Americans always get irritated if it is suggested that United States of America is an Empire. Their self-image is of a nation opposed to imperialism but actually they just disapprove of others empires, British, French, Spanish, Russian.
I think they were actually imperialist from before the American Revolution.
They thought of themselves as British. They were settlers and/or colonisers but really only turned against the idea when it became clear to them that rather than being the colonisers, they were actually the colonised…they may not have been native Americans or slaves…but they were always going to a step below the British in the imperial pyramid.
The self image is of enlightened people…that is enlightened WHITE MEN …influenced by Thomas Paine, meeting in coffee shops in places like Boston and Philadelphia. But the reality is of plantation owners complaining of the injustice that the government and merchants in London were paying too little for the tobacco, harvested by their slaves in Virginia and the Carolinas.
The first rule of Empire is that it works to the advantage of the “centre”. Rome was the centre of an Empire. Likewise in the mid 18th century, Britain and France were Empires and not acting in the interests of their colonies.
Indeed during the French Indian Wars, American settlers were expansionist. The Americans in Pennsylvania and Virginia were casting an eye on the Ohio Country. They fought as militia alongside British regulars against the French and their Indian allies.
The peace between France and Britain was concluded in 1763 and the terms included the provision of no expansion into Ohio. Britain could not afford the resources to defend land that only benefited Americans.
So even before the American Revolution, the Americans were displaying a trait of Imperialism…expansion. And of course, Racism underpins Imperialism. The Americans were (in the south at least slave owners) and it is easier to acquire lands if the dispossessed (native American tribes) are deemed inferior.
Whether it is the British bringing civilisation (sic) to India, Africa or…Ireland or the Americans living out their manifest destiny across the Mexican and native territories, a firm belief in GOD and Christianity validates imperialism.
Of course the Americans in the southern states practised slavery long after their erstwhile colonial masters the British ceased involvement in the slave trade.
Of course the 20th century approach to Empire is political. Conservatives may justify it in degrees. Some will be totally unapologetic. They wont apologise for being the beneficiaries of what is now called “white privelege”. At best there will be a recognition that “times have changed”.
The “liberal” response is naturally confused. They will condemn American history as producing an unbalanced society and while feeling guilty at their apparent privilege…a very recent discovery for many who are now in the position of condemning their own family history. A position that is so well known to the generation of Germans after the Second World War.
It would be wrong to think that American abuse of global war is merely a “right wing” thing. Arguably Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton and …yes…Obama have dropped too many bombs and had terrible allies.
Likewise…anti Americanism is not solely the preserve of European lefties who shouted slogans for Ho Chi Minh and against LBJ. Or march for Palestine and against Israel.
European conservatives are just as hostile to American imperialism, not least because after the Second World War, Britain and France saw the collapse of their own empires (at American insistence) while USA established its own.
Perhaps all Europeans were seduced into believing that American dominance was better than absolute totalitarianism as in USSR and China or that American domination guarantee world peace. More likely, there might have been a belief that USA was a naive but muscular and clumsy teenager on the world stage. Even more likely is the previously held belief that American power is “soft power”…it is Coca Cola, Elvis Presley and Facebook.
In 1945, USA was the “good guy”. In the Cold War, it became “the not so good guy”. Progressively, it has become the “bad guy” to being “the very bad guy” under Donald Trump.
To be frank, most Europeans equate USA with Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, PDR Korea, Turkey, Israel and Iran and post-Brexit Britain as malign actors on the world stage.
Americans pinning their hopes on Joe Biden to address their domestic issue of Race or to restore their international reputation will be disappointed.