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Imperial Exceptionalism

It is hard to give up something you claim you never had.

That is the difficulty Americans face with respect to their country’s empire.

  • Jackson Lears
  • The New York Review of Books

Since the era of Theodore Roosevelt, politicians, journalists, and even some historians have deployed euphemisms—“expansionism,” “the large policy,” “internationalism,” “global leadership”—to disguise America’s imperial ambitions.

Theodore Roosevelt, center, during construction of the Panama Canal, 1906

According to the exceptionalist creed embraced by both political parties and most of the press, imperialism was a European venture that involved seizing territories, extracting their resources, and dominating their (invariably…

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