Colossus by Niall Ferguson

Ferguson argues for liberal empires (war only when needed to beat people into submission + free trade) as a method for creating and preserving economic gains for the most people. However, he only shows the relative decline of the newly independent nations post-World War II (using GDP per capita as his metric), and does not prove that gains accrued under liberal empire. He should have constructed a metric that spanned the two historical periods. Ferguson has a strong enough education that this elision should have either been admitted or addressed by estimation.

Examining the current Pax Americana, Ferguson warns against its shortfalls and the sudden global economic shifts that could occur as it subsides. I echoed many of his concerns in my TEDxSentosa talk, although he goes further to speculate about the potential problems that could accrue to China and the European Union. Should that occur, I would expect an upstart nation (a modern Portugal) to take advantage of the anomie. Were it not to occur, aggregation of nations into 1) those who prefer authoritarian rule and 2) those who prefer democratic rule should continue.

Despite the prognostications, Ferguson fails to explain the economic nature of the American empire. He implies that the US loans cash to developing nations, who in turn buy goods and services from the States. While fine in theory, he doesn't show that significant loan policies existed prior to the Marshall Plan, which implies a working empire from the 1950s to the 1980s ( when US imports started outstripping exports ). That time period seems contrary to the observed military behavior and implies his definition of empire varies from the received.

Major American Territorial Acquisitions, 1803-1898
1898, Treaty of Paris, Philippines from Spain, 74M acres for $20M USD.
Chapter 1, The Limits of the American Empire, Frontier for Sale
The US bought the Philippines? sigh... time to read more....
seven characteristic phases of American engagement:
  1. Impressive initial military success
  2. A flawed assessment of indigenous sentiment
  3. A strategy of limited war and gradual escalation of forces
  4. Domestic disillusionment in the face of protracted and nasty conflict
  5. Premature democratization
  6. The ascendency of domestic economic considerations
  7. Ultimate withdrawal
Chapter 1, The Limits of the American Empire, Empire at Sea
I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903 .... Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.
Major General Smedley D Butler (he died in 1940 as the most decorated Marine ever), Chapter 1, The Limits of the American Empire, Dictating Democracy
as Truman himself let slip when he pronounced America's responsibility to be even greater than those that had once faced "Darius I's Persia, Alexander's Greece, Hadrian's Rome [and] Victoria's Britain." ... What was truly wondrous, however, was that for the first time the American empire began to pay for itself.
Chapter 2, The Imperialism of Anti-Imperialism, The Imperialism of Anti-Imperialism
Why have so many newly independent countries failed so badly to achieve economic growth? Why have only a tiny handful improved their relative position since the days of imperial rule? There are those who claim that the big divergence in per capita incomes between rich and poor countries since the 1960s has been a direct consequence of globalization. But this is a flawed argument. In theory, globalization, meaning simply the international integration of international markets for commodities, services, and capital and labor, should tend to maximize economic efficiency, yielding gains for all concerned. The real problem of the early twenty-first century is not globalization but its absence or inhibition. Indeed, the sad truth about globalization is that it is not truly global at all.
Chapter 5, The Case for Liberal Empire, Why Decolonization Failed
In particular, Botswana has managed to develop functioning institutions of private property, "which protect the property rights of actual and potential investors, provide political stability, and ensure that the political elites are constrained by the political system adn the participation of a broad cross-section of the society."
Chapter 5, The Case for Liberal Empire, Why Decolonization Failed
Between 1865 and 1914 more than GBP 4B flowed from Britain to the rest of the world, giving the country a historically unprecedented and since unequaled position as a global net creditor, "the world's banker" indeed, or to be exact, the world's bond market.
Chapter 5, The Case for Liberal Empire, Anglobalization
Officers wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
Shackleton's recruiting poster for his 1914 expedition to the Antartic, Chapter 6, Going Home or Organizing Hypocrisy, Disposable Empire
Paddy Ashdown's Principles:
  1. [To have] a good plan and stick to it. This plan needs to be drawn up, not as an after-thought, but well in advance, as an integral part of the planning for the military campaign.
  2. [To] establish the rule of law -- and do so as quickly as possible.... It is much more important to establish the rule of law quickly than to establish democracy quickly. Because without the former, the latter is soon undermined.
  3. [To] establish your credibility straight away. The more robustly a peacekeeping force deals with any initial challenges to its authority, the fewer challenges there will be in the future.
  4. To start as quickly as possible on the major structural reforms -- from putting in place a customs service or reliable tax base, to reforming the police and the civil service, to restructuring and screening the judiciary, to transforming the armed forces.
  5. [To ensure] that the international community organizes itself in [the] theater in a manner that can work and take decisions.
  6. [To establish] an exceptionally closse relationship between the military and civilian aspects of peace implementation.
  7. [To] avoid setting deadlines, and settle in for the long haul.... Installing the software of a free and open society is a slow business. It cannot be done ... in a year or so .... Peace-keeping needs to be measured not in months bug decades. What we need here ... is "sticktoitiveness" ... the political will, the unity of purpose, and the sheer stamina as an international community to see the job through to lasting success. That means staying on, and sticking at it, long after the CNN effect has passed.
Chapter 6, Going Home or Organizing Hypocrisy, The Incentive to Collaborate
In this book I have tried to show that there are three fundamental deficits that together explain why the United States has been a less effective empire than its British predecessor. There are its economic deficit, its manpower deficit and -- the most serious of the three -- its attention deficit.
Conclusion: Looking Homewar, Three Deficits
Does imperial denial matter? The answer is that it does. Successful empire is seldom solely based on coercion; there must be some economic dividends for the ruled as well as the rulers, if only to buy the loyalty of the indigenous elites, and these dividends need to be sustained for a significant length of time. The trouble with an empire in denial is that it tends to make two mistakes when it chooses to intervene in the affairs of lesser states. The first may be to allocate insufficient resources to the nonmilitary aspects of the project. The second, and the more serious, is to attempt economic and political transformation in an unrealistically short time frame.
Conclusion: Looking Homewar, Three Deficits
Some would say that such a Spengleresque decline of the West might create a vacuum that only the rising powers of Asia could fill. Yet those who look at China as a future hegemon may discover that it too has enough to contend with in managing the social and political consequences of its second "Great Leap Forward", this time to the capitalist free market. Likewise, those who see Islam as West's principal antagonist in a war of civilizations will find it difficult to imagine a political accompaniment to the indisputable demographic expansion of Muslim societies. The future, in short, might prove for a time to be apolar, a world without even one dominant imperial power, the ninth century, perhaps, but without the Abbasid caliphate.
Conclusion: Looking Homewar, Three Deficits