The basic arguments of this book are fairly simple. While focusing on the overall issue of cooperation versus conflict in American-European relations, the book represents an extension of my “ 'Empire' by invitation” thesis as this has been presented in earlier works. While it would be ridiculous to claim that everything in Atlantic relations can be most usefully studied under this heading, it is remarkable how many elements there are that actually can be. This is therefore a theme that I shall be returning to frequently throughout the account.
The first argument deals with the position of the United States. This position was unique in 1945. No other Great Power had ever had such a vast lead over its potential competitors. On the basis of this strength American influence expanded in most parts of the world—certainly in Western Europe. In fact, so important was the American role there, that it could be argued that Western Europe became part of an American sphere of influence, even an American “empire”. The term is meant to be descriptive.
To distinguish the American “empire” from traditional empires I have put the term in inverted commas. After all, in traditional empires most parts were ruled directly from the imperial capital, whereas American “empire” consisted mostly of independent countries. I could have used the word “hegemony”, the term most frequently used by political scientists and political economists to describe the superior American role after 1945, but although the terms are different, in this case their meaning is largely the same. In my preference for “empire” I follow Zbigniew Brzezinski who has written that “I use the term 'empire' as morally neutral to describe a hierarchical system of political relationships, radiating from a center. Such an empire's morality is defined by how its imperial power is wielded, with what degree of consent on the part of those within its scope, and to what ends. This is where the distinctions between the American and Soviet imperial systems are the sharpest.” 1
The United States, like any other Great Power, could use its tremendous power for good or for bad. US efforts to control and dominate were based on American values, just as previously other Great Powers had tried to exercise