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Casting a Global Shadow: US Military Machine - Austin Kelley - 21-02-2010

Bases of Empire: Casting a Global Shadow

US military installations around the World

By Joan Roelofs

Counterpunch - 2010-02-19

Despite United States economic weakness, although not unrelated to it, our military casts a heavy shadow everywhere on earth, far beyond the major and minor wars it is now conducting. The geographical and functional scope of the US military is cosmic. Formal alliances are an important element, but even such bloated, increasingly un-Atlantic and shockingly un-pacific institutions as NATO are only the tip of the iceberg. Nations generally regarded as “neutral” are now junior partners in NATO: Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Malta, and Sweden. “In June 2009, war games ‘Loyal Arrow’ were conducted by 10 countries in Northern Sweden, as a preliminary move to extend US and NATO military presence into Arctic regions—and confronting Russia in that area,” as reported by Rick Rozoff .

Other affiliates are the NATO Mediterranean dialogue states: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia, and guests invited to NATO events: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. Whether committed or just coffee dates, NATO nations are required to meet exacting standards. This means, in most cases, not only increased power for their military institutions, but also secret agreements that negate democracy. If our ally’s elected government is military-skeptical, prime ministers and their parliamentary supporters may be kept uninformed of the NATO arrangements, as in the case of the nuclear weapons that were stationed in Greenland in violation of the Danish Constitution. The “normalization” of NATO, its penetration into the European Union, and its effect on civilian life (East and West Europe and Central Asia) are rarely examined.

Another wing of the US military is training, supplied to NATO partners and the military and civilian personnel of over 150 nations. The School of the Americas (now Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at Fort Benning, GA, is notorious. However, there are 200 institutions in the US that train foreign military, and many overseas. Any nation that buys US military equipment—there are about 150 such countries--gets trainers with the deal.

The joint exercises with our Special Operations Forces are also “trainings” that provide mentors for foreign troops, so that we can insure “interoperability.”

The scope of operations blurs the distinction between military and civilian functions. Among the problems that may call for a military response, according to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review are:

Rising demand for resources, rapid urbanization of littoral regions, the effects of climate change, the emergence of new strains of disease, and profound cultural and demographic tensions in several regions are just some of the trends whose complex interplay may spark or exacerbate future conflicts.

US military serves humanitarian missions everywhere, in disasters as well as routine social service needs. One of its functions, according to the QDR, is “preventing human suffering due to mass atrocities or large-scale natural disasters abroad.” It also tries to win the hearts and minds of the people by operating dental and pet care clinics. The modern missionaries discover the lay of the land, make friends with ambitious, intelligent locals, and rarely leave. All these interactions—alliances, partnerships, training, and humanitarian services-- create “networking,” collegial relationships with current and future elites, both civilian and military. Then there are the bases.

The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts, edited by Catherine Lutz (N.Y.: NYU Press, 2009) is a fitting sequel to another excellent book, The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of Foreign U.S. Military Bases, edited by Joseph Gerson and Bruce Birchard (Boston: AFSC/South End Press, 1991). Gerson and Cynthia Enloe are represented in both books.

Lutz is an anthropologist; many activists and anthropologists are contributors to this volume, which bodes well for information about what is really going on, in contrast to foreign policy experts who tell us mostly about elite opinion and their own ideological presuppositions. For information about the size, location, and real estate value of US military bases (domestic and foreign), one can look at the DOD Base Structure Report. This understates the number, omitting the bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the forthcoming one in Yemen. Also not listed are foreign bases that grant access rights to the US military. The 2009 BSR claimed 4,742 bases in the US, 121 in our territories, and 716 foreign. Some have estimated the foreign bases as nearer to 1,000, and the cost for those alone at around $250 billion annually.

The Lutz volume describes their effect on host countries and their people, and also reports the extensive activism protesting bases, some of which has been successful. For support and inspiration, there is an International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases . The current status of anti-base protests can be found on its web site. The anti-base movements have considerable leadership and participation by women, indigenous people, and racial minorities. Ironically, the US military has promoted multicultural democracy in foreign lands.

Lutz tells us what people don’t like about the bases. First of all, there is the sovereignty issue. Status of Forces Agreements often provide that the host countries’ criminal and environmental laws will not be applied to US personnel and bases. Secret agreements, such as those allowing for the presence of nuclear weapons, bypass parliamentary institutions, laws, and constitutions. Aside from formal provisions, a foreign military occupation confers power over the politics and society of the host. Thus the 235 bases currently in Germany are not without function. They have helped to keep the population “in line” with the “American way.” In addition, as everywhere, there is an economic stimulus to the restaurant, entertainment, and real estate industries, filling in the gaps where war and the globalization of manufacturing and agriculture have hollowed out local economies.

