United States An Accidental Empire?
-- The United States was born out of a struggle against an
imperial power. Beginning in the 1840s — seven decades after its
founding — it embarked on a succession of "wars of choice" that
were profoundly at odds with its founding principles and left it
with an empire of its own. This inaugural "Thomas Paine" column
looks at how American changed — and how its empire is
handicapping its future.
World War I made World War II inevitable. Wilson's war of choice created Roosevelt's war of necessity. The French and English demanded onerous reparations from Germany. The ensuing inflation destroyed the Germany economy. Hitler rose to power by exploiting the political backlash inside Germany. The Second World War was a continuation of the unfinished business of the First.
World War II laid the foundation for an American empire. Six million Jews and 30 million Russians perished. This led to the creation of Israel and the outbreak of the Cold War. The United States took over British bases around the globe, and our forward presence gave impetus to bin Laden, 9/11 and the permanent war on terrorism.
The 120 million who perished in these 20th-century conflicts died mostly because of the failure of the existing major powers to accommodate the new strength of Germany on the European continent.
The solutions to yesterday's problems create today's problems. We live with the choices made by those who went before us. Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was the worst President in American history: His intervention in the First World War was the equivalent of a European power coming to the United States during the Civil War and saying South wins, North loses.
Now the Germans are back in the driver's seat in Europe. The Germans are once again dominating the economy of Europe. The United States is sidelined by the weakness of our economy and our staggering debt. We have lost our way and don't know how to get out of the empire business.
This article was first published at The Globalist
The Globalist's Thomas Paine column will examine the points of departure between America's founding principles and its historical and contemporary reality. Join the debate about this article on our Facebook page.