Defining Empire

Nebojsa Malic, June 02, 2004

I’ve been asked several times what I mean by “Empire.” The best I can say is that it is not so much a place, as a state of mind (credit to Chris Deliso for the phrase).
Though historical analogies are perilous, tempting inappropriate parallels and interfering with rational analysis, they are nonetheless a sort of practical shorthand for describing modern phenomena. Today’s Empire to me is what is colloquially known as “The West,” and is not just the U.S. or the E.U., but both. Something like the late Roman Empire, divided in the 4th century between the Western – ruled from Rome – and the Eastern, ruled from Constantinople.
Over time, they developed into separate entities, which were both competing and complementary, so when Western Rome fell in 476, the Eastern (Byzantium) held on for another 1000 years. At this point, the U.S. is perhaps most like Western Rome, the dominant entity with a younger culture, while Europe is akin to Byzantium, an older civilization playing second fiddle to its American offspring, yet able to influence it greatly.
Europe also appears to be growing stronger as of recently, though appearances may not change the bottom line in the long run. (Germany may laud its participation in NATO “peacekeeping” in all sorts of places, but that doesn’t change the fact that its troops acted like frightened rabbits when facing Albanian mobs in March.)

While it remains to be seen whether the modern West will suicide like the ancient Rome, such predictions are entirely beyond the scope of my writing. What matters, though is that imperialist ideas appear to have not only resurfaced, but become predominant in both Europe and America, with increasingly obvious results. Meddling in the Balkans is just one aspect of this Imperial manifestation, albeit an important one: it has witnessed almost all the tactics, strategies and subterfuges used to establish a Novus Ordo Seclorum, from seemingly innocuous diplomatic interference to outright aggression.
At this point, the Western Empire (America) is busying itself with the botched conquest of Babylon, leaving the Eastern part (Europe) to police the Balkans. If there is a change of power in the U.S. in November, that dynamic might shift, since some of Kerry’s supporters (i.e. Richard Holbrooke) have dedicated years to bringing Europe to heel through Balkans interventions. Such shifts, however, would concern solely the balance of power within the Empire, and in no way threaten the existence of the Empire itself.




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