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The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State

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2020 L.A. Times Book Prize Finalist, History A provocative examination of how the U.S. military has shaped our entire world, from today’s costly, endless wars to the prominence of violence in everyday American life. The United States has been fighting wars constantly since invading Afghanistan in 2001. This nonstop warfare is far less exceptional than it might seem: the Uni 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize Finalist, History A provocative examination of how the U.S. military has shaped our entire world, from today’s costly, endless wars to the prominence of violence in everyday American life. The United States has been fighting wars constantly since invading Afghanistan in 2001. This nonstop warfare is far less exceptional than it might seem: the United States has been at war or has invaded other countries almost every year since independence. In The United States of War, David Vine traces this pattern of bloody conflict from Columbus's 1494 arrival in Guantanamo Bay through the 250-year expansion of a global U.S. empire. Drawing on historical and firsthand anthropological research in fourteen countries and territories, The United States of War demonstrates how U.S. leaders across generations have locked the United States in a self-perpetuating system of permanent war by constructing the world’s largest-ever collection of foreign military bases—a global matrix that has made offensive interventionist wars more likely. Beyond exposing the profit-making desires, political interests, racism, and toxic masculinity underlying the country’s relationship to war and empire, The United States of War shows how the long history of U.S. military expansion shapes our daily lives, from today’s multi-trillion–dollar wars to the pervasiveness of violence and militarism in everyday U.S. life. The book concludes by confronting the catastrophic toll of American wars—which have left millions dead, wounded, and displaced—while offering proposals for how we can end the fighting.


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2020 L.A. Times Book Prize Finalist, History A provocative examination of how the U.S. military has shaped our entire world, from today’s costly, endless wars to the prominence of violence in everyday American life. The United States has been fighting wars constantly since invading Afghanistan in 2001. This nonstop warfare is far less exceptional than it might seem: the Uni 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize Finalist, History A provocative examination of how the U.S. military has shaped our entire world, from today’s costly, endless wars to the prominence of violence in everyday American life. The United States has been fighting wars constantly since invading Afghanistan in 2001. This nonstop warfare is far less exceptional than it might seem: the United States has been at war or has invaded other countries almost every year since independence. In The United States of War, David Vine traces this pattern of bloody conflict from Columbus's 1494 arrival in Guantanamo Bay through the 250-year expansion of a global U.S. empire. Drawing on historical and firsthand anthropological research in fourteen countries and territories, The United States of War demonstrates how U.S. leaders across generations have locked the United States in a self-perpetuating system of permanent war by constructing the world’s largest-ever collection of foreign military bases—a global matrix that has made offensive interventionist wars more likely. Beyond exposing the profit-making desires, political interests, racism, and toxic masculinity underlying the country’s relationship to war and empire, The United States of War shows how the long history of U.S. military expansion shapes our daily lives, from today’s multi-trillion–dollar wars to the pervasiveness of violence and militarism in everyday U.S. life. The book concludes by confronting the catastrophic toll of American wars—which have left millions dead, wounded, and displaced—while offering proposals for how we can end the fighting.

