Jonathan Freedland

  • Above all, it serves as a case study for the way contemporary empire operates, exploding the myth that the United States differs from its British, Spanish, and Roman predecessors by eschewing both the brute conquest of land and the dispossession of those unfortunate enough to get in the way. […]
  • In Vine’s persuasive telling, it is from the expansionist instincts of the military services, rather than the conscious decisions of civilian policymakers, that the imperialist project draws much of its energy. It is the military brass’s reflexive empire-building that builds an empire. […]
  • Vine’s evidence casts a fresh light on the ongoing debate over whether or not the US can be said to constitute an empire and, if so, how it might compare with its historical predecessors. It had previously been fashionable to regard the US empire as exceptional, a break from the past in that its influence is almost entirely indirect and economic, since it refuses to join the Romans or British in ruling over colonies directly. […]
  • Thanks to the work of scholars such as Chalmers Johnson and now Vine, we can see the weakness in that argument. The latter estimates that there are one thousand US military bases and installations “on the sovereign land of other nations.” This “base world,” as Johnson calls it, is presented benignly, as the product of voluntary, bilateral pacts between the US and those states that agree for their land to be occupied. But often this presentation is, in the idiom of that British official, a “fiction.” Behind the veneer can lie the crude expropriation of land and the callous dispossession of some of the world’s weakest people. That is how it used to be in the old days of empire, whether under Rome or Queen Victoria. And that’s how it was in the Chagos Islands not much more than a generation ago. […]

The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 9 · May 28, 2009
‘A Black and Disgraceful Site’, by Jonathan Freedland
A review of David Vine’s ‘Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia’ (2009)


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