is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that
is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of
a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a
condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed,
the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and
Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to
become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes
they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure
to see reality can have massive consequences.
World War II and the Birth of an Empire
The United States
became an empire in 1945. It is true that in the Spanish-American
War, the United States intentionally took
control of the Philippines
It is also true that it began thinking of itself as an empire,
but it really was not. Cuba and the Philippines were the fantasy
of empire, and this illusion dissolved during World War I, the
subsequent period of isolationism
and the Great Depression.
The genuine American
empire that emerged thereafter was a byproduct of other events.
There was no great conspiracy. In some ways, the circumstances
of its creation made it more powerful. The dynamic of World War
II led to the collapse of the European Peninsula and its occupation
by the Soviets and the Americans. The same dynamic led to the
and its direct governance by the United States as a de facto colony,
with Gen. Douglas MacArthur as viceroy.
The United States
found itself with an extraordinary empire, which it also intended
to abandon. This was a genuine wish and not mere propaganda. First,
the United States was the first anti-imperial project in modernity.
It opposed empire in principle. More important, this empire was
a drain on American resources and not a source of wealth. World
War II had shattered both Japan and Western Europe. The United
States gained little or no economic advantage in holding on to
these countries. Finally, the United States ended World War II
largely untouched by war and as perhaps one of the few countries
that profited from it. The money was to be made in the United
States, not in the empire. The troops and the generals wanted
to go home.
But unlike after
World War I, the Americans couldn't let go. That earlier war ruined
nearly all of the participants. No one had the energy to attempt
hegemony. The United States was content to leave Europe to its
own dynamics. World War II ended differently. The Soviet Union
had been wrecked but nevertheless it remained powerful. It was
a hegemon in the east, and absent the United States, it conceivably
dominate all of Europe.
This represented a problem for Washington, since a genuinely united
Europe - whether a voluntary and effective federation or dominated
by a single country - had sufficient resources to challenge U.S.
The United States
could not leave. It did not think of itself as overseeing an empire,
and it certainly permitted more internal political autonomy than
the Soviets did in their region. Yet, in addition to maintaining
a military presence, the United States organized the European
economy and created and participated in the European defense system.
If the essence of sovereignty is the ability to decide whether
or not to go to war, that power was not in London, Paris or Warsaw.
It was in Moscow and Washington.
The organizing principle
of American strategy was the idea of containment. Unable to invade
the Soviet Union, Washington's default strategy was to check it.
U.S. influence spread through Europe to Iran. The Soviet strategy
was to flank the containment system by supporting insurgencies
and allied movements as far to the rear of the U.S. line as possible.
The European empires were collapsing and fragmenting. The Soviets
sought to create an alliance structure out of the remnants, and
the Americans sought to counter them.
The Economics of Empire
One of the advantages
of alliance with the Soviets, particularly for insurgent groups,
was a generous supply of weapons. The advantage of alignment with
the United States was belonging to a dynamic trade zone and having
access to investment capital and technology. Some nations, such
as South Korea, benefited extraordinary from this. Others didn't.
Leaders in countries like Nicaragua felt they had more to gain
from Soviet political and military support than in trade with
the United States.
The United States
was by far the largest economic power, with complete
control of the sea,
bases around the world, and a dynamic
trade and investment system
that benefitted countries that were strategically critical to
the United States or at least able to take advantage of it. It
was at this point, early in the Cold War, that the United States
began behaving as an empire, even if not consciously.
The geography of
was built partly on military relations but heavily on economic
relations. At first these economic relations were fairly trivial
to American business. But as the system matured, the value of
investments soared along with the importance of imports, exports
and labor markets. As in any genuinely successful empire, it did
not begin with a grand design or even a dream of one. Strategic
necessity created an economic reality in country after country
until certain major industries became dependent on at least some
countries. The obvious examples were Saudi Arabia or Venezuela,
whose oil fueled American oil companies, and which therefore -
quite apart from conventional strategic importance - became economically
important. This eventually made them strategically
As an empire matures,
its economic value increases, particularly when it is not coercing
others. Coercion is expensive and undermines the worth of an empire.
