Is It Time to Rethink Our Military Foreign Base Strategy?

Empires have historically extended military reach to extract value from other countries. At the height of its power in 117 AD, Rome maintained 37 foreign military bases within its extended empire. Great Britain had 36 such major bases at its zenith in 1898, quartering troops in major cities of its colonies, the likes of which incited America to revolution. The United States now maintains 37 major bases, similar to other historical empires.

However, America’s military dominance extends well beyond its major bases, or any empire in history. With a military budget of over $1.4 trillion a year, the United States spends twice the budget of all other nations combined, supporting 1,200 bases on foreign soil, controlling 95 percent of the world’s foreign military bases at a cost of $120 billion a year (Not including Iraq and Afghanistan). Our military has grown staggeringly to consume the majority of America’s tax dollars, supporting:
• 2.5 million military personnel
• 800,000 civil service and private hires
• Deployments in 135 countries with bases in 63 countries valued at $700 billion
• 865 foreign bases (Not including 200 in Afghanistan and Iraq, and perhaps an additional 200 unlisted sites)
• 4,400 domestic U.S. military sites
• 22 million acres of owned land and an additional 10 million of leased land
• 845,000 owned buildings

Yet our foreign bases concentrate on outdated strategies of antique wars (735 out of 865 bases) rather than transferring and transforming to future strategic security needs:
• 289 Germany
• 230 Europe (Including 30 NATO, Not Including Germany)
• 129 Japan
• 117 South Korea
• 48 Middle East (Not counting Iraq and Afghanistan)
• 16 strategic supply Islands
• 15 South and Central America
• 6 East Asia (not Including S. Korea and Japan)
• 2 Africa
• 1 Australia

We have built amenities to support our foreign bases such as 230 military golf courses yet have established wasteful and unclear military goals for our foreign bases. As an example, about 200 bases were built in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the $2.4 billion was spent building a dozen bases that originally were intended to continue America’s history of establishing outposts in defeated lands. In addition to airports and fortifications, we built 25-meter swimming pools, football and softball fields, full-service gyms, squash courts, and movie theaters. Now, we are preparing to turn these bases over to Iraqis who have shown a propensity to gut and loot our bases only hours after our departure.

If America’s military strategy is to protect the American people, then its foreign base budget is overtly out of line with its mission, and has misplaced priorities outside our national interest. If it is to tamp down on past international aggressors, their American allegiance can in no way justify our current base expenditures. If it our strategy is to continue our pre-globalization era colonization strategies of projecting gunboat diplomacy to control the world’s commodities, it has already been encircled by China’s alternative worldwide strategy of commodity collaboration. If it is to secure our significant share of the world’s energy resources, our unintended destruction of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency is quickly destroying any military control of oil and gas options except for conquest and occupation.

Continuance of our fixed base strategy has outlived Russia’s dominance, sourly witnessed North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear circumvention, and now faces a Chinese military buildup that will technologically outmaneuver our aging fleets. America cannot be bludgeoned by our political system that continues to waste precious military expenditures on outdated military structures at the expense of a national strategy to propel us much more cost effectively into a more militarily secure future that stresses agility as opposed to foreign fortresses.

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Filed under National Security, War

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