How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

tags: politics, history

Fantastic book about the history of American colonialism, from the Philippines (which we set free) to Puerto Rico (which today exists in some weird in-between state), to dozens of islands (which we keep for geopolitical reasons).

There are untold stories here about how the US never quite figured out what to do with some countries (like the Philippines), and by the time they had been taken, colonialism in general was nearing its expiration date. And the development of certain technologies, like synthetic rubber, meant that colonies were no longer needed for their raw materials, which meant countries were sometimes hanging onto territories that provided them no value, only headaches.

Later in the book, “colonialism” morphs from countries to “points,” namely military bases. We no longer need to possess an entire country, since a single military base with a bunch of bombers effectively gives us the same capacities.

Also fascinating is a discussion about colonialism can be intangible. We don’t need to take over a country if we can instead inject it our scientific standards and language. English has become the de facto language of business all over the world, and the US controls many of the business standards around the world. (“Imperial” system of measurements non-withstanding.)

Book Info