The ideal colony is one that is not at all a colony, but a nation
that benefits from economic relations with both the imperial power
and the rest of the empire. The primary military relationship
ought to be either mutual dependence or, barring that, dependence
of the vulnerable client state on the imperial power.
This is how the United
States slipped into empire. First, it was overwhelmingly wealthy
and powerful. Second, it faced a potential adversary capable of
challenging it globally, in a large number of countries. Third,
it used its economic advantage to induce at least some of these
countries into economic, and therefore political and military,
relationships. Fourth, these countries became significantly important
to various sectors of the American economy.
Limits of the American Empire
The problem of the
American Empire is the overhang of the Cold War. During this time,
the United States expected to go to war with a coalition around
it, but also to carry the main burden of war. When Operation Desert
Storm erupted in 1991, the basic Cold War principle prevailed.
There was a coalition with the United States at the center of
it. After 9/11, the decision was made to fight in Afghanistan
and Iraq with the core model in place. There was a coalition,
but the central military force was American, and it was assumed
that the economic benefits of relations with the United States
would be self-evident. In many ways, the post-9/11 wars took their
basic framework from World War II. Iraq War planners explicitly
discussed the occupation of Germany and Japan.
No empire can endure
by direct rule. The Nazis were perhaps the best example of this.
They tried to govern Poland directly, captured Soviet territory,
pushed aside Vichy to govern not half but all of France, and so
on. The British, on the other hand, ruled India with a thin layer
of officials and officers and a larger cadre of businessmen trying
to make their fortunes. The British obviously did better. The
Germans exhausted themselves not only by overreaching, but also
by diverting troops and administrators to directly oversee some
countries. The British could turn their empire into something
extraordinarily important to the global system. The Germans broke
themselves not only on their enemies, but on their conquests as
The United States
as the only global balanced power. That is, it was the only nation
that could deploy economic, political and military power on a
global basis. The United States was and remains enormously powerful.
However, this is very different from omnipotence. In hearing politicians
debate Russia, Iran or Yemen, you get the sense that they feel
that U.S. power has no limits. There are always limits, and empires
survive by knowing and respecting them.
The primary limit
of the American empire is the same as that of the British and
Roman empires: demographic. In Eurasia - Asia and Europe together
- the Americans are outnumbered from the moment they set foot
on the ground. The U.S. military is built around force multipliers,
weapons that can destroy the enemy before the enemy destroys the
relatively small force deployed. Sometimes this strategy works.
Over the long run, it cannot. The enemy can absorb attrition much
better than the small American force can. This lesson was learned
in Vietnam and reinforced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is a country
of 25 million people. The Americans sent about 130,000 troops.
Inevitably, the attrition rate overwhelmed the Americans. The
myth that Americans have no stomach for war forgets that the United
States fought in Vietnam for seven years and in Iraq for about
the same length of time. The public can be quite patient. The
mathematics of war is the issue. At a certain point, the rate
of attrition is simply not worth the political ends.
The deployment of
a main force into Eurasia is unsupportable except in specialized
cases when overwhelming force can be bought to bear in a place
where it is important to win. These occasions are typically few
and far between. Otherwise, the only strategy is indirect warfare:
shifting the burden of war to those who want to bear it or cannot
avoid doing so. For the first years of World War II, indirect
warfare was used to support the United Kingdom and the Soviet
Union against Germany.
There are two varieties
of indirect warfare. The first is supporting native forces whose
interests are parallel. This was done in the early stages of Afghanistan.
The second is maintaining the balance of power among nations.
We are seeing this form in the Middle East as the United States
moves between the four major regional powers - Iran, Saudi Arabia,
Israel and Turkey - supporting one then another in a perpetual
balancing act. In Iraq, U.S. fighters carry out air strikes
in parallel with Iranian ground forces.
In Yemen, the United States supports Saudi
against the Houthis, who have received Iranian training.
This is the essence
of empire. The British saying is that it has no permanent friends
or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche
is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process
of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more
charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But
that is a luxury that empires cannot afford.
Building a System of Balance
We are now seeing
the United States rebalance its strategy by learning to balance.
