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Map of U.S. Military bases around the world

(February 10, 2012: This is a re-write of the original as many readers on the Internet are finding their way to this article. The points are the same as before, but now written for better readability. Also, with infographic courtesy of militaryeducation.org at the bottom of this post.)

After having won the Cold War, the U.S. has embarked on a global grand strategy of “full spectrum” domination. The U.S. continue to expand her military footprint in countries where no prior troop presence before, adding automatically Iraq and Afghanistan through recent wars. Below is the map of U.S. military bases around the world as of 2008 (source: From the Left). The yellow colored countries represent planned base expansions under negotiation. In our human history, no civilization has ever been so dominant. Glimpse at the map and awe at this awesome power!
The U.S. Military Footprint on the World

Is this footprint sustainable?  Former president Dwight Eisenhower warned his fellow Americans of the potential for the military industrial complex growing out of control.  His fear was it becoming too strong a political force in America such that it would indulge in maintaining its size and influence at the expense of other needs of society.  At $700 billion a year (excluding the recent war costs), and considering the the $13 trillion now nearing $15 trillion national debt, Eisenhower couldn’t have been more right.  The U.S. either cut back on spending, increase taxes, or print more USD. There aren’t many other options.

The U.S. have also been trying to find other creative ways to offset that cost.  In the last decade, Japan has been increasingly pressured to shoulder some of the cost as “host nation support.” Think about that for a second.  Imagine if the United States is occupied and is forced to her occupier.  Sooner or later, the Japanese will question that arrangement.  Is 100 years long enough?  1000 years?

In a recent NPR: Talk of the Nation interview titled, “Burdens Of War Unevenly Shared In U.S.,” Ted Koppel observed that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were seemingly magically paid for without much backlash from the American public.

There was no new tax imposed on the American public to finance those two wars.  Obviously, if each American was asked to fork over $3000 to fund the wars, would there be enough public support?  Koppel’s point is precisely that the American democratic process is bypassed to allow wars to occur.

So, where do the funds come from?  The war funds are achieved through issuing bonds to countries like China, Japan, and OPEC. The American public also buys them.  The rest comes via printing.  Between 2008 and 2010, the Fed has simply conjured $1.4 trillion dollars out of thin air. (See “The U.S. and the Dollar in numbers; how crazy, you decide.”)

Not only is the democratic process bypassed, the majority of the American public also loses.  It’s the dilution of their USD – the existing USD owned by foreigners and Americans alike now being worth less.

With the current unemployment rate, at around 9%, President Obama is pressured to spend more. The idea is to invest in the short term despite mounting debt, as a stop-gap measure to stem unemployment. Otherwise Obama’s rating continues to tank and his 2012 election prospects disappears. Worse might be the Occupy Wall Street movement becoming much bigger and at which point the outcome is unknown.

As I’ve written previously, “Dagong rates U.S. credit worthiness below China’s and the impeccable timing of the report,” U.S.’s credit-worthiness is likely to deteriorate and the cost of borrowing likely to increase.

Given this climate, what else can the U.S. do?  One is certainly to look at this footprint and decide for how long it must be maintained.  Former defense secretary Gates and now Panetta are trying to shave about $45 billion off the U.S. military budget each year for each of the the next ten years.

However, remember former U.S. President Eisenhower’s warning to his fellow Americans.  War hawks supporting the military industrial complex in the U.S. will hype up threats from around the world to counter the cuts.  With declining revenue, U.S. media will also hype up threats from abroad. A public that is gripped by fear will watch more news and buy more papers. American media elites in fact have their interests aligned with this military industrial complex.

Below is an infographic courtesy of militaryeducation.org in showing what this cost meant as an opportunity cost to American society:

This infographic takes a look at the amount of tax payer money that goes into funding specific military equipment ranging from the ‘small’ items to the truly gargantuan in price. The graphic then compare these prices to things that the average American can relate to such as median income, cost of a college education, health insurance, or the price of buying a home. The goal of doing this is to show the viewer how their tax money is being used compared to various other things it could be used to acheive.

While we believe that there is a need to maintain US military supremacy, we also feel that the spending that goes on by the Department of Defense is often unjustified and is rather a consequence of the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about.


