The American Empire
So, how did America grow from a group of colonies to a global superpower? Well, for the first seven decades, the United States expanded in both territory and influence in North America eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean in a wave of expansionism that resulted in the wholesale slaughter of the indigenous people of North America. Plus, the nation was built on the beaten backs of enslaved Africans. As part of that “Manifest Destiny”, Americans became deeply divided on whether the country should expand beyond the Pacific and Atlantic, or not. Still, in 1856, the US acquired a number of unincorporated unorganized territories with the Guano Islands Act. This includes Howland Island, Navassa Island, Wake Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Reef, Serranilla Bank, and Bajo Nuevo Bank. After the US Civil War, the Secretary of State argued that America should push to become a global power. He succeeded in pushing a plan to purchase Alaska from Russia in 1867, but his attempts to buy Greenland and Iceland, as well as annex territory in the Caribbean, were all blocked by Congress. A number of Americans were anti-imperialists who worried about America getting more involved in global politics. However, the Grant administration wanted to annex Cuba and the Dominican Republic, but Congress demurred.
In 1890, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan argued that for the US to become a great power, the country would need to gain control of the seas and dominate international commerce. Then, the Industrial Revolution produced explosive economic growth, so the US economy required a more centralized state and bureaucracy to manage the increased commerce. The key turning point came in 1898 when President McKinley dragged the country into war with Spain over the island of Cuba despite intense opposition. Of course, the American empire easily defeated the Spanish empire, acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. These were gateways to Latin American and Asian markets, driven by economic necessity. At that point, steamships were powered by coal so we needed island depots for refueling. That’s why the US annexed Hawaii in 1898, then Wake Island in 1899, and American Samoa in 1900. Greater America also seized the unorganized incorporated territory of Palmyra Atoll, during this period. Later, the US took control of the Panama Canal Zone in 1903, sent troops to occupy the Dominican Republic in 1916, and purchased the American Virgin Islands in 1917. This period of rapid expansion really put the country on the map, pun intended. Thus, the British colonies went on to have their own American colonies. As one empire gave way to another.
During this time, America also began using its influence to protect its growing commercial and military interests abroad, by installing pro-American regimes in places like Nicaragua and playing a major role in international diplomacy regarding the Western presence in China. By World War I, American influence was well established around the planet. US intervention was a decisive factor in the war’s end, and President Wilson attended the Paris Peace Conference which attempted to set the terms of the peace. He also spearheaded the League of Nations, and that wholesale effort to remake global politics clearly showed just how ambitious American foreign policy had become. In East Asia, the growing Japanese empire posed a direct threat to the American empire. This culminated in the Pearl Harbor attack bringing the United States into World War II. This transformed our global presence yet again. The US was the only major power to avoid economic ruin during the war, and it was the sole country equipped with atomic weapons at that time. Thus, America was in a unique position to set the terms of peace, yet again. So, we established the United Nations. This served as a forum in which the international community could weigh in on disputes, and help resolve them.
After the Great Depression, the Bretton Woods Agreement became the backbone of the global financial system, resulting in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Then, the United States saw Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe and elsewhere as a direct threat to its vision of a free-trading world. Fearful of Soviet intentions towards Western Europe, the US and other European nations created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance meant to stop Russia from being able to invade other countries. This new global struggle meant that the capitalistic US had to exert influence everywhere, all the time, in order to contain the communist Soviet Union. As such, the US was pulled into unlikely alliances with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and South Korea. This was also why the US propped up a sympathetic dictator in Iran and supplied rebels with arms and money in Afghanistan in 1979 and Nicaragua in 1985. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton decided that it was in both America and the world’s interests for the United States, now the sole superpower on earth, to continue actively managing global affairs. Recently, President Trump has called NATO and the World Trade Organization into question. This is a sharp divergence from the consensus that has dominated US foreign policy since 1945, and something closer to the isolationism that came before it.
The US truly became a global superpower in 1944 when the US dollar became the world’s reserve currency, but this could easily get replaced by the Chinese yuan. The GDP of America will soon be surpassed by that of China, and then they will set about on their own expansionist heyday. The thing is that the US really only mass produces one kind of product…weapons. So, the Deep State has to foster war to drive the economic engine that allows for American consumerism to benefit shareholders, otherwise, the global economy might collapse with the fall of the American empire. In the 21st century, the US is now a neoconservative republic, driven almost entirely by the military-industrial complex. This denotes a violent return to a modified imperialist form of the traditional expansionist viewpoint, in particular, a radical political ideology characterized by an emphasis on free-market capitalism and an interventionist foreign policy. As such, the American empire currently maintains about 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad. Britain, France, and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined. In fact, America was specifically terrorized by Bin Laden because our government put a military base in Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon creates problems that come back to hurt people all the time, Americans included.
In the 1980s, the US wanted El Salvador as a fruit farm for American consumers. So the government armed proxy forces during the civil war to create death squads who killed thousands of innocent people. Ultimately this was a nationalistic and capitalistic insurgency oriented around socialism. As such, the region couldn’t develop an independent economy, and this created a refugee crisis. This was made up of child soldiers more than anything. They had been militarized and then moved to California. In LA those young men were the poorest of the poor, so inevitably they turned to crime in an effort to support themselves. However, as convicts, they soon became even more violent. That’s why, in the 1990s, the DOJ began to implement mass deportation policies and procedures. During the Clinton administration, thousands of undocumented felons that had been inculcated in American gangland culture were sent to El Salvador, thus destabilizing the entire country for the benefit of the empire. Then, in an effort to try and deal with the MS-13 problem that the US government had created, the Bush administration established ICE after 9/11. Later, Obama decided to deal with young migrants by detaining them. DHS Secretary Jay Johnson even went to Guatemala to give speeches to Spanish media warning children not to come up or they would be deported. In the wake of that, the Trump administration has decided to detain them instead.
This is how and why imperialism is often used in conjunction with militarism in the modern world. The CIA even has an office that exclusively handles foreign government destabilization proposals. It’s that routine. The latest military budget is proof positive that the American empire will spare no expense when it comes to getting anything and everything it wants. So far, the American empire is already made up of fifty states, many different reservations, a district, lots of islands territories, and three associated countries — Palu, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. So, the US empire now governs more people outside of North America than within it. The thing is that America also spreads through the dissemination of cultural norms across the globe, in countless different ways. So, the American empire really has tentacles reaching out almost everywhere, in one form or another. More importantly, the rise and fall of this global superpower has had and will have a major impact on the history of humanity, and like Rome before us, our democracy has decayed into a plutocracy. The ferocity with which this country took on the rest of the world was doomed from the start. The slow growth of the new Chinese empire may turn out to be long-lasting, but the fast growth of the old American empire has been very short-lived. This nearly failed social experiment may soon come to an end. Of course, only time will tell just how the American empire will really fall and why.