Book Review: “The United States of War”

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In two presidential debates, neither candidate even mentioned the fact that the United States is at war. But it is, and it’s unsettling to reflect on just how long the country has been. Students who entered college this fall have lived their entire lives during the Global War on Terrorism and its successor campaigns. The decade before that saw American deployments in the Gulf War, the Balkan conflicts, Haiti, Macedonia, and Somalia. In fact, since 1945, when Washington cast itself as the global peacekeeper, war has been a way of life. Classifying military engagements can be tricky, but arguably there have been only two years in the past seven and a half decades—1977 and 1979—when the United States was not invading or fighting in some foreign country.

The question is why. Is it something deep-seated in the culture? Legislators in the pocket of the military-industrial complex? An out-of-control imperial presidency? Surely all have played a part. A revelatory new book by David Vine, The United States of War, names another crucial factor, one that is too often overlooked: military bases. Since its earliest years, the United States has operated bases in foreign lands. These have a way of inviting war, both by stoking resentment toward the United States and by encouraging US leaders to respond with force. As conflicts mount, the military builds more, leading to a vicious circle. Bases make wars, which make bases, and so on. Today, Washington controls some 750 bases in foreign countries and overseas territories.

The public is weary of war and seems to have little fondness for—or even awareness of—the overseas bases that keep the fighting going. Trump repeatedly threatened to close some of them to fund his wall. Vine has little sympathy for the president but regards Trump’s airing of “once-heretical views” as symptomatic of a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo. The question is whether Joe Biden, a three-time chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will recognize and respond to that dissatisfaction.

Read the full review at The Nation

Here’s an interview with David Vine, should anyone be interested: