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September 04, 2008

New Tomdispatch


Going on an Imperial Bender
How the U.S. Garrisons the Planet and Doesn't Even Notice

By Tom Engelhardt

Here it is, as simply as I can put it: In the course of any year, there must be relatively few countries on this planet on which U.S. soldiers do not set foot, whether with guns blazing, humanitarian aid in hand, or just for a friendly visit. In startling numbers of countries, our soldiers not only arrive, but stay interminably, if not indefinitely. Sometimes they live on military bases built to the tune of billions of dollars that amount to sizeable American towns (with accompanying amenities), sometimes on stripped down forward operating bases that may not even have showers. When those troops don't stay, often American equipment does -- carefully stored for further use at tiny "cooperative security locations," known informally as "lily pads" (from which U.S. troops, like so many frogs, could assumedly leap quickly into a region in crisis).

At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans had an estimated 37 major military bases scattered around their dominions. At the height of the British Empire, the British had 36 of them planetwide. Depending on just who you listen to and how you count, we have hundreds of bases. According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active military "sites" abroad.

The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers which, with 5,000-6,000 personnel aboard -- that is, the population of an American town -- are functionally floating bases.

And here's the other half of that simple truth: We don't care to know about it. We, the American people, aided and abetted by our politicians, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media, are knee-deep in base denial.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at September 4, 2008 11:08 AM

An expanding population of expansionist, I look to see more of it as the days go by. This is why space colonization is a a better idea than genocide.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 4, 2008 07:40 PM

Its not that WE don't know how, WE already know enough to plausably pull it off and the hardware is on the shelf. Its just a question of raising the investment capital.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 4, 2008 07:43 PM

What a fine time to introduce my latest rant, Krazy in Korea, he said modestly.

And, I know (now), Korea is the Land of the Morning Calm.

Posted by: Don Bacon at September 5, 2008 12:26 AM

Dan, I thought saying GWOT was passe these days?

I can imagine why permanence in Korea? 1) because we can sell them arms and such, and having a shitload of troops there helps the uh, integration, and 2) you gots to be concerned about the yellow menace over across the yellow sea. You know, just in case they get uppity enough to threaten the American way of life (or standard of living).

BTW; what's the story with that LewRockwell site? Not meaning to be adversarial, but I always figured them for slightly nutty libertarians.

Am I misunderestimating them?

Posted by: Labiche at September 5, 2008 07:27 AM

*The "GWOT," directed against the guy in the Pakistan cave, is our whole being, the reason we exist, is it not?
*Therefore when we desperately need troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are deep in debt, building new military cities in Korea is an expensive distraction.
*Libertarians are good on avoiding international military involvement, so "misunderestimating" them might be a mistake, depending upon its meaning. You might find succor in the two majors; I don't, US military imperialism being my principal concern.

Posted by: Don Bacon at September 5, 2008 12:23 PM


I recall that the administration desired to stop using that term -- GWOT -- because it seemed to have run it's course, eventually morphing into WWE -- war without end in our consciousnesses. And not a good war without end either. (like the WWE on poverty I guess.) Always with us, except that in matters of security the escalation never de-escalates because apparently there are no fucking adults to take stock of the situation and stand down. God bless the companies produce security paraphernalia.

I like the libertarians view on military adventurism (generally), but they're also mad as hatters and way to the right of batshit crazy right wingers on economics. Except for that I like them just fine. It would make it a lot easier if the little l's and the big L's could call themselves outright different names.

I just wasn't aware that they were the default if one couldn't find succor in the other two. ;-)

Posted by: Labiche at September 5, 2008 02:05 PM

Regarding the demise of the "GWOT" you recall incorrectly.
Today's [Sep 5] Press Briefing by Dana Perino:

". . .And Libya has certainly changed its behavior when it came down to the -- their weapons of mass destruction and their capability of producing weapons of mass destruction, and also their pledge to work with countries on matters of the global war on terror. . ."

Posted by: Don Bacon at September 5, 2008 04:07 PM

I give you a direct quote from Dana Perino this morning and you counter with a link to a WaPo column from last October talking about Dick Cheney???

When you DO find the correct link, dump it. A WaPo columnist supposedly quoting Mike Mullen, who has about as much authority as my Aunt Kate, is worthless, especially compared to a current quote from Bush's press secretary.

The "GWOT" lives on, in all its splendor, supported by doctored videos and tapes from one "Osama bin Laden," the evil one in the cave. Hey, another election, time for a new OBL tape! You can't make this stuff up. Wait a minute, they DO make this stuff up! But it pays well.

Posted by: Don Bacon at September 5, 2008 07:41 PM

Meh, I'm not all that invested in it. It was just a comment.

Posted by: Labiche at September 5, 2008 10:19 PM

You should be "invested" in everything you say, or don't say anything, especially when you're wrong.

Posted by: Don Bacon at September 5, 2008 11:21 PM


Thanks for the advice. In my simplemindedness, I was equating Perino to a political hack and propagandist, and Mike Mullen to a warfighter that would know what the word war and the word global meant in the literal rather than political sense.

Chastised, I now know, commenting on a blog without emotional investment is unforgivable. But, I just don't take the commentariat too seriously, which is another simpleminded failing of the post-911 mindset. :-)

Meh -- carry on. The GWOT is real.

Posted by: Labiche at September 6, 2008 08:02 AM

You conflate "major military bases" (Roman and British) with "active military sites" (US). There's a difference, I believe, and furthermore I need to see a source on the number of British bases back in the Imperial day -- I would guess they had more than 36 in India alone. Our imperial cousins actively managed the whole subcontinent and vast portions of Asia and Africa. As in "governed." We govern Iraq, to be sure, and don't forget Puerto Rico and Guam. The vast majority of our "active military sites" are nickel & dime, as I can say from having visited a lot of them in decades past. All this is to say, try apples to apples next time.

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at September 8, 2008 10:31 AM