There are aspects of every country’s history that few are proud of. What normally happens is that these aspects get forgotten, undeservedly so.
When the US became an empire in 1898, a series of tragic events were set into motion; events we are still living with. The stories of US interventions in China, Philippines, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti (and others I can’t keep track of) make the current histories of these nations make more sense. Americans may have forgotten, but those nations have not. You can understand how they feel about the US.
I don’t agree with all of Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire, by Jonathan M. Katz. But it does a great job in looking at the career of one of the most interesting of all Americans, Marine Corps General Smedley Butler.
He was the most decorated of all Marines, and worked himself up from the lowest commissioned ranks to Major General. He is most famous now for ‘coming to my senses’ after he retired: "I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested."
Butler finally got sick of seeing his Marines die for "banksters" and politically connected corporations. One interesting feature of the book is how the author goes to today’s version of each of the exact places Butler saw action, and sees what the result of that is now (or at least in the months just preceding Covid).
Truly, highly recommended. Maybe it is the unchanging destiny for every great nation to burst its borders and become an Empire. But in each case, the story ends in blood, tears, decline, and even bankruptcy.