Today we live under an invisible empire that is obvious only if you open your eyes. Just look around. What else do you call something that has over 800 military bases, wages constant wars, and maintains financial control of much of the world? The crazy thing is that we call this nothing, the greatest (and worst) empire the world has ever known. This is the invisible White Empire. Like white paint, it just fades into the background.
In his loose, baggy, definition of empire, Stephen Howe says, “The central power has ultimate sovereignty, and exercises some direct control, especially over military force and money-raising powers, in all parts of its domain.” By all historical definitions, America absolutely is an empire, but we in the moment somehow don’t know it. We’re like bugs in a rug, ignorant of the greater tapestry. We’re like bugs in a rug, getting squashed.
The Inheritance Of World War II
The British Empire was a clearly defined empire, and that was literally handed over after World War II. Britain handed over access to most of its military bases and—through Lend-Lease and then Bretton-Woods—global financial control. As Howe said, military and money are the two legs empire stands on, and the British White Empire just changed heads. The capitol of capital simply moved to America.
Aw shucks Americans don’t call themselves an empire though. People today will honestly ask what America has ever colonized, ignoring America. Not to mention Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Phillippines, and those are just the obvious ones. Less obviously to us (but not history) are the huge military bases in South Korea, Japan, Germany, the Middle East, all effectively conquered territory in the eyes of any ancient satrap, obvious boots on the ground that we are somehow blind to in the moment.
World War II is the important moment when this all really happened. It’s when White Empire got handed over from the British to the American, legally, physically, and somehow invisibly. It was literally a war for the world and we act like the Americans just came in, helped out, and went home. But just look around. They’re still everywhere. It was a war of world conquest, and we remain conquered. While the USSR killed the most Nazis by far, America effectively won WWII against its allies most of all.
After World War II America physically occupied much of the Pacific, Germany, Japan, and took over the British military outposts that encircle the globe. This all sits there in plain sight, and is just as plainly ignored. While the USSR ground up 80% of the Nazi army (what Clausewitz called the only point of war), America ran around largely pointless theatres like North Africa and the Middle East collecting territory. The USSR did the most to win WWII, but the Americans won the greatest spoils.
As Andrei Martyanov says in his book Losing Military Supremacy, “Preserving its Empire superseded Britain’s concern with bearing a fair share of the Allied war effort, and seeing the Nazis, with whom many in the British elite had sympathy, bleed the USSR, was not an anathema.”
Many people within the US military establishment (which was not so established then) resisted this. Churchill’s insistence on campaigns in the Balkans and North Africa were well-nigh useless in terms of destroying Nazis, but were very useful in terms of securing oil wealth, the root of modern imperial power. As Martyanov quotes:
Memorandums aside, nobody remembered the fate of all empires. The spoils were just too good. All of the land, all of the territory, all of the power of the previous white empires, that was the inheritance of World War II. America physically occupied much of the world. We act like we’re in a post-war era, but the truth is that the Americans never drew down. It’s not that they briefly occupied the world 80 years ago. They still do.
Don’t take my word for it. Just imagine you’re some ancient satrap dropped into the present and shown this map of military occupation, below. After you figure out where the fuck you are, what else would you even call this? The American empire literally looks like it’s centered around Mesopotamia. They happen to keep Marduk protected by oceans on another continent, but to any objective eye, this is what it obviously is. It’s just empire, unless you’re in it, in which case it’s somehow invisible.
Whereas ancient empires made a big deal out of proclaiming their greatness, the White Empire has figured out the greatest trick of all. The devil’s trick. Convincing the world you don’t exist at all.