The Arithmetic of America's Military Bases Abroad: What Does It All Add Up to?

News Abroad

Mr. Johnson's latest book is The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (Metropolitan). His previous book, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, has just been updated with a new introduction.

As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we are creating some thirteen naval task forces built around aircraft carriers whose names sum up our martial heritage -- Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John C. Stennis, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan. We operate numerous secret bases outside our territory to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or e-mailing to one another.

Our installations abroad bring profits to civilian industries, which design and manufacture weapons for the armed forces or, like the now well-publicized Kellogg, Brown & Root company, a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation of Houston, undertake contract services to build and maintain our far-flung outposts. One task of such contractors is to keep uniformed members of the imperium housed in comfortable quarters, well fed, amused, and supplied with enjoyable, affordable vacation facilities. Whole sectors of the American economy have come to rely on the military for sales. On the eve of our second war on Iraq, for example, while the Defense Department was ordering up an extra ration of cruise missiles and depleted-uranium armor-piercing tank shells, it also acquired 273,000 bottles of Native Tan sunblock, almost triple its 1999 order and undoubtedly a boon to the supplier, Control Supply Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and its subcontractor, Sun Fun Products of Daytona Beach, Florida.

At Least Seven Hundred Foreign Bases

It's not easy to assess the size or exact value of our empire of bases. Official records on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department's annual "Base Structure Report" for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and has another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. Pentagon bureaucrats calculate that it would require at least $113.2 billion to replace just the foreign bases -- surely far too low a figure but still larger than the gross domestic product of most countries -- and an estimated $591,519.8 million to replace all of them. The military high command deploys to our overseas bases some 253,288 uniformed personnel, plus an equal number of dependents and Department of Defense civilian officials, and employs an additional 44,446 locally hired foreigners. The Pentagon claims that these bases contain 44,870 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and that it leases 4,844 more.

These numbers, although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally. The 2003 Base Status Report fails to mention, for instance, any garrisons in Kosovo -- even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel, built in 1999 and maintained ever since by Kellogg, Brown & Root. The Report similarly omits bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, although the U.S. military has established colossal base structures throughout the so-called arc of instability in the two-and-a-half years since 9/11.

For Okinawa, the southernmost island of Japan, which has been an American military colony for the past fifty-eight years, the report deceptively lists only one Marine base, Camp Butler, when in fact Okinawa "hosts" ten Marine Corps bases, including Marine Corps Air Station Futenma occupying 1,186 acres in the center of that modest-sized island's second largest city. (Manhattan's Central Park, by contrast, is only 843 acres.) The Pentagon similarly fails to note all of the $5-billion-worth of military and espionage installations in Britain, which have long been conveniently disguised as Royal Air Force bases. If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases in other people's countries, but no one -- possibly not even the Pentagon -- knows the exact number for sure, although it has been distinctly on the rise in recent years.

For their occupants, these are not unpleasant places to live and work. Military service today, which is voluntary, bears almost no relation to the duties of a soldier during World War II or the Korean or Vietnamese wars. Most chores like laundry, KP ("kitchen police"), mail call, and cleaning latrines have been subcontracted to private military companies like Kellogg, Brown & Root, DynCorp, and the Vinnell Corporation. Fully one-third of the funds recently appropriated for the war in Iraq (about $30 billion), for instance, are going into private American hands for exactly such services. Where possible everything is done to make daily existence seem like a Hollywood version of life at home. According to the Washington Post, in Fallujah, just west of Baghdad, waiters in white shirts, black pants, and black bow ties serve dinner to the officers of the 82nd Airborne Division in their heavily guarded compound, and the first Burger King has already gone up inside the enormous military base we've established at Baghdad International Airport.

Some of these bases are so gigantic they require as many as nine internal bus routes for soldiers and civilian contractors to get around inside the earthen berms and concertina wire. That's the case at Camp Anaconda, headquarters of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, whose job is to police some 1,500 square miles of Iraq north of Baghdad, from Samarra to Taji. Anaconda occupies 25 square kilometers and will ultimately house as many as 20,000 troops. Despite extensive security precautions, the base has frequently come under mortar attack, notably on the Fourth of July, 2003, just as Arnold Schwarzenegger was chatting up our wounded at the local field hospital.

The military prefers bases that resemble small fundamentalist towns in the Bible Belt rather than the big population centers of the United States. For example, even though more than 100,000 women live on our overseas bases -- including women in the services, spouses, and relatives of military personnel -- obtaining an abortion at a local military hospital is prohibited. Since there are some 14,000 sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults each year in the military, women who become pregnant overseas and want an abortion have no choice but to try the local economy, which cannot be either easy or pleasant in Baghdad or other parts of our empire these days.

Our armed missionaries live in a closed-off, self-contained world serviced by its own airline -- the Air Mobility Command, with its fleet of long-range C-17 Globemasters, C-5 Galaxies, C-141 Starlifters, KC-135 Stratotankers, KC-10 Extenders, and C-9 Nightingales that link our far-flung outposts from Greenland to Australia. For generals and admirals, the military provides seventy-one Learjets, thirteen Gulfstream IIIs, and seventeen Cessna Citation luxury jets to fly them to such spots as the armed forces' ski and vacation center at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps or to any of the 234 military golf courses the Pentagon operates worldwide. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flies around in his own personal Boeing 757, called a C-32A in the Air Force.

