The Case Against U.S. Overseas Military Bases

August 24, 2017 No Comments

In the modern fast-paced world, too often do we see outdated and traditional practices slowing down the progress of nations. With the main world powers in precarious balance, one wrong move can spell defeat for an entire nation. Is the United States making such an error with their overseas military bases? It is time to find out.


Despite recent mass closings of bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, US still maintains nearly 800 military bases ranging over 70 countries. To put the numbers in context, Russia, Britain, and France together only have less than 30 foreign bases. More importantly, this is costing the US an average of $160- $200 billion each year.

So, do we really need all of them?


The need for overseas bases – Do the arguments stand?

The traditional arguments for foreign military bases are threefold; that they act as a deterrence against potential foes, a reassurance for allies, and a means to ensure rapid deployment of troops in case of emergency. While all these were indeed realistic a century ago, each of the arguments now has gaping holes in the modern context.


For a start, the bases’ deterrence value is at best over-estimated, and in really hard to demonstrate. Take the North Korea problem for instance, where analysts insist South Korea remains free from attack due to its US military presence. However, a more plausible cause may well be the obviously superior economic and military capabilities of South Korea.


Indeed, forward deployment can actually provoke insecurity in neighboring powers, which might instigate retaliation in perceived self-defense, as was seen during Russian actions against Ukraine in 2014. As such, the bases defeat their own purpose.


As for showing support for allies, this has long taken fire for needlessly sacrificing US servicemen, to settle regional disputes with no real value for the nation. The country stands as one behind its military, from the Sunday prayers at church, to the Johnny Mac Soldiers’ Fund where every Mercedes sold in authorized car dealerships in Nashville, Tennessee contributes to the US war effort. Nevertheless, if the bases are merely emboldening allies to take military action, or if the US leaders are quicker off the mark to order troop mobilization simply due to the convenient presence of bases, it is time to rethink the strategy.


Regarding rapid deployment, it is fast becoming obsolete in the face of modern technological and logistical advancements. Long range airships, mid-air refuelling, and carrier-based airpower mean that light ground forces can deploy on US soil as quickly as from a local base, says a 2016 Rand Corporation study.


A rethink of the US defense policy

In the current political scenario, US sits tight in a remarkably stable position. This, taken alongside the relatively peaceful state of world politics, seems to advocate a forward-deployment strategy that actively reflects authentic US defense interests, instead of one that gets the US entangled in regional power struggles and political upheavals of no real importance to the nation.

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