Cost of Military
From: MilitaryEducation.org

  1. August 9th, 2010 at 07:28 | #1

    Protection money or a desperate search for self-relevance.

    I do not believe that the Americans collectively sought out to blackmail the world for protection money. However, the Military-Industrial establishment, now being a Frankenstein monster let loose upon the world, must continue to seek for its own relevance, long after the purpose of “Cold War” deterrence has passed.

    Such a giant of military might, like some ancient dinosaur that has outgrown its own food supplies, will undoubtedly die of a slow and agonizing death.

    the rest of the world just hopes that when the dinosaur dies, it does not fall on their neighborhood and crush some hapless bystanders. (thus, everyone is more than happy to send US missions into Afghanistan.)

  2. August 9th, 2010 at 11:03 | #2

    @ r v,

    I agree – the U.S. did not collectively sought out to blackmail the world for protection money. Something is also to be said too of the relative “stability” of the world post Cold War where many countries are indeed developing. (“Stability” is a tricky word obviously, as that depends on whether you’ve gotten yourself invaded by the U.S.. Or how much you accept the present world order to develop under the wings of the U.S..)

    The U.S. military will try to extract more “protection money” given the budget crisis at home. But that can draw additional antagonism from the host countries around the world – as in the case with Japan. (Hatoyama resigned and it was a “win” on the U.S. military’s part. That spat is certain to continue.)

    On the home front, the U.S. government will further dilute the American publics wealth by continuing to print more USD to fund the military at insane levels. The opportunity costs are extremely high too, and I am not sure Americans see everything connected. For example – should education and health care be under cut by more military spending?

    On your ancient dinosaur analogy – my fear is this dinosaur inciting conflicts around the world to justify its out sized existence.

    A lot of big moving pieces. Tough to manage – or no longer manageable even by the office of the U.S. President.

  3. pug_ster
    August 11th, 2010 at 06:59 | #3

    If there is a sudden collapse of the US Military around the world, I think there will be a power vacuum around the world where US hegemony used to exist. Israel’s power will be insignificant as Sunni dominated countries like Saudi Arabia and Palestine will have a power struggle with Shite dominated countries like Iraq and Iran. In Asia region, China will probably rise up, but probably at the expense of Japan and South Korea. The fate of Myanmar and North Korea might be in question, not to mention that China will have conflict with India. ASEAN countries will have conflicts with each other as well as with China or other countries like New Zealand and Australia. Latin America countries will have some conflicts as Venezuela and Cuba will gain some of what US has lost. The only 2 places where I don’t see a power vacuum is in Europe, South America and Africa.

  4. August 11th, 2010 at 10:37 | #4

    @pug_ster

    If we look into history, this “sudden collapse” is possible (okay, even a 10-year time-frame is but a sudden short blip).

    I completely agree – the regions that depend on the U.S. military for “stability” will have to find some other mechanism as the new basis.

    That’s why Japan’s former prime minister Hatoyama announced the importance of Japan integrating with Asia, because for long term stability, Japan cannot simply bet on the U.S. military presence. Japan also has to pay a price as I said in my article for this presence.

    Tsinghua University Professor Yan Xuetong often talks about the need for China and the U.S. face conflicts honestly (i.e. while working on issues of mutual benefit obviously, but not glossing over tough issues). If the countries develop mechanisms to not let conflicting issues escalate towards the worse, that is a kind of guarantee for stability.

    I see Japan as doing this very thing Prof Yan is saying.

    I am less pessimistic about the vacuum though. If you look at ASEAN and then ASEAN + 1, ASEAN + 3, etc, the region is tending towards an economic block like the E.U.. You also see this taking place in Latin America. In the Middle East, perhaps things are much more dire – Israel vs. the rest.

  5. Padtai
    August 16th, 2010 at 02:41 | #5

    The US is the Head of Axis of Evils with all the military bases positioned to invade smaller countries around the world! No doubt about it!

  6. January 14th, 2011 at 14:11 | #6

  7. r v
    January 14th, 2011 at 15:37 | #7

    Another set of Stat:

    Number of Internet users in US: 230 million-ish.