30 review for The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Professor Vine does an excellent job documenting the historical threads firmly woven through the fabric of American military bases. He uses bases to describe one foundational pillar for American military behaviors through the centuries. He asserts that American war making and the addiction to foreign bases are inextricably linked, further, that our reliance on bases goes back to the prerevolutionary era, where forts were constructed to manage our continental conquests. America may be unique in t Professor Vine does an excellent job documenting the historical threads firmly woven through the fabric of American military bases. He uses bases to describe one foundational pillar for American military behaviors through the centuries. He asserts that American war making and the addiction to foreign bases are inextricably linked, further, that our reliance on bases goes back to the prerevolutionary era, where forts were constructed to manage our continental conquests. America may be unique in this respect. But for Canada, I can’t think of another country that witnessed a similar sea-to-sea expansion, though I imagine several important differences between our respective experiences. Once America completed its westward expansion, achieving its manifest destiny, we carried similar strategies forward into the global expansion of our economic and political interests. It seems our global base network is here to stay because that network is rooted in our essence as a nation, however deleterious the consequences for us and the world. To be clear, America is not alone with its unpleasant past; doesn’t every country have uncomfortable, repressed memories? And many countries have relied on bases through history. However, in this one respect, the consequence of a long-term reliance on diverse military bases, America appears primus inter pares. I suspect there’s a link between our bases and militarism similar to the self-reinforcing prison system Michel Foucault described in Discipline and Punish The Birth of the Prison; another system where America regrettably leads the world. This dynamic suggests future American military conflicts are inevitable, the locations, anyone’s guess. Professor Vine’s effort is important because I feel that for this nation to move beyond its past transgressions, we first must acknowledge the great waste laid, heretofore hidden behind extensive mythologies. The United States of America remains endowed with the resources to create great good within its borders and beyond. I hope I live to see our energies so directed without objection.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    Since the US illegally invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the US government has sent 2.7 million people to fight in its forever wars. In that time the US has brought war to 22 countries. According to David, the US has been aggressively at war in foreign lands in all but 11 years of its existence. Japan’s crime was not attacking the US but US colonies (Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Hawaii, Alaska). For the bombing of Pearl Harbor to become a day of infamy, Hawaii being only US colony at the time, wou Since the US illegally invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the US government has sent 2.7 million people to fight in its forever wars. In that time the US has brought war to 22 countries. According to David, the US has been aggressively at war in foreign lands in all but 11 years of its existence. Japan’s crime was not attacking the US but US colonies (Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Hawaii, Alaska). For the bombing of Pearl Harbor to become a day of infamy, Hawaii being only US colony at the time, would have to be conveniently forgotten. US colonialism in the Philippines gets a total free pass, but Japanese colonialism in response to European white colonialism? How dare they! Did you know that the invasion happy US has even invaded Canada eleven times? Or as Canadians call it: eleven miserable failures. Conveniently hidden in the Revolutionary War was the war between colonists and the Iroquois nation for their land. As of 2018, 1.7 million veterans have reported a disability from service. One third of Iraqis have earned a PTSD diagnosis, a lovely parting gift from Our Land of Freedom and Liberty. Army forts illegally on native land was U.S. foreign policy; those forts were on foreign soil. We all know that Patrick Henry got his panties in a bunch because of British troops on US soil (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”), but good luck finding his concern for fellow colonial troops on Native soil. Tons of US places named Fort remind us of centuries of theft by US foreign policy. These forts were built on the land of others to better take their stuff. They were in effect, all foreign bases. In 1850, the US already had 138 forts and posts on other people’s land, so it’s not new having bases and projecting violence outward towards one’s neighbors today. In 1853, an Indian agent referred to the Indian removals and resultant starvation as “the legalized murder of a whole nation”. Tecumseh nailed it when he said, “We gave them forest-clad mountains and valleys full of game. And in return what did they give our warriors and our women? Rum and trinkets and a grave.” One fourth of marchers died on the Navajo Long March of 1864. The Civil War hid a second war against Native Americans and the Sand Creek Massacre was part of this. For more just on the whole hidden war, I personally recommend, The Three-Cornered War”, by Megan Kate Nelson. Study the mini-colony of the Shanghai International Settlement of 1863 that lasted until WWII. In it, foreign white powers could boldly own a piece of foreign territory in China without consequences. After the Civil War the US went bat shit over bat & bird shit. Guano, harvested from colonized Pacific islands reached $76 per pound. The verbal guano parroted by today’s US politicians however is worth considerably less. The US/Philippine War was fought by US men fresh from the killing fields of the US West, half of the officers had been involved in US Massacres. The U.S. invaded just the country of Panama 24 times between 1856 and 1989. Go ahead, tell me they deserved it. Top Marine Smedley Butler said it best when he said that US foreign policy was organized crime without punishment, because unlike Al Capone, he could operate “on three continents.” Honduras was the original banana republic. President Taft actually said, “The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact, by virtue of our superiority as a race, it is already ours morally.” Superiority as a race? To test Taft’s superiority theory let’s just envision him naked. Let’s read George Washington’s orders to his Major-General, “Lay waste all settlements around, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed. …You will not by any means, listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.” There’s our #1 hero, GW as a violence inciting settler-colonial slave-holding shill. Charming. Killing natives was part of “a shared American identity” says John Grenier. Who knew the Bible means “invade your neighbors” and blame them for the invasion? Forts only “emboldened” these immigrant thieves. The White House only became painted white in order to cover over the burn marks left by the British. John Quincy Adams warned us about moving the country “from liberty to force” but voices like his were few. What Andrew Jackson did with the natives was nothing less than ethnic cleansing. Few “patriots” know that the “US state department acknowledges that US troops started the (US/Mexican) war that ensued.” Don’t forget the US invaded Russia too. We occupied Vladivostok from 8/1918 to 4/1920. US citizens are quaintly told to call their colonies “territories” which hides the intent. During WWII, the Philippines suffered more than double the casualties of the US. During WWII, Britain still “ruled more than 350 million people as colonial subjects in India alone.” Picture Greenland. Not much land, right? Doesn’t belong to us, right? Yea, well we have 13 Army and 4 Navy bases there. David then mentions my grandfather Henry Wallace’s MSG speech after being VP where he said that “The United Nations should have control of the strategically located air bases with which the United States and Britain have circled the globe.” But of course, if you are a bully like Truman, you won’t give your unfair base advantage to a neutral third party that wants EVERYONE to win. Assholes never play well with others. David writes, “As early as 1942, Wallace wrote in his diary that the future of air bases “is one of the most important of all peace problems.” Grandpa wrote to Truman in 1946, “How would it look to us if Russia had 10,000-mile bombers and air bases within a thousand miles and we did not?” He warned an arms race would be more likely to bring war than peace. He warned Truman that “we are trying to build up a preponderance of force to intimidate the rest of mankind.” I wish there was a book on the US subversion of Italy’s 1948 Election. The CIA, state department and military went to town on Italy to make sure communists and socialists lost which of course only empowered the Italian Right. Did you know the US “military stationed warships off Italy’s coasts to demonstrate its concern about and opposition to a left-wing victory”? Between 1949 and 1952, “The CIA’s budget increased from $4.7 million to $82 million.” A lot of that went to “strengthening the repressive capacity” in undemocratic countries. The Sermon on the Mount is jettisoned for the Sermon on the Rack with the CIA supporting “right wing military juntas in South America”. I have a liberal friend who adores Eisenhower. “President Eisenhower authorized 170 major covert operations in forty-eight nations.” Evidently Nancy Reagan never told Dwight, “Just Say No”. What a moral role model. I think he was just compensating for male pattern baldness. Dwight made US secret intervention “an accepted practice”. The US kept a base in Spain to protect fascist Franco, and because US soldiers liked the weather. Re: Revolutionary War: “The list of Redcoats’ crimes that locals kept in Boston resemble those of Okinawan activists today.” “By the time of France’s final defeat in Vietnam at Dien Bien Phu, the U.S. government was providing 75 percent of the funding for France’s War.” “For two more than two millennia, leaders of empires and other powers saw Malta as the key to controlling the Mediterranean.” Okinawa is actually a colony of the Japanese and one US ambassador to Japan openly called Okinawa “a colony of one million Japanese.” All 1,000 Chagossians living on Diego Garcia since the American Revolution were removed from their perfect island homeland and left to live a life of squalor elsewhere while the island now serves the ever-thoughtful US military. One US document referred to the Chagossians as to be “swept” and “sanitized”. Those lucky chosen 1,000 Chagossians were herded onto “overcrowded cargo ships”. “As Chagossians awaited their deportation, British agents and U.S. Navy personnel herded the Chagossians’ pet dogs into sealed sheds, gassed them with exhaust from U.S. Navy jeeps, and burned the dog’s carcasses.” What a wonderful recruitment poster for the Navy that would have been. Take a tripoded 4x5 photo from a nice scissor lift of those Jeeps still hooked up to those sheds with Sailors enjoying a smoke in the foreground while the aghast pets owners look on in the background in anguish from the ship’s gangways. I’m thinkin’ Tri-X for an overcast day with the Navy’s “Semper Fortis” [ALWAYS Courageous] in the lower right. An Entertainment Tonight “Where Are They Now Segment” looked in the those lovely Chagossians to see how they were doing later; just kidding, it was actually The Washington Post in 1975 but it found Chagossians in Mauritius living “in abject poverty.” Its editorial page called the Chagossian expulsion an “act of mass kidnapping.” Give me time to wave my US flag made in China and I’ll continue with the paragraph’s punchline: Today when anyone lands at Diego Garcia, they see a sign that actually says, “Welcome to the Footprint of Freedom.” Chagossians living in poverty will also be delighted to know the Navy presently calls Diego Garcia “Fantasy Island”. The hits keep on coming… “The Contras had no political platform. They were almost exclusively a military force run by the CIA.” Look at this fact, “By 2020 the US military had been bombing Iraq for twenty-nine consecutive years.” NPR said Balad Air base at night looks “resembles Las Vegas”; meanwhile the surrounding countryside averages 10 hours of electricity per day. Oops… On any given day, there are more than 6,000 U.S. troops in Africa “more than anywhere outside the United States” said General Darryl Williams in 2016. Nick Turse found in 2018 that the military had at least thirty-four bases in Africa. Peace is bad for business. When someone said, “What if peace breaks out?” at a major London Arms Conference, US Major Tim Elliot quickly responded, “God forbid.” I feel so relieved that Tim brought his Christian God into promoting vile endless war making. Emperor Constantine would have said, “Good boy!” How successful is the United States in its comic intentionally impossible War on Terror? Well, Afghanistan had one significant militant group in the country called al-Qaeda in 2001 when Bush/Cheney launched their war. And now billions of dollars later there more than twenty significant militant groups, including the Islamic State. Progress American style. “Some will respond that the system creates jobs. It does. But the U.S. military should not be a jobs program.” That same money put in education creates “120% more jobs”. Among David’s solutions are that the US military should de-privatize all its contracted services. And we should “decolonize the United States” by acknowledging Native American land and treaty rights. Very good book on a critical subject, while I’m waiting for Walter Hixson to finish his killer book on this same subject. Walter will be proving exactly how many years has the U.S. not been at war since its inception. The perfect question few US history teachers strangely neither ask or answer.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    An incredibly ambitious and frankly important book to read on US history and it's foreign/military relations. This book demonstrate how passive and direct war-making is core to the US, how racism and the maintenance of white supremacy legitimizes war-making, and how all institutions of power are aligned to maintain it. It centers the historical narratives of groups of people targeted by US war-making throughout history like Indigenous communities and Native nations, Muslims and Arabs, Pacific Is An incredibly ambitious and frankly important book to read on US history and it's foreign/military relations. This book demonstrate how passive and direct war-making is core to the US, how racism and the maintenance of white supremacy legitimizes war-making, and how all institutions of power are aligned to maintain it. It centers the historical narratives of groups of people targeted by US war-making throughout history like Indigenous communities and Native nations, Muslims and Arabs, Pacific Islanders, and the many many peoples displaced by the US foreign bases strategy. The pre-WWII parts of the book were the most eye-opening to me. I didn't consider before how the US expansion into the "American West" is a type of war-making, especially how the US imperial strategy was built off it. This strategy exploded after WWII and set up for the insane driven towards military conflicts we experience today. Viewing US history through this path dependence approach was an illustrative exercise. The books ending is prophetic. At the very least, everyone should read the last chapter and conclusions. I'm taking a few concepts from this book to apply forward: the Military Industrial Congressional Complex and the welfare vs warfare state (OG Lutz contribution)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris Tolve

