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How America Can Lose Her Empire Gracefully

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Keynez, Nov 24, 2009.

  1. K

    Keynez JF-Expert Member

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    Nov 24, 2009
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    Now, this is an old article but I've had it on my computer since it was first published. I just wanted to share it with you all, especially as Obama is prepared to make a decision on Afghanistan next week.

    My questions are, will America fight to the end to hold on to her dominance on the world or will they learn from Britain and disengage quietly? If they do the later, how long do you think it will take them to make such a decision? What kind of event, economic, financial, political, military or otherwise that will tilt the balance of power in favor of America, and thus prolong the status-quo?

    Moderator, you can move this thread if it is in the wrong section.

    .............................................

    How To Lose An Empire--Gracefully


    Paul Maidment, 09.24.08, 06:00 PM EDT


    The British Empire did not collapse, nor was it overthrown. It simply ran down. The U.S. could learn a lot from its cousins across the pond.

    Post-colonial Britain projects soft power. It no longer meets the classic definition of a superpower, a nation with the will and ability independently to project its political, military and economic power around the world.

    But it retains influence beyond its size, partly because of its alliance with the U.S. and partly because in a world of globalization, micro-nationalism and non-state powers, where the nation-state, let alone empire, is an increasing anomaly, power is no longer the ability to subject but to exert the soft suzerainty of commercial, cultural and moral ideas.

    The ending of World War II left hard global power in the hands of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The old European colonial powers, of which Britain was pre-eminent, were broken or defeated. The new superpowers were firmly of a mind not to let them rebuild their empires, especially as they had their own emerging ones of surrogates and proxies to consolidate.

    An exhausted and impoverished Britain had failing desire and less means to project what little imperial power it still had. At the same time, popular sentiment in the country matched a growing tide of anti-colonial movements around the world. There was, as British Prime Minister Sir Harold MacMillan would put it, "a wind of change blowing."

    His predecessor, Sir Anthony Eden, was, in the words of TheTimes (London), "the last prime minister to believe Britain was a great power, and the first to confront a crisis that proved she was not." Once the last thrash of empire--the Suez Crisis of 1956--was behind it, Britain decided to withdraw as peacefully as possible from its empire, and to redefine its world role as the bridge between the U.S. and the rest of the world--an "honest broker" in Macmillan's words.

    In place of empire, Britain left a commonwealth of nations: a loose-knit group of countries that share a broadly similar view of parliamentary democracy; police, military and judicial systems based on English common law; and a widespread use of English--all of which arguably have helped many of its former colonies to make their way in the modern world better than former French, Dutch, Portuguese, German, Italian or Russian possessions.

    The period of decolonization that followed World War II was the final stage in a half-century unwinding of what had been the largest empire in history. The empire on which the sun famously never set had been 300 years in the making, reaching its zenith at the start of the 20th century, when a political map of the world was awash in British imperial red.

    Britannia then governed nearly 500 million people, then one-quarter of the world's population, controlled the same proportion of the globe's land mass and ruled most of waves between. Today Britain's colonial possessions are reduced to a few specs of rock: Bermuda and five island territories in the Caribbean, five in the South Atlantic, one apiece in the South Pacific and Indian oceans, Gibraltar and the British Antarctic Territory.

    It was not an empire whose power waxed and then waned in one sweeping historical arc, like the Roman or Aztec empires. It did not collapse, nor was it overthrown so much as it ran down, particularly after World War II.

    Even before then, the British empire was no monolith, and imperial administrators showed surprising flexibility. Some North American colonies were lost in the late 1700s, and within a century the remainder, save for Newfoundland, had become semiautonomous dominions (self-governing, including trade and foreign policy where it didn't conflict with British interests, with their own parliaments but retaining the British crown as head of state). The colonies in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Newfoundland had followed suit by 1910.

    India, the jewel in the imperial crown, became a dominion in 1947 and a republic in 1950. Ireland was a dominion between 1922 and 1937; it, too, became an independent republic, in 1949. As both these cases remind, decolonization didn't always come without struggle, often violent. Mutiny, revolt and rebellion are part of the imperial lot.

