America as Empire: Global Leader or Rogue Power?
Jim Garrison’s book addresses a poignant theme faced by American culture today. Garrison explains that America must tread carefully in the present as to avoid crossing the fine line of acting as a “global leader” and acting as a “rogue power.” To begin with, I found it necessary to look up the word rogue,’ which dictionary.com defines as “vicious and solitary,” clearly a negative term. This being established, Garrison is attempting to address what it is that would make a country appear to be overbearing, overly aggressive and power hungry rather than as a respected, admired superpower.
Contrary to my belief upon picking up the book, Garrison quickly enlightened me to the other option. I had never thought of America as a “rogue power.” However, after giving it a few thoughts, and having Garrison’s input on the matter, it seems quite apparent that America has in fact become a rogue power. America, which was once seen as a picture-perfect place where dreams could be achieved and freedom be found, has indeed become a dominant solo power. It is the unmatched superpower of the world, unmatched by any foreign nation since the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, I found it quite strange to see in such black and white print, an assertion of America as a ruthless master in commander. Though the charm of living in America is that we have the ability and the freedom to criticize whatever we feel, it is rare for me to encounter an American with such a seemingly un-American point of view. Never the less is was quite informative.
I also agree with Garrison that the principles and practices upon which America was founded 225 years ago have drastically changed. Garrison stated that America “used to represent freedom. It now represents power.” After reading that, I was forced to take a step back and really consider that statement. To my own dismay I could not think of any grounds to disprove this statement. I found it quite disheartening to suddenly realize that America had in all essences of the word, had come to define the word “power.”
Garrison examines what makes a nation considered to be a republic, verses what makes a nation considered to be a republic. If a republic implies a democratically run single nation, then that term cannot completely apply to America. Though the way we govern ourselves may be democratically, internationally we can be viewed as nothing other than an empire, case and point – Iraq. America took it upon itself to use its force and power to enter into another foreign territory and declare that an American democracy is what shall be implemented. One thing I did disagree with Garrison about is his claim that once the metamorphosis from republic into empire is underwent, there is no turning back. I’d like to thin that we can in fact. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that if we can find a way to meticulously utilize our power correctly in beneficial ways, then the return to a republic would be possible. After all, Rome was a great empire, but even Rome fell, so I think if we do not want to face the same fate as Rome it is imperative that we figure out how to do so.
Another interesting concept addressed is what happens when the national interest outweighs the international interest. I think a prime example of this dilemma is the U.N. The U.N. could potentially be a very successful organization where it not for America, if it had more focus from the global superpower, America. An organization like the U.N. is useless without the first and foremost support and interest of the dominant world power. After all, it is important to note that America became as powerful as it did in part by being somewhat benign. Though obviously America has had its share of aggressive encounters, it has never put forth the kind of wars seen by Nazi Germany, the Pol Pot Regime in Cambodia, or the Hutus in Rwanda. Until Vietnam and Iraq, which have both been unsuccessful, America’s foreign policy was one consisting of no preemptive strikes, rather one that focused on keeping the peace. Hopefully we learn from these mistakes and use them to shape our future foreign policy.
Garrison warns that the United States must be sure to stay far from the “dark side,” a place it is easy to fall into when one source has as much power and options as the United States. To do this, he suggests “America view itself as a transitional empire, one whose destiny at the moment of global power is to midwife a democratically governed global system.” In other words, the primary reason America should assert it’s power it to ensure that we bring about a democratically inspired global result.
Overall, Garrison was very successful in opening my eyes to an entire new way to view America. He also made me really consider how we may be viewed by foreign nations. I think it’s fair to say that the average American (myself once included) tends to have this arrogant and even naive outlook on global affairs, and especially the role of America. I think it is of primary importance that we use the upcoming presidential election to nominate someone into office that will focus on repairing America’s foreign relations, and attempt to restore the image of America as one of “freedom,” and as a “global leader.”