I've found Edmund Morris's books about Teddy Roosevelt to be a great insight into this time because he was such an epitome of the Gilded Age generation that wanted empire. 1898 really does seem to be a crucial year, prior to that the US had not gone much past enforcing the monroe doctrine (see Cleveland's disagreements with the Germans over Venezuela). Teddy is front and center during this time when the US conquers Cuba and the Philippines. Within a few years Hawaii is conquered/stolen (this is the colony that never got away), Panama is basically annexed so the US can get the canal.
It was a weird kind of imperialism. The US actually gave Cuba its independence really quickly (02-03?), but it was economically dependent. When Castro came to power like 80% of the Cuban economy was owned by US holders. In the Philippines, horrible things were done to the Filipinos who resisted. This was done under the auspices of Roosevelt and Taft who otherwise were very moral men. See their actions domestically. They just had a very paternalistic view about the US's role of spreading civilization. Mark Twain (who apparently posted this link) was a huge critic of these actions. The US was very aware that it was getting into the empire business and there was lots of debate about it.
There were many holdouts and it took both world wars for the isolationist sentiment in the US to be completely broken. Not surprisingly, maybe, by FDR, who modeled himself after his older cousin in more ways than one. After WW2 the ship had sailed and the US had so much global power (all the old empires save Russia dying), that it no longer really had a choice.
Someone on HN recommended Oliver Stone's Untold History of the Unites States. It's a really good look at the other end of this empire. It's obvious where his biases lie (check out his Putin interviews for some real ass kissing). Sometimes he says cringeworthy stuff like "this particularly American sin of xenophobia" (like really dude, you know this much about history and you're gonna say that), but it's great criticism and something lots of people would do well to watch.
Not to be too pretentious, but we must know our history. So many things that are currently happening have deep roots in the past. Hopefully someone will find these recommendations useful.
He’s a great filmmaker, but I couldn’t get into this series. It really seemed to me that the goal was to spoon feed me ideas rather than to educate me and cause me to think. I love history and have a pretty dim view of US behavior towards the rest of the world (I have lived in the US all of my life), so it could have been a great match. The tactics felt very manipulative, however.
Documentaries shouldn’t use background music to inform me of who the hero is or who the bad guys are. They should be relatively dry and factual. This series is a fantastic example of how it should not be done.
He's a guy you can't watch with your blinders on, but the raw amount of material there is, and the coverage of events like Iran in 53, Chile in 73 is a good counterpoint to anyone who wants to suggest the US cares particularly about democracy, or has only been a force for good, that kind of rhetoric.
Is there something similar that has less of a slant?
Unburdened by a legacy of monarchy but well-acquainted with mercantilism, the merchant paternalists of the early US instead decided to focus on unfettered (for them) trade even if that meant fetters for others both iron and more structural.
I refer of course to the numerous examples stretching back to the Barbary Pirates, United Fruit etc. Military force was also used internally in the US to protect monied interests against more democratic forces, like the Ludlow Massacre.
And the Barbary Pirates and American slave trade could and did coexist. You seem to be quite emotional on that point.
To be a merchant paternalist, you generally need to be powerful. I thought it was important to point out that the United States was not powerful at that time, and barely managed to protect its merchant's interests some of the time. Your comment about merchant paternalists not caring about leaving others in fetters, both iron and structural, doesn't really apply to that particular conflict.
What? Roosevelt was a despicable war monger, an extreme racist and he had little respect for the lives of his own soldiers (the more die the bigger the glory) or anybody else.
Roosevelt was not a racist, at least not compared to his contemporaries. Booker Washington ate at the executive mansion (a first) with him. He gave African-Americans federal positions they had not previously held and tried to limit some of the lynching going on. He was not always right about this, see his actions in Brownsville, but he was way ahead of others. Wilson, for example, who was an actual racist, but hated war.
He was one of the few people who saw the rising power of the Japanese and respected them. He helped them and the Russians make peace and won a Nobel for that. Never actually went to war as president. He was an unabashed lover of war, but even learned that lesson (too late), when his son died in WW1. It broke him and he ended up dying within a couple years.
He was full of himself, but for someone full of himself, he actually did more for the working class with regulations and anti-trust action then any of the presidents preceding him.
He's guilty of some of what you say, but it's not by any means th full pictures, and ultimately we can only understand people within the context of their time. Roosevelt was way better than most.
This is seeing something of a revival right now and I highly doubt that it was ever 'completely broken', it merely got overruled by a substantial majority.
Someone like Trump might talk some isolationist talk because it wins votes, but do you think those people who make hundreds of millions projecting American power really want that to stop? Not many people thought Brexit would happen, though, so maybe...
That is not Isolationism, my rule of thumb is when US Navy vacates Diego Garcia (naval base in Indian Ocean), I will consider they are becoming Isolationist until then the talk of Isolationism just hot air.
Diego Garcia being vacated would be a sign that America is no longer a world power by any measure. It might come to that, but not in the next 30 years or so.
The United Nations for example can easily be engaged in even if you are against most US foreign policy.