A global power cannot afford to be directly involved in the number
of conflicts that it will encounter around the world. It would
be exhausted rapidly. Using various tools, it must create regional
and global balances without usurping internal sovereignty. The
trick is to create situations where other countries want to do
what is in the U.S. interest.
This endeavor is
difficult. The first step is to use economic incentives to shape
other countries' behavior. It isn't the U.S. Department of Commerce
but businesses that do this. The second is to provide economic
aid to wavering countries. The third is to provide military aid.
The fourth is to send advisers. The fifth is to send overwhelming
force. The leap from the fourth level to the fifth is the hardest
to master. Overwhelming force should almost never be used. But
when advisers and aid do not solve a problem that must urgently
be solved, then the only type of force that can be used is overwhelming
force. Roman legions were used sparingly, but when they were used,
they brought overwhelming power to bear.
The Responsibilities of Empire
I have been deliberately
speaking of the United States as an empire, knowing that this
term is jarring. Those who call the United States an empire usually
mean that it is in some sense evil. Others will call it anything
else if they can. But it is helpful to face the reality the United
States is in. It is always useful to be honest, particularly with
yourself. But more important, if the United States thinks of itself
as an empire, then it will begin to learn the lessons of imperial
power. Nothing is more harmful than an empire using its powerful
It is true that the
United States did not genuinely intend to be an empire. It is
also true that its intentions do not matter one way or another.
Circumstance, history and geopolitics have created an entity that,
if it isn't an empire, certainly looks like one. Empires can be
far from oppressive. The Persians were quite liberal in their
outlook. The American ideology and the American reality are not
inherently incompatible. But two things must be faced: First,
the United States cannot give away the power it has. There is
no practical way to do that. Second, given the vastness of that
power, it will be involved in conflicts whether it wants to or
not. Empires are frequently feared, sometimes respected, but never
loved by the rest of the world. And pretending that you aren't
an empire does not fool anyone.
The current balancing
act in the Middle East represents a fundamental rebalancing of
American strategy. It is still clumsy and poorly thought out,
but it is happening. And for the rest of the world, the idea that
the Americans are coming will become more and more rare. The United
States will not intervene. It will manage the situation, sometimes
to the benefit of one country and sometimes to another.
is the Chairman of Stratfor, a company he founded in 1996 that
is now a leader in the field of global intelligence. Friedman
guides Stratfor's strategic vision and oversees the development
and training of the company's intelligence unit. His book Flashpoints:
The Emerging Crisis in Europe
was released on Jan. 27.
month we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges
- sparking discussion about the connection between today and the
futures we're making - and what we need, from strategy to vision
- to make the best ones.
impact of culture on education
by Huib Wursten, Senior Partner, itim International and
Carel Jacobs is senior consultant/trainer for itim in The Netherlands,
he is also Certification Agent for the Educational Sector of the
The United States is today the hegemon, alone able to alter events
to match its own strategy with the ability of fighting long wars
far away from its home base. In spite of important engagements
in Afghanistan and Iraq, a large part of its air and naval capabilities
are still in the Pacific.
Nevertheless, it does not appear to have followed a consistent
policy in Asia. After conducting a strategy of preventing any
country in the area from assuming a leadership position, it encouraged
China's rise and tolerated exceptional shows of force against
the country's population such as after the Tien An Men square.
It was followed by the Asian pivot and the militarization of its
presence in the area and an attempt to ensure that in spite of
China's actions it will continue to have access to the South China
Sea, a vital crossing point between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
The changes have been due to different considerations by succeeding
administrations, with, more recently, President Obama declaring
that the US was a Pacific nation. Russia's actions in the Ukraine
and possible developments of this action in Europe is another
issue absorbing time and resources.
With the rise of China's power, the US must commit increasing
amounts of resources to counterbalance it. It should be expected
that small states in the area will play the two powers one against
The US has been running a very large trade deficit - estimated
at around $ 300 billion dollars, absorbing the major part of the
global capital flows - and it has been focusing on attempting
to convince China to revalue the yuan. The Chinese government
has in fact allowed the yuan to revalue slightly.
