Tracing America’s Brutal Imperialist History Through Its Military Bases

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"Magic Trick" Art by Mr. Fish.

The United States has the largest number of military installations in the world, with about 5,000 bases in total and at least 600 overseas, according to the Pentagon. Although the Department of Defense is not forthcoming with the exact numbers, even these estimates reveal a truth about the country’s standing in the world that many Americans often fail to recognize: the U.S. has built one of the most extensive empires in modern history. On this week’s installment of Scheer Intelligence, David Vine, the author of the books Base Nation and The United States of War, talks to host Robert Scheer about the state of endless war in which the country has been consistently engaged for longer than even Vine expected.

“[In The United States of War,] I wanted to try to get beyond some of the myths of American exceptionalism,” explains the political anthropologist. “And to understand why the United States has been fighting so constantly since 2001, but, as I delved into my work, [I found] that this pattern is a much deeper one [that] actually predates U.S. Independence.”

What Vine reveals through his detailed historical analysis in both of his most recent books is that America’s longest-running project has been a white supremacist empire that can be traced back to the colonies’ and founding fathers’ wars against indigenous Americans. Crucially, he argues, this elite-led permanent war footing has also impacted Americans’ daily lives in countless ways. To this day, as the U.S. military is engaged in several ongoing conflicts around the world and is seemingly prepared to spark others, the deadly project shows no signs of letting up. However, Vine points out, history has taught us its end is a matter of time. 

“[Like all empires that came before], the U.S. empire will not be forever either,” says the author. “The question is, will it go down in a cataclysm of violence or epic economic collapse, or is there a way we can wind down the empire? It is my belief that the latter is possible, though it’s, of course, going to be extraordinarily difficult.” 

Listen to the full discussion between Vine and Scheer as the two discuss in detail the conflicts that have defined America’s bloody mark on the world, both on U.S. soil and abroad, for more than 200 years. 



Joshua Scheer