Author Topic: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise  (Read 874 times)

Gabby Potter

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In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« on: November 07, 2018, 10:13:52 PM »
A very well written article, a must read! People nowadays are prejudice against China and sometimes even without they themselves knowing. Whatever China is doing to the Tibetans, some may see it as an oppression of human rights; They berate China, boycott China-produced items, they publicly criticise the leader and etc. But there is this one fact people tend to ignore, which is that every country has its ugly side. China is one of the very few countries that do not hide what they do, who they are and that is why they are 'exposed' to a lot of criticism.

America is not as innocent as how they like to portray themselves to be. Let's not forget how the American settlers (who are now the Americans) oppressed the Native Americans, took away their land, murdered them, spewed racist sentiments against them and along that are many other more cruel acts done to them. In fact, America is one of the most racist countries. So why is it that they can get away with it and nobody says anything about it? What kind of audacity does America have to tell China what to do with regards to their own human rights issue when they themselves don't practise what they preach? ::)

This is a must-read article, it gives you a better understanding of the whole China-Tibet issue and how the other countries play into it.

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Opinion: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise

October 15, 20182:55 PM ET

Japanese troops enter Manchuria in 1933. Tokyo sent soldiers and settlers to Manchuria and exerted direct and indirect influence there. Japanese official publications treated Manchuria's people much in the same way as China's Xinhua News Agency now treats those of Xinjiang and Tibet.

Alexis Dudden teaches history at the University of Connecticut and is the author of Japan's Colonization of Korea and Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States. Jeffrey Wasserstrom (@jwassers) teaches history at University of California, Irvine, and is the author of Eight Juxtapositions: China through Imperfect Analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo and coauthor of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know.

History can be helpful in making sense of what the Chinese Communist Party is doing within and beyond the borders of the People's Republic of China. But when it comes to understanding today's China, history is an imperfect guide. Neat parallels with the past aren't possible. Certain aspects of China today are completely without historical precedent. And even when certain parallels do become possible, history isn't helpful in quite the way that either Chinese President Xi Jinping or others promoting comparisons to the past may assume.

Some have warned that as China threatens to displace the U.S. as a world power, war is inevitable — the so-called Thucydides Trap. While it may be tempting now to view the U.S. as Sparta to China's Athens, this analogy does not stand up to scrutiny. There are more than just two major states locked in competition. Moves by Russia, the European Union, Japan and other powers will affect what does or does not happen next. The existence of international organizations and nuclear weapons alone makes it problematic to summon ancient Greek wars as templates for contemporary geopolitical tensions.

Xi's own ideas about the past are particularly significant, and similarly flawed. In promoting his outward-facing Belt and Road Initiative — an ambitious global infrastructure project — and his more domestically focused "Chinese dream" vision of national rejuvenation, he advances the idea that China should be seen as both rebooting and rejecting the past.

In terms of rebooting, he presents the Belt and Road Initiative as putting a glorious new high-tech spin on the ancient Silk Road. In terms of rejecting, he presents China as breaking completely from the way two previous rising powers — the U.S. and Japan — behaved during the so-called "century of humiliation," the period between 1839 and 1949 when they were part of an imperialist ganging-up on China.

But there are no perfect historical analogies for the Belt and Road Initiative. It is not the modern version of the ancient Silk Road. That "road" was actually a set of roads, and they evolved organically, not via a top-down edict. In addition, Silk Roads also were defined by flows in different directions, with China being transformed by things moving into the country as much as by things heading out from it.

Similarly, there are no perfect analogies to Beijing's aggressive actions in the South China Sea or its creation of a vast network of indoctrination camps for Uighurs in Muslim-majority Xinjiang.

As historians of China and Japan, what intrigues us, though, is that some of the most revealing imperfect analogies that come to mind lie precisely where Xi claims no precedents should be sought: in the actions and rhetoric of America and Japan between the first Opium War and the second world war — the period encompassing China's century of humiliation.

As America and Japan leapfrogged up the world's geopolitical hierarchy, they each, as China does now, generated awe, anxiety and an admixture of the two. Much like China today, these two countries were associated with rapid economic development (facilitated by limits on the rights of laborers), technological advances (such as impressive new train lines) and territorial expansion (including, in each case, asserting control over islands in the Pacific Ocean).

Leaders in Washington and Tokyo then, like those in Beijing now, often claimed to be breaking with the playbooks of previous empires. They asserted that their actions were motivated not by a naked desire for greater power but by a wish to improve the lot of people already under their control in borderlands or those being brought under their control farther away. When they used force, they claimed, they did so only to ensure stability and order.

Beijing's recent actions in Xinjiang and Tibet have echoes in Tokyo's actions in Manchuria in the 1930s and Washington's in the Philippines at the turn of the 19th century. Tokyo sent soldiers and settlers to Manchuria and exerted direct and indirect influence over the territory. Japanese official publications treated Manchuria's people much in the same way as China's Xinhua News Agency now treats those of Xinjiang and Tibet — as inhabitants of a backward and dangerous frontier that needed guidance from a government in a more advanced capital. In the Philippines, American proponents of expansion similarly celebrated the influx of new people and the importing of "modern" ideas, institutions and influences.

