Issue Date: Spring 2003, Posted On: 3/9/2003

James Kurth

Migration and the Dynamics of Empire


Spring 2003

. . . The real civil servants of the American empire are not American in their physical origin. They are, however, American in their intellectual apparatus. They are the foreign students who come to American universities and learn American principles and practices. In particular, they are the economics majors and business school students who come to believe in the free market, and the political science majors and law school students who come to believe in liberal democracy and the rule of law. When (or if) they return to their home countries, they will know both the culture and customs of their own society and the principles and practices of American society. These foreign students are both imperial immigrants-when they arrive in America for their studies-and imperial emigrants-when they return home for their careers.

Moreover, those who stay in America, as a great many do, form a kind of corpus colosseum between the American metropole and its hinterland. This goes for scientists and engineers as well as businessmen and lawyers. The computer whizzes from the subcontinent who live and work in America are the empire's most efficient and effective links to the considerable talents in Bangalore, for example. They and others (Chinese, Israelis, Australians) perform functions voluntarily-indeed, eagerly and unassumingly-for the American empire roughly analogous to those of the population transfer policies of the Habsburg Empire and especially of the Ottoman Empire. They help integrate the elites of the imperial periphery to those of the imperial core, though in an Internet world they do so in less materially obvious ways.

From the perspective of the American empire, these imperial immigrants/emigrants-local in their outer appearance, American in their inner attitudes-are perfect candidates for political and economic leadership in the empire's outer and even inner domains. And, indeed, a significant number of current officials in Latin America, Europe and East Asia are graduates of American universities, and an even larger cadre of graduates is now entering into official careers. The ability of the American empire to govern its domains will depend upon its success in producing this distinct kind of immigrant/emigrant to serve as its distinct kind of imperial civil official. In the empires of the past, the metropole served as the mind, and the colonies served as the body. The American empire is attempting to solve the imperial mind-body problem in a new way. In a sense, it seeks to perform a series of brain-transplants, to put an imperial mind into a colonized body. . . .

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