Empire never went away in U.S. history, but it has been making a comeback in recent years. Likening the United States of the twenty-first century to the British empire of the nineteenth century, right-wing scholars and pundits have enthusiastically extolled empire to justify and glorify colonial misdeeds of the past and the present. “In deploying American power, decisionmakers should be less apologetic, less hesitant, less humble,” Max Boot declared in 2002 with no sense of irony. “America should not be afraid to fight ‘the savage wars of peace’ if necessary to enlarge the ‘empire of liberty,’” he concluded. “It has done it before” (352). Indeed, it has. Along with Niall Ferguson and others, Boot’s unabashed embrace of the word empire is refreshing—they saw no need for disavowal or subterfuge—but equating empire with “democracy, capitalism, and freedom” served only to underscore their longing for a bygone era, when white men like Rudyard Kipling and William McKinley could speak openly of empire’s burdens and benefits (Boot 2002, 349;N. Ferguson 2003).

This essay may be found on page 67 of the printed volume.

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