Reflections on times past and present (III)

Having reflected on imperialism in China, and of the complexity that was the British Empire(s), as a Canadian I would be amiss if I did not reflect on what our American cousins have pursued over the years.

United States overseas territories

Yes, the United States was caught up in the imperialist game as well, and it still has quite the footprint around the world, as the above map shows. It has ventured into other countries as well.

Philippine-American War

Cuba was an American colony from 1899 to 1902, and the Philippines from 1898 to 1946, as a consequence of the Spanish-American war. Hostilities in the latter did not cease until 1913.

Free from Spanish

The Americans always believed their interventions were for the best of intentions. There were, however, some aggressive plays, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. Their occupation of Veracruz during the Mexican Revolution, the Banana Wars of the early 20th century, the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and of Panama in 1989 definitely come to mind.

Map of the Panama Canal Zone

Most of these occupations were of short duration. However, the Panama Canal Zone was occupied from 1903 to 1979 (although the canal itself continued under joint US-Panamanian control until 1999). It’s interesting to note that John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in the 2008 US election, was born there.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

There’s also the other interesting anomaly of the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, leased from Cuba (even though the US does not recognize Cuba, and Cuba in turn does not cash the cheques for the lease payments).

The United States also had extraterritorial privileges in China, and even had its own court there to settle disputes. The US Navy also operated the Yangtze River Patrol from 1854 to 1941 to protect American interests there.

There have been military occupations of other territories (too numerous to mention), and other claims that were made over the years, that can be reviewed here. One that was perhaps longer than it should have been related to several island groups south and southwest of Japan from 1945:

Because of the extent of the US Armed Forces around the world, there are also many military and naval bases to this day, whose personnel possess privileges under various visiting forces agreements. US interests concerning commercial activity, taxation and national security have also led to significant exercises of long-arm and extraterritorial jurisdiction in many fields. That is a topic that is too broad for here!


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