History does suggest that Beijing's leaders might consider doing things to make their actions less similar to the negative models of Japanese and U.S. expansion that loom large in China's textbooks. They could grant greater agency to Uighurs and Tibetans in the path of their assimilationist development moves — allowing various languages to be taught in schools, for example — and reverse the trend in Xinjiang of disappearing people into camps, which conjures up other troubling historical analogies as well.

In the South China Sea, Beijing is doing things that anyone steeped in the American and Japanese pasts will find familiar. But there are new twists.

In the 1850s, the Japanese government built six Odaiba island fortresses in Tokyo Bay as a defensive strategy, primarily against the Americans. During an 1879 tour of China and Japan, former U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant boasted about his nation's completion of the transcontinental railroad, which is notable in this context because it was a grand, "belt"-like project that, among other things, facilitated his successors' annexations of Hawaii and the Philippines, as well as other islands.

Beijing's recent pressure on international airlines to shade Taiwan the same color as the mainland on their maps is a new turn. It does, though, recall schoolchildren's maps in Japan being modified to include Taiwan in 1895, when Tokyo annexed the island into its growing empire. The same thing occurred again in 1910, when Japan subsumed Korea.

One important difference between China's expansionist moves and those of the United States and Japan is how they resonated at home. Until Japan took its dark turn in the late 1930s that resulted in the cataclysmic events of 1945, Japanese critics of Tokyo's territorial ambitions could express their views in public.

Mark Twain, a writer Xi admires, found it distasteful when the U.S. took control of the Philippines — when, as he put it, the "eagle put its talons" into new places with rapacious greed.

Some Chinese citizens doubtlessly feel similarly about their government's actions in the South China Sea, as well as its repressive moves in Xinjiang and Tibet. Unlike Twain or domestic critics of Japanese expansionism, though, it would be dangerous for China's people to voice their concerns openly. That may be one of the most troubling comparisons from the past and present.

Source: https://www.npr.org/2018/10/15/657019981/opinion-in-search-of-historical-parallels-for-chinas-rise


« Last Edit: November 07, 2018, 10:19:42 PM by AshRao »

phyag na rlangs pa

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2018, 08:04:13 AM »
Gabby Potter, that's a really good article you shared. I concur that it is very well written as you have said and I was particularly drawn to comparisons of Japan/Manchuria and the United States/Philippines.

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Beijing's recent actions in Xinjiang and Tibet have echoes in Tokyo's actions in Manchuria in the 1930s and Washington's in the Philippines at the turn of the 19th century. Tokyo sent soldiers and settlers to Manchuria and exerted direct and indirect influence over the territory. Japanese official publications treated Manchuria's people much in the same way as China's Xinhua News Agency now treats those of Xinjiang and Tibet — as inhabitants of a backward and dangerous frontier that needed guidance from a government in a more advanced capital. In the Philippines, American proponents of expansion similarly celebrated the influx of new people and the importing of "modern" ideas, institutions and influences.

Where the United States criticisms of China's denying Tibetans basic civil rights is concerned, they are just as guilty of that crime, even until today. The case in my point is the US colonisation of Puerto Rico, where in 1898, the United States obtained Puerto Rico as war booty from Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Spanish-American War.

FOR THE LAST 120 YEARS, PUERTO RICANS HAVE BEEN DENIED CIVIL RIGHTS OF VOTING AND ARE STILL UNDER LAWS AND POLICIES THAT ARE DISCRIMINATORY, GIVING PUERTO RICANS UNEQUAL AND LESSER RIGHTS.

So Gabby Potter, I agree fully with your introduction comment to the article. The United States' record is as stained as any of the countries they level accusations on.

Whatever the Tibetans face in China as regards to their national identity, Puerto Ricans face the same in the United States.

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Puerto Ricans are hardly U.S. citizens. They are colonial subjects.
By Jacqueline N. Font-Guzmán
December 13, 2017

"Jacqueline N. Font-Guzmán is professor of law and conflict studies and director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Creighton University Graduate School. She is author of "Experiencing Puerto Rican Citizenship and Cultural Nationalism."

Hurricanes do more than destroy homes, daily routines, power lines, agriculture, communication systems and levees. Hurricanes unveil unequal power dynamics, crush souls and create narratives, such as: "Puerto Ricans are American citizens." This is dangerous and arrogant. It is dangerous because it is incomplete. It is arrogant because it presupposes that the solution to Puerto Ricans' colonial predicament is U.S. citizenship.

As a Puerto Rican, I find this story disturbing. It deprives us of our self-determination, and it assumes that the master knows what is best for the slave. The question is not why Puerto Ricans are not treated as U.S. citizens. The question should be whether Puerto Ricans want to be U.S. citizens.

It is true that Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship due to a series of congressional statutes. But it is also true that these statutes were enacted without consulting Puerto Ricans.

