Are the US currently an empire?

Oct 2017
United States
No the highly decentralized nature of authority makes it virtually impossible for anyone to actually command and control the US into anything as a matter of national policy.

There are large numbers of people who have international relations of various kinds, I suppose, though much of that really isn't known to the lay person such as myself...

Recent presidents have really tried hard to jam the power to declare war through the executive office but I would say they haven't actually totally succeeded.... given that it's not there.

The in my opinion fiercely territorial and/or independent nature of many states/towns reduces the possibility of empire building virtually to zero.

I think the issue is more about generalized moral conduct, and/or just the decisions of these independent actors on a variety of issues, that people may often take issue with one way or another.

In other words being liberated from the tyranny of statehood or nationalism does not then liberate one from choosing a bad restaurant to place on a random city block..
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Feb 2012
I think the US share similarities with post-Persian Invasion and pre-Peloponesian War Athens and Sparta but while people spoke about an Athenian empire I never saw Sparta being portrayed that way. And maybe because of this it is not easy to define them as an empire nor to completely exclude that possibility. Like the Athenians the US are an open democratical entrepreneurial and liberal society able to project their power long distance and they take the lion share in military interventions and they have also have become an highly interventionist nation after WWII, however unlike the Athenians they do not possess colonies and do not force their allies into paying for protection. In this their policy is more similar to the Spartans where they try to keep governments in power in other countries that are aligned with them and to remove, or put pressure in, those that are not.
Budget constraints I think may drive the US more back into the Spartan camp, that is to become less interventionist, to put less troops on the ground and to rely more on an allied force, or to become more Athenian concentrating military power on itself and start demanding payment from their allies.
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Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
San Antonio, Tx
hmmm, so are you suggesting that a nation that must host foreign troops is a sovereign?

I would say that violates a basic requirement for sovereignty.
If the host nation asks us to leave our base(s), we would leave, just as had happened in France when DeGaule asked us to close our bases. That’s sovereignty.


Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
San Antonio, Tx
I think you are underestimating the extent and number of those tribes and the history of French & Spanish traders/trappers in that region.
I don’t have a census to look at, but I would be surprised if there were more than 500-1000 Spanish or French traders/trappers in the entire Louisiana Purshase at the time it was bought from France. Santa Fe might be another story, but even then...


Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
San Antonio, Tx
Well this is an interesting topic and kind off hard to put it in a simple way.

1) The constrution of the USA was indeed an imperial one. The overall conquests from the original states over the vast land of North America.
2) The actions of USA war were the pure definition of imperialism in 1898, Philipines etc.
3) The represantion of American bases in several countries all over the world, can be inserted on the definition of neo-imperialism/neo-colonialism, joined by the strongest force in the world in terms of Soft Power.
4) There still the matter of US overseas territory, Puerto Rico and even Hawaii and Alaska (considering the discontinuation of US "natural" territorial extent).

Even with all this facts, US do not persue a imperialistic politic as classicaly defined, and the the question of its influence abroad hardly can be seen as a imperial politic.

In conclusion: In the traditional definition NO; If we readapt the concept maybe.
If Puerto Rico no longer wants to be an overseas territory. I think all it has to do is hold an election and then petition Congress to be allowed to go its own way. It could do this, but I doubt it will because it gets vastly more dollars in aid than it sends to the US. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands - millions? - of Riquenos who live in the US.

As you know, Alaska was bought from the Russians who foolishly sold it to us. Big mistake.

We have bases all over the world. If the host countries ask us to leave, then we’d leave. We’ve already done that a few times and will doubtless do so again. That’s not very imperialistic IMHO, but you might see it differently.

I read recently that the US has been offered the use of some Philippine facilities again, so who knows how that will play out. I have also seen some speculation that port facilities in Cam Rahn Bay in Vietnam may become available soon. The Vietnamese are apparently a little concerned about China.
Nov 2017
Houston, TX
The OP is self-explanatory.

The issue had been explored in both active and past threads, but IMHO always being strictly speaking unrelated with their respective OPs.

IMHO this issue deserves its own ad hoc thread; here it is.

As some Historumites may already be aware, I have my own personal stand on this issue; as usual our main goal is just to compare notes and exchange information.

Please eaborate any answer as detailed as possible.

As usual, any imput would be highly welcomed.

Please enjoy & thanks in advance :):):cool:

To my knowledge, we only used Manifest Destiny to go from coast to coast. Yes, we do own other territories, but not a mass amount of land like Australia or Eastern Europe. The United States is extremely big, but as far as land purposes, we dont own other places outside the western hemisphere.