I don't agree with the concept of nations having "empires" (forceful imposition of one nation's will upon other groups of people), but empires show power. Spain, Italy & Greece all had empires in the past. What happened to make them the economic basket cases of today?
In a sense, America has had an empire (both economic & military with 800+ bases in 120+ nations around the world). What happened to make America the biggest economic basket case the world has ever seen? Watch our financial & military empires collapse.