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Empire by Invitation? The United States and Western Europe, 1945-1952

Geir Lundestad
Journal of Peace Research
Vol. 23, No. 3 (Sep., 1986), pp. 263-277
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/423824
Page Count: 15
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Empire by Invitation? The United States and Western Europe, 1945-1952
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Abstract

The article attempts to substantiate two related arguments. First, that the American expansion was really more striking than the Soviet one in the first years after the Second World War. While America's influence could be strongly felt in most corners of the world, the Soviet Union counted for little outside its border areas, however vast these border areas. The article looks briefly at the increased American role in Asia and Africa, but the emphasis is on the dramatic change in the American-Western European relationship. Second, if this American expansion created what we could call an American empire, this was to a large extent an empire by invitation. Unlike the Soviet Union, which frequently had to rely on force to further its interests, the United States possessed an arsenal of diverse instruments. In fact, the United States was often invited to play a more active role. The article goes into some detail on the nature of Western Europe's economic and military invitations to Washington. The author's tentative finding is that this invitational attitude of most Western European governments was often shared by public opinion in the countries concerned. The article also argues that this state of American empire only lasted approximately 30 years. In the 1970s, the US lead over other powers had declined both militarily and, particularly important, economically. The American-European relationship had to be redefined. Many European governments still invited the United States to play an active role, but these invitations were much more ambiguous now than in the first two decades after the world war. Finally, the author hypothesizes that the American decline was in part caused by the expenses involved in maintaining the American empire.

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