Our "Footprint" on the World

Of all the insensitive, if graphic, metaphors we've allowed into our vocabulary, none quite equals "footprint" to describe the military impact of our empire. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers and senior members of the Senate's Military Construction Subcommittee such as Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are apparently incapable of completing a sentence without using it. Establishing a more impressive footprint has now become part of the new justification for a major enlargement of our empire -- and an announced repositioning of our bases and forces abroad -- in the wake of our conquest of Iraq. The man in charge of this project is Andy Hoehn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy. He and his colleagues are supposed to draw up plans to implement President Bush's preventive war strategy against "rogue states," "bad guys," and "evil-doers." They have identified something they call the "arc of instability," which is said to run from the Andean region of South America (read: Colombia) through North Africa and then sweeps across the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia. This is, of course, more or less identical with what used to be called the Third World -- and perhaps no less crucially it covers the world's key oil reserves. Hoehn contends, "When you overlay our footprint onto that, we don't look particularly well-positioned to deal with the problems we're now going to confront."

Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies. America's version of the colony is the military base. By following the changing politics of global basing, one can learn much about our ever larger imperial stance and the militarism that grows with it. Militarism and imperialism are Siamese twins joined at the hip. Each thrives off the other. Already highly advanced in our country, they are both on the verge of a quantum leap that will almost surely stretch our military beyond its capabilities, bringing about fiscal insolvency and very possibly doing mortal damage to our republican institutions. The only way this is discussed in our press is via reportage on highly arcane plans for changes in basing policy and the positioning of troops abroad -- and these plans, as reported in the media, cannot be taken at face value.

Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson, commanding our 1,800 troops occupying the old French Foreign Legion base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti at the entrance to the Red Sea, claims that in order to put "preventive war" into action, we require a "global presence," by which he means gaining hegemony over any place that is not already under our thumb. According to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, the idea is to create "a global cavalry" that can ride in from "frontier stockades" and shoot up the "bad guys" as soon as we get some intelligence on them.

"Lily Pads" in Australia, Romania, Mali, Algeria . . .

In order to put our forces close to every hot spot or danger area in this newly discovered arc of instability, the Pentagon has been proposing -- this is usually called "repositioning" -- many new bases, including at least four and perhaps as many as six permanent ones in Iraq. A number of these are already under construction -- at Baghdad International Airport, Tallil air base near Nasariyah, in the western desert near the Syrian border, and at Bashur air field in the Kurdish region of the north. (This does not count the previously mentioned Anaconda, which is currently being called an "operating base," though it may very well become permanent over time.) In addition, we plan to keep under our control the whole northern quarter of Kuwait -- 1,600 square miles out of Kuwait's 6,900 square miles -- that we now use to resupply our Iraq legions and as a place for Green Zone bureaucrats to relax.

Other countries mentioned as sites for what Colin Powell calls our new "family of bases" include: In the impoverished areas of the "new" Europe -- Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria; in Asia -- Pakistan (where we already have four bases), India, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and even, unbelievably, Vietnam; in North Africa -- Morocco, Tunisia, and especially Algeria (scene of the slaughter of some 100,00 civilians since 1992, when, to quash an election, the military took over, backed by our country and France); and in West Africa -- Senegal, Ghana, Mali, and Sierra Leone (even though it has been torn by civil war since 1991). The models for all these new installations, according to Pentagon sources, are the string of bases we have built around the Persian Gulf in the last two decades in such anti-democratic autocracies as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Most of these new bases will be what the military, in a switch of metaphors, calls "lily pads" to which our troops could jump like so many well-armed frogs from the homeland, our remaining NATO bases, or bases in the docile satellites of Japan and Britain. To offset the expense involved in such expansion, the Pentagon leaks plans to close many of the huge Cold War military reservations in Germany, South Korea, and perhaps Okinawa as part of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's "rationalization" of our armed forces. In the wake of the Iraq victory, the U.S. has already withdrawn virtually all of its forces from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, partially as a way of punishing them for not supporting the war strongly enough. It wants to do the same thing to South Korea, perhaps the most anti-American democracy on Earth today, which would free up the 2nd Infantry Division on the demilitarized zone with North Korea for probable deployment to Iraq, where our forces are significantly overstretched.

In Europe, these plans include giving up several bases in Germany, also in part because of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's domestically popular defiance of Bush over Iraq. But the degree to which we are capable of doing so may prove limited indeed. At the simplest level, the Pentagon's planners do not really seem to grasp just how many buildings the 71,702 soldiers and airmen in Germany alone occupy and how expensive it would be to reposition most of them and build even slightly comparable bases, together with the necessary infrastructure, in former Communist countries like Romania, one of Europe's poorest countries. Lt. Col. Amy Ehmann in Hanau, Germany, has said to the press "There's no place to put these people" in Romania, Bulgaria, or Djibouti, and she predicts that 80 percent of them will in the end stay in Germany. It's also certain that generals of the high command have no intention of living in backwaters like Constanta, Romania, and will keep the U.S. military headquarters in Stuttgart while holding on to Ramstein Air Force Base, Spangdahlem Air Force Base, and the Grafenwöhr Training Area.

