Political Anthropologist Vine ’97 Speaks to Campus Community about Military Overseas under Trump

On Nov. 9, political anthropologist David Vine '97, associate professor of anthropology at American University, returned to campus to speak on ""What Are We Getting Out of This?": U.S. Empire and the Military Overseas under Trump." Vine is the author of Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World and Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. His other writings have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Guardian, and Mother Jones.

On Nov. 9, political anthropologist David Vine ’97, associate professor of anthropology at American University, returned to campus to speak on “What Are We Getting Out of This?”: U.S. Empire and the Military Overseas under Trump.” The U.S. has 800 military bases in places from Germany and Japan to South Korea and Saudi Arabia and nearly 80 other countries.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump broke with longstanding foreign policy orthodoxy to ask, “What are we getting?” by spending tens of billions of dollars each year to maintain 800 U.S. military bases in places from Germany and Japan to South Korea and Saudi Arabia and nearly 80 other countries. In this interactive, conversational event, Vine discussed the state of the U.S. Empire today, focusing on the often-overlooked role of U.S. bases and how these installations affect everyone from host communities to US military personnel and their families.

In this conversational event, Vine discussed the state of what he termed “the U.S. Empire” today, focusing on the often-overlooked role of U.S. bases and how these installations affect everyone from host communities to U.S. military personnel and their families. Most investments in overseas bases, Vine explained, “have come at the costs of decades of neglecting transportation, health, education … and other human necessities.” He contends that, “Every base that is maintained, signifies, in a final sense, a theft—a theft from the people of the United States and from people around world.”

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor and chair of American Studies, director of the Center for the Americas, professor of anthropology, offered a response to Vine's lecture and focused on rethinking militarization in the context of colonialism. "What is uncommon in the American [imagination] is thinking about a militarized Pacific. When Trump said some testy things about North Korea, he made Guam, as a U.S. colony [and base],...a target. You can see that's what happened to Hawai'i with Pearl Harbor after the U.S. overthrew and annexed Hawai'i.”

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor and chair of American Studies, director of the Center for the Americas, professor of anthropology, offered a response to Vine’s lecture and focused on rethinking militarization in the context of colonialism. “What is uncommon in the American [imagination] is thinking about a militarized Pacific. When Trump said some testy things about North Korea, he made Guam, as a U.S. colony [and base],…a target. You can see that’s what happened to Hawai’i with Pearl Harbor after the U.S. overthrew and annexed Hawai’i.”

Eirene Visvardi, associate professor of classical studies, welcomed the audience and introduced David Vine.

Eirene Visvardi, associate professor of classical studies, welcomed the audience and introduced David Vine.

The event was co-sponsored by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life and the Anthropology and Classical Studies Departments.

Vine is the author of Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and World and Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. His other writings have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Guardian, and Mother Jones. The event was co-sponsored by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life and the Anthropology and Classical Studies Departments. (Photos by Will Barr ’18; Andrew Logan ’18 also contributed to this article.)