The Responsibilities of Empire
Jude Wanniski
June 21, 2003


Memo To: Supply-Side Students, website fans
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Responsibilities of Empire

As our continuing difficulties in getting Iraq under control indicate, it is not so easy to “run the world,” which the U.S. Government has been trying to do since the end of the Cold War. This is a lesson that originally ran on May 4, 2001, prior to the events of 9-11. The perspective is especially useful today, I think you will find:

On August 24, 1995, I wrote a long essay for my Polyconomics clients entitled “An American Empire.” I then had been thinking of doing something along these lines for months, but it was a casual conversation I had with Bill Kristol, now editor of The Weekly Standard, that propelled me into motion. Kristol had asked me what I was up to, and I told him I was thinking about writing a piece on the subject of an American imperium, now that the Cold War most definitely was over. As it happened, Bill told me he was about to launch his new publication, with the backing of Rupert Murdoch. He told me he liked the idea and that should send it to him when I had completed the effort, as he would consider making it the cover story of the first issue, certainly the second. After I sent it to him, weeks passed, and I could not get him to return my telephone calls. Finally my secretary said his office called and said it had been rejected. This behavior was unusual for Bill, whose father, Irving Kristol, had arranged for the fellowship that allowed me to write my book. It became clear after the magazine began publishing why my piece was rejected. I had proposed that the United States think of itself as a benevolent imperium, a kindly father, helping manage the rest of the global family with a maximum of diplomacy and a minimum of force. The Weekly Standard immediately identified itself as a God of Wrath, throwing thunderbolts from the mountaintop at any signs of misbehavior by foreigners, especially Arabs, Muslims and Chinese. We are still in the process of working all this out, i.e., what kind of global leader the U.S. is going to be, the correct mixture of diplomacy and force.

It was not long after I wrote The Way the World Works, in 1977, that I began thinking about an American imperium. My old supply-side friends remember my serious proposal in 1978 to start a quarterly to be called The American Empire, which would compete with Foreign Affairs, then the most influential periodical on foreign affairs. I put the idea aside when I became involved in presidential politics and Polyconomics. There is still a good idea there. The “American Empire” essay is several thousand words. You can link to it here or always find it on the home page of “Supply-Side University.” Even if you have read it in the past, now is a good time to read it again, as it provides an alternative framework for the responsibilities of empire to the one that directed the White House to the war in Iraq.