Puerto Rico became a U.S. colony in 1898, when the United States purchased the island and its people as war booty from Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris. Before the United States invaded, Puerto Ricans had Spanish citizenship. The queen of Spain had signed the Autonomic Charter of 1897, granting Puerto Ricans representation (voice and vote) in the courts of Spain. Ironically, Puerto Ricans enjoyed greater political participation under the monarchy of Spain than under the United States.

Soon after, in 1900, Congress passed the Foraker Act, implementing a military government in Puerto Rico. Sen. Joseph Foraker (R-Ohio) proposed Puerto Rican citizenship for Puerto Ricans because Congress did not want to give Puerto Ricans even the illusion of having the same rights as those on the mainland.

Eventually, Congress did give Puerto Ricans official citizenship under the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917. But to this day, Puerto Ricans continue to be subjects of the United States without a right to vote for the president, without voting representation in Congress and without equal treatment compared with citizens born or naturalized in the United States. The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether the statutory citizenship that Puerto Ricans possess is equivalent to U.S. citizenship — including guarantees of equal protection laid out in the 14th Amendment.

One solution to the separate-and-not-equal nature of Puerto Rican citizenship might be for Puerto Ricans to be granted the full rights enjoyed by other U.S. citizens. This answer to the Puerto Rican citizenship conundrum, however, passes over the essential step of Puerto Rican self-determination.

The fact that a minority of Puerto Ricans favor independence does not mean that a minority of Puerto Ricans favor self-determination. Puerto Ricans have a right to decide who they are before they decide whether they wish to be U.S. citizens. The prevailing story that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and should be treated like citizens on the mainland presupposes that Puerto Ricans have already decided their political future — or worse, that Puerto Ricans have no say in the matter. This story line promotes Puerto Ricans' perpetual colonial status.

Puerto Ricans never asked to be colonized, never asked to be denied their Puerto Rican citizenship and never asked to have U.S. citizenship imposed upon them. Puerto Ricans suffering the devastation of Hurricane Maria are not fellow American citizens; they are colonial subjects of the United States.

The United States has an obligation to provide aid to Puerto Ricans because over the past 100 years, it has chosen to keep Puerto Rico as a colony, not because Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship.

The stories we share matter. Stories can set boundaries or create possibilities.

I do not have much hope that Congress will change its story of oppression. I do hope that Hurricane Maria has disrupted the colonial space in ways that allow Puerto Ricans to construct their story of self-determination and liberation.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/puerto-ricans-are-hardly-us-citizens-they-are-colonial-subjects/2017/12/13/c0f1c700-de9f-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5c93b859759f
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 08:25:49 AM by AshRao »

Ringo Starr

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2018, 09:05:31 AM »
Another parallel is that of the islands of Hawaii.

Here is how the US Department of State itself describes how Hawaii became part of the USA:

https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/gp/17661.htm

Annexation of Hawaii, 1898


America's annexation of Hawaii in 1898 extended U.S. territory into the Pacific and highlighted resulted from economic integration and the rise of the United States as a Pacific power.

For most of the 1800s, leaders in Washington were concerned that Hawaii might become part of a European nation's empire. During the 1830s, Britain and France forced Hawaii to accept treaties giving them economic privileges. In 1842, Secretary of State Daniel Webster sent a letter to Hawaiian agents in Washington affirming U.S. interests in Hawaii and opposing annexation by any other nation. He also proposed to Great Britain and France that no nation should seek special privileges or engage in further colonization of the islands. In 1849, the United States and Hawaii concluded a treaty of friendship that served as the basis of official relations between the parties.

A key provisioning spot for American whaling ships, fertile ground for American protestant missionaries, and a new source of sugar cane production, Hawaii's economy became increasingly integrated with the United States. An 1875 trade reciprocity treaty further linked the two countries and U.S. sugar plantation owners from the United States came to dominate the economy and politics of the islands.

When Queen Liliuokalani moved to establish a stronger monarchy, Americans under the leadership of Samuel Dole deposed her in 1893. The planters' belief that a coup and annexation by the United States would remove the threat of a devastating tariff on their sugar also spurred them to action.

The administration of President Benjamin Harrison encouraged the takeover, and dispatched sailors from the USS Boston to the islands to surround the royal palace. The U.S. minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, worked closely with the new government.

Dole sent a delegation to Washington in 1894 seeking annexation, but the new President, Grover Cleveland, opposed annexation and tried to restore the Queen. Dole declared Hawaii an independent republic. Spurred by the nationalism aroused by the Spanish-American War, the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 at the urging of President William McKinley. Hawaii was made a territory in 1900, and Dole became its first governor.

Racial attitudes and party politics in the United States deferred statehood until a bipartisan compromise linked Hawaii's status to Alaska, and both became states in 1959.