> about solely looking after your own interests rather than a more global view
This 'global view' was basically about building a global order that the US could control. I was just another view about what in Americas best interest by a different group of elites.
That's not my experience.
> Many so called 'isolations' are not against building a bunker around the US and doing nothing.
That may be so. But many of them are. You can't build yourself up as the policeman of the world and then within the space of 6 months do a full 180 on that policy without getting called out on it.
> The United Nations for example can easily be engaged in even if you are against most US foreign policy.
Yes, but there are more ways to do this and the present day administration seems to have thrown 50 years of built up credit out with the remaining bathwater. Note that it is easy to destroy a reputation, it is very hard to put it back together again.
> This 'global view' was basically about building a global order that the US could control.
Agreed. But now we're headed towards a global order that the US definitely won't be able to control with China and Russia as dominant poles and the United States voting 'present' or even taking sides with Russia. This is going to have some significant consequences none of which will be pleasant.
> I[t] was just another view about what [is] in Americas best interest by a different group of elites.
That may be so. But the price for that changing viewpoint will not be paid by Americans.
I find it very, very hard to believe that the "global view" was ever more or different from "solely looking after your own interests". You may find nuance simply because there were and are many people involved with their own respective different ideas and goals, but even when something looked altruistic on the surface I'm sure you can always trace it back to someone benefiting financially. For example, giving aid but binding it to conditions leading to money returning to you (plus interest, when it's a loan). Altruistic would be giving up some of your own rights, e.g. on patents or IP, or giving the other party an advantage in trade - it does not even have to be giving "money" (which often just fuels corruption).
Every nation lies to itself.
It is important to explain this because many on the left believe that the world was a peaceful, just, and prosperous paradise until Western imperialism came along, which is completely false. And lately many on the far right have been falsely claiming that the West was ditto a quite wonderful place until modernity.
Guam is a territory (second class citizen like Puerto Rico in some ways) . Having lived there for two years (about a decade ago) there is/was a interesting generational dichotomy. The WW2 survivors and their children are generally very happy to be part of the USA as they were liberated from Japanese. The younger generations see: a third of the land off limits for military bases, housing prices being driven by generous military overseas housing allowances, and an influx of young (mostly male) service members affecting competition a dating pool already affected by being the equivalent of Hawaii for Japanese tourist, and don't have as pro USA opinion.
>It does however have states that are second-class citizens
Colony: a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country, typically a distant one, and occupied by settlers from that country.
>lots of other countries which are independent but also to some extent economically and militarily subordinate, in which the US State Department feels entitled to influence policy
Anyways, it still seems to meet your criteria:
>the United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad—from giant “Little Americas” to small radar facilities. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined.
The point in this context is that the US's web of influence extends outside of the areas in which they have a direct structure of power in place (and isn't consistent within those that it does) - those points, in this sense, imply an "Empire" (quotes, as nebulous), rather than an Empire (the defined thing).
I'd probably call Gitmo part of an empire, since the presence is hostile. But the rest of those bases is more or less volunatry. Ok maybe Japan and can't really say no, but the rest of those bases are voluntary.
If America has an empire, it's rather small. Puerto Rico, Guam, American Somoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and US Virgin Islands.
The political control was solidified over the past 100+ years for the benefit of US corporations. Countries which worked towards self-determination because they didn't like seeing the natural wealth of their land expropriated were labeled as communist, and had their governments overthrown with covert coups, assasinations, and mercenary armies.
>I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
-Major General Smedley Butler
Current-day Italy can boss San Marino and the Vatican State around, current-day Britain has a scattering of islands around the world. Current-day Italy indubitably has the military force to beat San Marino, Britain did actually win back the Falklands but its victory didn't seem self-evident at the time.
When I squint at the map, the US foreign dominions and military bases look a little on the large side for a plain country, but ridiculously small for an empire. The US military is all over the world and has very impressive weaponry, but was beaten quite thoroughly by the Viet Cong, hasn't beaten the Taliban and and gave up after the first attack by Hizbollah.
"Empire" in quotes looks quite appropriate to me.
The US is not an empire because it doesn't act like one, not really. Yes, it has some overseas possessions. No, it's not the expansionist conquer-the-world Borg that many people mean when they call it an empire.
In reality — the us military empire doesn’t maintain those conquered possessions as conquered possessions because it can’t — it doesn’t have sufficient military power and attempting to do so would increase the front on which conflicts requiring use of that military power would be required (further diminishing direct conquering capacity).
The us military empire building strategy differs from your suggestions for tactical reasons not as evidence of a policy that does not involve pursuit of empire building.
New Mexico's history is arguably the state with the craziest history. Weird fact: slavery didn't end here after the civil war.
Besides that, it was a territory administered by the Spanish Empire and the Mexican Empire before eventually falling into the hands of the United States who really weren't sure what to do all these new citizens and Native Americans (they wouldn't really get citizenship until 1924) until the strange place was given statehood in 1912.
Hawaii is my close pick for 2nd place given that it was once it's own nation and even had it's own crazy war of unification.
Not a state. Though, not for lack of voting for it.