    Number of Gun owners in US: 270 Million!

    That’s scary enough. Then I considered the type of Mama Bears in US who own guns, and what sort of crazy-ness they teach their own kids at home and kids, and in the media.

    Just read an article on Huffington about the crazy church/(dooms day cult) Sarah Palin belongs to. It’s one of the many that believes that the world will end when the Jews all return to Israel.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but the above just proved to me that “democracy” isn’t for everyone.

    There are differences of opinions that people can live with, and then there are crazy opinions that will very likely lead a bunch of nuts to shooting rampage, releasing poison gas, or worse.

    *Honestly, I don’t like Sarah Palin, because she is a glaring symptom of everything that’s wrong with Democracy.

    Another one is Anne Coulter, who recently declared that the “liberals” are trying to ban “metaphors” in the aftermath of the Arizona shooting.

    Frankly, she’s a nut who try to excuse other nuts.

    She’s a lawyer (evidently a bad one), she should know that all “metaphors” have different meanings in different contexts. (Such as, she self-address of “constitutional scholar” must be a metaphor in her context for someone who ONLY perpetually studies the Constitution but never graduates. HENCE: ONLY scholar.)

    SOME Context of metaphors can incite violence in some situation, and thus they should be banned, and the 1st Amendment of US absolutely allows for the banning of such “metaphors” IN such context.

    **I rant against the right, but the left has done little to restraint the nuts.

    So, to that system that created such irresponsible people, who are all apparently waiting for the next doomsday cult to experiment with all their lives to prove the words of God, I say, y’all are nuts!

  8. Reasonable American
    January 21st, 2011 at 17:10 | #8

    1) You make it sound like the US has borrowed an extreme amount of money relative to the rest of the world, when actually the US has borrowed a pretty average amount for a high gdp/capita country. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt (look at the maps).

    2) The budget “crisis” is not nearly as immediate as many make it out to be, and debt is significantly lower than historical highs as a % of gdp. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Us_national_debt (look at the graphs showing the value over time).

    3) If the US started threatening countries with attacks for money (which is what a “protection racket” is), there would be riots on the streets, impeachment proceedings, and a massive political shift in the next election. It is reasonable for a Japan to give US money for the bases because they allow Japan to spend less on their own military (if you assume you can trust the alliance which I think is very reasonable).

    4) Money devaluation is measured by inflation. If printing money isn’t causing inflation, then it actually isn’t causing money devaluation. Inflation in the US is close to the lowest it’s ever been and is much lower than the rest of the world.

    You do make some good points though. For example, I totally agree that “1. The current Iraq and Afghanistan wars are not being paid by the American public.” and “2. No politicians in the U.S. dare to come out and propose raising taxes to pay for the wars.”. I also agree that the US national debt is higher than it should be (especially the rate of increase).

  9. January 21st, 2011 at 18:12 | #9

    @Reasonable American,

    I think your arguments are quite reasonable. Another way to look at the “size” of the U.S. debt could be this way. Look at Microsoft’s cash in the bank. $50billion. Look at the Gates Foundation. Look at Exxon-mobil’s cash. Taking all those cash reserves of American corporations, a huge chunk of the American debt could be wiped away. Obviously we are talking about desperate measures.

    Also, American (public/private) ownership of properties around the globe is much bigger than the U.S. national debt. Again, liquidating those will solve the debt problem.

    On your point #3 – well, Japan is in fact paying, and we don’t see riots and impeachment proceedings in that country due to it.

    U.S. would not threaten attack for money. The U.S. would appeal to ultra-nationalist elements in Japan and ‘generate’ demand within Japan for U.S. presence; heighten fear of Japan’s neighbors.

    It is reasonable for a Japan to give US money for the bases because they allow Japan to spend less on their own military (if you assume you can trust the alliance which I think is very reasonable).

    I understand this logic and makes sense from the American perspective.

    But, the Japanese perspective is that if they are going to spend that money, they will want to spend on resources directly under their control.

    The more Japan is forced to pay, the more the tension between U.S. and Japan will rise.