One reason why the Pentagon is considering moving out of rich democracies like Germany and South Korea and looks covetously at military dictatorships and poverty-stricken dependencies is to take advantage of what the Pentagon calls their "more permissive environmental regulations." The Pentagon always imposes on countries in which it deploys our forces so-called Status of Forces Agreements, which usually exempt the United States from cleaning up or paying for the environmental damage it causes. This is a standing grievance in Okinawa, where the American environmental record has been nothing short of abominable. Part of this attitude is simply the desire of the Pentagon to put itself beyond any of the restraints that govern civilian life, an attitude increasingly at play in the "homeland" as well. For example, the 2004 defense authorization bill of $401.3 billion that President Bush signed into law in November 2003 exempts the military from abiding by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

While there is every reason to believe that the impulse to create ever more lily pads in the Third World remains unchecked, there are several reasons to doubt that some of the more grandiose plans, for either expansion or downsizing, will ever be put into effect or, if they are, that they will do anything other than make the problem of terrorism worse than it is. For one thing, Russia is opposed to the expansion of U.S. military power on its borders and is already moving to checkmate American basing sorties into places like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The first post-Soviet-era Russian airbase in Kyrgyzstan has just been completed forty miles from the U.S. base at Bishkek, and in December 2003, the dictator of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, declared that he would not permit a permanent deployment of U.S. forces in his country even though we already have a base there.

When it comes to downsizing, on the other hand, domestic politics may come into play. By law the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closing Commission must submit its fifth and final list of domestic bases to be shut down to the White House by September 8, 2005. As an efficiency measure, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has said he'd like to be rid of at least one-third of domestic Army bases and one-quarter of domestic Air Force bases, which is sure to produce a political firestorm on Capitol Hill. In order to protect their respective states' bases, the two mother hens of the Senate's Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Dianne Feinstein, are demanding that the Pentagon close overseas bases first and bring the troops now stationed there home to domestic bases, which could then remain open. Hutchison and Feinstein included in the Military Appropriations Act of 2004 money for an independent commission to investigate and report on overseas bases that are no longer needed. The Bush administration opposed this provision of the Act but it passed anyway and the president signed it into law on November 22, 2003. The Pentagon is probably adept enough to hamstring the commission, but a domestic base-closing furor clearly looms on the horizon.

By far the greatest defect in the "global cavalry" strategy, however, is that it accentuates Washington's impulse to apply irrelevant military remedies to terrorism. As the prominent British military historian, Correlli-Barnett, has observed, the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq only increased the threat of al-Qaeda. From 1993 through the 9/11 assaults of 2001, there were five major al-Qaeda attacks worldwide; in the two years since then there have been seventeen such bombings, including the Istanbul suicide assaults on the British consulate and an HSBC Bank. Military operations against terrorists are not the solution. As Barnett puts it, "Rather than kicking down front doors and barging into ancient and complex societies with simple nostrums of 'freedom and democracy,' we need tactics of cunning and subtlety, based on a profound understanding of the people and cultures we are dealing with -- an understanding up till now entirely lacking in the top-level policy-makers in Washington, especially in the Pentagon."

In his notorious "long, hard slog" memo on Iraq of October 16, 2003, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld wrote, "Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror." Correlli-Barnett's "metrics" indicate otherwise. But the "war on terrorism" is at best only a small part of the reason for all our military strategizing. The real reason for constructing this new ring of American bases along the equator is to expand our empire and reinforce our military domination of the world.

Copyright C2004 Chalmers Johnson

This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.

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More Comments:

Jonathan Pine - 5/1/2008

(#29207)mark safranski on January 21, 2004 at 9:46 AM
"...the Europeans are not going to sacrifice their welfare states in order to compete for military parity with the United States. In fact, my guess is they will use a future limited integrated EU force as a justification to spend less on defense for their national armies."

Europeans do not have "welfare" states. safranski needs to learn a little about Europe before making stupid remarks.

NYGuy - 1/23/2004

According to the press release from the BLS that you cited:

"The number of unemployed persons was 8.4 million in December and the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent. Both measures continued to edge down from their recent highs in June 2003.


What is it that you don’t understand? Employment is a lagging indicator and now is improving. I predicted and others predicted this would happen last June. In other words we are now on the way to a booming economy. We thank you Mr. Bush for your economic genius. What a guy.

Meanwhile you throw around statistic with no relevance. Current unemployment is 5.7% vs. levels as high as 7.3% under Clinton. Meanwhile, employment has risen from 134 million in 1999 to 138 million currently. If I remember you would put a + sign before the difference. Meanwhile you do understand that the work force has increased for various reasons and is larger than when Clinton was President.

