By Paul Balles
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ending the cold war, America breathed a sigh of relief.
A problem that should have been addressed at that point was neglected. The question that should have dominated American thinking: Do we really need to maintain the many US military bases abroad?
Twelve years after the Soviet collapse, America reportedly had 702 overseas military bases in about 130 countries and another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. That report failed to include a number of so-called secret bases and bases in the Middle East.
As military historian Chalmers Johnston observed, “…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….”
By 2009, the number of American bases outside of the USA had increased to over 1000. Anthropology professor David Vines said these represented “the largest collection of bases in world history.”
Vines added, “Officially the Pentagon counts 865 base sites, but this notoriously unreliable number omits all our bases in Iraq (likely over 100) and Afghanistan (80 and counting), among many other well-known and secretive bases.”
Where are all those military bases outside the military zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, and what purpose do they serve? “More than half a century after World War II and the Korean War,” wrote Vines, “we still have 268 bases in Germany, 124 in Japan, and 87 in South Korea.”
Are the bases in Germany and Japan there to deter any present or future leaders in those countries from a repeat performance of the events that led to WWII or to the Korean War?
What Congress and the public hear from the administration and the military establishment is that these bases are necessary for national security. That, of course, is a paranoid claim.
The Vietnam War should have taught us that we weren’t invincible. Whatever affect it had on the thirst for power was short-lived. The power-grabbers needed the worldwide power stations for reasons other than fighting wars.
Hundreds of thousands of military personnel and their families had employment in jobs that kept the unemployment numbers down and raised few complaints from taxpayers who foot the bill. It also kept the military-industrial complex profitable.
The problem with the whole scheme is that hundreds of these military bases are located in areas that are not war zones, and their sole function is to assure America’s interests in a particular area.
The side effects of the entire scenario have been disastrous, and will continue to be. Personnel from the bases pose a clear threat to local communities and ultimately to America simply for being there.
Military personnel don’t have the same access to US entertainment that they had at home, so they become involved in drugs, excessive alcohol, prostitution and rape — the spoils of non-wars.
Equally heinous results come from the reactions provoked by a military presence anywhere. American military personnel threaten the local cultures in such a way that they provoke the development of resistance. They create enemies.
That is exactly what happened with Osama bin Laden. He had a persuasive argument against America’s hunger for world control and the threat that posed.
What is America doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? It’s called “nation building.” What business is it of America to be building other’s nations? It’s really none of their business. It’s nothing more than the arrogance of power.
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.