The Exit Strategy Of Empire

Authored by Wendy McElroy via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

The Roman Empire never doubted that it was the defender of civilization. Its good intentions were peace, law and order. The Spanish Empire added salvation. The British Empire added the noble myth of the white man’s burden. We have added freedom and democracy.


- Garet Garrett, Rise of Empire

The first step in creating Empire is to morally justify the invasion and occupation of another nation even if it poses no credible or substantial threat. But if that’s the entering strategy, what is the exit one?

One approach to answering is to explore how Empire has arisen through history and whether the process can be reversed. Another is to conclude that no exit is possible; an Empire inevitably self-destructs under the increasing weight of what it is — a nation exercising ultimate authority over an array of satellite states. Empires are vulnerable to overreach, rebellion, war, domestic turmoil, financial exhaustion, and competition for dominance.

In his monograph Rise of Empire, the libertarian journalist Garet Garrett (1878–1954), lays out a blueprint for how Empire could possibly be reversed as well as the reason he believes reversal would not occur.  Garrett was in a unique position to comment insightfully on the American empire because he’d had a front-row seat to events that cemented its status: World War II and the Cold War. World War II America already had a history of conquest and occupation, of course, but, during the mid to late 20th century, the nation became a self-consciously and unapologetic empire with a self-granted mandate to spread its ideology around the world.

A path to reversing Empire

Garrett identifies the first five components of Empire:

  • the dominance of executive power: the White House reigns over Congress and the judiciary.
  • the subordination of domestic concerns to foreign policy: civil and economic liberties give way to military needs.
  • the rise of a military mentality: aggressive patriotism and obedience are exalted.
  • a system of satellite nations in the name of collective security;
  • and a zeitgeist of both zealous patriotism and fear: bellicosity is mixed with and sustained by panic.

These are not sequential stages of Empire but occur in conjunction with one another and reinforce each other. That means that an attempt to reverse Empire in the direction of a Republic can begin with weakening any of the five characteristics in any order.

Garrett did not directly address the strategy of undoing Empire but his description of its creation can be used to good advantage. The first step is to break down each component of Empire into more manageable chunks. For example, the executive branch accumulates power in various ways. They include:

  • By delegation — Congress transfers its constitutional powers to the president.
  • By reinterpretation of the Constitution by a sympathetic Supreme Court.
  • Through innovation by which the president assumes powers that are not constitutionally forbidden because the Framers never considered them.
  • By administrative agencies that issue regulations with the force of law.
  • Through usurpation — the president confronts Congress with a fait accompli that cannot easily be repudiated.
  • Entanglement in foreign affairs makes presidential power swell because, both by tradition and the Constitution, foreign affairs are his authority.

Deconstructing these executive props, one by one, weakens the Empire. When all five components are deconstructing, the process presents a possible path to dissolving Empire itself.

A sixth component of Empire

But in Rise of Empire, Garet Garrett offers a chilling assessment based on his sixth component of Empire. There is no path out. A judgment that renders prevention all the more essential.

That was why Garrett does not deal with how to reverse the process of Empire. Once an empire is established, he argues, it becomes a “prisoner of history” in a trap of its own making. He writes, “A Republic may change its course, or reverse it, and that will be its own business. But the history of Empire is a world history and belongs to many people. A Republic is not obliged to act upon the world, either to change it or instruct it. Empire, on the other hand, must put forth its power.”

In his book For A New Liberty, Murray Rothbard expands on Garrett’s point: “[The] United States, like previous empires, feel[s] itself to be ‘a prisoner of history.’ For beyond fear lies ‘collective security,’ and the playing of the supposedly destined American role upon the world stage.”

Collective security and fear are intimately connected concepts. It is no coincidence that the sixth component of Empire — imprisonment — comes directly after the two components of “a system of satellite nations” and, “a complex of vaunting and fear.”

Satellite nations

“We speak of our own satellites as allies and friends or as freedom loving nations,” Garrett wrote.


“Nevertheless, satellite is the right word. The meaning of it is the hired guard.” Why hired? Although men of Empire speak of losing China [or] Europe … [how] could we lose China or Europe, since they never belonged to us? What they mean is that we … may lose a following of dependent people who act as an outer guard.”

