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On imperialism and internationalism.
Empire in Denial
It’s not just Joe Biden under pressure in the post-Trump transition. It’s the American way in the world, the mindset of a global enforcer. Stephen Wertheim is our guest: a remarkable young historian with a concise and talkable take on the 80-year run of a world empire in denial. Before the fall of France in 1940, global primacy was not on the US agenda, maybe not in our DNA. But supremacy became the goal and then the reality when President Roosevelt took on the Hitler emergency in World War 2. It became a habit through the long Cold War with the Soviet Union; it’s come to feel like a bad habit in a string of bad wars since Vietnam—maybe a habit to be broken as the Trump years turn to Biden’s time.
Wertheim is the resident historian at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (Quincy for John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the US, who insisted that his country not “go abroad, in search of monsters to destroy”). About the modern American place in the world, Steve Wertheim makes it an 80-year saga, about an almost aloof continental sovereign USA that fell from heroic emergency duty in World War 2 into force-projection everywhere, an empire by now, in retreat and confusion.
Author of Tomorrow, the World.