Nevertheless, another reason for unhappiness is the purpose of the installations. They are used for making war, spying on other countries, torture, and other activities that violate the host countries’ laws and the will of their people. To moral and legal concerns must be added the potential for “blowback,” as bases may be targeted by nations resentful of being attacked.

Locals are angry at the taking of their land, which may be rendered unfit forever for agriculture or tourism. Vicenza, Italy is a UNESCO heritage city; a second massive military base is being constructed there despite a longstanding protest movement. In all cases, the environmental consequences of base construction and operation are grave for land, sea, and air. The constant noise of overflights, artillery fire, and bombing practice is also a cause for complaint.

A prostitution industry and violent crimes are common followers of base installations.

One of the best-known and vigorous protest movement, that of Okinawa, was catalyzed by the 1995 rape of a 12 year old girl and the US refusal to surrender the suspects to local authorities. However, all of the above reasons motivated the protests. In addition, many Okinawans consider themselves a colonized population of Japan, and resent the placement of 75% of the US Japanese bases on their territory.

The Bases of Empire contains detailed case studies of Latin America and the Caribbean, Iraq, and Diego Garcia; US nuclear weapons bases in Europe; and protest movements in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Turkey. Furthermore, it includes anti-base activism on US territory in Hawaii and Vieques, Puerto Rico, which has served as a worldwide inspiration. The afterword, by Julian Aguon, a Chamoru (indigenous person of Guam), protests that his people are becoming extinct. Filipino and Korean workers were brought to Guam to build the bases, which are now slated for massive enlargement. In addition, Chamorus serve and die in the US armed forces at a disproportionate rate.

The overall picture may be bleak, yet there are signs of hope. The anti-base movements have had some successes. The US military is creating a new basing system for strategic reasons;unpopularity is also a motivator.

As Rumsfeld announced in 2004:

Our first notion is that our troops should be located in places where they are wanted, welcomed, and needed. In some cases, the presence and activities of our forces grate on local populations and have become an irritant for host governments. The best example is our massive headquarters in some of the most valuable downtown real estate in South Korea's capital city, Seoul - long a sore point for many South Koreans. Under our proposed changes, that headquarters will be dramatically reduced in size and moved to a location well south of the capital.

Now some of the “main operating bases” with permanent structures, family housing, etc., will be closed in favor of "forward operating sites" and “cooperative security locations,” often maintained by contractors to shield the principals from the gaze of the locals.

After many years of protest, spurred by prostitution and ensuing disease as well as the constitutional ban on nuclear weapons, the Philippines bases were closed. This success is somewhat countered by joint military exercises, ship visits, and Special Forces operations, but the activism has not ceased.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa refused to extend the contract for the base at Manta, and it is closing. A major movement demands the end to all US bases in Latin America and the Caribbean, and deplores the US quest for new bases in Colombia. Although the Honduran request for the closure of the US base at Palmerola was not a success, it was a serious enough threat to trigger the overthrow squad. In Vieques, Puerto Rico, which was bombed for 180 days in a year, the protest began with environmental and health concerns, and was reinforced in 1999 when a security guard was killed by a stray bomb. Worldwide solidarity activists aided in the base closure, and the international movement continues today.

The environmental and political consequences of bases within the US are also worthy of investigation, yet one rarely sees comprehensive studies by journalists, social scientists, or activists. Political science and environmental studies textbooks mostly ignore them. At the very least, they represent another system of local government. The Military Toxics Project, which expressed serious concerns of military families and civilian base workers, has ceased for lack of funds. We are indebted to Catherine Lutz for authoring an earlier book on the impact of a domestic base: Homefront: A Military City and the American 20th Century (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), a study of Fayetteville, NC, home of Fort Bragg. Her introduction asserts: “In an important sense, though, we all inhabit an army camp, mobilized to lend support to the permanent state of war readiness that has been with us since World War II.”

Joan Roelofs is Professor Emerita of Political Science, Keene State College, New Hampshire. She is the translator of Victor Considerant’s Principles of Socialism (Maisonneuve Press, 2006), and author of Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (SUNY Press, 2003) and Greening Cities (Apex-Bootstrap Press, 1996). On her site is the outline of an adult education course on “The Military-Industrial Complex,” with images, citations, and links. Contact:

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Casting a Global Shadow: US Military Machine - Austin Kelley - 21-02-2010

America's Global Weapons Monopoly

Don't Call It "the Global Arms Trade"

February 21, 2010

By Frida Berrigan
Source: TomDispatch

On the relatively rare occasions when the media turns its attention to U.S. weapons sales abroad and shines its not-so-bright spotlight on the latest set of facts and figures, it invariably speaks of "the global arms trade."

Let's consider that label for a moment, word by word:

*It is global, since there are few places on the planet that lie beyond the reach of the weapons industry.

*Arms sounds so old-fashioned and anodyne when what we're talking about is advanced technology designed to kill and maim.