    Paul Kennedy, a Yale professor of history, put forward in his 1988 book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers the notion that a great power's economic rise and fall in relation to its rivals was as important to its longevity as its military supremacy. Finance, commerce and the popular arts have extended Britain's sway long beyond its time.

    For the U.S., declining economic growth and rising military commitments won't necessarily signal the decline of Pax America unless others become disproportionately richer and stronger. That is why the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia are such threats to American power. And while it is difficult to imagine the U.S. accepting a diminishing status gracefully, it will have to find a destiny in that seam where finance and commerce meet politics and strategy. Post-imperial Britain shows a possible path.

    It will require a greater mastery of soft power than the U.S. has hitherto exhibited. Britain's colonial rulers were also deft, like the Romans, Ottomans and Mongols before them, at co-opting their most talented and useful subjects into their imperial systems, and with it went a certain degree of toleration, adaptation and accommodation to the lands they ruled. It was an effective deployment of soft power, which meant the bayonets only came out in extremis.

    The U.S., in contrast, has global reach and a global military footprint without having the permanent colonies to provide a mechanism for such co-option. Rough persuasion can impose its economic and military power. But it will need to find gentler ways to exert its ideological and cultural influence.



    SOURCE http://www.forbes.com/2008/09/24/colonialism-imperialism-britain-biz-power08-cx_pm_0924maidment.html?feed=rss_news
     
  2. Ab-Titchaz

    Ab-Titchaz Content Manager Staff Member

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    Very insightful this quote....

     
  3. MwanaFalsafa1

    MwanaFalsafa1 JF-Expert Member

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    I don't think the British empire simply ended gracefully. I'm sure they did all they can to save the empire but in the end they had no choice but to just let go.If Britain could have maintained their empire they would have done anything to save it. You either do it the easy way or the hard way but either way you have no choice but to let it go.
     
  4. Bluray

    Bluray JF-Expert Member

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    I believe by "gracefully" they mean in a dignified way, without a revolution in britain, without economic catastrophy, without Britain losing it's position as a major figure in world politics etc.
     
  5. MwanaFalsafa1

    MwanaFalsafa1 JF-Expert Member

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    I get you mkuu but Britain's empire lied oversees which means it couldn't have been overthrown by a revolution within. We can look at the different countries which demanded and fought for independence from Britain as the individual revolutions that took place. But other than that everything you said makes sense.
     
  6. Bluray

    Bluray JF-Expert Member

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    Ndiyo maana kuna maneno mawili yaliyo almost oxymoronic, "lose gracefully".

    Yaani, the exercise could have been much worse, let's say for example, British Empire ingeisha mpaka na monarchy yake huko UK, lakini mpaka leo monarchy inaendelea, Britain bado ina influence kwenye ma security council huko etc.

    Naona kama muandishi anaona kuanguka kwa Marekani ni inevitable, which is debatable at this point.
     
  7. K

    Keynez JF-Expert Member

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    I can't see America going British way though, the possibility that mwandishi also raised, even though he didn't explain what was behind his thought. I look it this way, what kind of influence, in popular art or commerce can America project when they finally decide to back down? When it comes to popular art, it's mostly Hip Hop culture that is popular abroad. America as an authoritarian force will find it very difficult to embrace Hip Hop because in essence Hip Hop was, and it still is to a great extent, an antidote to American policies, domestic and foreign. That is where the challenge is going to be.

    When it comes to commerce, it has already been concluded as a proven fact that America will never go back to be a manufacturing force in the world. Few in America will continue to do good, and as a result we are going to see more class-conflict in their society as we have witnessed earlier this year.

    Bruray and Mwanafalsafa, I'm not rulling out the revolution within America, even though at this point it seems to be very unlikely. Remember, you would have been laughed at in 2004 if you told people Obama would be President in 4 years. Politicians, authors and fanatics in America have called for one. There is a great divide within the United States, with both sides beating the drums, calling for a revolution, only for different reasons. At the end of the day, they will face the elephant in the room, and that to me will be the great culture conflict (with race, religion, social views, economic policies, history all lump together).
     
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