An empire thinks that satellites are necessary for its collective security. Satellites think the empire is necessary for territorial and economic survival; but they are willing to defect if an empire with a better deal beckons. America knows this and scrambles to satisfy satellites that could become fickle. Garrett quotes Harry Truman, who created America’s modern system of satellites. “We must make sure that our friends and allies overseas continue to get the help they need to make their full contribution to security and progress for the whole free world. This means not only military aid — though that is vital — it also means real programs of economic and technical assistance.“

In contrast to a Republic, Empire is both a master and a servant because foreign pressure cements it into the military and economic support of satellite nations around the globe, all of which have their own agendas.

Garrett also emphasizes how domestic pressure imprisons Empire. One of the most powerful domestic pressures is fear. An atmosphere of fear  — real or created — drives public support of foreign policy and makes it more difficult for Empire to retreat from those policies. In his introduction to Garrett’s book Ex America, Bruce Ramsey addresses Garrett’s point. Ramsey writes, Empire has “‘less control over its own fate than a republic,’ he [Garrett] commented because it was a ‘prisoner of history’, ruled by fear. Fear of what? ‘Fear of the barbarian.’”

It does not matter whether the enemy is actually a barbarian. What matters is that citizens of Empire believe in the enemy’s savagery and support a military posture toward him. Domestic fear drives the constant politics of satellite nations, protective treaties, police actions, and war. Foreign entanglements lead to increased global involvement and deeper commitments. The two reinforce each other.

The fifth characteristic of Empire is not merely fear but also “vaunting.” Vaunting means boasting about or praising something excessively — for example, to laud and exaggerate America’s role in the world. Fear provides the emotional impetus for conquest; vaunting provides the moral justification for acting upon the fear. The moral duty is variously phrased: leadership, a balance of power, peace, democracy, the preservation of civilization, humanitarianism. From this point, it is a small leap to conclude that the ends sanctify the means. Garrett observes that “there is soon a point from which there is no turning back….The argument for going on is well known. As Woodrow Wilson once asked, ‘Shall we break the heart of the world?’ So now many are saying, ‘We cannot let the free world down’. Moral leadership of the world is not a role you step into and out of as you like.”


In this manner, Garrett believed, Empire imprisons itself in the trap of a perpetual war for peace and stability, which are always stated goals. Yet, as Garrett concluded, the reality is war and instability.

It is not clear whether he was correct that Empire could not be reversed. Whether or not he was, it is at its creation that Empire is best opposed.


TBT or not TBT JSBach1 Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:40 Permalink

Entitlements and welfare, not wars, are what has done in this experiment in liberty.   We voted ourselves goodies from the public treasury.  As expected, until we were far beyond broke.   Now we are just extending and pretending.   Our little bit of foreign adventuring has stacked nothing like the debt of our domestic vote buying programs.  

In reply to by JSBach1

Rapunzal Chupacabra-322 Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:06 Permalink

The US will be butchered by the NWO on the world stage for all to see. Vilified for all people to hate and being seen as a salvation even by us, in shame what the oligarchs made of our constitution. The time afterwards will be terrible, neofeudalism under a banking oligarchy, run by the Rothschilds and Rockefellers.

In reply to by Chupacabra-322

LetThemEatRand Mon, 09/25/2017 - 21:32 Permalink

"Empire" is a term that implies a great power held by many, when in fact it is the expression of power and wealth held by a few in the name of the many.  The Queen of England still seems to be doing okay.  There are still people on this planet who have untold wealth from the days of clipper ships.  But let's worry about standing for the national anthem, because that is the most important thing.

Chupacabra-322 LetThemEatRand Mon, 09/25/2017 - 21:38 Permalink

@ Let,

Hedgemony is difficult & expensive to keep Centrialized for long periods of time.

Rome comes to mind.

"I know not why any one but a school-boy in his declamation should whine over the Commonwealth of Rome, which grew great only by the misery of the rest of mankind. The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich, grew corrupt; and in their corruption sold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another. [...] A people, who while they were poor robbed mankind; and as soon as they became rich, robbed one another."

