history as we have known it in the past ten thousand years, that is to say since the invention of sedentary

perhaps owe their success to the disproportionate share of Scots in imperial and economic development. Yet they have long outgrown their historic origins. It would be absurd to see the next soccer World Cup as an example of the “soft power” of Great Britain. I now turn to the crucial differences between the two states. The potential size of the metropolitan country is the first obvious difference: islands like Britain have fixed borders. Britain had no frontier in the American sense. Britain has

into the British global trading system, might well have become more like a European empire, but it was the North that prevailed: free, protectionist, relying for its development on the unlimited mass home market. As it was, the characteristic form of U.S. empire outside its continental heartland was not to be like either the British Commonwealth or the British colonial empire. It could not consider dominions—that is, the gradual separation of areas of white settlement, with or without local

Homicide by a soldier in battle is not, in itself, a breach of the law. But what if a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) regards himself as a belligerent, even though official British law regards him as a murderer? Were the operations in Northern Ireland a war, as the IRA held, or an attempt in the face of lawbreakers to maintain orderly government in one province of the United Kingdom? Since not only a formidable local police force but a national army was mobilized against the IRA for

thirty years or so, we may conclude that it was a war, but one systematically run like a police operation, in a way that minimized casualties and the disruption of life in the province. In the end, there was a negotiated settlement, one which, typically, for nine years brought not peace, but merely an extended absence of fighting. Such are the complexities and confusions of the relations between peace and war at the start of the new century. They are well illustrated by the military and other

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