*And trade suggests a give and take among many parties when, if we're looking at the figures for that "trade" in a clear-eyed way, there is really just one seller and so many buyers.

How about updating it this way: "the global weapons monopoly."

In 2008, according to an authoritative report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), $55.2 billion in weapons deals were concluded worldwide. Of that total, the United States was responsible for $37.8 billion in weapons sales agreements, or 68.4% of the total "trade." Some of these agreements were long-term ones and did not result in 2008 deliveries of weapons systems, but these latest figures are a good gauge of the global appetite for weapons. It doesn't take a PhD in economics to recognize that, when one nation accounts for nearly 70% of weapons sales, the term "global arms trade" doesn't quite cut it.

Consider the "competition" and reality comes into focus. Take a guess on which country is the number two weapons exporter on the planet: China? Russia? No, Italy, with a relatively paltry $3.7 billion in agreements with other countries or just 9% of the U.S. market share. Russia, that former Cold War superpower in the "trade," was close behind Italy, with only $3.5 billion in arms agreements.

U.S. weapons manufacturers have come a long way, baby, since those Cold War days when the United States really did have a major competitor. For instance, the Congressional Research Service's data for 1990, the last year of the Soviet Union's existence, shows global weapons sales totaling $32.7 billion, with the United States accounting for $12.1 billion of that or 37% of the market. For its part, the Soviet Union was responsible for a competitive $10.7 billion in deals inked that year. France, China, and the United Kingdom accounted for most of the rest.

Since then, the global appetite for weapons has only grown more voracious, while the number of purveyors has shrunk to the point where the Pentagon could hang out a sign: "We arm the world." No kidding, it's true.

Cambodia ($304,000), Comoros ($895,000), Colombia ($256 million), Guinea ($200,000), Greece ($225 million), Great Britain ($1.1 billion), the Philippines ($72.9 million), Poland ($79.8 million), and Peru ($16.4 million) all buy U.S. arms, as does almost every country not in that list. U.S. weapons, and only U.S. weapons, are coveted by presidents and prime ministers, generals and strongmen.

From the Pentagon's own data (which differs from that in the CRS report), here are the top ten nations which made Foreign Military Sales agreements with the Pentagon, and so with U.S. weapons makers, in 2008:

Saudi Arabia $6.06 billion
Iraq $2.50 billion
Morocco $2.41 billion
Egypt $2.31 billion
Israel $1.32 billion
Australia $1.13 billion
South Korea $1.12 billion
Great Britain $1.10 billion
India $1 billion
Japan $840 million

That's more than $17 billion in weapons right there. Some of these countries are consistently eager buyers, and some are not. Morocco, for example, is only in that top-ten list because it was green-lighted to buy 24 of Lockheed Martin's F-16 fighter planes at $360 million (or so) for each aircraft, an expensive one-shot deal. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia (which inked $14.71 billion in weapons agreements between 2001 and 2008), Egypt ($13.25 billion) and Israel ($11.27 billion) are such regular customers that they should have the equivalent of one of those "buy 10, get the 11th free" punch cards doled out by your favorite coffee shop.

To sum up, the U.S. has a virtual global monopoly on exporting tools of force and destruction. Call it market saturation. Call it anything you like, just not the "global arms trade."

Getting Even More Competitive?

It used to be that the United States exported goods, products, and machinery of all sorts in prodigious quantities: cars and trucks, steel and computers, and high-tech gizmos. But those days are largely over.

The Obama administration now wants to launch a green manufacturing revolution in the U.S., and in February, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced a new "National Export Initiative" with the aim of doubling American exports, a move he said would support the creation of two million new jobs. The U.S. could, of course, lose the renewable-energy race to China and that new exports program may never get off the ground. In one area, however, the U.S. is manufacturing products that are distinctly wanted -- things that go boom in the night -- and there the Pentagon is working hard to increase market share.

Don't for a second think that the American global monopoly on weapons sales is accidental or unintentional. The constant and lucrative growth of this market for U.S. weapons makers has been ensured by shrewd strategic planning. Washington is constantly thinking of new and inventive ways to flog its deadly wares throughout the world.

How do you improve on near perfection? In the interest of enhancing that "competitive" edge in weapons sales, the Obama administration is investigating the possibility of revising export laws to make it even easier to sell military technology abroad. As Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell explained in January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to see "wholesale changes to the rules and regulations on government technology exports" in the name of "competitiveness."

When he says "government technology exports," Morell of course means weapons and other military technologies. "Tinkering with our antiquated, bureaucratic, overly cumbersome system is not enough to maintain our competitiveness in the global economy and also help our friends and allies buy the equipment they need to contribute to global security," he continued, "[Gates] strongly supports the administration's efforts to completely reform our export control regime, starting ideally with a blank sheet of paper."

