Over the past few years there has been an intellectually controversial, strategically significant and politically charged debate as to whether America should – or should not – be characterised as an empire. More recently, it has become equally fashionable to argue that this empire is either now failing or in steep decline. This essay examines the background to the original ‘empire debate’, suggests that the notion of empire is one that can (with care) be applied to the United States, and that in spite of recent setbacks – like Iraq – we should take care not to underestimate the US capacity to shape world politics. The American Empire may be in trouble, but it is not about to fall.