Drawing Down the Empire?

John Glaser, September 05, 2011

Along with all the media buzz about how everyone is coming together in wonderful harmony to agree that military spending should at least be considered for possible cuts along with the rest of the budget, are totally false claims of withdrawal. No, not “withdrawals” of the type drug fiends endure and which would surely be analogous to the hyperventilating, spastic conniption the welfare-dependent defense corporations would experience if substantial cuts actually took place. They’re talking about withdrawal, as in a drawdown of troop levels – and not just in Iraq and Afghanistan (yeah, right).

Take this article entitled “Amid cuts, US military withdraws from Europe.” It explains that besides “the winding down of these wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, a “larger strategic change [is] underway” and will result in “an enormous change.” To what region of America’s global empire of bases is this misleading hype directed? Europe of course, where current plans “will cut European based troops from 42,000 today to 37,000 by 2015.”

What drastic measures! Bringing home 5,000 troops from Europe over 4 years? This is what the political class and the media like to refer to as cutting the military. Snip, snip.

First of all, from what I can tell, the article is referring only to army personnel in Europe. If we include the rest of our military deployments in Europe, the current total is almost double that, at nearly 80,000 troops. Talk of drawing down our military deployments and closing down military bases in Europe – which is not happening to any substantial degree – usually rests upon the logic that such excessive deployments in Europe became strategically obsolete once the Cold War ended. This misunderstands US strategy. The Cold War was less the reason for peppering US military presence throughout the continent and more a pretext. The reasons were much different…namely, to maintain “unquestioned power” with “military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs – an aim much easier accomplished with “essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict.”

That logic sticks around, despite it being quite obvious that US national security planners don’t care if the Cold War reasons for the empire seem obsolete. Robert Higgs gave a nice illustration of this at the Independent Institute blog just recently. After a few years of occupying and rebuilding Japan after WWII, the Japanese constitution was written and included an unequivocal renunciation of war. “The Japanese people,” Chapter II Article 9 reads, “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation” and so “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” At this point, Higgs points out, US occupation of Japan lost its perceived justifications. Japan no longer represented a threat, or even a potential future threat.

Yet the Yankees never left Japan. Their military installations remain there today, sixty-six years after Japan’s surrender. These bases are staffed by some 36,000 U.S. military personnel and more than 5,000 American civilians employed by the U.S. Department of Defense.

About three-quarters of the U.S. military bases in Japan are located on the islands of Okinawa, where the fiercest battle of the Pacific war occurred in the spring of 1945, causing horrendouslosses on both sides, including many thousands of civilian deaths, and the destruction of about 90 percent of the islands’ buildings.

As if the wartime devastation were not enough, the American military personnel on Okinawa since 1945 have made themselves a chronic nuisance to the local populace, perpetrating crimes that range from automobile-related incidents, such as hit and run, to assaults and rapes. U.S. aircraft sometimes crash into civilian areas. Most Okinawans devoutly desire that these unwelcome, seemingly permanent American occupiers would get out.

That’s at least as “obsolete” that the European bases (the US is likely to increase its presence in Asia, as I explained here). But there they remain, as Higgs writes, “primarily to preserve the global empire of bases.” And that Empire is not waning, despite what politicos and pundits piously prattle on about the supposed bipartisan consensus on military spending. As William Blum writes, following the first Gulf war, the US got new bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. After the interventions in the Balkan wars of the mid-late nineties, the US added bases in Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Bosnia, and Croatia. The post 9/11 war in Afghanistan expanded the Empire in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Yemen, and Djibouti. We’re engaged in hot wars, covert wars, proxy wars – as much now as ever, at truly immense human and financial costs. Military spending makes up 59% of discretionary spending in the 2012 federal budget. Apart from the “snip, snip” that initial article proclaimed (few thousand troops here and there), can anyone honestly say that America is poised for a drawdown?




5 Responses to “Drawing Down the Empire?”

  1. Asama bin Laden agreed with our leaders on this one, in keeping a strong military presence all over Europe, Asia and indeed the world. How else could the total collapse of the empire be accelerated?

  2. [...] U.S. crimes against Libya the first time around, escalating violence in the drug war, the myth that America is drawing down the empire, the escape from the rule of law in occupied Palestine, and how ideological propaganda is turning [...]

  3. [...] which the military and corporate sectors are closely aligned and both have a perceived interest in expansion, by whatever means; coupled with a political and national security establishment seeking to [...]

  4. [...] which the military and corporate sectors are closely aligned and both have a perceived interest in expansion, by whatever means; coupled with a political and national security establishment seeking to [...]

  5. [...] But I actually only chose to respond to a portion of Weinstein’s column (brevity pays these days). He also incorrectly argued that defense budgets aren’t part of our fiscal problems right now. I’ve written enough on defense budgets to lay that one to rest. But Weinstein argues entitlements are the problem. Yes, they’re a problem. But let’s consider discretionary spending as well and what that might do to the debt and deficits: military spending makes up 59% of discretionary spending in the 2012 federal budget. And we’re wasting it on an aging Empire. [...]