The US is simultaneously China's, India's and Japan's biggest
customer. The US is also India's largest supplier.
The US could allow its currency to depreciate further to the point
where its goods would be significantly more competitive than they
are today. The country would also be a major attractor of foreign
direct investment. China would then be the only country that would
have a positive trade balance with the US due to its low labor
The US might, alternatively, put pressure on China to encourage
spending abroad. There have been no new developments in that direction,
rather to the contrary.
The US is the protector of Taiwan which China has repeatedly threatened
to invade and which it considers part of its own territory.
With regards to India, the US has agreed to a pact assisting India
in its efforts in the realm of peaceful nuclear energy in the
hope that this will prevent the country from strengthening its
relationships with Iran and Russia.
The US' interest in India is a relatively new development since
the recent past has shown the US concentrating on the Pacific
and attempting to make it a US sea, somewhat in the manner that
the Romans had considered the Mediterranean to be a Mare nostrum.
The US has declared that the majority of its fleet will be deployed
in the Pacific by 2020. Until then, the US has to rely increasingly
on Australia and Japan, and allow APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation) to flourish as a tool to spread the American doctrine
of liberal trade - even though it has played as much in favor
of China than in favor of the US.
The US has increased the strength of its marines on Guam, an island
close enough to give support to Japan and has earmarked up to
USD 1 billion for military constructions over the next five years.
It has also increased cooperation with Australia and the Philippines.
The danger of a confrontation with China lies in an accidental
hit of a component of either country's nuclear program, such as
a launcher, or a disarming of a nuclear deterrent. If China were
afraid of an intentional disarming, it may decide to use it early
on in a critical situation, to prevent losing its nuclear capabilities.
To avoid any such misinterpretation of one another's intentions,
an agreement has been signed between presidents Obama and Xi,
his Chinese counterpart, whereby the two countries will inform
one another of any major military movements.
develops world-record electric motor for aircraft
have developed a new type of electric motor that, with a weight
of just 50 kilograms, delivers a continuous output of about
260 kilowatts five times more than comparable drive systems.
The motor has been specially designed for use in aircraft. Thanks
to its record-setting power-to-weight ratio, larger aircraft
with takeoff weights of up to two tons will now be able to use
electric drives for the first time.
of Technology: The evolution of ubiquitous sensing technologies
has led to intelligent environments that can monitor and react
to our daily activities, such as adapting our heating and cooling
tems, responding to our gestures, and monitoring our elderly.
In this paper, we ask whether it is possible for smart environments
to monitor our vital signs remotely, without instrumenting our
bodies. We introduce Vital-Radio, a wireless sensing technology
that monitors breathing and heart rate without body contact. Vital-Radio
exploits the fact that wireless signals are affected by motion
in the environment, including chest movements due to inhaling
and exhaling and skin vibrations due to heartbeats. We describe
the operation of Vital-Radio and demonstrate through a user study
that it can track users breathing and heart rates with a
median accuracy of 99%, even when users are 8 meters away from
the device, or in a different room. Furthermore, it can monitor
the vital signs of multiple people simultaneously. We envision
that Vital-Radio can enable smart homes that monitor peoples
vital signs without body instrumentation, and actively contribute
to their inhabitants well-being.
Outlines Vision for the Future
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) released its
Breakthrough Technologies for National Security,
a biennial report summarizing the Agencys historical mission,
current and evolving focus areas and recent transitions of DARPA-developed
technologies to the military Services and other sectors, last
month. The reports release coincided with testimony by DARPA
Director Arati Prabhakar before the Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, at a hearing
entitled Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2016 Science
and Technology Programs: Laying the Groundwork to Maintain Technological
Superiority. The full report is available for download online.
Technologies for National Security affirms that America
is in a strong strategic position today, in large part because
of its longstanding technological dominance. But it also notes
that a number of challenges threaten that status, including the
global spread of ever more powerful and less expensive technologies
and the emergence of disruptive non-nation-state actors in addition
to ongoing threats from peer adversaries.
mission and philosophy have held steady for decades, but the world
around DARPA has changed dramatically, the report says.
