Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, March 12, 2003
American Empire Steps Up Fourth Expansion: News Analysis
At the time of its founding in 1776, the United States was composed of only 13 British colonies in the East Coast, its territory at that time was like a small long strip. Expansion is an eternal theme in American history, as well as a main line running through US foreign policy.
At the time of its founding in 1776, the United States was composed of only 13 British colonies in the East Coast, its territory at that time was like a small long strip. Today, the American territory stretches across the European continent, reaching the Atlantic Ocean in the east, the Pacific Ocean in the west, bordering on the Caribbean Sea in the south and nearing the Arctic Ocean in the north.
US military, political and economic influence is spreading across the globe, it was called the world's only superpower after the end of the Cold War and was defined as a "Global Empire" by Western scholars. A large batch of articles and books announced the "arrival of an "American empire".
In a short space of 200-odd years' time, the United States has developed from a small colony into a peerless empire of today, the reasons for this are: besides the fact that the country enjoys perennial relative political stability, continuing scientific and technological innovations and new achievements in economic development, but an important reason for this is, without doubt, its constant external expansions.
Expansion is an eternal theme in American history, as well as a main line running through US foreign policy. American diplomatic historian Williams described the American act of establishing an "empire" by relying on power politics as the American "way of life". When the European immigrants just set foot on "the new continent" the America, they found there was neither tile over their heads nor a speck of land under their feet. Therefore, the first task for the new immigrants in the America was to expand westward from the East Coast they landed. This instinct reaction was integrated with US unique commercial expansion spirit and the puritan's "concept of mission" to become the theoretical foundation and fundamental characteristics of US external expansion.
The history of expansion divided into four stages
The American history of expansion can be divided into four stages: First, continental expansion stage; second, overseas expansion stage; third, the stage of global contention for hegemony; and fourth, the stage of world domination. The continental expansion stage features mainly traditional territorial expansion, the second, third and fourth stages feature mainly the expansion of its economic, military and cultural influence. Completion of the expansion process in each stage brought tremendous benefits to the United States.
The commercial spirit and expansion ideology triggered by commercial capital not only affected the formulation of US foreign policy, but also became a distinguishing characteristic of US history of expansion. The commercial expansion spirit runs through the four stages of expansion, this is entirely different from the expansion of the Roman Empire, but is close somewhere to the expansion of the British Empire. In a sense, the American expansion ideology originated from the British Empire. British thinker John Locke, based on the theory of "natural right", held that domestic development needed the expansion of empire. Benjamin Franklin accepted and developed this ideology, he asserted that the United States needed to "constantly acquire new land to open up living space". This idea affected a whole generation of US thinkers. During the US-Spanish War, well-known railway king Hill said openly: If you review the commercial history, you will discover anyone who controls oriental trade will get hold of global wealth. After its independence, the United States naturally inherited this commercial spirit. Protecting American commercial monopoly or advantageous position became the primary objective of US external expansion. The direct fuse which led to US involvement in World War I was that its free trade position was challenged.
In order to serve commercial capital, the fatalism believed in by British puritans was brought to the United States and has been taken deep root in the hearts of the Americans with the passage of time, becoming an important component of their ideology. People outside the United States invariably criticize the United States for expanding its national interests under the banner of morality. As a matter of fact, even the Americans themselves find it hard to distinguish which matter is expanding national interests under the banner of "enforcing justice on behalf of Heaven" and which is propagating their ideology and concept of value on the plea of national interests. When the first group of colonialists arrived in the America by the boat, the "Flower of May", they declared in the "Contract of the Flower of May" that their aim to come to the America was to "carry forward their belief in the Jesus Christ". In the 40s of the 19th century, fatalism was developed into the "concept of manifest destiny" unique to the United States, i.e., it holds that the system and concept of value of the American continent are the best things in human society, and that the United States has the duty and obligation to help other countries and nations having the fill of sufferings, at least the United States is the beacon lighting up the way for the development of other countries and nations and it can even force its best things on other countries by the method of Crusades.
