¿Son los Estados Unidos un imperio?

Hace tres décadas, la izquierda radical utilizaba el término "imperio estadounidense" en tono peyorativo. Ahora, ese mismo término ha salido del clóset: los analistas tanto de derecha como de izquierda lo están utilizando para explicar (si no es que para guiar) la política exterior de los Estados Unidos.

En muchos sentidos, la metáfora del imperio es seductora. Las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses tienen alcance global, con bases militares en todo el mundo, y sus comandantes regionales a veces se comportan como procónsules. El inglés es una lingua franca, como el latín. La economía de los EU es la más grande del mundo, y la cultura estadounidense es un imán. Pero es un error confundir dominio con imperio.

Los EU ciertamente no son un imperio a la manera de los imperios europeos de los siglos XIX y XX, porque el elemento central de ese imperialismo era el poder político. Aunque es cierto que hay relaciones desiguales entre los EU y potencias más débiles, que pueden llevar a la explotación, el término "imperial" no sólo es inexacto, sino engañoso en ausencia de un control político formal.

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