Ninety-Five Years to Go

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“Make it a hundred”
~ John McCain

Although U.S. troops have been in Iraq for five years now, we have only just begun. We can expect the great grandchildren of the current U.S. soldiers in Iraq to be there as well — if John McCain has his way. This assumes, of course, that these soldiers make it back to the United States breathing and in one piece so that they can have children.

Speaking at a January town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Senator McCain was asked about President Bush’s comment about the United States staying in Iraq for fifty years. His reply to “Make it a hundred,” although it was harshly criticized, did not keep him from winning primaries and becoming the Republican presidential nominee. After all, said McCain, “We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or so. That would be fine with me.”

The senator is not the only one to make a statement like that. Someone at National Review said last year: “Ladies and gentlemen: Our Problems are here, there, and everywhere. They will last our lifetime. You have heard of the Thirty Years’ War. This is ours — if not our Hundred Years’ War.”

McCain did go on to condition the U.S. occupation on “as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.” But when asked about his statement on “Face the Nation,” the man who would be president remarked that “Americans aren’t concerned” about troops in Iraq for the next 10,000 years. He also told a reporter “that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for u2018a thousand years’ or u2018a million years,’ as far as he was concerned.”

Now he says that he “will never set a date for withdrawal.”

It should come as no surprise that the United States will have troops in Iraq for many years to come. After all, there are still 57,080 U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany, 9,855 U.S. soldiers stationed in Italy, 32,803 U.S. soldiers stationed in Japan, and 27,014 U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea. But even where the United States did not fight a war, there are large numbers of U.S. troops to be found. There are 1,286 U.S. soldiers stationed in Spain and 9,825 soldiers stationed in the United Kingdom.

It should also come as no surprise that the United States has troops in Iraq in the first place. We would probably have U.S. forces there regardless of whether we went to war. You see, there are U.S. soldiers stationed in about 70 percent of the world’s countries. The Defense Department freely and publicly acknowledges this. In fact, the DOD issues a quarterly report, the “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country,” that provides this information. The latest report is dated September 30, 2007. Previous reports can be seen here.

To recap on the extent of U.S. troop presence around the globe, I first reported on this in an article published on March 16, 2004, titled “The U.S. Global Empire.” There I documented that the U.S. had troops in 135 countries, plus 14 territories controlled by the United States or some other country. I then showed on October 4, 2004, in “Guarding the Empire,” that the U.S. empire had increased to 150 different regions of the world. The third time I reported on the extent of the empire, December 5, 2005, in “Today Iraq, Tomorrow the World,” that number had grown to 155. The last time I updated the status of the U.S. global empire, in “Update on the Empire,” I revealed that U.S. soldiers were stationed in 159 regions of the world: 144 countries and 15 territories.

Not much has changed since then. The United States has withdrawn its small contingent of military personnel from the British territories of Gibraltar and St. Helena, but now has four sailors stationed in the British territory of Bermuda. New countries with U.S. troops are Belarus, Croatia, and Tajikistan. There is one country that lost U.S. troops — Fiji.

Although the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands doesn’t exit anymore, the DOD has been reporting the presence of American troops there for years. This Trust Territory included what are now the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Republic of Palau. The DOD now reports U.S. troop presence in what was this Trust Territory differently. Since the DOD used to just report the total number of U.S. troops stationed in the entire region, I was counting this as four territories with U.S. troops. The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau are technically independent countries, but are associated with the United States under a Compact of Free Association. The United States provides financial aid to these sovereign regions, including many U.S. domestic programs, in exchange for allowing the United States to provide for their defense; that is, allow the United States to build bases, station troops, and otherwise use the islands for “defense-related” purposes. The DOD now just reports that there are seventeen Army personnel stationed in the Marshall Islands. This would be for the U.S. Army’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.

So, according to the Defense Department’s latest “Personnel Strengths” report, the United States now has troops stationed in 147 countries and 10 territories. This is the greatest number of countries that the United States has ever had troops in. These numbers are not the result of Marine embassy guards stationed at U.S. embassies, as I showed in “Guarding the Empire.” To avoid giving a complete list, I refer the reader to the original list of 135 countries I gave in “The U.S. Global Empire.” From this list should be subtracted Fiji and North Korea, and to this list should be added Angola, Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Gabon, Guyana, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Rwanda, Slovakia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. True, U.S. troop presence in some countries and territories is quite small. But what are we doing with 403 soldiers in Honduras, 140 soldiers in Australia, and 126 soldiers in Greenland?

John McCain insists that the issue in Iraq is “not American presence; it’s American casualties.” Most Americans would probably agree since there is hardly a sound of protest over the U.S. troops that are still in Germany, Italy, Japan, and Korea after fifty or sixty years. The U.S. global empire of troops and bases has been around for so long that it is generally accepted by most Americans. I explained a few years ago in “What’s Wrong with the U.S. Global Empire?” exactly what is wrong a foreign policy of empire: it’s not right, it’s unnatural, it’s very expensive, it’s against the principles of the Founding Fathers, it fosters undesirable activity, it increases hatred of Americans, it perverts the purpose of the military, it increases the size and scope of the government, it makes countries dependent on the presence of the U.S. military, and finally, because the United States is not the world’s policeman.

What would Americans think if Russia or China built bases in the United States and stationed thousands of troops on our soil? They would be outraged, regardless of whether any U.S. citizens were harmed. In fact, most Americans would be incensed if Russian, China, or any other country sent just a handful of troops to the United States — even though the United States does the same thing to scores of other countries. Would it be okay if all of the 147 countries that the United States has troops in sent a contingent of their troops to our country as long as it didn’t result in any American casualties? Why not? Why the double standard? What gives the United States the right to garrison the planet with bases, station troops wherever it wants, police the world, and intervene in the affairs of other countries? Does might make right? Even McCain recently remarked that “our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want.”

U.S. foreign policy is not only aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and meddling, it is extremely arrogant. It is based on the myth of American exceptionalism; that is, the idea that the United States is the indispensable nation, that its government is morally and politically superior to all other governments, that its motives are always benevolent and paternalistic, and that the nations of the world should always conform to its dictates.

Avoiding another ninety-five years in Iraq is merely the tip of the iceberg. It is an arrogant, interventionist U.S. foreign policy that is the real problem — a problem that a McCain, a Clinton, or an Obama administration will simply perpetuate. Jefferson’s foreign policy of peace, commerce, honest friendship, and no entangling alliances is needed now more than ever.

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