    This book is more of a history of US bases than of foreign conflicts, but it is nevertheless informative. Vine takes an alternative approach to US foreign policy, analyzing not the motivating forces behind military operations but their conditions of possibility, namely the global network of bases, be they main operating bases, forward operating sites or cooperative security locations, that make the maintenance of American empire logistically feasible. His crucial insight is that the basing syste This book is more of a history of US bases than of foreign conflicts, but it is nevertheless informative. Vine takes an alternative approach to US foreign policy, analyzing not the motivating forces behind military operations but their conditions of possibility, namely the global network of bases, be they main operating bases, forward operating sites or cooperative security locations, that make the maintenance of American empire logistically feasible. His crucial insight is that the basing system is not only the effect of imperial expansion, but its cause as well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    Vine performs the Herculean equivalent of cleaning King Augea's stables, wading in the muck, blood, and filth of US's global empire, uncovering the multifarious ways the US maintains an omnipresent surveillance of the world, with the logistical and tactical capabilities to strike anywhere at anytime. This is an important contribution to the anti-war left. Vine performs the Herculean equivalent of cleaning King Augea's stables, wading in the muck, blood, and filth of US's global empire, uncovering the multifarious ways the US maintains an omnipresent surveillance of the world, with the logistical and tactical capabilities to strike anywhere at anytime. This is an important contribution to the anti-war left.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mahon

