Saturday, July 10, 2010

Close Foreign Bases Save Economy



In 1776 a segment of the New World threw in its lot to become the United States of America. It signaled the beginning of the decline of history’s largest empire, the British Empire.

The phrase, ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’ was a proud saying for hundreds of years. The English fought the French, Dutch Spanish and indigenous peoples to hold on to foreign bases and colonies in places from Burma, Malaysia, and India, to Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia to the Brits).

The British also had strange and self-serving agreements with Egypt and the Middle East. Creating national boundaries where none belonged and still create pain from Amman to Pakistan. Their hold over others made England the commercial power it became. Among other Empire money-makers were to trade India opium to China for tea. (The Chinese demanded Queen Victoria stop this trade to no avail.) Empire builders are an arrogant branch of humanity.

When empires stretch thin they begin to wane. It happened to the Greeks, Persians, Assyrians, Romans and Egyptians in the misled belief they were “the greatest of all peoples.”

Today’s map of the world presents an empire that is following in the same blood-drenched trail. Though many deny it, others rather not think about it, the United States military has for years been expanding overseas bases at a whirlwind clip.

It is time to look at ourselves and consider if we want to continue along that road. In the economic crisis that just gets scarier by the hour, can America afford some 1,000 military bases overseas.

One Pentagon report counts only 865 base sites, without including Iraq (possibly 100) and Afghanistan (80 and counting) and other secretive bases.

Why should we have bases in Europe? Can’t these democracies handle their own security? World War II has been over since 1945 and there are still 268 bases in Germany. At last count there were 124 in Japan, 87 in South Korea.

What does America’s national security have to do with a ski center in the Bavarian Alps and the 234 golf courses the Pentagon runs worldwide? With hungry and dying children in the third world, what kind of an image are we giving to the world? Does anyone care?

The NATO Watch Committee reports that America operates and/or controls between 700 and 800 military bases worldwide. Noam Chomsky gives about the same number in his books and lectures. In total there are 255,000-plus military personnel deployed abroad. Just imagine the annual rent money the U.S. military pays for the privilege of using their real estate. All in the name of “security.”

Another thought on expenses of the growing American Empire. (An empire that began with the Spanish-American War over a hundred years ago.) Why spend a dime on training Afghans to be soldiers when their Taliban cousins seem to fight fairly well without such training? Why continue teaching Central and South American military types at the special school in Georgia? After years of teaching Iraqis to fight for their country, little, if any progress, is evident.

The annual multi billion dollar cost of bases alone would make a huge dent in the U.S. sagging economy. I am encouraged that a senator last week began to question the wisdom of so many bases. Congress is so tied to the corporations that build war materials they look the other way. The Pentagon is snug in bed with them also. No need to be ignorant any longer, this information is in the public domain as well as in Annual Reports of the US Congress. If only they would read and get informed. Is it too much to ask congress and the White House to grow a backbone. America was sinking in a sea of red ink before the black gold began destroying everything in the Gulf of Mexico.

Empires (military or corporations) always suck the life out of themselves.


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