The simplest proof of the existence of American Empire is the widespread plethora of military posts and bases around the world. The number varies, depending on who’s counting. A quick Google search shows a staggering variety of numbers – and arguably growth of same over time. Quibbles occur, of course – does an occupied country like Iraq or Afghanistan count as one big post? Or is each compound inside the country a separate area for counting purposes? Decisions, decisions.
Regardless of how you count them, the American Empire has a lot of troops overseas, which leads to two interesting questions:
The first was raised today in Rich Galen’s Mullings column, in which the normally thoughtful Mr. Galen takes a brief vacation from reason and says, “We can’t – and shouldn’t – close every military installation outside of U.S. territory…” This leads to the obvious, “Why not?” Why are there US troops on any soil but American soil? And given the Founders’ distaste for standing armies (the bane of liberty – Elbridge Gerry), one might well ask “why are there any American troops at all, let alone ones stationed in places that they didn’t belong in the first place?”
The second question was raised by Sheriff Babeau of Arizona, when he now famously noted that there are more American troops on the Korean border, protecting Korea from invasion, than there are on the American border, protecting America from invasion.
The answer to both these questions is similar and intertwined: The egomaniacs that infest Congress do not wish to see themselves, or be seen by others, as unimportant and irrelevant. Hurts their little feelings, that does. And so they strive in theaters both foreign and domestic to have the American government (which is how they identify themselves) seen as important and indispensable. They want to see themselves as striding among the gobbldygook speaking foreigners providing protection and security, much as they generate laws and welfare benefits (see Jim Bovard’s latest take here on the welfare issue) to the downtrodden huddled masses at home. Not, of course, that they would use their own personal wealth to do so, when it’s easier to demand their egotistic satisfaction at our expense.
The second reason is what the aptly prescient Eisenhower called the military industrial complex. Rumor has it that in drafts it was called the military industrial congressional complex. Big military means big drains on the Treasury, drains that go to support otherwise useless industries (well, mostly useless – there’s a decent market for small arms and ammunition, but not so much for B2 bombers and cruise missiles, amongst the general American population) which do, however, provide both jobs – which equal votes – in congressional districts and money for congresscritters to … do whatever congresscritters do with money.
In theory, the wars are long over – or should never have started – and it’s long past time for Johnny to come marching (or sailing or flying) home. Immigration is a question of law, not war, and so arguably there’s room for a large increase in border patrol personnel. Given the way that the current Border Patrol seems to be shredding the constitution it may be that open borders (with cancellation of the welfare state) may be a less destructive solution to the problem.
None of that, of course, will happen – and blood and borrowed-from-the-Chinese treasure will continue to pour out of America and into the pockets of the favored. Eventually the normal laws of history and economics will reassert themselves, and we’ll see what the Dark Ages were like, first hand.