Describing an empire as a powerful state is flawed: it allows for too broad of a spectrum.
Motyl 6 (Alexander J., Prof of Poli-Sci at Rutgers Univ, Foreign Affairs, “Empire Falls”, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/61764/alexander-j-motyl/empire-falls, p. 1-2) MAT
There is thus no avoiding the definitional question that bedevils all such discussions. One common mistake is to conflate empire and imperialism, even though the first is a type of polity and the second is a type of policy. The distinction gets lost in Jack Snyder's argument, in the SSRC volume, that overexpansion destabilizes the states that practice it. Such a statement is plausible, but why is it a lesson of empire? Overexpansion, after all, is not usually a weakness of established empires, which are exceptionally durable and not necessarily expansionist. Another mistake is to think of empires simply as "big multinational states." But by this definition, the category would have to include Canada. "Big and powerful multinational states" is better, but still too broad, as it would have to include India. Even "great power" does not work, because some empires, such as that of the Hapsburgs, were not terribly strong and because many great powers lack the structural features of empires. Many scholars agree that empires should be defined as polities with a peculiar kind of relationship between a dominant "core" and subordinate and distinctive "peripheries." The core is not simply larger or more powerful than the peripheries, nor does it simply influence them in some heavy-handed manner. It actually rules them, either directly or indirectly, through local surrogates. No less important is the absence of significant relations between or among peripheries. In empires, the peripheries almost exclusively interact through the core. The resulting arrangement resembles a rimless wheel, consisting of a hub and spokes. The idea of all roads leading to Rome accurately describes the imperial structure.
Neg – Imperialism Good
An imperialist hegemon in society is a necessity, without it our world would see civilization reduce itself to anarchic and barbaric ways of life
Ferguson 4 (Niall, Prof of History at NYU Stern, Foreign Policy, “A World Without Power”, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2004/07/01/a_world_without_power) MAT
Critics of U.S. global dominance should pause and consider the alternative. If the United States retreats from its hegemonic role, who would supplant it? Not Europe, not China, not the Muslim world—and certainly not the United Nations. Unfortunately, the alternative to a single superpower is not a multilateral utopia, but the anarchic nightmare of a new Dark Age. We tend to assume that power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. In the history of world politics, it seems, someone is always the hegemon, or bidding to become it. Today, it is the United States; a century ago, it was the United Kingdom. Before that, it was France, Spain, and so on. The famed 19th-century German historian Leopold von Ranke, doyen of the study of statecraft, portrayed modern European history as an incessant struggle for mastery, in which a balance of power was possible only through recurrent conflict. The influence of economics on the study of diplomacy only seems to confirm the notion that history is a competition between rival powers. In his bestselling 1987 work, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, Yale University historian Paul Kennedy concluded that, like all past empires, the U.S. and Russian superpowers would inevitably succumb to overstretch. But their place would soon be usurped, Kennedy argued, by the rising powers of China and Japan, both still unencumbered by the dead weight of imperial military commitments. In his 2001 book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, University of Chicago political scientist John J. Mearsheimer updates Kennedy's account. Having failed to succumb to overstretch, and after surviving the German and Japanese challenges, he argues, the United States must now brace for the ascent of new rivals. “[A] rising China is the most dangerous potential threat to the United States in the early twenty-first century,” contends Mearsheimer. “[T]he United States has a profound interest in seeing Chinese economic growth slow considerably in the years ahead.” China is not the only threat Mearsheimer foresees. The European Union (EU) too has the potential to become “a formidable rival.” Power, in other words, is not a natural monopoly; the struggle for mastery is both perennial and universal. The “unipolarity” identified by some commentatorsfollowing the Soviet collapse cannot last much longer, for the simple reason that history hates a hyperpower. Sooner or later, challengers will emerge, and back we must go to a multipolar, multipower world. But what if these esteemed theorists are all wrong? What if the world is actually heading for a period when there is no hegemon? What if, instead of a balance of power, there is an absence of power? Such a situation is not unknown in history. Although the chroniclers of the past have long been preoccupied with the achievements of great powers—whether civilizations, empires, or nation-states—they have not wholly overlooked eras when power receded. Unfortunately, the world's experience with power vacuums (eras of “apolarity,” if you will) is hardly encouraging. Anyone who dislikes U.S. hegemony should bear in mind that, rather than a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to U.S. primacy. Apolarity could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age: an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism; of endemic plunder and pillage in the world's forgotten regions; of economic stagnation and civilization's retreat into a few fortified enclaves. History proves that any future without a dominant expansionist nation acting within global society spurs on a world in which chaos and discontinuity pervades all parts of the globe
(Niall, Prof of History at NYU Stern, Foreign Policy, “A World Without Power”, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2004/07/01/a_world_without_power) MAT
