Embattled Garrisons: Comparative Base Politics and American Globalism

Embattled Garrisons: Comparative Base Politics and American Globalism

Embattled Garrisons: Comparative Base Politics and American Globalism

Embattled Garrisons: Comparative Base Politics and American Globalism

Excerpt

The presence of foreign troops on the soil of independent nations has traditionally been at once an unusual and an uncomfortable reality. Historically overseas military bases have almost invariably been the product of empires, and have disappeared with the liberation of their peoples. For the citizens of the United States, they were for the first century of the Republic and beyond a particularly noxious form of foreign entanglement. Only from the late 1930s, as the storm clouds of World War II began to deepen, did overseas military bases in other sovereign nations gradually become a more acceptable reality, for both Americans and others.

Since World War II, foreign bases have come to seem commonplace, and even natural—especially to Americans—despite their earlier historic uniqueness. As we will see, bases have come to perform important roles in international affairs: deterring aggression, reinforcing alliance relations, inhibiting balance-of-power conflict, providing formidably efficient global logistics networks, assuring smooth resource flows, and helping most recently to combat terrorism. Overseas bases have become the very sinews of an American globalism that in any other age would be known as empire.

Yet these global guardians are also themselves both vulnerable and often controversial. However omnipotent the power of American arms may be in technical and geopolitical terms, it must also, like the military of other great powers past and present, contend with the domestic political context of host nations and indeed, often with dissent at home. Other great powers, such as Russia, Britain, and France, have already, by and large, lost their global basing networks, under a range of economic and political pressures. And since 9/11, the United States has also come to face an increasingly complex political basing problem. As the struggle against terrorism has broadened into a global “arc of instability” within the developing world, and as even America's industrialized allies have grown skeptical and weary, the pressures on America to retrench have deepened once again, from Saudi Arabia to Turkey, South Korea, and beyond. Something much larger than an “Iraq War syndrome” is at work, although Iraq has proven to be an important catalyst.

In some countries, to be sure, the broad skepticism and antagonism about foreign bases have been arrested, at least for a while. In some few . . .

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