    On your point #4 – inflation is a result of bunch of factors, money supply included. You cannot say you haven’t seen inflation (yet), it means there is no money devaluation.

  10. silentvoice
    January 22nd, 2011 at 00:44 | #10

    I’ll expand a little on your last point about the dollar’s devaluation. An easy way to see this is to look at the foreign exchange rate between the USD relative to another currency (except China, Japan, Germany, and the EURO). Take for example, the USD vs. the Singapore Dollar or the Australian Dollar. In both cases, the USD has fallen.

  11. January 22nd, 2011 at 07:08 | #11

    India is shown as a proposed US military base. That’s news to me. India would never allow a US military base on their homeland. This now raises the question of how accurate this map is.

  12. January 22nd, 2011 at 09:40 | #12

    @Kunal #11,

    I don’t usually keep up with military stuffs since I figure whatever civilians know are probably outdated.

    But a cursory search shows this:

  13. Thorun
    February 4th, 2011 at 20:32 | #13

    I agree as well.

    Just would like to point out that from 1994 to 1999 we witnessed alot of changes that has shaped much of what is the World’s economy, Western Globalization [through the WTO], and U.S.A.’s original intentions of foreign policy – Which was alot different before the hated Bush Administration and 9/11.

    10 years ago the internet was just really before it’s adult potential, and on the edge of exploding and expanding to eventually leave it’s childhood behind. I think that the U.S. will be much more exposed to really looking at herself in the mirror over the next ten years.

    And this current divided U.S. country will begin to show it’s real colors towards it’s own people on how it cannot relate as a functional parent to the rest of the world when domestically it is a dysfunctional family that causes the voice of the people to mute itself out, and dramatically the people’s voice turned moot to challenge and change any decisions the U.S. makes towards foreign policies, financially and politically.

    Which makes the WTO and Western Globalization a run away freight train destined to crash hard in to a very hard and cold reality.

    The next 20 years on this planet will be very interesting to watch such a collision to unfold and what develops from the overall impact.

    “I agree – the U.S. did not collectively sought out to blackmail the world for protection money. Something is also to be said too of the relative “stability” of the world post Cold War where many countries are indeed developing. (“Stability” is a tricky word obviously, as that depends on whether you’ve gotten yourself invaded by the U.S.. Or how much you accept the present world order to develop under the wings of the U.S..)

    The U.S. military will try to extract more “protection money” given the budget crisis at home. But that can draw additional antagonism from the host countries around the world – as in the case with Japan. (Hatoyama resigned and it was a “win” on the U.S. military’s part. That spat is certain to continue.)

    On the home front, the U.S. government will further dilute the American publics wealth by continuing to print more USD to fund the military at insane levels. The opportunity costs are extremely high too, and I am not sure Americans see everything connected. For example – should education and health care be under cut by more military spending?

    On your ancient dinosaur analogy – my fear is this dinosaur inciting conflicts around the world to justify its out sized existence.

    A lot of big moving pieces. Tough to manage – or no longer manageable even by the office of the U.S. President.”

  14. Aravind V R
    March 4th, 2011 at 02:08 | #14

    showing India as a proposed usa base is the biggest ridicule i’ve seen this year. Though the landlord parties which are ruling the country has deep relation with usa, as the corrupt rulers of every country would, setting up a usa military base in India will certainly bring an end to their rule. so they won’t be digging their own grave.

  15. billy bubba
    April 11th, 2011 at 21:54 | #15

    Nobody should quote from Huffington, that is the exact opposite of quoting from Fox.

    “After the Cold War ended, the U.S. has embarked on the current grand strategy of “full spectrum” domination.” This is a little misleading. I think the cold war momentum kept it going for sometime. I don’t think they “embarked”.

    It is a slippery slope to mention but if China had the same amount of bases overseas the Chinese would be swelling with pride. Chinese like to knock things they don’t have but wish they did. Always protesting these things loudly but not really protesting the things they should in order to make their lives more truly liberated (I am not talking politics so much). But now it is too late. No more revolutionary thoughts. Just the chasing of money. The US needs a revolution too.

