The American road to Baghdad started when the first English settlers landed in Virgina determined to impose their values on everyone they encountered. Simultaneously, the first Russians crossed the Urals and the two empires that would dominate the twentieth century were born. "Empires Apart" covers the history of the Americans and Russians from the Vikings to the present day. It shows the two empires developed in parallel as they expanded to the Pacific and launched wars against the nations around them.
They both developed an imperial 'ideology' that was central to the way they perceived themselves. Then, in the period between the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War, the American ideology changed and the lust for new territory to conquer largely disappeared. It is argued that what caused this change was the advent of Big Business which set out to conquer the world in a different way.Soon after, the ideology of the Russian Empire also changed with the advent of Communism. The key argument of this book is that these changes did not alter the core imperial values of either nation; both Russians and Americans continued to believe that their manifest destiny was to impose their will on others. Corporatist and Communist imperialism changed only the mechanics of Empire.
Both nations have shown that they are still willing to use military force and clandestine intrigue to enforce imperial control. In order to support these arguments, it is necessary to strip away many of the preconceptions of popular history and this book uses numerous anecdotes to illustrate events as they really happened. The most pervasive preconception is that America has never been an 'imperial' power, by recounting the history of the two nations alongside each other this preconception is decisively dissolved.