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The Evolving Use of US Military Bases Overseas & American Imperialism

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My Personal Interest

I am interested in forward deployment, because when I lived in Asia, it was a prominent issue that my peers had with the US. Although it is deemed as a positive to have the US’ military be spread throughout the world and be seen as a superpower, the effectiveness of these bases is and should be under question.

According to Britannica, “the equipment, armed forces, and persistent military facilities that are stationed abroad or deployed at sea during peacetime. … forward-deployed peacetime military presence is one of the defining characteristics of a global superpower”. These advances are seen more as military agreements, intended to display a nation’s dominance and to alleviate chaos in strained areas. This practice additionally supports the country by deterring surrounding military competition in the regions. Forward deployment is intended to decrease the time needed to support volatile areas, allowing for countries to have faster response time when in war (Britannica). Although all of these impacts are helpful and beneficial to the country with the bases, these benefits are not always completely necessary or truly helpful.

From doing this research paper, I hope to further my knowledge about forward deployment and the US’ over-extension into other countries, and understand what the flaws are in the system in place today. I hope to answer a couple main questions: Why does the US continue to push to implement for military bases when they might not be effective and productive for the country? Does this overstretch allow other countries to expand influence as well? What are more effective approaches the US can use to assert their military power responsibly?

Link to full essay

Historical Problem

After the independence of America from Britain, the US adopted isolationist policies to keep the nation out of foreign conflicts. Policy makers have fought against the influence of European powers in North America using isolationist policies. Starting with the Monroe Doctrine, it stated that America would not tolerate European colonialism in the Americas anymore (MacMillan). This was also because America wanted to create a sphere of influence in the Americas, and they wanted British-French conflict off of their continent. The large oceans on either side of the United States made it very easy to isolate itself from the rest of the world. During the build up to World War One, America tried to keep out of world affairs because of the progress made during the progressive era and their desire to build the economy. Even after the first World War, America rejected admission into the League of Nations because of the potential involvement in conflicts that might damage the American economy (U.S. Department of State). During the build up to World War Two, congress pushed a series of Neutrality Acts to prevent American citizens abroad from entangling into politics especially during the rise of Nazism in Europe. The US also tried keeping out of World War Two, up until Pearl Harbor pulled them into the war. These isolation policies largely contradict the atmosphere of American politics today.

Link to full essay

Present Problem

Overseas American bases have created local prostitution industries, threatened to destroy wildlife, and led to the buildup of the military power of neighbouring nations. After the Korean war, many American bases were left in South Korea to deter North Korea from invading South Korea again. However no major tensions have arisen since then, as a result, many soldiers are left with not much to do at the military bases. This has led to the creation of prostitution industries locally around American bases. Dan Lamothe writes that in 2013, “several Navy officers and employees were charged last year with accepting prostitutes as part of a major bribery scandal” (Lamothe). Creating local prostitution industries around bases is counter-intuitive to the purpose of stationing soldiers. Soldiers are stationed in foreign nations to help enforce the law and protect citizens. Doing illegal activities such as soliciting women is totally against the purpose of soldiers. In this specific case, navy officers gave information to prostitutes that were later used to defraud the US government. In Japan,  a popular movement is growing against the American military bases there. Many Japanese feel like they are being bossed around by America and doing their bidding. Recently, America has been backing the buildup of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, which many Japanese do not think will actually be used in the security of Japan, but instead being sent to back the US led coalition in the middle east (Harner). Around 2015, the US proposed the creation of a military base in an area of Okinawa that would destroy wildlife in the construction process. This helped fuel the anti-american sentiment in Japan. After World War 2, Japan basically signed away the sovereignty of Okinawa since 20% of the island is occupied by American bases. This will put Okinawa at the frontlines of any wars that start in the pacific against America. Another problem the bases have created is the US obligation in the South China Sea. Two of America’s allies in the pacific are Japan and the Philippines. Both of these Asian nations have area disputes with China (Kim). This entangles America in another problem, because if any of these nations escalate the situation, America has the obligation to step in and intervene.

Link to full essay

Solutions

One organization by the name of Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition (OBRACC) has proposed to close all overseas US bases. Some of their reasons for closing the overseas bases are that the operating costs are ~$150 billion/year, 40 or more authoritarian countries host American bases, military personnel are separated from family, environmental damage, and local prostitution industries (OBRACC). They are proposing the closure of around 800 overseas bases, and their alternatives to overseas bases are to engage in multinational organizations, maintain a strong military to defend US territory, and increased commitment to diplomacy, economics, and culture.

I propose that we close all overseas bases, while integrating our military with allies more, and increasing trade with foreign countries to deter wars from starting. While not immediately closing all foreign bases, we should begin to close them and have them all closed by like 2040. This can be compensated by integrating our military with that of our allies, which can help communication and response times. If we increase trade with foreign countries and encourage countries to trade between one another, I believe this will fortify economies making them rely on each other which will deter escalating situations to war. I believe my solutions are viable and effective because they will let the US government direct the ~$150 billion a year on domestic infrastructure and other useful projects. Integrating economies to rely on each other will also grow the America economy which is a win-win situation for all. While some might argue that removing all our foreign bases will deplete our military strength, I think if you intertwine each others economies you get a different form of strategic power which may be more effective.

Link to full essay

“Call to Action”

Works Cited

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. April 27, 2019 by Jaya.Dayal

    Hey William! I loved how informative your presentation was, I think you did a great job breaking the different parts of this issue down, and giving comprehensive overviews of each part. I also loved that you linked the full essays to each part in case anyone wanted to learn more. I learned so much about the effects of bases now by starting prostitution businesses and hurting the environment. Your clear call of action followed by the survey was great too, I just have a quick question – is there something maybe more moderate we can initially do than close down ALL bases? Are there certain ones that can be identified as potentially more problematic than others and should we start there?

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