Walter Russell Mead has a new book God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World in which he argues that United States has become the logical successor of British Empire. According to Mead, these empires are benevolent and people are happy to belong to them. This outrageous statement has been taken to task by the New York Times book reviewer.
Really? Is that how it looked in, say, India? When Clive of India came to Bengal, he described it — in a way all visitors of the time did — as “extensive, populous and as rich as the city of London.” It was a place of such “richness and abundance” that “neither war, pestilence nor oppression could destroy” it. But within a century of British occupation, the population of its largest city, Calcutta, fell from 150,000 to 30,000 as its industries were wrecked in the interests of the mother country. By the time the British left, Calcutta was one of the poorest places in the world. Is this really the baton the United States should pick up?