  16. jxie
    April 12th, 2011 at 08:53 | #16

    “It is a slippery slope to mention but if China had the same amount of bases overseas the Chinese would be swelling with pride. Chinese like to knock things they don’t have but wish they did. ”

    Chinese may, when they get to that point (capable of funding, supplying, and manning that many oversea military bases). But my sincere hope is at that point Chinese will realize how fiscally damaging this can be to their nation’s long-term well being.

  17. xian
    April 12th, 2011 at 22:13 | #17

    @billy bubba
    I doubt Chinese would be proud of having this much money tied up in military assets. Keep in mind these things take a hefty sum to maintain. The only reason to have this many bases is if you intend to do something with it, otherwise, it’s nothing but a moneysink.

  18. laishizhe
    April 17th, 2011 at 09:30 | #18

    @r v
    270 million gun owners in the US? I read that and I just had to do a quick google search on that. In fact the 270 (actually 258 is what I found) million figure is the amount of guns owned by only 80 million Americans. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to America, but when you aren’t in the west or the south, gun owning is uncommon. Please don’t be sloppy when posting stats, shit’s important!

  19. raventhorn2000
    April 17th, 2011 at 10:48 | #19

    Laishizhe,

    I accept your correction, but I add another correction to your 80 million American figure. That’s only the number of REGISTERED gun owners.

    Effectively, about half of the adult U.S. population lived in households with guns.

    http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

    I live in DC, Northern Virginia area. There are a lot of gun owners here.

  20. Erik
    August 29th, 2011 at 18:47 | #20

    The proposed mention of charging countries a fee for protecting that countries homeland with the United States military sounds a lot like what Donald Trump was pitching during his mock election campaign for the 2012 presidential race, one of the very many reasons, that I was instantly bias of anything else he had to say. See, there was this period in human history, namely the 30s and the 40s, when the whole of the free world was on the brink of military disaster. Lets say the next big time war happens a few years from now, when America is in a slump, and has been in recent years charging its NATO allies for protection (like Al Pacino or Joe Pesci would out of some gangster film). Iran somehow submits for a peace treaty with Pakistan for support in taking down the American government, creates a new world axis of power with China, North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, maybe even the Saudi’s. Now imagine all of these countries attacking the United States at once.

    We going to start paying other countries to lend us support from their obsolete military? Get the point? The last thing America needs to do right now is alienate its NATO allies. We cant charge our allies for being there for them when they need us to be. This world needs peace. It needs order. It takes military might to control those that want to do the rest of us harm and even we need help. Its a big world, and to reach certain countries like those I listed as the “axis powers”, can only be reached by our military if we have neighboring countries to launch missiles and bombers out of. If we start charging our allies and push them away from us then theyre not going to scratch our backs when we stamp out any chance of war happening between them and some piece of shit country like the DPRK.

  21. raventhorn2000
    August 31st, 2011 at 06:31 | #21

    “This world needs peace. It needs order.”

    Every day, I hear the Americans sounding more like the Chinese. No offense, it’s a compliment, albeit an ironic one.

    I think you missed the point, Erik.

    US is pretty much “charging” its allies, in jacked up prices for selling them 2nd hand weapons, getting low-rent or rent free military bases, as the price for “defending” them.

    Oh, and occasionally hyping up their fears so that they would keep buying more weapons from US. (US is the largest weapon exporter in the world, including non-lethal weapons such as, tasers, tear gas, etc., such as the ones used in Egypt against the Protesters).

  22. David
    March 11th, 2012 at 15:39 | #22

    I was deep in West Bengal, India in 2010. And way out in the northeastern plains, you know who I ran across? US military personnel. They have psyops there training people along the border with Bangladesh. It’s amazing who you run into when you actually turn off the TV and get out into the world.

    @Kunal

  1. August 10th, 2010 at 01:11 | #1
  2. October 24th, 2011 at 00:19 | #2
  3. October 24th, 2011 at 07:27 | #3
  4. February 12th, 2012 at 19:22 | #4
  5. May 1st, 2012 at 08:29 | #5
  6. June 7th, 2013 at 10:47 | #6
  7. November 17th, 2013 at 17:47 | #7
  8. July 7th, 2014 at 02:30 | #8
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