More important is the gain in productivity under Bush’s brilliant economic policies. Most of the gains under Clinton were anemic and often below 1%. In the third quarter of last year the gain were 9.4% and for 2002 it was 5.4%. You understand that gains in productivity make us stronger and more competitive in the world. And this is only the beginning as productivity gains have been improving all year and aew in a strong uptrend. And you want to go back to the failed economic policies of Clinton and the democrats?

I don’t want to upset you too much but the companies I deal with are looking for workers. Meanwhile Bush has restored confidence in the American people and there are billions of dollars from average Americans going into the stock market, which means higher stock prices and greater wealth for all Americans to buy houses, cars, send children to college, etc. This leads to greater spending which leads to improvement in demand, which leads to higher employment. Wow, Bush is even smarter than I realized.

Don Williams - 1/23/2004

NYGuy questions my 9 million unemployment figure, given that we are in a Bush economic boom. I'm find it interesting
that he is surprised by my figure.

As I have shown, my arguments are based on facts--not on blind loyalty to a malign leadership which is inflicting great harm on the American people. NYGuy's opinion may have been formed by the conservative talk shows -- which divert and mislead US citizens with continual emotional rants but which are notoriously shy about discussing facts.

The 9 million figure comes from Bush's Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly release -- see http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
It shows that the number of unemployed were 9 million from May 2003 to Sept 2003 -- and that it has been in the range of 8-9 million for the past two years of the Bush administration.

In the latest month, the number has dropped to around 8.4 million -- my guess is that people got temporary jobs in department stores during the Christmas sales season -- and that they have lost those jobs now that the sales season has passed. We will see when the February 6 report comes out.

Don Williams - 1/23/2004

What seems to me inexplicable is that Bush can claim to be Christian, yet make the choices he does. Would a Christian ignore the poverty and misery that afflicts our citizens-- in favor of letting the rich avoid paying their share of the Reagan/Bush1 debt? Especially when 8% of the households hold over 53% of the nations' wealth. Would a Christian lie to Americans the way Bush has done?

What the Cross reminds me is that the American empire Bush/Cheney are creating will be like the empire of Rome: cruel, greedy, deceitful, hypocritical -- ruled by all the baser passions of human nature and devoted to making the vast majority of humans into slaves to serve the appetites of a wealthy few. One in which the more fortunate enjoy temporary security and comfort only by betraying their fellow man -- who sacrifice their self respect, personal honor , moral principles, and respect for truth in favor of becoming pitiful amoral whores who flatter,defend, and grovel for their leaders.

A society which will nail an innocent man up on the cross to suffer agony if he so much as questions the vicious nature of their society.

Human beings should not have to live like that. Which is why our ancestors rebelled against Emperors 2000 years ago-- why most civilized people became Christian.

NYGuy - 1/22/2004


Our Republican leaders are a far greater threat --to our lives and to our wealth --than anything overseas.


It is difficult to take your comments as balanced or even seriously. As has been presented on HNN it was the democrat Harriman who used his money and his firms resources to finance Hitler and support the Nazi while he and the democrats made millions of dollars. Millions of Americans and others throughout the world were killed and destroyed because of his greed for money. Therefore how can one accept your one sided argument that after 8 years of the Democatic Clinton you finally woke and found all these problems, and then blamed them on Bush.

But if coal is the answer, and so plentiful why do you make this comment:


"......if we don't support Big Oil shows a lack of knowledge about the US industry Input-Output Matrix. Much of US heating is from coal-fired steam plants, from electricity, or from natural gas. Electricity in turn is largely generated from coal and hydroelectic dams --not by burning petroleum. One malign effect from our $50 billion/year subsidy of Big Oil has been a long depression --and high unemployment --in the Appalachian coal mining areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia."


The implications are that well over half of our electrical energy comes from coal. "Again if this efficient low cost product is the product of choice why did Clinton and the democrats not recognize your insight over the 8 years of his presidency and develop this plentiful source of energy. Knowing this he could have cut our imporation of oil in half and drastically reduced the $50 billion oil subsidy you proclaim. But, then again, after his pardon of Rich, he may well have sold out to the highest bidder.

By the way could you please explain where you got your $50 billion figure from and what does it represent?

As for unemployment, Bush inherited those figures from the Clinton recession. I think Clinton could have done better. (I got that line from the Democratic Presidential contenders).

And it seems the umemployment figures keep escalating as our economy is in a sharp recovery. I have now seen, 2.3 million, 3.0 million and now you come up with 9 million people.

I think Richard is right and provides important ideas for us to consider and not to rely on bankrupt democratic spin. We are now in the 21st Century and the next 10-20 years are going to require leaders with forsight and character.

Bush and his "business" cabinet which has lead major world companies around the world understand these changes and are providing the vision we need. Being stuck in the quaqmire of the Vietnam War and the 20th Century only produces people with there head in the sand.

Don Williams - 1/22/2004

Our Republican leaders are a far greater threat to US citizens --to our lives and to our wealth -- than anything overseas.

Even if one's stomach is not turned by some past actions of the oil boys and their lackeys in the US government, there is still the pragmatic concern that their actions provoked costly retribution upon US citizens--e.g., the 3000+ dead and roughly $1 Trillion in indirect costs of Sept 11 (could have bought a hell of a lot of gasoline for $1 Trillion)

The "White man's burden" Neocon Wilsonian argument is, and always has been, utter bullshit. The British Secret Service has always been adept at dragging the US into Britain's wars. President Woodrow Wilson shipped war material to Britain on the Passenger ship Lusitania and then lied to the country about it when the Germans sunk it -- anyone remember the Neocon progaganda about the ghastly Huns??

The end result was that a lot of US men died "to make the world safe for democracy". Wilson threw Eugene Debs into prison merely for saying (correctly) that the poor would die in WWI and the rich would profit. Wilson then stood by while wealthy plutocrats and financiers raped Germany for their personal profit with the Versailles Treaty. (with NO benefit going to the families of the men who died) Consequently, German money (and life savings ) became worthless, unemployment soared to 50%, starvation set in, and the Germans becamed enraged enough to support Hitler and the Nazis. Fortunately for the US , Russia was will to sacrifice millions of men fighting the Nazis but we still lost hundreds of thousands. Immediately after the death of Hitler, of course, our fearless leaders decided Russia was now the enemy and wasted $Trillions of our labor in a Cold War.

It seems to me that Republican leaders are a far worse enemy to the American people than foreign enemies --few of whom could make it to our shores and all of whom could be destroyed by our armed citizens without a bloated $400 billion/year military industrial complex. The rest of the world has far more reason to fear the aggression of our predators.

But we, the people,suffer from those predators as well. It's hard to imagine that even a Soviet Commissar would have dumped $7 Trillion of debt on us--as has been done by "fiscal conservatives" Ronald Reagan, George H Bush, and George W Bush. Our Republican leaders are a far greater threat --to our lives and to our wealth --than anything overseas.

Richard Dyke - 1/22/2004


The trouble with your vituperative approach is that you are not presenting a REAL alternative to what exists now. You seem to be disgusted with the US and the realities of politics. It is all well and fine to suggest the the US is the Devil because we are on top, but I am wondering what the alternative is. Should we withdraw our troops around the world, become isolationist and inward-looking and attempt to take some kind of "high road" approach? We have tried isolationism before, and it is not only bad for business, but it can also be highly dangerous. Our isolationism prior to World War II strengthened our coming opponents. Germany and Japan ran virtually unchecked over smaller countries until finally a horrific global war was necessary to defeat the Axis powers. I fail to see how the vacuum we would create by "leaving the world to its own devices" would benefit us or the world. Vacuums get filled by the next most powerful force, and we would, I think, finally find a most sinister danger facing us after putting our heads in the sand for a few years.

There are many things about "politics as usual" that I do not like, too, such as the way the politically disenfranchised and the poor are often treated. Someone is ALWAYS going to get more of the economic pie than others, and it is usually the "people in the know," the powerful. But railing against the United States' attempt to maintain its counterpoint to international chaos, aggression, terrorism, and other evils like Saddam Hussein's murderous dictatorship just does not seem like a viable approach to me. Your reasoning seems to indicate that the US is bad, but I fail to see how the world will be improved by its absence on the world stage. And as long as it is on the world stage, it will almost by necessity seek some good economic returns in exchange for its services. Even ministers of the faith have businesses to run and seek your contributions to run their churches effectively, and the US can ill afford to act like a worldwide charity when it has military bills and other costs to recoup.

LA Dude - 1/22/2004

We need lots of bases around the world, because leftist bleeding heart Palestinian terrorists are all around the world, and we better give them overseas targets or else they'll come here and blow up America's cultural heritage, such as cineplexes, SUVs, shopping mall parking lots, and Walmarts. Of course, NYGuy is right: we have to support our President, no matter what. That's what democracy is all about. What we don't need to do is to kowtow to communists in Peking just because NYGuy has poured his life savings into their creaky socialist investment funds and wants to hype Red China in 5-10 comments a week on HNN.

Don Williams - 1/22/2004

What is interesting about NYGuy is that he proclaims a business outlook but seems unable to understand business arguments.

My point is that the $50 billion/year subsidy we give to Big Oil -- the cost of exerting military power in the Middle East on their behalf --is a form of welfare. We do not pay $1.70/gallon for gasoline at the pump -- we pay more like $9/gallon except that the extra cost is hidden in our federal taxes and by heavy borrowing from our Social Security/Medicare Trust funds -- borrowing only secured by Bush's worthless IOUS. I say worthless because the only way future governments can pay us our money back --i.e, can redeem Bush's IOUS --is by first taking the money from us.

The welfare subsidy that the Houston Oil Boys receives discourages investors from supporting techological innovations to develop new energy sources. This lack of innovation and research/development impoverishes the nature in the long run.

NYGuy nevers questions the facts I present. He doesn't present contrasting facts to support his arguments. Instead, NYGuy seems compelled to ignore reality and to support Bush because Bush is His Team. Bush may wreak great harm on the citizens of the US but it is unpatriotic to criticize Bush because it is criticizing the Team.