Suppose, in a worst-case scenario, that U.S. neoconservative hubris is humbled in Iraq and that the Bush administration's project to democratize the Middle East at gunpoint ends in ignominious withdrawal, going from empire to decolonization in less than two years. Suppose also that no aspiring rival power shows interest in filling the resulting vacuums—not only in coping with Iraq but conceivably also Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Haiti. What would an apolar future look like? The answer is not easy, as there have been very few periods in world history with no contenders for the role of global, or at least regional, hegemon. The nearest approximation in modern times could be the 1920s, when the United States walked away from President Woodrow Wilson's project of global democracy and collective security centered on the League of Nations. There was certainly a power vacuum in Central and Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Romanov, Habsburg, Hohenzollern, and Ottoman empires, but it did not last long. The old West European empires were quick to snap up the choice leftovers of Ottoman rule in the Middle East. The Bolsheviks had reassembled the czarist empire by 1922. And by 1936, German revanche was already far advanced. One must go back much further in history to find a period of true and enduring apolarity; as far back, in fact, as the ninth and 10th centuries. In this era, the remains of the Roman Empire—Rome and Byzantium—receded from the height of their power. The leadership of the West was divided between the pope, who led Christendom, and the heirs of Charlemagne, who divided up his short-lived empire under the Treaty of Verdun in 843. No credible claimant to the title of emperor emerged until Otto was crowned in 962, and even he was merely a German prince with pretensions (never realized) to rule Italy. Byzantium, meanwhile, was dealing with the Bulgar rebellion to the north. By 900, the Abbasid caliphate initially established by Abu al-Abbas in 750 had passed its peak; it was in steep decline by the middle of the 10th century. In China, too, imperial power was in a dip between the T'ang and Sung dynasties.Both these empires had splendid capitals—Baghdad and Ch'ang-an—but neither had serious aspirations of territorial expansion. The weakness of the old empires allowed new and smaller entities to flourish. When the Khazar tribe converted to Judaism in 740, their khanate occupied a Eurasian power vacuum between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In Kiev, far from the reach of Byzantium, the regent Olga laid the foundation for the future Russian Empire in 957 when she converted to the Orthodox Church. The Seljuks—forebears of the Ottoman Turks—carved the Sultanate of Rum as the Abbasid caliphate lost its grip over Asia Minor. Africa had its mini-empire in Ghana; Central America had its Mayan civilization. Connections between these entities were minimal or nonexistent. This condition was the antithesis of globalization. It was a world broken up into disconnected, introverted civilizations. One feature of the age was that, in the absence of strong secular polities, religious questions often produced serious convulsions. Indeed, religious institutions often set the political agenda. In the eighth and ninth centuries, Byzantium was racked by controversy over the proper role of icons in worship. By the 11th century, the pope felt confident enough to humble Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV during the battle over which of them should have the right to appoint bishops. The new monastic orders amassed considerable power in Christendom, particularly the Cluniacs, the first order to centralize monastic authority. In the Muslim world, it was the ulema (clerics) who truly ruled. This atmosphere helps explain why the period ended with the extraordinary holy wars known as the Crusades, the first of which was launched by European Christians in 1095. Yet, this apparent clash of civilizations was in many ways just another example of the apolar world's susceptibility to long-distance military raids directed at urban centers by more backward peoples. The Vikings repeatedly attacked West European towns in the ninth century—Nantes in 842, Seville in 844, to name just two. One Frankish chronicler lamented “the endless flood of Vikings” sweeping southward. Byzantium, too, was sacked in 860 by raiders from Rus, the kernel of the future Russia. This “fierce and savage tribe” showed “no mercy,” lamented the Byzantine patriarch. It was like “the roaring sea … destroying everything, sparing nothing.” Such were the conditions of an anarchic age. Small wonder that the future seemed to lie in creating small, defensible, political units: the Venetian republic—the quintessential city-state, which was conducting its own foreign policy by 840—or Alfred the Great's England, arguably the first thing resembling a nation-state in European history, created in 886.
Imperialism is an undeniable good – our evidence is comparative
Kurtz, in 03
Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, ’03 (Stanley, April/May, “Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint” http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3449176.html)
Our commitment to political autonomy sets up a moral paradox. Even the mildest imperialism will be experienced by many as a humiliation. Yet imperialism as the midwife of democratic self-rule is an undeniable good. Liberal imperialism is thus a moral and logical scandal, a simultaneous denial and affirmation of self-rule that is impossible either to fully accept or repudiate. The counterfactual offers a way out. If democracy did not depend on colonialism, we could confidently forswear empire. But in contrast to early modern colonial history, we do know the answer to the counterfactual inthe case of Iraq. After many decades of independence, there is still no democracy in Iraq. Those who attribute this fact to American policy are not persuasive, since autocracy is pervasive in the Arab world, and since America has encouraged and accepted democracies in many other regions. So the reality of Iraqi dictatorship tilts an admittedly precarious moral balance in favor of liberal imperialism.