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Pax Americana

The term Pax Americana (Latin: "American peace"), denoting the period of relative peace in the Western world since World War II, places the United States of America in the role of a modern-day Roman Empire (compare Pax Romana).

During this period the USA has been involved to a greater or lesser extent in various regional wars (probably most famously, the Vietnam War), and has maintained espionage and covert operations in many other areas.

The term "Pax Americana" is used by critics of American policy to describe a supposed effort to suppress countries which do not cooperate with American policy (so called rogue states). This usage implies that the Roman Empire was immoral in some way.

Many supporters of the USA do not consider the country to be imperialist, and argue that it has a long history of isolationism - which subsided only after major shocks in 1900, 1917, and 1941 (and, some would argue, in 2001). Many people believe that the United States has sought, or has found itself forced into, a quasi-imperialist role by its status as the world's sole superpower. However, the term "isolationist" in this context applies to the global stage; the United States has never been isolationist with respect to the Western Hemisphere, which it has considered to fall within its sphere of influence, and has a long history of military intervention within this region of the world.

The fiercest debates between isolationist and imperialist factions were probably at the end of the 19th century, when those who favored U.S. control of Hawaii and the Philippines, the "jingoes", including Theodore Roosevelt, debated hotly those who favored traditional American policies of avoiding foreign entanglements, including Samuel Gompers[?], Andrew Carnegie, and others (who came from a very wide variety of backgrounds and were opposed on almost every other issue). At that time, the term "imperial" was indeed used as a positive goal by jingoes and as a negative term by opponents. When Theodore Roosevelt ascended to the Presidency on the assassination of William McKinley, in 1900, it seemed clear that both the "jingoes", "imperialism" and foreign intervention had won.

Generally, supporters of US foreign policy regard interventions by the USA as forced upon it by moral necessity or self-defense (including defense of "US national interests[?]" abroad, which are usually economic interests, such as access to petroleum reserves), and characterize criticism as Anti-Americanism. They may describe world affairs in moral terms, rather than in terms of realpolitik and moral equivalence, as "good guys" (themselves) who need not apologize for their morally justified actions versus the "bad guys". It is this view that the US can do no wrong that causes many critics to view the United States as arrogant and disrespectful of the rule of international law.

See also: Cold War, American Empire, British Empire, white man's burden, Bush Doctrine, Project for the New American Century, hegemony

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