Again, the identification of Republican leaders with "free enterprise" is hilarious. Republicans get ahead --in business and in politics -- not by creating value but by knowing which butts to kiss and which backs to stab. Their endless apple-polishing and avoidance of responsibility rarely leaves them the time to do their share of the work.

I would note that NYGuys suggestion that we might freeze if we don't support Big Oil shows a lack of knowledge about the US industry Input-Output Matrix. Much of US heating is from coal-fired steam plants, from electricity, or from natural gas. Electricity in turn is largely generated from coal and hydroelectic dams --not by burning petroleum. One malign effect from our $50 billion/year subsidy of Big Oil has been a long depression --and high unemployment --in the Appalachian coal mining areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. Bush, of course, spends nothing to help the 9 million+ US citizens that have been unemployed during his disaster of an Administration.

NYGuy - 1/22/2004

Note that little of the Caspian Sea oil will come to America --we get most of our oil from Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, and Nigeria. The big money is going to lie in supplying gas to 1 billion Chinese as they buy automobiles in the next 30 years. I'm also sure that Cheney et.al will try to shelter profits from those foreign operations from US taxes while manipulating the US military into protecting their investments, twisting a few arms during contract negotiations, etc.


We actually agree that there are major changes in the 21st Century. We just have to get the historians to understand what is happening.

So your argument is that the US will not benefit from these new sources of energy and you don’t want the US to be involved in obtaining these resources, although we are leaders in the oil industry.

Sort of an America last type of argument and profits are dirty. Give it to those who you view as the good guys. This is just another variation of let the UN run the world while we pull in our horns. Hmm. Interesting view of what history is all about.


If Arab regimes are sometimes authoritarian, maybe it's because the only way they can prevent corrupt, treasonous crooks from betraying their country to the CIA is by executing a few occasionally. While the Arabs dictatorships are regrettable--and there should be a push to support democracy --let us remember that Republican criticism of dictators seems directly proportional to whether those dictators oppose some Republican business interests.


You say there should be a push to democracy but the US is not the model, although the second oldest country with this philosophy. This is sort of a hate-America argument. I also get confused with your arguments that over the past 50 years you think we were wrong and that is based on your dislike for the current administration. As we say in NY, that seems A—backwards thinking. :)

Of course if you don’t like oil, you will have a choice this year to vote for a multimillionaire “catsup, pickles and mustard” beneficiary who will use our armed forces to defend McDonalds, Wendy’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc. around the world while we freeze at home. You give us something to think about.

Ken Melvin - 1/21/2004

Such bastards as Dick Cheney wasted $trillion and $trillions more of our nation's treasury than needed on the cold war using these same fear tactics. Their policies caused millions to die unnecessarily from war, starvation, and disease; left millions and millions to suffer lives of miserable abject poverty.

Now rather face the real problems of our time, men and women such as this would again divert our attention by instilling fear; fear, again ridiculously out of proportion the threat. Are we a nation of fools? This fool would have us believe the solution to a rag tag group of terrorists lies in our invading a bottomed out, dirt poor nation with a twentieth rate army, no air power and no air defenses using 150k of the world's best equipped troops, three aircraft carriers, thousands of sophisticated aircraft, and numerous submarines and surface ships firing cruise missiles; to extend this damn foolery indefinitely.

Only Rome offered its citizens such grand entertainment as the US's war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Rome didn't have near the PR mechanism. Today, and since 9/1101, the US Media has beat the drums for these phony wars while turning but deaf ears and blind eyes to the truth. Front row seat coverage of all to all excepting scenes deemed unfit. No inept, insane Roman Emperor was ever so propped up.

Does anyone really believe terrorism our greatest threat? If so, what about the environment and global warming, healthcare, lack of jobs, quality of jobs, distribution of wealth? Does anyone, as an American, think America has the right to go into Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran or wherever and take those natural resources we want by whatever means? Or, should the Media constantly remind the public of the evil of their ways and that hell and damnation awaits them lest they accept the lord god as their savior? Isn't it all much the same?

Don Williams - 1/21/2004

The posts here suggesting a benevolent empire on the part of Cheney and the oil boys are hysterically funny. Just ask the people of the Middle East --of Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,UAE,etc -- how they have enjoyed the last 50 years living under dictators foisted on them by CIA and supported by US massive arms sales/military aid. Ask them how much of their national birthright--their oil resources --have trickled down to the average citizen. Ask the Palestinans what they think of the US government's values after living in refugee camps for 50 years with an average income of $1600 per year.

The hypocrisy and deceit of Bush and the Neocons know no bounds. After the Middle East has been fuc&%$ked for decades by wealthy, predatory, US interests , the Neocons now claim that the Arabs are angry over their own shortcomings.

Saddam Hussein got support from part of the Iragi population because he at least would not allow Iraq's oil wealth to be stolen by foreigners.

If Arab regimes are sometimes authoritarian, maybe it's because the only way they can prevent corrupt, treasonous crooks from betraying their country to the CIA is by executing a few occasionally. While the Arabs dictatorships are regrettable--and there should be a push to support democracy --let us remember that Republican criticism of dictators seems directly proportional to whether those dictators oppose some Republican business interests.

