"Everybody in Europe says that America is an empire!" That's one of the things I like about travel. I was seated next to an Austrian radio and television journalist, who was kind enough to enlighten me regarding the attitude in Europe toward America's foreign policy.
"Every country in the world pays tribute to America," he added. On questioning, he stated that he thought buying US debt instruments (government and corporate bonds, I assume) was a form of tribute, of paying protection money to the seat of Empire. I pointed out that the Global Capital Markets don't see it that way. They see it as a good bet that they'll get a positive return on their investments. And that if America disappoints those markets, America will get poor in a hurry, just like any other country.
No, America does not maintain an Empire. If we did, we would be much more intentional about it, and we would run it better. The American People do not want to run the world. We want the world to run itself. But we do get cranky when it doesn't run itself our way.