Anti-imperial Technologies: Planes, Radio, and Plastic
An obvious factor in the failure of the United States to claim colonies is the rising tide of global anti-imperialism. But this paper argues that another factor was the rise of “anti-imperial technologies,” methods of projecting power across distance without territorial control. It examines three, all closely associated with the United States. Shortwave radio, in replacing telegraphy as a means of long-distance communication, obviated the need for control of telegraphic routes. Planes similarly replaced trains, again replacing routes with single points. Finally, plastic substituted for a number of key tropical products (rubber, silk, gutta percha), thus ensuring that security interests would no longer depend as much on tropical colonies.
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