    Hey folks, did you know humans engage in warfare? A Pollyanna critique of the perpetual, monolithic US military. It has sort of a dystopian scarecrow take on US military forces, which have actually decreased by about 1/3 since 1980. This is the third book of David's on the same topic, and repeats the same few points over and over again for hundreds of pages. The book is littered with maps that violate basic principles of visual presentations of data using maps, as well as principles of map makin Hey folks, did you know humans engage in warfare? A Pollyanna critique of the perpetual, monolithic US military. It has sort of a dystopian scarecrow take on US military forces, which have actually decreased by about 1/3 since 1980. This is the third book of David's on the same topic, and repeats the same few points over and over again for hundreds of pages. The book is littered with maps that violate basic principles of visual presentations of data using maps, as well as principles of map making. But I don't think it matters, it really reads more like a propaganda piece than an argument. This is part of a broader international propaganda project to aid Mauritius in adding about 500,000 square km to their EEZ by 'advocating' on behalf of a indigenous group that left the island fifty years ago, and have been paid compensation. Their PM wants to take the disputed islands legally (as opposed to the use of military force) from the UK so they can get the lease money for the US military installation at Diego Garcia.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Juan Bustillo

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  10. 5 out of 5

    Simon Gibson

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steffi

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Johns

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bea

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mahyar

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  16. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Sylvester

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  18. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad Abu yousef

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eric Durant

  20. 4 out of 5

    Toke Rammer Nielsen

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richard Detwiler

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nnamdi Martyn

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karl

  24. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Saroj

  25. 5 out of 5

    Łukasz

  26. 5 out of 5

    Warren Rifkin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brady Waddington

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vivek

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Webb

  30. 4 out of 5

    Filip Kozłowski

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