World Politics

Review Article

American Realism Versus American Imperialism

Campbell Craiga1*

a1 University of Southampton, U.K.

Niall Ferguson. Colossus: The Price of America's Empire. New York: Penguin, 2004, 384 pp.

Chalmers Johnson. The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic. London: Verso, 2004, 389 pp.

Michael Mann. Incoherent Empire. London: Verso, 2004, 276 pp.

This article reviews three recent books critical of America's new “imperial” foreign policy, examines whether the United States can properly be compared to empires of the past, and identifies three aspects of contemporary American policy that may well be called imperialist. It also addresses some of the main objections to recent U.S. foreign policy made by American realist scholars and argues that traditional interstate realism can no longer readily apply to the problem ofAmerican unipolar preponderance over an anarchical, nuclear-armed world.

Campbell Craig has a chair in international relations at the University of Southampton, U.K. His is the author of Glimmer ofa New Leviathan: Total War in the Realism ofNiebuhr, Morgenthau and Waltz (2003) and The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War (coauthored with Yuri Smirnov; forthcoming).

* I would like to thank Alexander Wendt, Fredrik Logevall, Bill Wohlforth, Chris Preble, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on this piece, Brian Cuddy for his comments and research assistance, and International Security Studies at Yale University for tremendous institutional and financial support. I am also grateful to Miguel Centeno at Princeton University's Institute for International and Regional Studies, Bob Pape at the University of Chicago's Program in International Security Policy, and Marilyn Young at New York University's International Center for Advanced Studies for inviting me to give talks related to this article.

Epigraph. Kenneth Waltz, “Structural Realism after the Cold War,” in G. John Ikenberry, ed., American Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2003), 53 [Google Scholar].