For anyone disturbed by the number of U.S. military bases abroad, roughly 800, it comes as little solace to learn that this high concentration of military outposts has a long genealogy, one that stretches back to the first days of the republic. Because back then we had forts, bristling with guns and soldiers, on other people’s land, namely, the territories belonging to Native tribes. These forts drew settlers, who then needed more protection, which led to more forts, and more settlers, in a snowballing sequence of aggression, as David Vine argues in his new book, The United States of War, A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, From Columbus to the Islamic State.
Bases lead to wars, Vine writes. They are also a sneaky form of colonialism. As such, they are resented by the people in whose lands they are located. They are seen, rightly, as aggression. Understanding this response is particularly critical now, with the U.S. surrounding two nuclear powers, China and Russia with military bases. The argument that these bases are defensive in nature is risible, just as the dozens of bases surrounding Iran do little to promote peace.