Samuel Johnson: Review of Thomas Blackwell's "Memoirs of the Court of Augustus"

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

Anteater wisehiney Mon, 09/25/2017 - 23:01 Permalink

Frog in the pot, my friend, frog in the pot.Fed will just stop giving COLAs to SS and MC. Simple.The elderly will be evicted from subsidized-rent housing.The elderly will be priced out by soaring medical co-pays.The elderly will be starved out by shrinking food available.The elderly will be beaten and abused by starving progeny.More than half of Americans won't even live long enough.The future of SS is Rent-a-Tent, Ramen, Spam and Pepsi. 

In reply to by wisehiney

Cabreado Mon, 09/25/2017 - 21:48 Permalink

You can't reverse "empire" without an injection of humility -- both in places of Control and an entire populace with false expectations.You can still care about Rule of Law, while a new equilibrium finds its way.Else, all bets are off.

Deep Snorkeler Mon, 09/25/2017 - 21:52 Permalink

America, a Short-Lived EmpireSince 1945, the US has developed a number of fatal disorders:1. inability to recognize failure2. inability to adjust3. inability to accept truths4. inability to manage money5. inability to resist corruption6. inability to give its citizens a basic education7. horribly incompetent leadership8. inability to reduce drug and alcohol abuse9. inability to establish a national mission/elan10. inability to restore moral purpose 

Jambo Mambo Bill Deep Snorkeler Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:17 Permalink

But...but.... the US is the greatest nation ever! Americans are the strongest people on the Planet! The strongest military, it has the fastest cars and the most beautiful women...It has Hollywood, no other nation has anything even close!America has California, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne were Americans! And the apple guy... breaking bad... hotdog...What would be the planet without America? Just a bunch of Chimps..  

In reply to by Deep Snorkeler

Don Watcher Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:38 Permalink
  • Hegemony and its maintenenance is costly.
  • (But then again, what do the sheeple know.  Nice profits, MIC.)
  • BTW, how's that Pivot to Asia thing coming along?
  • "War is a racket."

             - Gen. Smedly D. Butler USMC

Anteater Don Watcher Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:55 Permalink

Garrett identifies the first five components of Empire:

  • the dominance of executive power: the White House reigns over Congress and the judiciary.
  • the subordination of domestic concerns to foreign policy: civil and economic liberties give way to military needs.
  • the rise of a military mentality: aggressive patriotism and obedience are exalted.
  • a system of satellite nations in the name of collective security;
  • and a zeitgeist of both zealous patriotism and fear: bellicosity is mixed with and sustained by panic.

And one Rothschild's bank to rule them all, 104 years since 1913,with the forced substitution of Star Spangled Banner by the GlobalistCalvin Coolidge, as he marched America's men off to die in Europefor the Rothschild's WW1, then forced Star Spangled Banner and aPledge of Allegiance on American schools, for the next generationof cannon fodder used in Rothschild's WW2, and 26 US wars after that. When the Fed Bank charter came up for renewal in 2013, our Congressvoted UNANIMOUSLY WITHOUT DEBATE to give Fed another century.Five years later, Pentagon is approaching $1 TRILLION a year.

In reply to by Don Watcher

MK ULTRA Alpha Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:42 Permalink

There is no empire. It is an evolving process with defined stages toward one world government, one world bank, one world currency and one world religion of worship of the state. This is the long term goal of International Communism known by many names ie. Zionism. The US isn't an empire, but a beast of burden being used for a generational take down of mankind. I was trained by CIA when I was a child, I am trained to see it and most have been brainwashed not to be able to see it. It is slow and methodical moving like a snake with stealth until it is too late.

smacker MK ULTRA Alpha Tue, 09/26/2017 - 05:37 Permalink

"There is no empire."I agree with everything you say about what's happening (by stealth), except that you describe it as not an empire. But the move towards one-of-everything is actually ((the empire)) and it's moving in the direction you say.Whether the US is the driver of this empire towards these objectives or simply being manipulated by unnamed others from the shadows is an interesting point.