FYI, Samuel Dole is a close relative of the founders of the Dole Food Company, Inc. which today is an American agricultural multinational corporation headquartered in Westlake Village, California. The company is the largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the world, operating with 74,300 full-time and seasonal employees who are responsible for over 300 products in 90 countries. It obviously had roots in colonization.

https://www.newsweek.com/how-hawaii-lost-its-last-queen-liliuokalani-fruit-tycoons-dole-708512


http://usslave.blogspot.com/2011/05/people-of-hawaii.html

vajratruth

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2018, 12:07:19 PM »


America is not as innocent as how they like to portray themselves to be. Let's not forget how the American settlers (who are now the Americans) oppressed the Native Americans, took away their land, murdered them, spewed racist sentiments against them and along that are many other more cruel acts done to them. In fact, America is one of the most racist countries. So why is it that they can get away with it and nobody says anything about it? What kind of audacity does America have to tell China what to do with regards to their own human rights issue when they themselves don't practise what they preach? ::)

This is a must-read article, it gives you a better understanding of the whole China-Tibet issue and how the other countries play into it.


Good article. The world today is largely the product of American imperialism, economically, culturally, militarily and technologically. American imperialistic views began very early from the time the United States aggressively took over land belonging to Native Indians and presumed to remodel them to conform to White Anglo Saxon ideals and values.

Historians claim that American imperialism experienced its peak from the late 1800s through the years following The Second World War. During this “Age of Imperialism,” the United States exerted political, social, and economic control over countries such as the Philippines, Cuba, Germany, Austria, Korea, and Japan. I would add that American imperialism is even more pervasive today but with a twist. Instead of directly invading a country and aggressively taking over control, America has developed a skill which is to use proxies to fight its wars, to overthrow governments and leaders replacing them with American-friendly ones who will then proceed to engage American companies in to rebuild their country torn apart by American-sponsored war. Some examples are Pol Pot (Cambodian revolutionary leader trained and financed by America to counter China's influence in the region) Saddam Hussein whom American empowered and funded to fight Iraq's Ayotollah, the Afghan Mujahideen recruited to oppose the Russians in Afghanistan and of course the Dalai Lama who is funded to oppose China.

This is not to mention the way America controls many countries financially by dominating the IMF and the UN. So what America accuses China of doing comes straight out of the United States of America's playbook. 

The following caricature sums it up well.


Caption: Uncle Sam teaching the world: This caricature shows Uncle Sam lecturing four children labelled “Philippines,” “Hawaii,” “Puerto Rico,” and “Cuba” in front of children holding books labeled with various U.S. states. In the background, an American Indian holds a book upside down, a Chinese boy stands at the door, and a black boy cleans a window. The blackboard reads, “The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact… the U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.”

« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 12:22:57 PM by vajratruth »

Ringo Starr

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2018, 01:55:48 PM »
Here is another parallel: GUAM

Guam has about 160,000 inhabitants and was essentially taken over (annexed they call it) by the USA during the Spanish-American War. Its natives have never been offered independence.

To have an insight as to how the USA ended up colonizing Guam, read this:

How the United States Ended Up With Guam


https://www.history.com/news/how-the-united-states-ended-up-with-guam

"When the U.S. won the war, it made Guam an official U.S. territory. Guamanians, as the U.S. government calls them, are now U.S. citizens by birth. However, unlike citizens in America’s 50 states, they cannot vote for president. And just like citizens of Washington D.C. and the other U.S. territories—Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa—Guam’s 162,000 people have no voting representatives in Congress."

Worse still, Guam is now the focus of a momentous military buildup:

"As the US plans one of its largest realignments of military assets in decades, the people of Guam struggle to grasp its impact to the island and its people. The planned military build up on Guam alone is expected to cost six billion dollars and will bring thousands of people to Guam, changing the island in many ways."

https://www.guampedia.com/guam-military-build-up/

The native Chamorros people today represent a mere 37% of Guam's total population.





Jushri

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2018, 06:50:13 PM »
Great article, Gabby!

US is such a hypocrite. They can condemn China for their human rights issues but look which country had slaves back in the 17th century? Which country took land from their own Natives? Which country had racial segregation that even drinking fountains are colour coded to "black" and "white"?

Why is US so set on condemning the Chinese? It's because the US doesn't want the Chinese to take their place as the No. 1 Superpower.
Jushri

kris

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2018, 08:58:08 PM »
In 1840s, when many Chinese were started working in USA as gold miners, there were so much human rights issues, so much oppression, so much discrimination, and so many has died due to the unfair treatment. Did anybody talk about it?

When China was weak in the mid 1900s, many western countries attacked China, and took over parts of China using unfair treaties. One of them is Hong Kong. Did anyone talk about it?

How about the many European countries which colonise many Asian countries?

Now that China is on the rise, and suddenly China is the bad guy who violates human rights conducts? How about USA and the European countries, who colonise and abuse other countries? How about USA who attack the Middle East for OIL?


Alex

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2018, 03:08:54 AM »
In 1840s, when many Chinese were started working in USA as gold miners, there were so much human rights issues, so much oppression, so much discrimination, and so many has died due to the unfair treatment. Did anybody talk about it?

When China was weak in the mid 1900s, many western countries attacked China, and took over parts of China using unfair treaties. One of them is Hong Kong. Did anyone talk about it?

