Stephen M. Walt tells us about his holiday reading.
As I mentioned awhile back, I devoted a good chunk of my vacation out west reading Piers Brendon’s The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997. As you might imagine, I spent a lot of time thinking about possible parallels and lessons for America’s current global position, just as English imperialists spent a lot of time pondering the Roman experience (ably documented by Edward Gibbon).
Funnily enough, my own beachside reading last week had insights relevant to this question. I finally got around to reading Iain Banks’ (who should never be confused with that disreputable science fiction writer, Iain M. Banks) The Steep Approach to Garbadale. Much of the plot revolves around the possible sale of a British game making company, most famous for producing a boardgame called Empire! back in the glory days of the British Imperium, to a big American company, providing Banks the occasion for many sardonic comments about the UK-US relationship, including the following:
The USA, not surprisingly, proved reluctant to accept Empire!; sales were miserable. Henry tried a version of the game based on a map consisting only of the contiguous states of the US, but that did little better. Finally, he bought up a small printing firm in Pittsburgh, so that the box and board could each bear the legend Made in the USA, altered the map of the world on which Empire! was based so that the USA was centred – the boundaries of the board cutting through the heart of Asia – renamed the game Liberty!, changed nothing else, and watched the dollars roll in.