The All-American Base WorldRoundup
tags: military history, war on terror, American Empire, American imperialism
Patterson Deppen serves on the editorial board at E-International Relations where he is co-editor for student essays. A member of the Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, he recently completed research on the 750 U.S. military bases overseas in conjunction with World BEYOND War. The full listing of bases will appear in the future.
It was the spring of 2003 during the American-led invasion of Iraq. I was in second grade, living on a U.S. military base in Germany, attending one of the Pentagon’s many schools for families of servicemen stationed abroad. One Friday morning, my class was on the verge of an uproar. Gathered around our homeroom lunch menu, we were horrified to find that the golden, perfectly crisped French fries we adored had been replaced with something called “freedom fries.”
“What are freedom fries?” we demanded to know.
Our teacher quickly reassured us by saying something like: “Freedom fries are the exact same thing as French fries, just better.” Since France, she explained, was not supporting “our” war in Iraq, “we just changed the name, because who needs France anyway?” Hungry for lunch, we saw little reason to disagree. After all, our most coveted side dish would still be there, even if relabeled.
While 20 years have passed since then, that otherwise obscure childhood memory came back to me last month when, in the midst of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden announced an end to American “combat” operations in Iraq. To many Americans, it may have appeared that he was just keeping his promise to end the two forever wars that came to define the post-9/11 “global war on terror.” However, much as those “freedom fries” didn’t actually become something else, this country’s “forever wars” may not really be coming to an end either. Rather, they are being relabeled and seem to be continuing via other means.
Having closed down hundreds of military bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon will now shift to an “advise-and-assist” role in Iraq. Meanwhile, its top leadership is now busy “pivoting” to Asia in pursuit of new geostrategic objectives primarily centered around “containing” China. As a result, in the Greater Middle East and significant parts of Africa, the U.S. will be trying to keep a far lower profile, while remaining militarily engaged through training programs and private contractors.
As for me, two decades after I finished those freedom fries in Germany, I’ve just finished compiling a list of American military bases around the world, the most comprehensive possible at this moment from publicly available information. It should help make greater sense of what could prove to be a significant period of transition for the U.S. military.
Despite a modest overall decline in such bases, rest assured that the hundreds that remain will play a vital role in the continuation of some version of Washington’s forever wars and could also help facilitate a new Cold War with China. According to my current count, our country still has more than 750 significant military bases implanted around the globe. And here’s the simple reality: unless they are, in the end, dismantled, America’s imperial role on this planet won’t end either, spelling disaster for this country in the years to come.