How about the many European countries which colonise many Asian countries?

Now that China is on the rise, and suddenly China is the bad guy who violates human rights conducts? How about USA and the European countries, who colonise and abuse other countries? How about USA who attack the Middle East for OIL?

phyag na rlangs pa

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2018, 08:08:51 AM »

The following caricature sums it up well.


Caption: Uncle Sam teaching the world: This caricature shows Uncle Sam lecturing four children labelled “Philippines,” “Hawaii,” “Puerto Rico,” and “Cuba” in front of children holding books labeled with various U.S. states. In the background, an American Indian holds a book upside down, a Chinese boy stands at the door, and a black boy cleans a window. The blackboard reads, “The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact… the U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.”


vajratruth, that image speaks a million words.

The way the CTA is going on about China, it would appear that the only outcome that will satisfy the CTA is a distorted form of democracy, the kind that will enable the ruling elites of old to regain and hold power at the risk and loss of the majority of the Tibetan populace.

It's a good thing for the everyday Tibetan that Tibet has no natural fossil fuels to be mined, or else...










dsnowlion

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2018, 06:52:09 AM »
America is great at pointing fingers that is for sure but they are the greatest bullies and hypocrite ever. Look at what is happening in America now and the racism that is so strong, you would have never thought that this is America today. I am shocked to be honest when I see the news and so many racial abuses, killings, and bullying happening in America today. It is an embarrassment to the so-called democracy and country that represent "FREEDOM". They only stick their dirty fingers in China's pie because they are simply jealous and arrogant that they are no longer the Superpower nation.





And what about their history of taking over, invading and killing the Natives? Up until today, the big corporates take their land and create huge environmental issues that endanger many lives and earth itself. They are the at the top in being the creators of global warming.



America should really just shut up because their hands are very dirty and bloody and should be the last to condemn China. At least China is now playing a huge part in helping to tackle climate change and reduce global warming, America on the other hand has a President who does not believe in such things. https://www.edf.org/climate/why-china-center-our-climate-strategy



fruven

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Re: In Search Of Historical Parallels For China's Rise
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2018, 01:36:48 PM »
America which stemmed from Europe has its root of an imperalist. In modern times America is exeting their influence under the guise of peace and safety. It is naive to think that America is the good guy who is out to protect everyone. If you don't toe their line you'll be subjected to their propaganda and be crushed.


Quote
Source: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2003-11-01/americas-imperial-dilemma

America's Imperial Dilemma

THE RELUCTANT EMPIRE

Any realistic discussion of U.S. foreign policy must begin with the recognition that, notwithstanding Americans' views and preferences, most of the world sees the United States as a nascent imperial power. Some nations support the United States precisely because of this, viewing it as a benign liberal empire that can protect them against ambitious regional powers. Others resent it because it stands in the way of their goals. Still others acquiesce to U.S. imperial predominance as a fact of life that cannot be changed and must be accepted.

It is understandable why supporters of the Bush administration's foreign policy balk at any mention of the "e" word. Many past empires were given a bad name not just by their opponents, from national liberation movements to Marxists, but also by their conduct; Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were the ugliest manifestations. The United States, on the other hand, is said to seek benign influence rather than domination. Its political culture and even its institutional design mitigate against its acting as an effective imperial power. These arguments are not without merit. Still, they reflect more a reluctance to associate American foreign policy with negative imperial stereotypes than a reasoned appreciation of how earlier empires emerged and functioned.

Although empires, like democracies, have taken vastly different forms through history, they have several features in common. First, empires exercise great authority over large and varied territories populated by diverse ethnic groups, cultures, and religions. They rely on a broad range of tools and incentives to maintain this dominance: political persuasion, economic advantage, and cultural influence where possible; coercion and force when necessary. Empires generally expect neighboring states and dependencies to accept their power and accommodate to it. This often contributes to a sense that the imperial power itself need not play by the same rules as ordinary states and that it has unique responsibilities and rights.

Second, empires, more often than not, have emerged spontaneously rather than through a master plan. They frequently evolve as if following the laws of physics; an initial success generates momentum, which is subsequently maintained by inertia. Each new advance creates opportunities and challenges that extend the empire's definition of its interests far beyond its original form.

Ancient Athens, for example, began as the leader of a victorious alliance that defeated the Persians. But it quickly evolved into an empire, against the will of many of its former partners. Thucydides, one of the fathers of realism, describes the Athenian perspective thus: "We did not gain this empire by force. ... It was the actual course of events which first compelled us to increase our power to its present extent: fear of Persia was our chief motive, though afterwards we thought, too, of our own honor and our own interest."

Third, empires do not always have sovereignty over their domains. This was certainly the case with Athens. It was also the case in the early period of the Roman Empire, when Rome sought domination rather than direct control over its dependencies. Although some continental European empires, such as Austria-Hungary and tsarist Russia, did establish sovereignty within their territories, other modern empires were less formal, comfortable with enough preponderance to accomplish their political and economic objectives. The Soviet empire, for example, attempted to dominate rather than directly control territories outside of its borders after Stalin's death.

