Author: Daniel Immerwahr
Reviewed by: Christopher N. Smith, Attorney at Law and Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Denmark in Georgia
A global quest for guano. The need for coal fueling stations for a growing navy. An ascendant global power wishing to expand its power, wealth and influence in the world.
In How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr attributes these as some of the reasons the United States expanded her borders beyond the contiguous lower 48 states in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Well researched and expertly written, the book provides valuable insight to the contentious debates that occurred in the United States when such decisions were made. Both the pro- and anti-expansionist camps — those on both sides dedicated to moral and immoral pursuits alike — are included in a hodgepodge of strange bedfellows.
Why did President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his famous “Day of Infamy” speech stress that the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on the American island of Oahu yet only mention the attack on the Philippines as an almost an afterthought? Why are people born in American Samoa U.S. nationals while those born in Northern Mariana Islands are U.S. citizens? Why did Puerto Rico become a U.S. commonwealth while Cuba became an independent nation after the Spanish American War? If these are questions you would like answered, this is the book for you.
At its heart, the work explores how a nation born in an anti-colonialist revolution has always had reservations about being seen as a colonial power.
[pullquote]At its heart, the work explores how a nation born in an anti-colonialist revolution has always had reservations about being seen as a colonial power. [/pullquote]
While the book examines many of the unjust and in some cases deplorable actions taken in the name of expansionism, it also points out the great benefits derived by those who found themselves living under the protection of the Stars and Stripes.
The barbarism experienced by many in these lands during the occupation by enemy troops in World War II still resonates with the civilians who lived through it, as does the appreciation of their liberation by the U.S. armed forces. Yet frustrations about representation and recognition remain among some who call these islands home.
Immerwahr emphasizes that the history of what he calls the “Greater United States” is indeed an important part of the history of all Americans. The commonwealths and territories of the United States have and shall continue to play a vital role in our national defense and prosperity. It is admirable that the author has shined a light on such vital parts of our nation. The reader is reminded that that well-known salutation of “my fellow Americans” applies to those born in both in Savannah and Saipan.
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