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GLOBAL US BASE NETWORK June 12, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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Chalmers Johnson is one of those who have provided a constructive, comprehensive analysis and critique of the the global network of US military bases. Johnson’s books, which I quote without reading them, include ‘ The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic’ (Metropolitan), ‘Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire‘, and ‘Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Empire’ (Essay via Tom Dispatch)

Chalmers Johnson’s radio interview with libertarian, Scott Horton, is available here.


In Chalmers Johnson’s expression these installation, augmented by facilities and air bases in Iraq and Afghanistan constitute “empire of bases”. They are not cheap to set up and continue to run, although the exact costing is difficult to obtain it seems. Hence the inevitable potential conflict, all else being equal, with other domestic spending priorities, for example on urban infrastructure. I notice that Jeffrey Sachs in the Reith Lectures saw the military spending as a source from which money could be for global benefits. Let us suppose that global warming does have significant costs for the American economy: Where is the money to come from, given under the prevailing economic orthodoxies most other areas of the Federal Government have been cut back since The Great Society Programs.

Once bases are set up, especially in the domestic sphere, they become special interest concerns to American politicians from both major political parties. Military spending and supply supports some proportion of the American economy, and some large portion of the profits of companies such as Halliburton and Bechtel, is generated from the defence budget, and that if before consideration of the manufacture of military hardware.

Equally overseas it does not seem a straightforward thing to close bases once their apparent utility has passed. Take Germany as an example. According to the figures in Wikipedia, Germany ranks fourth in the world in military spending, and has recently sent it military forces to Afghanistan and the Congo, and yet the US still maintains a number of bases there, most of which it has had since the end of the Second World War. The US still has in the order of 70 to 80,000 people in Germany. Part of the reason for staying put is comfort and convenience, as distinct from moving to Bulgaria or Rumania. These bases are still there, almost twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

Coda: 12 June 2007

I am at a loss to follow why the Bush Administration is so belligerent toward Russia and China, given the Cold War was over almost twenty years ago. Action stirs reaction. Star Wars defence shields and aggressive policies supporting disaggregation only serve to antagonize the Russians, who have strategic leverage in Europe as suppliers of energy. Part of the motivation for the invasion of Iraq was to block the China access to the oil, but when the cooperation of the Chinese is required as in Darfur, would not it be better to use influence based on good will rather than crude, with possibly long term consequences in a globalized world, carrot and stick approaches. Gary at Public Opinion has thoughts on this aspect of US militarism.

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