Finally, despite the unpleasant present-day connotations, the imperial experience has not been uniformly negative. Some former empires were agents of change and progress and had generally good intentions vis-à-vis their subjects. The United Kingdom was a prime example of this type, approaching its empire not only with a desire to promote development, but with a self-sacrificing willingness to spend its resources toward that end.

Whether or not the United States now views itself as an empire, for many foreigners it increasingly looks, walks, and talks like one, and they respond to Washington accordingly. There is certainly no reason for American policymakers to refer to the United States as such in public pronouncements, but an understanding of America as an evolving, if reluctant, modern empire is an important analytic tool with profound consequences that American leaders should understand.

Empires cannot escape the laws of history. One of the most salient of these laws is that empires generate opposition to their rule, ranging from strategic realignment among states to terrorism within them. Another is that empires have never been cost free and that the level of opposition to them depends on the costs that the imperial power is willing to shoulder. Both imperial Britain and imperial Rome spent a good deal of time and money quelling unrest and promoting loyalty within their territories. Finally, imperial powers often alter their preimperial forms of government and ways of life. Rome, for example, lost its republican government when it chose to don the imperial mantle. And although the United Kingdom chose democracy over the demands of maintaining its empire, it accumulated substantial immigrant populations from its former colonies, with significant political and economic consequences.

UTOPIAN URGES

An empire that displays weakness and is not taken seriously is an empire in trouble. Being perceived as capricious or imperious, however, is also dangerous. This problem has often occurred when an imperial power insists on imposing a particular vision on the world. How many twentieth-century tragedies were caused, directly or indirectly, in this way? Destiny and choice have made the United States the dominant power in the world today, yet many U.S. policymakers -- both Republican and Democrat -- have failed to learn from past mistakes. The pursuit of their universal democratic utopia, as attractive as it may seem, is damaging vital U.S. interests and is increasingly coming into conflict with the United States' founding principle of "no taxation without representation."

In the past, a pragmatic foreign policy establishment at home and powerful constraints abroad restrained the United States' messianic instincts. This establishment was built largely around business leaders and lawyers who, although they shared American idealism and a strong sense of the national interest, were cautious and flexible in applying their beliefs to international politics. The Vietnam debacle discredited and divided this group, however, and later demographic and social trends diversified and democratized it. By the 1990s, the pragmatic component in the new foreign policy elite had declined in influence. Instead, powerful but too often reckless single-issue groups and nongovernmental organizations -- which aspired to shape policy without having responsibility for its consequences -- came to the fore, as did emotional but poorly explained television images.

As a result, American foreign policy moved away from its generally high-minded but interest-based roots to espouse a form of global social engineering. Two illusions facilitated this process: that international crusading can be done cheaply and that those who oppose the United States are motivated by a blanket hatred for American freedom and power, rather than by self-interested objections to specific American actions. These assumptions are simply not accurate, however. A recent major global survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reveals that those who hold unfavorable views of the United States generally support democratic ideals.

As pragmatism waned, the disintegration of the Soviet Union removed the principal external constraint on U.S. international behavior. The United States' unchallenged military, economic, and political superiority facilitated the view that it could do almost anything it wanted to do in the international arena. In this environment, a new utopian vision was born, the notion that the United States is both entitled and obliged to promote democracy wherever it can -- by force if necessary. This idea was enthusiastically promoted in Washington by a de facto alliance of aggressive Wilsonians and neoconservatives, whose apparent belief that the United States cannot settle for anything less than permanent worldwide revolution has more in common with Trotsky than with the legacy of America's forefathers or even the muscular but pragmatic idealism of Theodore Roosevelt.

Typically, the pursuit of moralistic projects has undermined not only American interests but also American values. Double standards and deception, or at least considerable self-deception, have become all too common. For example, U.S. politicians who opposed the International Criminal Court -- out of legitimate concern for American sovereignty and fear of politically motivated prosecutions of American soldiers -- were simultaneously pressuring the newly democratic Yugoslavia to send its citizens to international war crimes tribunals. Others persuaded the Clinton administration to ignore the un arms embargo in Bosnia but expressed outrage when other nations violated international sanctions. U.S. politicians across the spectrum have also applied double standards in their approach to foreign campaign contributions: appalled at the notion of another country contributing to the Republicans or Democrats, while insisting that the United States has a duty to fund various foreign political parties, regardless of foreign local laws.

THE CLINTON DOCTRINE

President Bill Clinton's humanitarian and nation-building efforts were a departure from earlier interventions. Defending the Panama Canal or attacking Grenada may have saved innocent lives, but these missions were enacted primarily to serve important American interests or destroy declared enemies. Clinton's moralistic projects, on the other hand, typically were divorced from U.S. interests. Take Haiti, where the United States ousted a nasty, but basically friendly, junta in order to restore to power a nasty, but rather less friendly, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who expressed his gratitude by restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. Or Bosnia, where the Clinton administration cold-shouldered the Vance-Owen partition plan, even though this offered the best hope for a quick end to the bloodshed.

