It has long been the contention of Immanuel Wallerstein, among others, that one of the cost-effective ways of maintaining an empire is to get the colonized to colonize themselves. That is obviously a simple rendition of a long history. Yet let us note that the British Empire engaged in warfare with the help of the various West India Regiments that have existed, later becoming the Caribbean Regiment, the Corps of Colonial Marines, the King’s African Rifles, and the famous Nepalese Brigade of Gurkhas. The French had their Foreign Legion (the first Vietnamese man I ever met in life was an active duty French Foreign Legionnaire, in the photo at left). And now the United States has Latin American and Caribbean persons comprising almost half of all the foreign-born forces. Having an army peopled by troops from the colonies is a common historical feature of modern imperialism. We also know of the many American Indians who join the U.S. military, perhaps one of the reasons why early on there was an almost unanimous cheering of the invasion of Iraq from American Indian tribal governments. Indeed, apart from the American Indian Movement (AIM), which is not a tribal government, neither myself nor others were able to find exceptions when pressed to do so in a rather animated debate that took place on the world-systems discussion list.
Gurkha brigade (top), King’s African Rifles (bottom)
Caribbean World News, reporting numbers provided by the Migration Policy Institute, notes that foreign-born military personnel from Latin America and the Caribbean together comprise 38.7% of all foreign-born U.S. military forces. Specifically, 3,064 are from Jamaica while 1,372 are from the Dominican Republic. In broader terms,
According to data from the Department of Defense, more than 65,000 immigrants were serving on active duty in the US Armed Forces as of February 2008 while since September 2001, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has naturalized more than 37,250 foreign-born members of the US Armed Forces and granted posthumous citizenship to 111 service members.
As proportions of the overall branches in which they serve, foreign-born individuals comprise 22.9% of those serving in the army, 20.7% of everyone serving in the air force, and 15.5% of the US Marine Corps consists of foreign-born persons.
It is well known, at least among friends and acquaintances of mine in Trinidad, that one route to U.S. citizenship is not across the Mexican border, as shrill media commentators like to “remind” us, but rather the U.S. military. When American political leaders and media personalities engage in their familiar incantations — “support the troops,” “the troops are heroes,” and suggestions that a real American is one who “served his country,” one who “wore the uniform” — it is ironic that they themselves do not realize that they are praising the American-ness of a substantial number of non-Americans.