Twenty-two years ago, June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan made a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate at the Berlin Wall in which he implored Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Within a year, the wall that symbolized repression and tyranny did in fact come crashing down. But with the demise of the Soviet Union, there is something else that should likewise have been toppled: the U.S. empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe.
Mr. Obama, Tear down this empire.
The kingdom of Alexander the Great reached to the borders of India. The Roman Empire controlled Western Europe and the Hellenized states that bordered the Mediterranean. The Mongol Empire stretched from Southeast Asia to Europe. The Byzantine Empire lasted over a thousand years. The Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf in the east to Hungary in the northwest; and from Egypt in the south to the Caucasus in the north. At the height of its dominion, the British Empire included almost a quarter of the world’s population.
Nothing, however, compares to the U.S. global empire. It is an empire that would make Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, Genghis Khan, Suleiman the Magnificent, Emperor Justinian, and King George V proud. What makes U.S. hegemony unique is that it consists, not of control over great landmasses or population centers, but of a global presence unlike that of any other country in history.
Sure, Donald Rumsfeld maintained: “We don’t seek empires. We’re not imperialistic. We never have been.” Right. Just like Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Just like the war in Iraq was supposed to be a cakewalk. Just like Bush told us, “we don’t torture.” Some neocons are a bit more honest, like CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot, who rejects the term “imperialism,” but insists that the United States “should definitely embrace the practice.”
Those who believe that it is in the national interest of the United States to intervene in conflicts around the globe, attempt to control foreign governments, and spread our political and economic systems to other countries by force argue that we are not an empire because we haven’t annexed any country’s soil in over a hundred years. But America’s unprecedented global presence of troops, bases, and ships clearly says otherwise.
The extent of the U.S. global empire is almost incalculable. The Department of Defense’s “Base Structure Report” states that the Department’s physical assets consist of “more than 545,700 facilities (buildings, structures and linear structures) located on more than 5,400 sites, on approximately 40 million acres.” There are 268 sites in Germany alone. The 316,238 buildings occupied by the DOD comprise over 2.2 billion square feet with a value of over $455 billion. The DOD manages almost 30 million acres of land worldwide. There are over 700 U.S. military bases on foreign soil in 63 countries. The United States has official commitments to provide security to over 35 countries.