Overall, the results of Clinton's humanitarian interventions were mixed at best. On the positive side, the United States did eventually prevail in Haiti and the Balkans, and it certainly enhanced global perceptions of its power. In addition, U.S.-led interventions probably prevented tit-for-tat killing from spiraling out of control in Bosnia and Kosovo. Yet some of the atrocities that took place were partly the result of the Clinton administration's actions themselves. For example, U.S. policy in the Balkans allowed Croatia to drive 200,000 Serbs from Krajina. It also encouraged Muslims, especially Kosovar Albanians, to pursue radical objectives and reject compromises that, in combination with international pressure, could have averted considerable carnage. To this day, Bosnia and Kosovo remain NATO protectorates, and neither seems prepared to accept the U.S. ideal of interethnic harmony.

Humanitarian interventions also diverted the Clinton administration's energy, attention, and resources away from more pressing concerns, such as the growing threat posed by al Qaeda. These misdirected priorities damaged relations with Russia and, inadvertently, China, complicating efforts to win their cooperation against terrorism in the period before September 11, 2001. Ironically, tension with Russia even contributed to the Clinton administration's rejection of Moscow's proposal to work against the Taliban, offered as early as 1999.

EMPIRE'S NEW CLOTHES

Although September 11 was a wake-up call to American leaders about the dangers of terrorism, too many seem to have drawn the wrong policy conclusions. The principal problem is the mistaken belief that democracy is a talisman for all the world's ills, including terrorism, and that the United States has a responsibility to promote democratic government wherever in the world it is lacking.

The flaw in this approach is not with democracy per se. Liberal democracy with civil society, the rule of law, minority rights, and free but regulated markets is undoubtedly the most humane and efficient way to organize modern society. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is right to point out that suggesting certain people are not interested in freedom or are not ready for democracy's responsibilities is deeply condescending.

It is also condescending, however, to claim that America has the right to impose democracy on other nations and cultures, regardless of their circumstances and preferences. From the Roman Empire to the British Empire, civilization brought on the tips of swords or bayonets has never inspired lasting gratitude. Why should precision weapons be any more effective? As Winston Churchill said, "democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Treating democracy as a divine revelation -- and Washington as its prophet and global enforcer -- simply does not square with the historical record of this form of government, nor with the geopolitical realities of the modern world.

Advocates of the militant promotion of democracy have advanced a variety of questionable arguments to explain why imposing democracy it is not just a moral imperative but an essential practical goal for the United States. One of the most pervasive of these arguments is that democracy will prevent terrorism, since, in the words of former Congressman Newt Gingrich, "the advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world." Recent history suggests otherwise. Even setting aside Islamist terrorists in the United States, how can one explain homegrown terrorists such as radical environmentalists, the Weathermen in the 1960s and 1970s, or Eric Rudolph, recently charged with the Atlanta Olympics bombing? And what about the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland or Basque terrorism in democratic Spain?

Another favorite argument is that democracies do not fight one another. But this claim also collapses under scrutiny. If one is willing to consider states democratic by the standards of their time, then there have been several wars between democracies in the past: between Athens and Syracuse, Rome and Carthage, Cromwell's England and the Dutch, and Victorian Britain and South Africa. Moreover, two wars on American soil -- the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom and the Civil War itself -- were essentially fought between democracies. The reason there were fewer such disputes in the twentieth century was partly because the democracies were united in their struggle against Nazism and communism. With these common enemies gone, however, it is by no means certain that democracies will remain in pacific union. In the Middle East, for example, where popular antisemitic and anti-American feelings abound, democracy could actually increase the probability of conflict between Arab countries and Israel or the United States.

Those who dismiss the idea of conflict between democracies often reject the notion of multipolarity because, in the words of National Security Adviser Rice, "it is a theory of rivalry, of competing interests -- and at its worst -- competing values." But this position ignores the legitimacy of others' perspectives and would alienate even pro-American democracies if it were to become a principle of U.S. foreign policy. The debate over Iraq demonstrated how little is required for democracies like the United States and France to discover one another's imperfections. Some Russian observers already see recent U.S. administrations as resembling the Soviet Union in their determination to impose homegrown views on others and in their allegedly "Brezhnevite" approach to national sovereignty.

Even if democracy could prevent conflict, it would not guarantee American leadership or even broad support for the United States. In the war against Iraq, for example, democracy was an obstacle to Turkey's support and reinforced, rather than weakened, anti-American policies in France and Germany. On the other hand, the lack of democracy in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Pakistan allowed those governments to cooperate with the United States, despite hostile public opinion.

Just as democratic nations are not always prepared to support the United States, authoritarian ones sometimes are, including on the crucial issues of our time, such as nonproliferation and terrorism. Driving away such nations -- from China to Saudi Arabia -- could seriously jeopardize American interests. Obtaining international support for the recent war in Iraq could have been easier if the United States had done a better job in cultivating key partners and regional players.

