Some time ago, a friend remarked that it is scarcely possible to have a sensible discussion of empire these days. What follows is not that discussion, though I hope it is sensible. It is a set of truisms and assertions, some so obvious that it is telling that they have become controversial. My aim is to sketch the contours of a sensible discussion to come.

1) Whether power is good or evil depends on its use. Power is often abused. But in itself, power is preferable to powerlessness. It is better to have the power of sight than to be blind, better to have the power to buy food than not, better to have a way of achieving your aims than to be frustrated by insurmountable obstacles. What is true for individuals is true for political communities: Governments need power to protect people, land, and resources from foreign threats, to ensure domestic order, to provide public goods for their citizens. Even those who appear to disagree with this claim do not: Advocates for the powerless want nothing more than to empower them.

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