From continental expansion to global contention for hegemony
Continental expansion stage extended from the founding of the United States to the eve of the American-Spanish War. This stage featured prominently territorial expansion. In the early period after its birth, the United States was very weak in strength, but it took advantage of the good opportunity offered by Europe which was busy coping with the Napoleon War, in 1803 it bought up Louisiana, in 1810 and 1813, it twice occupied west Florida, dependency of Spain, and took away east Florida from the hands of Spain in 1819. Thereafter, the United State began large-scale westward movement. By the end of the 19th century, US territory had extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, first of all it became a colossus in the international community, this constituted a solid foundation for its later becoming mighty, as well as a necessary prerequisite for its becoming a world power.
The overseas expansion stage extended from the US-Spanish War to the end of World War II. During this period, the United States had become one of the principal capitalist countries in the world, with substantial strength and began to contend for colonies with other colonialists. In 1898 the United States declared war against Spain, an old-brand colonialist power, opening the history of US overseas expansion. At the end of the war, Spain was forced to abandon Cuba, the United States acquired Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. The US-Spanish War resulted in the expansion of US spheres of influence beyond the Caribbean region and Central America, finally forming its direct or indirect political and economic control over Latin America. Before the outbreak of World War I, the United States turned Latin America into its own "backyard". During this period, US influence rapidly expanded from the continent of North America to the Pacific region, East Asia and the entire Latin America.
The stage of global contention for hegemony ranged between 1946 and 1991, i.e., the Cold War period. US-Soviet contention for hegemony or US containment of the Soviet Union became the main characteristic of this stage. As World War II just ended, US President Harry S. Truman put forward Truman Doctrine, contested with the Soviet Union for the vast intermediate zones, went all out to expand its spheres of influence and blocked its rivals. The United States first extended economic aid to Europe through the Marshall Plan to make Europe depend on the United States economically; through establishing NATO and stationing troops in Europe, American influence in the continent had reached an unprecedented degree and Europe had become US "little partner". In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States established relations of military alliance with countries like Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan and the Philippines. At this point, the contest between the United States and the Soviet Union for spheres of influence had expanded to the Middle East and Africa and indeed the whole world. However, owing to the existence of its rival, the Soviet Union, the United States could not monopolize these regions, and could only contend for them with the Soviet Union.
Powerful expansion for world domination began after the end of the Cold War
The disintegration of the Soviet Union after the conclusion of the Cold War led to the disappearance of the only power that could confront the United States which put on rising hegemonic airs and did whatever it pleased, characterized by its simultaneous use of military, economic and cultural means. Besides, in the more than 10 years after the conclusion of the Cold War, European and Japanese economies have long been in the doldrums, and Russia and China have been in the economic restructuring period, while the American economy has entered the best historical period and long remained in the period of growth. So, at the beginning of the 21st century, the US position as the "sole superpower" has further strengthened, there is a rising cry for the establishment of a "new empire" in the United States.
After the "September 11" incident, the theory on establishing the American century or a new empire has acquired a bigger market. Exponents of this theory hold that establishing an American empire is an unavoidable duty for the United States. After the "9.11" terrorist attacks, the United States began a new round of powerful expansion, with the aim of expanding the US spheres of influence to the whole world. Iraq was chosen as the first target for this new round of expansion.
When will the US fourth round of expansion end depends on the final outcome of the following two wars: US impending war against Iraq, and the war waged by the Al-Qaeda network and world terrorist forces against the United States. If US war on Iraq could end in victory, it would further give a powerful impetus to the force for the establishment of US empire. But many American experts and scholars maintain that the United States should not choose a road by which to establish global order or an American empire through unilateralism-based military actions. Only when the United States refrains from taking the road of pursuing global empire, can it avoid terrorists' bombs or other forms of attacks befalling on its own territory.