On Empire: America, War, and Global Supremacy
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.
control again, as it was for all but thirty years during the 175 years from Waterloo to the collapse of the U.S.S.R.? The problem is more difficult today for two reasons. First, the much more rapidly growing inequalities created by the uncontrolled free-market globalization are natural incubators of grievance and instability. It has recently been observed that “not even the most advanced military establishments could be expected to cope with a general breakdown of legal order”6—and the crisis of
beneficent results, they belong to the sphere of imperial rhetoric. Empires have always justified themselves, sometimes quite sincerely, in moral terms—whether they claimed to spread (their version of) civilization or religion to the benighted, or to spread (their version of) freedom to the victims of (someone else’s) oppression, or, today, as champions of human rights. Patently, empires had some positive results. The claim that imperialism brought modern ideas into a backward world, which has no
impact on the noncombatant population is disproportionately vast. At the end of 2004 it was estimated that there were almost forty million refugees outside and increasingly inside their own countries,2 which is comparable to the number of “displaced persons” in the aftermath of World War II. Concentrated as they are in a few zones of the globe and now visible on-screen in our living rooms almost as they occur, these images of desolation have a far greater and immediate public impact in the rich
Empire, both in its western and eastern form, was so completely destroyed, and destroyed so long ago, that it has no inheritor, though the mark it has left on the world, even outside the area it once occupied, is enormous. Alexander’s is gone forever, and so is Genghis Khan’s and Timur’s. So are the empires of the Umayyads and Abbasids. More recently, the Habsburg Empire was so completely destroyed in 1918, and was so completely a-national in structure, that it has no effective continuity with
then been the main battlefield region. Although in period III war returned to southeast Europe, it seems very unlikely to recur in the rest of the continent. On the other hand, during period II interstate wars, not necessarily unconnected with the global confrontation, remained endemic in the Middle East and South Asia, and major wars directly springing from the global confrontation took place in East and Southeast Asia (Korea, Indochina). At the same time, areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, which