Imperial Designs: Theological Ethics and the Ideologies of International Politics

By Dorrien, Gary | Cross Currents, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Imperial Designs: Theological Ethics and the Ideologies of International Politics


Dorrien, Gary, Cross Currents


Belatedly, but suddenly with intensity, Americans have begun to debate whether their country is some kind of empire. Most of the world has no doubt that the U.S. is an empire, but now it has plenty of doubt about the kind of empire that the U.S. wants to be. I shall argue that there are four dominant perspectives in contemporary politics and ethics regarding the relation of the United States to international politics; that all four of them have a theological version; that one of them is not compatible with Christian ethics; that that perspective is the one that is currently in power; and that we need a constructive alternative.

The question of imperialism is slippery and connotatively loaded. Imperialism does not apply only to overseas possessions; Native American reservations amount to colonies; and for almost ninety years the U.S. was a slave state, many of whose leaders wanted to create a Western empire based on the extension of slavery throughout the Caribbean. From the Monroe Doctrine onward, American presidents have issued doctrines about what a country has to do to deserve an invasion from the United States. Theodore Roosevelt, who viewed his imperial ambition as a natural outgrowth of the American story, was fond of saying that America's entire national history was one of expansion. His corollary to the Monroe Doctrine declared that the U.S. reserved the right to invade any Latin American country that engaged in "flagrant wrongdoing." Latin Americans took that to mean any action that conflicted with U.S. interests.

Long before TR added the clarifying Roosevelt Corollary of 1906, the U.S. had an ample record of intervening in Latin America. Afterwards, up to World War II, it added interventions in Colombia, Panama, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, Mexico, and Guatemala; China was another frequent destination of American forces. In the sense of the term that applies only to the colonization of overseas territories, America's formal dance with empire began in 1898, when it annexed and occupied Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Phillipines, and the Hawaiian islands. In the sense of the term that applies to global military networks, the United States became a world empire after World War II, beginning with its new military bases in western Germany, Japan, Korea, and the eastern Mediterranean.

In the dictionary sense of the term, setting aside the Native American reservations, the U.S. is not an imperial power. It does not exercise direct dominion over conquered peoples; it does not formally rule an extensive group of countries under a single sovereign authority. America's official colonies have been few and scattered, most of its occupations have been brief, the largest of its 14 dependent entities is Puerto Rico, and its domination of Latin America has been mostly indirect. Americans as a whole are very short on imperial consciousness. But since 1989 the United States has forged a new kind of empire--one not based on the conquest of territory--that outstrips all colonizing empires of the past.

The United States is the most awesome world power that the world has ever seen. Its economy outproduces the next eleven nations combined, accounting for 31 percent of the world's output. It floods the world with its culture and technology. It spends more on defense than the next eighteen nations combined. It employs five global military commands to police the world; it has 750 military bases in 130 countries, covering two-thirds of the world; it has formal military base rights in forty countries; each branch of the armed services has its own air force; the U.S. Air Force operates on six continents; the U.S. deploys carrier battleships in every ocean; and the U.S. Special Forces conducts thousands of operations per year in nearly 170 countries.

Moreover, the United States is not merely dominant; it assumes imperial responsibilities and reaps the benefits that derive from them.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Imperial Designs: Theological Ethics and the Ideologies of International Politics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.