BREAKING THE BONDS

The United States must be willing to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect its security and that of its allies, but it is time for a hardheaded assessment of American interests to play a greater role in Washington's foreign policy calculus. American-led and American-financed military interventions for humanitarian ends should in the future be reserved for clear-cut cases of genocide, as took place in the Holocaust, Cambodia in the 1970s and 1980s, and Rwanda in 1994. Otherwise, the United States should engage in humanitarian interventions only with a un mandate (unlike Kosovo) and, more important, in the certain knowledge that other nations are committed to providing substantial resources.

The Bush administration is correct to argue that the United States should be prepared to do what it takes -- including engaging in preemptive action -- to pursue terrorists and their sponsors, particularly those seeking weapons of mass destruction. But selective wars of "liberation" are likely to alienate crucial allies. And building constructive relationships with key players, including China and Russia and (as distasteful as it may be to some) Germany and France, is key to success in the war against terrorism and the struggle against WMD proliferation. Thus, although decisive -- even ruthless -- use of force is appropriate when there is a credible threat, it is important that the United States not use force as a routine instrument of nation building.

Take Iraq. Saddam Hussein's checkered record on WMD, his persistent bullying of neighboring states, his continued violation of un Security Council resolutions, his support for terrorists, and his attempt to assassinate a former U.S. president revealed him to be a major threat to American interests. Three administrations in a row could not resolve this problem through diplomatic processes. This stalemate justified the U.S.-led invasion last spring. Yet turning Iraq into another American protectorate is less easy to justify, especially when the United States does not possess an international mandate that would increase its legitimacy and defray the mounting costs. Iraq is, predictably, becoming more of a burden than a prize, and the Bush administration would do well to find a formula through which the United States can cede principal responsibility for reconstruction efforts to international organizations while maintaining military control. Acquiring additional burdens by engaging in new wars of liberation is the last thing the United States needs. Even if the U.S. economy improves, such adventures could overwhelm the federal budget, forcing the United States to choose between Roman exploitation -- which sowed the seeds of that empire's destruction -- and British imperial overstretch -- which led to retreat.

The Bush administration's aggressive promotion of democracy also has worrying implications for American interests. As a rule, democratic advancement should be accomplished through the power of example and positive inducement. It is a self-evident fact that being friends with America brings numerous advantages and that the United States prefers to associate with other democracies. This should be incentive enough. Meanwhile, formal unilateral sanctions, which are usually more irritating than punishing, should not be applied as a matter of routine simply to demonstrate U.S. disapproval.

As the indisputable center of power in the world, the United States both benefits from a bandwagon effect and suffers from inevitable foreign backlash. Recent international debates over the U.S. intervention in Iraq demonstrate that although other countries are not prepared to give Washington carte blanche, most are willing to go a long way to accommodate American preferences. American leaders need not shy away from displaying U.S. power assertively, but they must let go of the pretension that the United States is the ultimate font of global wisdom.

Similarly, U.S. leaders must recognize that although rabid anti-American sentiments held in parts of the Muslim world are wholly unjustified, they are partly fueled by a perception of the United States as Israel's uncritical protector. This is not to say that the administration should abandon a staunch ally, nor pressure Israel into fighting terrorism in an unassertive manner. But ending American support for nonessential and provocative Israeli policies -- such as its new settlement activity or its refusal to dismantle existing illegal outposts -- could have a significant effect on how the United States is viewed in the Muslim world and would probably reduce the appeal of al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

Finally, the United States must address one of its greatest potential vulnerabilities: the combination of empire and immigration. As James Kurth, professor of political science at Swarthmore College, writes, "the conjunction of American empire (America expanding into the world) and American immigration (the world coming into America) has made the very idea of the American national interest problematic. There is a causal connection between empire and immigration, and the two are now coming together as a dynamic duo to utterly transform our world."

It has become increasingly difficult for state and federal agencies to take the tough measures required to regain control over immigration, which has outpaced the absorptive capacity of American society and institutions and is overwhelming the government's ability to enforce crucial immigration laws. No one knows when the United States will reach the point when Balkanization becomes an inevitability. But it is clear from America's current political environment -- where single-issue interest groups and true believers in various causes are increasingly able to shape the national agenda -- that this point is not very far away. Taking the necessary steps to stop the creeping invasion by illegal immigrants will be controversial and costly. But it is becoming increasingly vital.

Those who criticize the Bush administration for introducing a heavy-handed and unilateral foreign policy miss the mark. There is considerably more continuity between Clinton's interventionism and the current administration's foreign policy than meets the eye. Although candidate George W. Bush said that the United States should be a humble nation and warned against nation building, powerful domestic interests and the shock of September 11 put U.S. foreign policy back onto the track of dangerous imperial overreach: a "one size fits all" approach to democracy promotion fomented under Clinton. A new approach is badly needed, one that exercises power in a determined yet realistic and responsible way -- keeping a close eye on American interests and values -- but is not bashful about U.S. global supremacy. Only then will the United States be able to take maximum advantage of its power, without being bogged down in expensive and dangerous secondary pursuits that diminish its ability to lead.