The Empire Trap: the Rise and Fall of US Intervention to Protect American Property Overseas (1893-2013)
Princeton University Press, 568pp, £27.95
“We don’t seek empires. We’re not imperialistic. We never have been.” So said Donald Rumsfeld in an interview on al-Jazeera in April 2003. Coming one month in to the invasion of Iraq, the claim by the then US secretary of state was met with snorts of derision from across the political spectrum. Later that year, Noam Chomsky published Hegemony or Survival, which argued that the US has pursued an “Imperial Grand Strategy” since 1945 in order to maintain global economic dominance. Niall Ferguson’s 2004Colossus: the Rise and Fall of the American Empire also took issue with Rumsfeld’s disavowal of imperial intentions. For Ferguson, America was in denial about having all the characteristics of the biggest empire that has ever existed, but shirking the responsibility that came with this was both unrealistic and counterproductive.
John Bew is the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. He is a contributing editor at War on the Rocks.
Image Credit: CIA. This damaged flag, recovered from the ruins of New York City’s World Trade Center, hangs in the office of the CIA director.