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«Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006) Roundtable Editor: ...»

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From time to time, Maier refers to the force of the military strength of the United States.

But in these chapters on production and consumption he fails to give it a proper place in a study of the United States as hegemon. He does note that the United States still had an unparalleled “capacity for the projection of force from a distance and with superb accuracy…” (p.254) An Empire, hegemonic nation, or merely a global power requires a strong military stance in order to exert its will upon others. The potential use of this military strength not only protects but expands borders. A United States naval squadron showing up off shore at a critical juncture sends a message beyond that country’s beaches. Few care that American military force is built upon the continued inflow of funds from foreign nations ($400 billion in 2004) to finance the H-Diplo Roundtable- Maier, Among Empires [Nelson] American budget deficit. The military power of the United States is formidable and deserves more attention than it receives in the concluding chapters of Among Empires. It goes hand in hand with the economic power Maier describes.

This is a book that does not equal the sum of its parts. Chapters present different and interesting points but the book does not hold together or present the coherent picture the author intended.

Maier set out to write a comparative history and to examine other empires in order to better understand the United States and the threat of its possible transformation into a future empire. Then he seemed to change course, concentrating entirely on the United States in the second part of the book. However interesting and provocative his chapters on the empires of production and consumption, they seem to belong to another book in spite of the occasional reference to Great Britain in the 19th century.

Finally, when all is said and done, Maier leaves his reader with a lengthy answer to his first question, but no closer to answering the second question. Is the United States an empire?

Copyright (c) 2006 by H-Diplo, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses contact the H-Diplo editorial staff at h-diplo@h-net.msu.edu.

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