US Bases and Empire: Global Perspectives on the Asia Pacific
Catherine Lutz
Much about our current world is unparalleled: holes in the ozone layer, the commercial patenting of life forms, degrading poverty on a massive scale, and, more hopefully, the rise of concepts of global citizenship and universal human rights. Less visible but equally unprecedented is the global omnipresence and unparalleled lethality of the U.S. military, and the ambition with which it is being deployed around the world. These bases bristle with an inventory of weapons whose worth is measured in the trillions and whose killing power could wipe out all life on earth several times over. Their presence is meant to signal, and at times demonstrate, that the US is able and willing to attempt to control events in other regions militarily. The start of a new administration in Washington, and the possibility that world economic depression will give rise to new tensions and challenges, provides an important occasion to review the global structures of American power.

Officially, over 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees are massed in 909 military facilities in 46 countries and territories.[1] There, the US military owns or rents 795,000 acres of land, and 26,000 buildings and structures valued at $146 billion. These official numbers are quite misleading as to the scale of US overseas military basing, however, excluding as they do the massive buildup of new bases and troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as secret or unacknowledged facilities in Israel, Kuwait, the Philippines and many other places. $2 billion in military construction money has been expended in only three years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Just one facility in Iraq, Balad Air Base, houses 30,000 troops and 10,000 contractors, and extends across 16 square miles with an additional 12 square mile “security perimeter.”