In reply to by MK ULTRA Alpha

smacker Koba the Dread Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:42 Permalink

Yes, that's certainly true. Although as I understand it, since the days of GWB US foreign policy and expansion of empire has been driven largely by the neocons who have split loyalties. Whereas Trump promised to rein in US foreign adventures, he appears to be expanding them (Syria, NK, hostility towards Iran/China/Russia) having been brought on-side or under control by those in the shadows which may be a foreign power and/or CIA etc.But overall, I believe the US began its days of empire a long time ago which went into overdrive after WWII.

In reply to by Koba the Dread

WTFUD Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:53 Permalink

Too many mouths to feed, kick-backs to surrender and a deep mistrust and discontent of the Yokels, ripe for rebellion.

A recent on-going example is the rich in oil heavily polluted Delta State, Nigeria, where the stipend (subsidy, gratuity ) that the previous Christian President, Goodluck Jonatnan bequeath the Tribal/Local Chieftains to distribute to their subjects was quashed by the new Northern Muslim President, Buhari, gradually then puff.

The resulting Attacks/Sabotage by the Niger Delta Avengers, affiliates on the Oil & Gas Infrastructure has seen up to 700,000 (approx 1/3 of production ) barrels, per day, lost in production.

As the Local Police, even Army ( mind you the Police & Army are most likely controlling some of these Local Armed Water Mobile Groups, who blow Pipelines, Flow Stations Up & Bunker/Siphon the Sweet Bonny Light Crude Oil for Private Distribution ) the British & the Americans hired Blackwater sorts to go eliminate these 'terrorists' , alas, most fortunately, you'd be better off walking into Hell, than the hundreds of tributaries and Swamps in the Niger Delta with it's vast network of Wrong Turns. Suffice to say few who have ventured in have returned home alive ( although families/others of some will fork out the RANSOM for Hostages ).

The Nigerian Elite send their offspring to the Military Academies, to the Educational Establishments in the UK/US to return home to become the next-gen Masters/Gatekeepers of the Plantation. Reporting to CFR Commanders & HRH Queen Liz Associates, the Central Bank electronically transfers Queenie's CUT to her Coutts Account in the City of London.

The UK having created the North-South Nigerian divide, it looks like we're ripe any time soon for a Civil War that the British Empire is too feeble and weak to Defend/Stop.

blindman Baron von Bud Mon, 09/25/2017 - 23:42 Permalink

the talking heads need nothing moar than moar talk,
like a tsunami of talk might fix something someday
it is implied and presumed.
David Lindley - "Bye Bye Love"
everyone today just wants to eat heart muscle
served rare.
i like the beat cause you can dance to it.
i probably said that wrong but i trust you know
moar than i do and understand me. peace bro.

In reply to by Baron von Bud

mabuhay1 Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:20 Permalink

America is NOT an empire, it is a nation. We have no colonies, nor do we war war of conquests to gain territories or power. If you are going to compare us to an Empire, at least understand what one is.
As for the British washing their hands of empire, it was not their choice. It was forced upon them by the end of the Mercantilism era. They were no longer the industrial giant of the World and they could not longer afford the expense of maintaining a large military. They have declined further since then, becoming a Third World nation in military strength. Military strength is a function of economic might, not the other way around.
We, as a nation, are on a similar path. After World War 2 we were the only major power to not be devastated by the war as our industrial base was still intact. We became the World Police, stationing forces around the World. That was the unfortunate consequence of there being a power vacuum around the World during the period after World War 2. Now, the entire World is industrialized and has tremendous manufacturing output. We are no longer able to afford the policing of the entire World, but with the increased power of all the smaller countries and their increased abilities to make war, we face a World with much greater risks and fractional-ism. What will happen is a great war and a period of everybody against everybody else. All believe they "have the power" and now want to use that power. Ever hear of the "warring states period" in China? That is what we are facing now, a Worldwide free-for-all with every nation for themselves. Even the ones in coalitions will be vying to be the "Crown Prince" of nations, much as the nations who made up the Axis powers in World War 2 all had plans for World Domination once the war against the Allied powers was won. The old Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times" is very applicable to this era we live in.