Those changes include some remarkable and even astonishing
scientific and technological advances that, if wisely and purposefully
harnessed, have the potential not only to ensure ongoing U.S.
military superiority and security but also to catalyze societal
and economic advances. At the same time, the world is experiencing
some deeply disturbing technical, economic and geopolitical shifts
that pose potential threats to U.S. preeminence and stability.
Those dueling trends
of simmering menace and unprecedented opportunity deeply inform
DARPAs most recent determination of its strategic priorities
for the next several years, the report says.
The report identifies
the phenomenon of increasing pace as a central challenge and opportunity
- from the need for ever-faster radio-frequency and information-processing
systems that work on the scale of nanoseconds, to the need to
speed up the development time of major military systems, whose
timescales today extend to decades.
In these areas
and others, the report says, DARPA will pursue the
strategic imperative of pace in part by continuing to be a bold,
risk-tolerant investor in high-impact technologies, so the Nation
can be the first to develop and adopt the novel capabilities made
possible by such work.
DARPA is focusing
its strategic investments in four main areas:
Military Systems: To help enable faster development and integration
of breakthrough military capabilities in todays rapidly
shifting landscape, DARPA is working to make weapons systems more
modular and easily upgraded and improved; assure superiority in
the air, maritime, ground, space and cyber domains; improve position,
navigation and timing (PNT) without depending on the satellite-based
Global Positioning System; and augment defenses against terrorism.
Master the Information
Explosion: DARPA is developing novel approaches to deriving
insights from massive datasets, with powerful big-data tools.
The Agency is also developing technologies to ensure that the
data and systems with which critical decisions are made are trustworthy,
such as automated cyber defense capabilities and methods to create
fundamentally more secure systems. And DARPA is addressing the
growing need to ensure privacy at various levels of need without
losing the national security value that comes from appropriate
access to networked data.
as Technology: To leverage recent breakthroughs in neuroscience,
immunology, genetics and related fields, DARPA in 2014 created
its Biological Technologies Office, which has enabled a new level
of momentum for the Agencys portfolio of innovative, bio-based
programs. DARPAs work in this area includes programs to
accelerate progress in synthetic biology, outpace the spread of
infectious diseases and master new neurotechnologies.
Expand the Technological
Frontier: DARPAs core work has always involved overcoming
seemingly insurmountable physics and engineering barriers and,
once showing those daunting problems to be tractable after all,
applying new capabilities made possible by these breakthroughs
directly to national security needs. Maintaining momentum in this
essential specialty, DARPA is working to achieve new capabilities
by applying deep mathematics; inventing new chemistries, processes
and materials; and harnessing quantum physics.
Technologies for National Security includes two sections
highlighting examples of DARPA technologies that have transitioned
to the military or other organizations in support of national
interests. One section focuses on technology transitions from
recent programs to the Services. A second section, entitled Success
Stories, looks at the long-term impacts of certain DARPA
programs over a period of decades - a reminder that the benefits
of DARPA research often extend for many years after initial applications
get operationalized, sometimes in unexpected ways.
A theme common to
all these examples is that many individuals and organizations
- public and private - have been involved in each success. That
reflects the importance not only of DARPAs seminal investments
but also of the Nations vibrant technology ecosystem, which
builds on the Agencys work and applies DARPAs advances
to the task of ensuring national security.
heavily on building collaborative communities of expertise in
institutions across the country, the report notes. This
approach helps the Nation by encouraging work at the boundaries
and intersections of disciplines, while making the Agency itself
an enormously supportive, interactive and satisfying place to
From the coauthors of the New York Times bestseller Abundance
comes their much anticipated follow-up: Bold - a radical,
how-to guide for using exponential technologies, moonshot thinking,
and crowd-powered tools to create extraordinary wealth while also
positively impacting the lives of billions.
