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America’s strange empire

How has the US led the world?

By David Allen  

A US navy plane en route to a target in Vietnam. Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman's new book argues that America has acted as the world's umpire—but the evidence suggests otherwise

American Umpire by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman (Harvard University Press, £25.95)

The United States has had a complicated relationship with imperialism. It was born in a fight among empires and defined its politics and its ideals against one. Like all states with global ambitions, the US has dabbled with formal empire, explicitly so after the Spanish-American War of 1898, when…

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