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Modern History in 179 Words

Though the Spanish-American War was a broad success for American militarism, its aftermath presented US empire with specific new challenges, as a result of which the modern American imperial structure took shape. It was immediately apparent in Cuba, and soon became clear in the Philippines, that Old World-style colonization — permanent occupation and direct rule — was unmanageable: too costly, too unwieldy, and in the Philippine case requiring an open-ended, brutal and bloody (a half-million or more Philippine deaths) repression. Traditional colonies, already seen to be gravely sapping European powers, needed replacing. What emerged was a form of indirect control which established the lineaments of twentieth-century American imperialism: invasion, often preceded by massive bombardment primarily intended to terrorize and "pacify" the civilian population; the establishment of long-term US military encampment, and the build-up, corruption, and subordination of the local military; and, in the "peace" that follows, reconstruction into a new (weak) state, under terms dictated by the US and its corporate clients. The new polity is then administered by local elites, whose brutalities substitute for those of the withdrawing American power.

Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War, p 85