Before Bush installs democracy in Iraq, maybe he could install it in Florida --by ensuring that the government of his brother does not unjustly disenfranchise thousands of blacks this time around.

Don Williams - 1/21/2004

In first statement of above post, "in order to import $25 billion" should be "in order to import $25 billion of oil".

Note that little of the Caspian Sea oil will come to America --we get most of our oil from Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, and Nigeria. The big money is going to lie in supplying gas to 1 billion Chinese as they buy automobiles in the next 30 years. I'm also sure that Cheney et.al will try to shelter profits from those foreign operations from US taxes while manipulating the US military into protecting their investments, twisting a few arms during contract negotiations, etc.

Don Williams - 1/21/2004

For at least the last 20 years, the US government has been spending roughly $50 billion/year maintaining control of the Middle East in order to import roughly $25 billion.

If they US government invested even a small fraction of what it pisses away EVERY YEAR on military /diplomatic control into scientific research and development, advanced physics,clean coal, etc. it could have developed energy sources that would have made us energy-independent, that would have given us a more advanced civilization (e.g., nuclear fusion for trips to the Moon and Mars), and that would have employed millions in exciting jobs.

In my opinion, our Middle Eastern policy is moronic for the country as a whole, causes great harm, benefits only a few, and is suffered only because the small special interest groups which benefit bribe our Congress and President.

In my opinion, Bush and his Republican subordinates extolling "free enterprise" is hilarious -- people like Dick Cheney make their fortune by being the real "welfare queens" -- crooked fixers who abuse the powers of the US government for their masters' selfish interests and who arrange special favors for a price while screwing the US populace 50 ways from Sunday. Anyone recall how Bush got his ass run over in traffic when he tried his hand at real business?? If these guys couldn't contrive suck on the US Treasury's teat in some fashion , they would be bankrupt in a month.
Just look at what happened to Lynne Cheney's defense contractor --Lockheed Martin -- when the gravy train dried up slightly during the Clinton administration.

NYGuy - 1/21/2004

Well put Richard. You understand the changes that have gone on this world and don't try to create false illusions from actions that took place over a long period of time. I also believe you have a good vision of what the world's future can be.

Your comments on oil are right on target. Those seeking power are harming us by their snide remarks about Bush, Cheney, etc and oil, and not addressing the true importance of oil for the US and the world. I am sure you know, as many others do, that China's consumption of oil will rival our own over the next 10 years. And what about the other growing industrial countries.

Meanwhile, now there is a great opportunity for the world to create a meaningful peace and there are many who understand the role of the U.S in leading us to this world.

Richard Dyke - 1/21/2004

America's military bases are indeed a "strange empire," since the empire was built more due to force of circumstance than planned strategy. I am not sure "imperialist" can be used to describe it. Like every country, the US is entitled to protect its interests to the best of its ability. Politics, and international politics surely, is all about FORCE (and almost nothing else), and military force is necessary to be a player on the world stage. Some of the writers here would do well to remember that Central Asian oil as well as many, many other economic benefits are tied to America's capacity to maintain itself globally, in the new "global marketplace." It is easy to make snide comments about "Dick Cheney's oil"; but it would not be so funny to fail to protect our economic interests that maintain the lifestyles and economic well-being of average Americans. If we can not manage our interests, some force will come along that will do it for us, to our detriment. That fact, and compelling circumstances in the world, not a desire to dominate other countries, are the well springs of American military strategy.

mark safranski - 1/21/2004

The titled thesis is a fantasy of Mr. Williams, the Europeans are not going to sacrifice their welfare states in order to compete for military parity with the United States. In fact, my guess is they will use a future limited integrated EU force as a justification to spend less on defense for their national armies.

Don Williams - 1/20/2004

If Bush's ignorant, corrupt aggression drives US into a Cold War with Europe,China, and Russia, the danger and huge costs to the US will be a millions times greater than what Bin Ladin or Hussein could ever have dreamed of. As I've already document, Bush had already dumped $70,000 in debt on the middle class taxpayer --money which will be taken from their IRAs/401Ks/Social Security& Medicare Trust FUnds.
Maybe he will take another $70,000 to make the world safe for Cheney's oil explorations.

From http://politics.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,9061,1105350,00.html
Washington accepts EU's independent military plan

Ian Black and Michael White in Brussels
Friday December 12, 2003
The Guardian

The US has accepted controversial British-brokered plans for independent EU military planning, despite having warned that this would pose a grave threat to Nato.

In what will be regarded as a diplomatic coup for Tony Blair, diplomats in Brussels said last night that Washington had finally given its blessing to proposals that will allow the prime minister to implement a landmark defence deal with France and Germany.

It will be formally tabled at the EU summit today.

Mr Blair has twice been in telephone contact with President George Bush in the past few days to assure him the laboriously negotiated deal will not weaken Nato.

"This has been a delicate negotiation, but it has been fruitful," the Downing St spokesman said last night.

