The American Empire’s Bases Without Borders: New U.S. Global Basing Strategy Gears for a War to Last for Generations*

“Regime removal” in Iraq

This grand strategy was galvanized into modes of action upon the assumption into the presidency of Bush as underlined in his Quadrennial Defense Review of 2001, pre-emptive doctrine, Nuclear Posture Review and the National Security Strategy Directive (NSSD) of 2002. A former Bush treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, revealed early January 2004 that within the first three months of the Bush presidency there was already a decision to attack Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. The elaborate plan included post-war occupation, war crimes tribunals and the privatization of Iraqi oil.6 But Iraq and the Middle East were not the sole targets because the launching of wars, covert operations and other forms of intervention was aimed against a total of 80 countries – later reduced to 60 – under the CIA’s “Going to War” and “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” 7 The new “attack matrix” began to be implemented as soon as the Bush regime acquired the pretext – the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks – to do so. In early 2002, Bush gave the directive to topple Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, allegations about his links to 9/11 remained unfounded.

While the “war on terror” gave U.S. imperialism the muscle to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq as a colonial force and install puppet regimes there, it also expanded the reach and breadth of its rings of military bases and other installations and forward deployed forces using various pretexts. Wars are being waged by American warmongers to build new military bases in nations that they vanquish as well as in neighboring countries from where new wars of intervention against new targets can be launched. Thus, for instance, the wars in Bosnia (1995) and in Kosovo (1999) resulted in the building of new military bases in Bosnia; Camp Bondsteel, a major military complex in southeastern Kosovo; and similar ones in Macedonia, Albania, and Hungary. During the 1990-1991 Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns against Iraq, the U.S. built up new military bases in the Persian Gulf centered in Saudi Arabia.

But since 9/11, new bases have been posted as well in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgiztan and Tajikistan. In its present colonial occupation of Iraq, the U.S. maintains about six military bases including a military base inside the Baghdad international airport; the 25-sq. km. Camp Anaconda north of Baghdad; Tallil air base near Nasariyah; in the western desert near the Syrian border; and at Bashur air field in the Kurdish region of the north. The U.S. also plans to establish military bases and recreation complexes in the whole northern quarter of Kuwait (1,600 sq. m. out of Kuwait’s 6,900 sq.m. 8

Elsewhere in South America, out of nine military bases five were added in 2001-2002 in the following locations: Vieques, Puerto Rico; Manta, Ecuador; Aruba’ Curacao; Comalapsa, El Salvador; Colombia; and Bahamas. The U.S. main military bases in Vieques supports its military missions in the Persian Gulf and Europe.

Other new military bases are being considered for Georgia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in North Africa; Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone and Kenya in sub-Saharan Africa; as well as in Pakistan (where the U.S. now has four bases), India, the Philippines, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.9 Growing U.S. intervention in Nepal is beginning to be a prelude toward constructing a military base there as part of a loop of bases encircling China.

Mid-January 2003, the “a new front in the war on terror” was opened in the Sahara desert of West Africa which is inhabited by Muslim populations. A vanguard U.S. force arrived in Mauritania to pave the way for a $100 million plan to bolster military forces and border patrols of Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger.

Sweeping changes

Described as “the most sweeping changes in the U.S. military posture abroad in half a century”10, the strengthening of U.S. military supremacy worldwide is being prioritized in what Pentagon now calls the “arc of instability” – vast swaths of land and seas covering Latin America, North Africa, Central Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia including the Philippines and Indonesia. This is identical with what used to be described as Third World and covers the world’s strategic oil reserves. All these are on top of defense treaties that the U.S. maintains with 31 countries and access agreements with 51 countries.

Before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. troops stationed abroad numbered 298,490: 88,105 in Europe; 91,670 in East Asia and the Pacific (40,217 in Japan, 37,605 in South Korea); 26,878 in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa; and 14,015 in South America.11 Adding, however, the 130,000 U.S. troops now occupying Iraq, and tens of thousands of others deployed in the Philippines and other locations, the total number of U.S. troops could reach 500,000.

What is now evolving is the most extensive global realignment of U.S. military forces involving the creation of a network of remote military bases designed for the preemptive and rapid projection of U.S. military power against its perceived enemies, hostile states and potential rivals. Under the new basing strategy, some permanent overseas bases will be replaced with smaller facilities while new but small “forward operating bases” will rise in many new locations. The new “forward operating bases,” which will be maintained by small support units, will be built in southern Europe, former Soviet republics, the Middle East and Asia, Pentagon officials said middle of last year.12

Outside the hubs (permanent bases) and forward operating bases would lie a ring of “forward operating locations,” or prearranged but unmaintained staging areas that U.S. forces build in host nations and which can be occupied quickly in a conflict situation. In the Persian Gulf, some of the forward operating bases have been put up in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Similar smaller bases have been built or are being built in Eastern Europe that could be used as staging areas to move troops quickly to Africa and the Middle East.13

In anticipation of an attack against North Korea, the U.S. is also relocating 18,000 Army troops from the DMZ in South Korea to areas 75 miles south meant to make them more mobile for quick retaliation and beyond the reach of missiles that may be unleashed by Pyongyang as a defensive measure.

Military base in the Philippines

The Pentagon, according to Washington Post, still maintains plans to reestablish bases or locations in the Philippines, although it remains unclear how this will finally materialize. Since last year, the U.S. military including a delegation from the U.S. National Defense University has tried to convince the Philippine government to reestablish permanent military bases here. 14

But the continuing Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) war exercises are proving to be an effective way of installing military facilities and rotational forces that will, so to speak, cobble together the basic bricks of a military facility. U.S. troops including SOFs are coming to the Philippines in hundreds and thousands on a regular and rotational basis with some of them remaining for several months along with sophisticated weaponry and equipment. A Pentagon official once called this, “temporary-permanent” base.

U.S. plans to maintain bases in the Philippines and possibly other Southeast Asian nations are intended for its troops to operate in the region as well as to serve as naval staging posts to support the transit of carrier groups toward the Indian Ocean and Middle East. 15

Related to this, the Pentagon is planning to earmark over $1 billion for its overseas military construction although 70 percent of this will be used for Europe and South Korea.16

Integral to the new basing strategy and redeployment is what is emerging to be a new system of military alliances, the formation and propping up of new puppet regimes and surrogate armies and other forms of global intervention. In Asia, U.S. imperialism is pushing for the integration of a security arrangement among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). It is also gearing for the mutation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) into a new alliance composed of the “New Europe” – countries allied to the former USSR and some former Soviet republics – in the light of the growing signs of countries from the “Old Europe” particularly France and Germany to form an independent EU Rapid Reaction Force (RRF).17 All these offer U.S. imperialism some flexibility in the course of its growing aggressive actions that are being pursued under its unilateralist and pre-emptive doctrines, i.e., to mobilize the support of what it calls new “coalitions of the willing” when it is to its advantage.

Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson, commander of 1,800 troops at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti at the entrance to the Red Sea, says the new basing strategy is designed to put “preventive war” into action, requiring a “global presence,” which means establishing hegemony over every corner of the world. The right-wing American Enterprise Institute calls this “a global cavalry” that can ride in from “frontier stockades” and shoot up the “bad guys.” 18

With the new basing strategy laid out, expect a new long-term war. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney stressed that point himself on Jan. 15, 2004 when he said that the new structures spreading into new areas of the globe are geared for a “war on terrorism” that could last for generations.

All these developments bring U.S. imperialism to a new height of militarism and aggression surpassing the monstrosity that it reached during the Cold War. On a wider-scale, it continues to undermine the independence, freedom and territorial integrity of many nations – especially the small ones – and worsen the exploitation and oppression that they experience under imperialist globalization. As in the past, it also underscores the fact that during periods of acute global capitalist crisis U.S. imperialism is bound to commit more acts of genocide and plunder against many peoples of the world.

In countries where U.S. military forces are present or are intimidating because of their proximity, U.S. imperialism is able to pursue its oil and other corporate projects, allow the expansion and domination of TNC operations while the host or vanquished countries are subjected to the bitter pills of liberalization, privatization and other globalization prescriptions. Indeed, U.S. interventionism promotes and secures imperialism’s economic and geopolitical objectives in every corner of the world.

Poor and oppressed peoples

Even if U.S. imperialism camouflages itself with universalist and democratic values and claims to be a benign empire in order to justify its intervention and acts of aggression, its main victims are the poor and oppressed peoples of the world reminiscent of the massacres and plunder it committed in more than 200 wars of intervention.

On the other hand, this new stage of U.S. imperialism, militarism and fascism will accelerate the decline of the American Empire not only because huge resources are used up for non-productive and destructive, adventurist wars but also by creating new zones of instability, peer competition and ever-increasing people’s resistance that U.S. military power will be unable to contend with in the years ahead.

1. David Rennie, Telegraph UK, Dec. 31, 2003.
2. Bobby Tuazon, “The New American Empire and the Rise of State Terrorism,” CAIS Monograph, Oct. 2003.
3. Tuazon, “Bush’s War on Terrorism and the U.S. Drive for World Hegemony,” from the book Unmasking the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialist Hegemony and Crisis. 2002. Philippines, Center for Anti-Imperialist Studies.
4. Chalmers Johnson, “America’s Empire of Bases,” TomDispatch, Jan. 15, 2004. By today, Johnson estimates that the actual size of U.S. military power would top 1,000 bases in foreign countries.
5. Larry Everest, “The U.S. Drive to War on Iraq,” ZMag, July-August 2002.
6. CBS News, “Saddam’s Ouster Planned in 2001?” Jan. 10, 2004.
7. Washington Post, Jan. 31, 2002.
8. Johnson, “America’s…”
9. Ben Moxham, “The U.S. Military: Bringing Hope ‘to Every Corner of the World,’” Focus on the Global South; also Johnson, “America’s…”
10. Foreign Affairs, September/October 2003.
11. Harpal Brar, “Imperialism – Intensification of the Struggle for a New Re-Division of the World,” Monthly Review 2003.
12. Vernon Loeb, “New Bases Reflect Shift in Military,” Washington Post, June 9, 2003.
13. Lawrence Morahan, “U.S. Plans for Military Bases Reflect New Political Reality,”, April 30, 2003.
14. “Worldwide Reorientation of U.S. Military Basing in Prospect,” Center for Defense Information, Sept. 19, 2003.
15. “Worldwide Reorientation…”
16. Morahan.
17. Brar, “Imperialism – Intensification.”
18. Johnson, “America’s…”

* This article is based on a paper contributed by the author for the Center for Anti-Imperialist Studies (CAIS) in the international conference Mumbai Resistance 2004, January 16-19, 2004, in Mumbai, India.(

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