The outer limits of empire

Mother Jones interviews Howard Zinn

Here's a link to a long Q&A by Tom Engelhardt with the historian who wrote "A People's History of the United States," in which the two discuss dissent, anti-war movements then and now, American exceptionalism, and empire. His vision is so clear and his voice so appealing, Zinn is always a pleasure to hear from.

TD: Stepping back from the catastrophe in Iraq, what do you make of the Bush administration's version of the American imperial project?

Zinn: I like to think that the American empire has reached its outer limits with the Middle East. I don't believe it has a future in Latin America. I think it's worn out whatever power it had there and we're seeing the rise of governments that will not play ball with the United States. This may be one of the reasons why the war in Iraq is so important to this administration. Beyond Iraq there's no place to go. So, let's put it this way, I see withdrawal from Iraq whenever it takes place -- and think of this as partly wish and partly belief [he chuckles at himself] -- as the first step in the retrenchment of the American empire. After all we aren't the first country in history to be forced to do this.

I'd like to say that this will be because of American domestic opposition, but I suspect mostly it will be because the rest of the world won't accept further American forays into places where we don't belong. In the future, I believe 9/11 may be seen as representing the beginning of the dissolution of the American empire; that is, the very event that immediately crystallized popular support for war, in the long run -- and I don't know how long that will be -- may be seen as the beginning of the weakening and crumbling of the American empire.

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