The laws that regulate U.S. weapons exports are a jumbled mess, but in essence they delineate what the United States can sell to whom and through what bureaucratic mechanisms. According to U.S. law, for example, there are actually a few countries that cannot receive U.S. weapons. Myanmar under the military junta and Venezuela while led by Hugo Chavez are two examples. There are also some weapons systems that are not intended for export. Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor jet fighter was -- until the Pentagon recently stopped buying the plane -- deemed too sophisticated or sensitive to sell abroad. And there are reporting requirements that give members of Congress a window of opportunity within which they can question or oppose proposed weapons exports.

Given what's being sold, these export controls are remarkably minimal in nature and are constantly under assault by the weapons industry. Bans on weapons sales to particular countries are regularly lifted through aggressive lobbying. (Indonesia, for example, was offered $50 million in weapons from 2006 to 2008 after an almost decade long congressional arms embargo.) The industry also works to relax controls on new technology exports to allies. Japan and Australia have mounted campaigns to win the ability to buy F-22 Raptors, potential sales that Lockheed Martin is now especially happy to entertain. The reporting window to Congress remains an important export control, but the time frame is shrinking as more countries are being "fast tracked," making it harder for distracted representatives to react when a controversial sale comes up.

In addition to revising these export controls, the administration is looking at the issue of "dual-use" technologies. These are not weapons. They do not shoot or explode. Included are high-speed computer processors, surveillance and detection networks, and a host of other complex and evolving technologies that could have military as well as civilian applications. This category might also include intangible items like cyber-entities or access to controlled web environments.

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and other major weapons manufacturers have invested billions of dollars from the Pentagon's research and development budgets in exploring and perfecting such technologies, and now they are eager to sell them to foreign buyers along with the usual fighter planes, combat ships, and guided missiles. But the rules as they stand make this something less than a slam dunk. So the weapons industry and the Pentagon are arguing for "updating" the rules. If you translate updating as "loosening" the rules, then the United States would indeed be more "competitive," but who exactly are we trying to beat?

Weapons Sales are Red Hot

"What's Hot?" is the title of Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieranga's blog entry for January 4, 2010. Wieranga is the Director of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is charged with overseeing weapons exports, and such pillow talk is evidently more than acceptable -- at least when it's about weapons sales. In fact, Wieranga could barely restrain himself that day, adding: "Afghanistan is really HOT!" Admittedly, on that day the temperature in Kabul was just above freezing, but not at the Pentagon, where arms sales to Afghanistan evidently create a lot of heat.

As Wieranga went on to write, the Obama administration's new 2010/2011 budget allocates $6 billion in weaponry for Afghan Security Forces. The Afghans will actually get those weapons for free, but U.S. weapons makers will make real money delivering them at taxpayers' expense and, as the Vice Admiral pointed out, that "means there is a staggering amount of acquisition work to do."

It's not just Afghanistan that's now in the torrid zone. Weapons sales all over the world will be smoking in 2010 and beyond.

The year began with a bang when Wieranga's Agency announced that the Obama administration had decided to sell a nifty $6 billion in weapons to Taiwan. Even as the United States leans heavily on China for debt servicing, Washington is giving the Mainland a big raspberry by offering the island of 22 million off its coast (which Washington does not formally recognize as an independent nation), a lethal cocktail of weaponry that includes $3 billion in Black Hawk helicopters. This deal comes on top of more than $11 billion in U.S. weapons exports to Taiwan over the last decade, and is certain to set Chinese-U.S. relations back a step or two.

Other bonanzas on the horizon? Brazil wants new fighter planes and Boeing is battling a French company for the contract in a deal that could be worth a whopping $7 billion. India, once a major arms buyer from the Soviet Union, is now another big buy-American customer, with Boeing and Lockheed Martin vying to equip its air force with new fighter planes in deals that Boeing estimates may reach $11 billion.

Such deals are staggering. They contribute more bang and blast to a world already bristling with particularly lethal weaponry. They are a striking American success story in a time filled with failures. Put in the lurid but everyday terms of a nation weaned on reality television, the Pentagon is pimping for the U.S. weapons industry. The weapons industry, for its part, is a pusher for every kind of lethal technology. The two of them together are working to ensure that more of the same will flow out of the U.S. in ever easier and more lucrative ways.

Global arms trade? Send that one back to the Department of Euphemisms. Pimps and pushers with a lucrative global monopoly on a killing drug -- maybe that's the language we need. And maybe, just maybe, it's time to launch a "war on weapons."

Frida Berrigan is a Senior Program Associate with the New America Foundation's Arms and Security Initiative. "Weapons at War 2008," a report she co-authored with William D. Hartung, goes into much more detail about the politics and pratfalls of weapons exports.

[This article first appeared on, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project, author of The End of Victory Culture, and editor of The World According to Tomdispatch: America in the New Age of Empire.]

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives