Liberalism and Empire, by Nathan J. Robinson

Paul Krugman laments the fall of the American Empire, and Nathan J. Robinson blasts him. From Robinson at

Paul Krugman had a column a few weeks ago called “Fall of the American Empire” about Donald Trump’s repudiation of “the values that actually made America great.” It is worth analyzing, because it is amusing and illustrative. Krugman believes that Trump is threatening to destroy America’s great “empire” and that this is bad, because our country’s “empire” is good and noble. Trump, Krugman suggests, is an aberrant departure from the lofty values and ideals that have guided our foreign policy for most of the past century. In fact, let’s have a look at a chunk of Krugman’s column so he can put things in his own words (please retain your guffaws until the end):

[W]e emerged from World War II with a level of both economic and military dominance not seen since the heyday of ancient Rome. But our role in the world was always about more than money and guns. It was also about ideals: America stood for something larger than itself — for freedom, human rights and the rule of law as universal principles. Of course, we often fell short of those ideals. But the ideals were real, and mattered. Many nations have pursued racist policies; but when the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote his 1944 book about our “Negro problem,” he called it “An American Dilemma,” because he viewed us as a nation whose civilization had a “flavor of enlightenment” and whose citizens were aware at some level that our treatment of blacks was at odds with our principles… But what does American goodness — all too often honored in the breach, but still real — have to do with American power, let alone world trade? The answer is that for 70 years, American goodness and American greatness went hand in hand. Our ideals, and the fact that other countries knew we held those ideals, made us a different kind of great power, one that inspired trust. Think about it. By the end of World War II, we and our British allies had in effect conquered a large part of the world. We could have become permanent occupiers, and/or installed subservient puppet governments, the way the Soviet Union did in Eastern Europe. And yes, we did do that in some developing countries; our history with, say, Iran is not at all pretty. But what we mainly did instead was help defeated enemies get back on their feet, establishing democratic regimes that shared our core values and became allies in protecting those values. The Pax Americana was a sort of empire; certainly America was for a long time very much first among equals. But it was by historical standards a remarkably benign empire, held together by soft power and respect rather than force.

To continue reading: Liberalism and Empire


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