America’s Inadvertent Empire

America’s Inadvertent Empire

William E. Odom
Robert Dujarric
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nppf0
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  • Book Info
    America’s Inadvertent Empire
    Book Description:

    The United States finds itself at the center of a historically unparalleled empire, one that is wealth-generating and voluntary rather than imperialistic, say the authors of this compelling book. William E. Odom and Robert Dujarric examine America's unprecedented power within the international arenas of politics, economics, demographics, education, science, and culture. They argue persuasively that the major threat to this unique empire is ineffective U.S. leadership, not a rising rival power center.America cannot simply behave as an ordinary sovereign state, Odom and Dujarric contend. They describe the responsibilities that accompany staggering power advantages and explain that resorting to unilateralism makes sense only when it becomes necessary to overcome paralysis in multilateral organizations. The authors also offer insights into the importance of liberal international institutions as a source of power, why international cooperation pays, and why spreading democracy often inhibits the spread of constitutional order. If the United States uses its own power constructively, the authors conclude, the American empire will flourish for a long time.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13036-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Abe Lincoln once said, “If we could first knowwherewe are, andwhitherwe are tending, we could better judgewhatto do, andhowto do it.”¹ Lifted from its domestic political context in 1858 into the global political context of the early twenty-first century, this proposition retains refreshing clarity. By the late 1980s, as the Cold War was ending, answers were being offered to Lincoln’s timeless questions, and over the next decade several more followed. Some of them are now widely known by their slogans—“imperial overstretch,” “the end of history,” “the obsolescence of war,” “the democratic...

  6. 1 The Sources of American Power
    (pp. 11-35)

    When one thinks of the sources of a state’s power, land, natural resources, population, and favorable climate come to mind. These qualities are important indeed, but alone they do not explain why the United States is so powerful. Several other countries have large land areas, vast natural resources, large populations, and reasonably favorable climates but have failed to convert them into great power.

    Why, then, has the United States been staggeringly more successful at converting these resources into unprecedented wealth and power? The answer is Liberal institutions.¹ Many Americans instinctively know this, but very few understand precisely why it is...

  7. 2 An Empire of a New Type
    (pp. 36-63)

    American institutions not only facilitated the generation of unparalleled domestic power, they made it possible for the United States to knit together and manage the network of global and regional organizations and military alliances known during the Cold War as the “Western camp.” Its scope and diversity are unprecedented in history and not always recognized as a loosely integrated political, economic, and military system. In fact, it marks a qualitative change in the kind of hegemonic regimes that the world had seen as empires. It is a sui generis regime-type: unipolar, based on ideology rather than territorial control, voluntary in...

  8. 3 The Military Power Gap
    (pp. 64-96)

    The gap in military power between the United States and all other countries is large, very large. The quantitative gaps in the various kinds of weapons and forces vary, some being quite large, others more modest. The qualitative gaps are impressively large across the board. The first purpose of this chapter is elucidating them, but the second purpose is more important—answering the question, “What is the point of keeping such large military capabilities?”

    Never in its history has the United States enjoyed such a military edge vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Its defense budget for 2001 was more...

  9. 4 The Demography Gap
    (pp. 97-123)

    Fertility has been declining across the planet, but at different rates. The higher fertility rates of American women, compared to Europeans and Japanese, combined with massive immigration to the United States, will lead to a greater increase in the U.S. labor force in the foreseeable future, leading to a widening gap between the size of the U.S. economy and that of its partners.

    In this chapter we will touch on two other aspects of the “demography gap.” We will survey the impact of immigration on the United States, explaining how immigration strengthens the American economy and its position in the...

  10. 5 The Economic Performance Gap
    (pp. 124-160)

    As noted in Chapter 2, the American empire accounts for approximately 70 percent of gross world product, and for an even higher percentage of the world’s advanced industrial and service sector capacity. Figure 5.1 shows the enormous chasm between the developed nations and the rest of the world, which is unlikely to narrow significantly in the future and may well increase. As we explained in Chapter 1, the obstacles that economies bereft of Liberal institutions face are so enormous that wealth will remain concentrated in states that have such institutions, namely those of North America, Europe, Japan, and the smaller...

  11. 6 The University Gap
    (pp. 161-187)

    The developed world has practically all the leading research universities in the world. But whereas economic power is well-distributed within the American empire, with the combined gross domestic products of Europe and Japan greater than America’s, the majority of the best universities, though by no means all, are in the United States. They provide America with an unsurpassed science and technology base, employ the most Nobel Prize winners, lead the world in journal publications, and attract more than half a million overseas students. Scholars at Harvard publish more articles in the top economics journals than those of any continental European...

  12. 7 The Science Gap
    (pp. 188-195)

    Many industries, such as computers, aerospace, motor transportation, oil and gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications, rely on scientific advances, as do defense contractors. Thus a prosperous economy and a powerful military require strong science.

    The United States, which accounts for two-thirds of Nobel Prizes awarded and almost half of OECD-area research-and-development spending, is the world’s number one scientific power. This reflects the wealth of the United States and the quality of its universities. In turn, American science makes it possible for the United States to lead in most technologies, strengthening the U.S. economy and guaranteeing the U.S. military a technological...

  13. 8 The Media and Mass Culture Gaps
    (pp. 196-203)

    American hegemony manifests itself not only in the military and economic arenas but also in the field of news media and mass culture. In both cases the worldwide role of American news outlets and popular culture does not necessarily increase American power, but it reflects breadth of American preeminence, which extends from the military field to mass culture.

    For several decades American publications and broadcast have attracted a large foreign audience. TheInternational Herald Tribune, Newsweek,andTimeall have large foreign readership. In the world of business,Business Week, Forbes,andFortuneare widely sold outside the United States....

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 204-218)

    Returning to Lincoln’s framework, “where we are and whither we are tending,” we should now see clearly “where we are.” The United States did not set out to create this new international regime. Its aim was the economic and political reconstruction of Western Europe and Japan based on Liberal political institutions. The result, however, was the inadvertent creation of a new regime, one that has gained the somewhat misleading label of “empire.” Cold War competition with the Soviet Union obscured the capacity of this international regime to survive the end of the bipolar distribution of power in the world. If...

  15. Appendix: The Debate to Date
    (pp. 219-224)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 225-256)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-276)
  18. Index
    (pp. 277-285)