Mr Blair has been anxious to repair relations between Europe and America caused by the Iraq war, and place Britain at the heart of an important EU project.

The four-point document shows how the French and Germans - prompted by Britain - have bent over backwards to assuage US concerns.

"Nato is the discussion forum and natural choice for an operation involving the European and American allies," it says.

Hints of the breakthrough came from George Robertson, Nato's secretary general, who has been trying to ensure that Europe's defence ambitions do not duplicate or undermine the Atlantic alliance.

The Bush administration has been suspicious about plans for an EU rapid reaction force, seeing it as a French-inspired drive to subvert Nato and weaken US influence. Washington was also furious about plans championed by Paris and Berlin to establish a separate military headquarters. .....

Herodotus - 1/20/2004

"How can anyone justify a US defense budget of $400 billion --more than the next 23 largest military powers COMBINED?
Especially when most of the other major powers are our allies? "

Easily. We're the policemen of the world. If we cut our expenditures, then the other nations would spend WAY more than they do. The free ride would be over. Europe would have a consolidated army, the armed forces of those countries would become huge (and wreck the social programs in place there). Japan would remilitarize to defend itself against North Korea, and the Chinese would get nervous about it and augment their forces...on and on. Yes we spend the money. But if we didn't, what do you really think would happen? Your comments don't seem to convince us that you do know. Central Asian oil to line the pockets of Dick Cheney? If the U.S. cared about the oil supply, we would have overthrown Chavez in Venezuela a long time ago and kicked the Saudis out as well.

Don Williams - 1/20/2004

AS I've noted before, Bush is building a string of new military bases in Central Asia --not because they are helpful against hidden Al Qaeda but because Cheney is using the "war on terror" as an excuse to protect the Houston Oil Boy's money hunt around the Caspian Sea --where huge oil deposits comparable to Saudi Arabia's have been discovered.
Most of the oil, but the way, will probably go to China to help run a billion Ford and GM subcompacts.

A chosen few gain the profits from this empire,while the huge costs are dumped off on US citizens. Look at
US military spending versus other countries:

How can anyone justify a US defense budget of $400 billion --more than the next 23 largest military powers COMBINED?
Especially when most of the other major powers are our allies?

That budget does not defend the US --we saw that on Sept 11. IF the US military defends the US, why did Bush create a new Department of Homeland Security at an additional cost of $60 billion?

Rather , the US military budget supports greedy overreach and the twisting of arms overseas for US special interests --and that, as I've shown, provokes attacks like Sept 11.

Why is factual information like CDI's never published by the US mainstream news media?? Because our major media organizations are stupid, corrupt whores whose purpose is to deceive US citizens, not to enlighten them.

Remember that in the future when you discover that Bush has turned your IRA/401K and Social Security savings to ashes. Bush has dumped over $70,000 in debt onto every middle class taxpayer -- see http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=21476#21476

(My latest calculation shows an increase in debt burden from $56,000 to $70,000 because I expect Bush's new budget document will show an increase in 2008 federal debt of $4 Trillion above the 2001 projection, up from the $3 Trillion provided in his Feb 2003 budget. This is partly due to an increase in federal spending for Iraq, partly due to the tax cut for stock investments, most of which will benefit the very wealthy. He's stealing you blind, people.)

F. Douglass - 1/20/2004

As a former soldier who has been on and heard of dozens and dozens of bases, each with thousands of personnel, I am stuck wondering how there can be 6702 total American bases? The averages would then result in a couple of hundred soldiers at each base.
Also, Im shocked in hearing that if there are about 190 recognized nations in the world and that we have 'bases' in more than two-thirds of them!
Do the 3000+ USN personnel aboard the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, which is forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan count as a single 'base'? Where are all of these bases? Does the USO at my airport or local Army recruiting office in my town count as a imperialist base? I need the word base defined before I can begin to truly understand this article.
"it also acquired 273,000 bottles of Native Tan sunblock"
Also, preventive medical care, such as purchasing sunblock for troops heading into the desert is not waste!

Oscar Chamberlain - 1/19/2004

A strange empire perhaps, but it is still an empire.

Or perhaps, more precisely, it is always potentially an empire. The U.S. goal is the ability to strike at its own perceived need, and to undermine any country who it chooses to undermine.

Certainly, we are not the Mongols, the Conquistadors of Spain, or even the British East India Company. But the rest of the world would be foolish to see our strenghth and simply assume that we will always use it for benign reasons.

They would be fools not because we are evil but because we are human, and this level of power is a constant temptation.

mark safranski - 1/19/2004

This is the latest in a long line of redefinitions of the word " empire ". If the United States is an empire then the term is virtually meaningless.

What kind of empire is it when foreign states - or colonies, protectorates, spheres of influence, satellites, allies, whatever term will serve - perceive the withdrawing of " imperial " troops as a "punishment" ? Or if the " imperial power " leaves when asked by the host nation ?


Suetonius - 1/19/2004

Actually, Mr. Johnson may be surprised to learn that the U.S. military has a presence in Antarctica and gives out medals for Antarctica service. I suppose he would think that this further validates his argument, but there it is nonetheless.