Ramallah August 2009 – Sessions – Paper – Network Imperialism: Assyria and the U.S.

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Paper: Network Imperialism: Assyria and the U.S.

Reinhard Bernbeck

Freie Universität Berlin

Historians and politicians of the United States compare the structures of their country with ancient Rome, either as a republic, or, more recently, as an empire. I argue that the United States’ structures of dominance are much closer to those of the Assyrian empire. Assyria’s domination was built on a network of implantations in foreign lands that were not meant to turn local populations into Assyrians. Instead, Assyria built a network of fortresses and other nodes in an imperial network, connected through an exclusive mesh of highways. The spatial structure of the United States’s reach beyond its national boundaries is similar: it is an empire of military bases, a network whose nodes are flexibly tightening or loosening according to the political exigencies of the moment. In both cases, dominance is a matter of the potential of catastrophic, destructive war, and its realization. In both cases, the imperial network has no clear boundaries, and the claim to power is universal.