in three parts. Part One focuses on the exponential technologies
that are disrupting todays Fortune 500 companies and enabling
upstart entrepreneurs to go from "Ive got an idea"
to "I run a billion-dollar company" far faster than
ever before. The authors provide exceptional insight into the
power of 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, networks
and sensors, and synthetic biology. Part Two of the book focuses
on the Psychology of Bold, drawing on insights from billionaire
entrepreneurs Larry Page, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff
Bezos. In addition, Diamandis reveals his entrepreneurial secrets
garnered from building fifteen companies, including such audacious
ventures as Singularity University, XPRIZE, Planetary Resources,
and Human Longevity, Inc. Finally, Bold closes with a look
at the best practices that allow anyone to leverage todays
hyper-connected crowd like never before. Here, the authors teach
how to design and use incentive competitions, launch million-dollar
crowdfunding campaigns to tap into tens of billions of dollars
of capital, and finally how to build communities - armies of exponentially
enabled individuals willing and able to help todays entrepreneurs
make their boldest dreams come true.
Bold is both
a manifesto and a manual. It is todays exponential entrepreneurs
go-to resource on the use of emerging technologies, thinking at
scale, and the awesome power of crowd-powered tools.
Africa A Continent of Contemporary Design
Africa A Continent of Contemporary Design«,
the Vitra Design Museum sheds new light on contemporary African
design. Showcasing the work of over 120 artists and designers,
the exhibition illustrates how design accompanies and fuels economic
and political change on the continent. Africa is presented as
a hub of experimentation generating new approaches and solutions
of worldwide relevance and as a driving force for a new
discussion of the potential of design in the twenty-first century.
The exhibition focuses
on a new generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers and designers from
and with in Africa, who as »digital natives«
address a global audience and provide the world with a
new vantage point on their continent. They often work across several
disciplines simultaneously and break with conventional definitions
of design, art, photography, architecture and film.
is divided into four parts. Over the course of the exhibition,
we will one by one feature works and artists from
each part in our Archive. The first part, Prologue, is concerned
with the western preconception of Africa, but also poses a number
of questions. Wo speaks about the continent, and how? The second
part, I and We, explores how design provides an effective tool
to communicate about ourselves, and thus portrays current and
past social and cultural developments in Africa. The third part,
Space and Object, is dedicated to the individual and their immediate
environment the city, technological developments and materials
play equal parts in this space. The fourth and final part, Origin
and Future, explores through contemporary African culture and
its roots through objects and artifacts.
When the »African
boom« comes up in the media, the reports tend to focus on
the continents fast-paced economic growth or the rapidly
expanding middle class phenomena that will remain at the
root of fundamental changes in coming decades. However, an other
development has already altered the everyday lives of all Africans
and yields a significant influence upon the work of artists and
designers. At present, there are already 650 million registered
mobile phones in Africa, more than in Europe or the US.
"We believe that developing cities are the home of global
advancement, and that they will provide the sustainable solutions
necessary for the environmental, infrastructural and human challenges
posed by this megacentury.
Kunlé Adeyemi gave a talk at the Vitra Design Museum. The
founder of NLÉ Architects based in Amsterdam, presents
selected projects including the African Water Cities Project,
which focuses on the development of Africas coastal regions
in view of climate change and increasing urbanization.
Stevenson is an entrepreneur,
author, broadcaster and expert on global trends and innovation
Mark is the author
of the best-selling An
Optimists Tour of the Future
(Penguin/ Profile Books) which has been translated into 10 languages
and was described by Wired a very coherent and entertaining
journey through the world of future technology and by New
Scientist as a refreshing reminder that the future will
always belong to the optimists.
Mark has also written
for The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Intelligent
Life, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Daily Telegraph,
and The New Statesman. His key skill is an ability to take complex
or abstract concepts and make them understandable by non-specialists
without trivialising the subject matter.
Mark: "I think anyone who would attempt to tell you what
the world will be like in 100 years time is either intellectually
vain or bonkers. If you look at the history of futurology what
youll see is that the predictions were often an expression
of prejudice or a wish list of the person who was asked. Were
quite good at seeing first order effects: If you invented the
internet its not a huge leap to predict email. But do you
then see the invention of social media? Or its role in the Arab
Because of what is
happening with technology all bets are off; pretty much anything
you can imagine is possible in the next 100 years." (Waters