America’s military (over-)reach

By Christopher B. Daly

Among all the countries in the world, only a handful maintain military bases outside their own territory. With the exception of one country, those external bases number about 30.

The exception? The United States, of course.

How exceptional are we? We have 686 bases overseas. That’s more than 20 times more than the rest of the world combined.

Yes, they help maintain world peace — sort of, I guess. And yes, they facilitate world trade, I suppose.

But according to a new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, there is a huge intangible downside to all those bases. They encourage U.S. military adventures, and they generate a huge amount of ill-will toward America.

While you’re thinking about that, ponder this Defense Department map:


Each one of those regions has a commander, and I would assume that each of those commanders has the ambition to make his bones by achieving some military objective. From the North Pole to the South Pole, from Mexico to Malaysia, we are ready to do something to just about everybody, everywhere, all the time.


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4 responses to “America’s military (over-)reach

  1. David

    2 quick questions:

    1.Which of these geographic scopes of authority would you eliminate and why?

    2. Which of these geographic scopes of authority other than the polar regions are not included in the org charts for major news organizations–or your university’s org charts for admissions or fundraising?


    • profdaly

      To your first question, I’d say I’m not sure. I would want to consult with Ceasar, King Ferdinand, and Queen Victoria. (Like them, we are over-extended.)

      I don’t believe your second question is really apt, because journalism and higher ed are not violent means of imposing one country’s will on another.


      • David

        Thank you for replying.

        With respect, as a journalist or professor, you would judge your first answer as evasive–if you believe the US military or its desire to use it is conceptually overextended-rather than that, for example, individual decisions made regarding Iraq and Afghanistan were tragically foolish and supported with deception–you have to identify the actual overextension(s).

        For example, would you rule out the use of force in Africa (“Sorry, Capt. Phillips, you are on your own”)? Declare certain regions as safe zones where terrorists can establish a headquarters to launch attacks on American tourists, businesses or allies because you fear overextension?

        As for your interview subjects, Caesar would tell you his empire protected Rome for 4 centuries before a weakened military played a significant role in its downfall. Ferdinand would tell you his empire lasted even longer and Victoria would tell you her empire was doing just fine until followers of your philosophy decided “violent means of imposing one country’s will on another” was unwise–and then Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini showed that not doing so opened the door for someone to impose their will on you and kill dozens of millions.

        And how do you think Putin would react to a US renunciation of using violent means?

        Your second answer actually prove my point that you are using an org chart as a strawman for a different argument–the US military had similar org charts when WW2 broke out–and a military not in the world’s top 15 in size amid strident calls for avoiding overextension. Two oceans protected us, but change your interview subjects to Czech, Polish, Chinese or Holocaust historians and ask how US isolationism worked out for them.


      • profdaly

        My point was really much simpler: Like all previous empires, we can’t pay our bills.


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