A few online outposts have started to comment on Americas enormous collection of international military bases.
The United States maintains the largest collection of foreign military bases in world history. Officially, at the beginning of 2011, there were 1,429,367 American troops stationed in 150 countries worldwide. This number does not include contractors who outnumber troops in Iraq and Afghanistan or the operations of the CIA or other secretive units.
Anthropologist David Vine spent three years researching the changing structure of America’s military bases worldwide. His research found a network of more than 1000 American bases, located on every continent except Antarctica.
“While the collection of Cold War–era giant bases such as those in Germany are shrinking, the global infrastructure of bases overseas has exploded in size and scope”
He describes “a new generation of bases the military calls “lily pads” (as in a frog jumping across a pond toward its prey). These are small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and pre-positioned weaponry and supplies… Around the world, from Djibouti to the jungles of Honduras, the deserts of Mauritania to Australia’s tiny Cocos Islands, the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can, in as many countries as it can, as fast as it can.
Although statistics are hard to assemble, given the often-secretive nature of such bases, the Pentagon has probably built upwards of 50 lily pads and other small bases since around 2000, while exploring the construction of dozens more… not to mention 11 aircraft carrier task forces — essentially floating bases — and a significant, and growing, military presence in space. The United States currently spends an estimated $250 billion (A$241 billion) annually maintaining bases and troops overseas.” David Vine posted.
Mark Gillem agrees, and he explains in his book, America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire, “avoidance” of local populations, publicity, and potential opposition is the new aim. “To project its power, (the United States wants) secluded and self-contained outposts strategically located (around the world)” he says.
The strategy is demonstrated in Yemeni counter-terrorism efforts where “teams of CIA officers and US contractors have operated in Yemen for some time, hunting Al Qaeda militants and developing intelligence for drone strikes” as sited in the Los Angeles times.
An article in The Guardian stated that America has increased their military aid package to Yemen from less than US$11 million in 2006 to more than $70 million in 2009, as well as providing up to $121 million for development over the next three years.
In Australia, despite some local unrest and objections from China, America negotiated for 2500 US Marines to ‘share’ a base in Darwin. In a Sydney Morning Herald article, Australian Defense minister Stephen Smith said the US marine presence was ”qualitatively different” from a base although US marines have been given access to Australia’s air and naval bases.
The Pentagon is also pursuing plans for a drone and surveillance base in Australia’s Cocos Islands.
Nick Turse is another researcher of US military strategy from TomDispatch.com, “Forget full-scale invasions and large-footprint occupations on the Eurasian mainland. Instead, think: special operations forces… proxy armies… the militarisation of spying and intelligence… drone aircraft… cyber-attacks, and joint Pentagon operations with increasingly militarised ‘civilian’ government agencies,” he wrote. The ‘lily pad’ overseas bases have begun to generate some scrutiny from Republicans, Democrats and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. While congress is looking for ways to trim the deficit, closing such overseas bases might make more dollars and sense than ever.
Asian Defence News