When faced with evidence that the U.S. Global Empire has troops and/or bases in the majority of countries on the planet, apologists for the warfare state and the “military-industrial complex” attempt to dismiss this U.S. global hegemony by claiming that it is the Marine guards at U.S. embassies overseas that account for our presence in so many countries.
It is traditionally believed that the United States has an embassy in every foreign country and that every foreign country has an embassy in the United States. Most people also think that every U.S. embassy has an attachment of Marine guards to provide security for embassy personnel. Both of these assumptions are wrong.
U.S. Embassies in Foreign Countries
Of the 191 “Independent States in the World” besides the United States, there are 29 countries in which we do not have an embassy:
Andorra Antigua and Barbuda Bhutan Comoros Cuba Dominica Grenada Guinea-Bissau Iran Kiribati Libya Liechtenstein North Korea Maldives Monaco Nauru Palau Republic of the Congo Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Seychelles Solomon Islands Somalia Tonga Tuvalu Vanuatu
The United States does not have an embassy in the countries of Bhutan, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea because we do not have diplomatic relations with them.
Many small countries in which the United States has no embassy are “covered” by another country. The U.S. ambassador to Spain is accredited to Andorra. The U.S. ambassador to Barbados is accredited to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The U.S. ambassador to Mauritius is accredited to Seychelles and Comoros. The U.S. ambassador to Senegal is accredited to Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. ambassador to the Marshall Islands is accredited to Kiribati. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland is accredited to Liechtenstein. The U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka is accredited to Maldives. The U.S. consul general in Marseille, France, is accredited to Monaco. The U.S. consul general in Florence, Italy, is accredited to San Marino. The U.S. ambassador to Papua New Guinea is accredited to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The U.S. ambassador to Kenya is accredited to Somalia. The U.S. ambassador to Gabon is accredited to Sao Tome and Principe. The U.S. ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Tonga, Tuvalu, and Nauru. The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines is accredited to Palau.
The status of U.S. embassies sometimes changes. In some countries, like Antigua and Barbuda, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, and the Solomon Islands, we used to have an embassy, but it is now closed. The United States has an ambassador to the Republic of the Congo, but the embassy is temporarily collocated with the U.S. embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly called Zaire). The Afghan embassy closed in January 1989 but then reopened in December 2001. In the Central African Republic, the embassy is currently operating with a minimal staff. The United States closed its embassy in Libya in May 1980 and then resumed embassy activities in February 2004 through a U.S. “interest section” in the Belgian embassy. Since June 2004, the United States has maintained a “liaison office” in Libya, but has no immediate plans for an embassy. New embassies had to be built in Kenya and Tanzania after they were bombed in August 1998.
Foreign Embassies in the United States
Just because the United States does not have an embassy in a particular country does not necessarily mean that that country does not have an embassy in the United States. Of the 191 “Independent States in the World” besides the United States, there are 18 countries that do not maintain an embassy in the United States:
Andorra Bhutan Comoros Cuba Iran Kiribati North Korea Libya Maldives Monaco Nauru San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Solomon Islands Somalia Tonga Tuvalu Vanuatu
As mentioned above, the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Bhutan, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. All of these countries that do not maintain an embassy in Washington DC are members of the United Nations and have a representative of some kind at the UN in New York.
There are therefore 11 of these countries that have an embassy in the United States even though we do not have one in their country:
Antigua and Barbuda Dominica Grenada Guinea-Bissau Liechtenstein Palau Republic of the Congo Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Seychelles
There are no countries in which the United States has an embassy that do not likewise have one on U.S. soil.
Marine Security Guards
The question of Marine guards providing security at our embassies is not an easy one to answer. All of our embassies have security measures of some kind, but all are not guarded by U.S. Marines. For security reasons (isn’t that always the excuse?), the government does not like to reveal which embassies have Marine guards and which embassies do not.
Marine security guards are members of the Marine Security Guard Battalion headquartered at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Quantico is also the location of the Marine Security Guard School, where guards are trained to react to terrorism, fires, riots, demonstrations, and evacuations.
The stationing of Marine Security Guards at U.S. embassies can be traced to The Foreign Service Act of 1946, which authorizes the Secretary of the Navy, “upon the request of the Secretary of State, to assign enlisted members of the Navy and the Marine Corps to serve as custodians under supervision of the Principal Officer at an Embassy, Legation or Consulate.” The first Marine security guards went to Tangier and Bangkok on January 28, 1949. By the end of May 1949, 303 Marines had been assigned to foreign posts. By 1953, this number had increased to 6 officers and 676 enlisted men. By 1956, the number of enlisted men was up to 850.
There are currently over 1,200 Marines serving at over 130 posts abroad, in over 100 countries. Exact figures are not available, but in a report “Concerning the Role of Marine Security Guards in Securing U.S. Embassies and Government Personnel” given before the House Armed Services Committee Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism on October 10, 2002, by W. Ray Williams, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Countermeasures and Information Security, the number of Marine security guards was given as 1,029 “at 131 US Missions abroad, soon to be 132 with the reactivation of a Marine Security Guard Detachment in Belgrade scheduled for January 2003.” He further stated that 19 additional detachments of Marine guards were to be added in the next five years, with a long-term goal of 1,352 Marine guards at 159 detachments. According to the U.S. State Department, as of August 2003, the United States had “over 1,200 Marines for the internal security of 132 U.S. embassies, missions, and consulates worldwide.”
Marine security guards are organized into 7 regional companies. Company A headquarters is located in Frankfurt, Germany, and is responsible for 20 detachments in Eastern Europe. Company B headquarters is located in Nicosia, Cyprus, and is responsible for 18 detachments in northern Africa and the Middle East. Company C headquarters is located in Bangkok, Thailand, and is responsible for 18 detachments located in the Far East, Asia, and Australia. Company D headquarters is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and is responsible for 26 detachments in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Company E headquarters is also located (with Company A) in Frankfurt, Germany, and is responsible for 16 detachments in Western Europe and Ottawa, Canada. Company F headquarters is located in Nairobi, Kenya, and is responsible for 11 detachments in Sub-Saharan Africa. Company G headquarters is located in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and is responsible for 12 detachments in West and Central Africa.
Marine security guard companies are commanded by a lieutenant colonel. At each diplomatic post, there is a minimum of one detachment commander and five Marine security guards. This allows them to maintain one security post 24/7. Locations with more than one security post have more than five guards. About 40 percent of detachments have the 1/5 ratio of commander to guards, another 40 percent are between 1/6 and 1/10, and the remaining 20 percent have something greater than 1/10. After graduating from security guard school, a Marine can usually expect two fifteen-month duty tours.
The U.S. Global Empire
What, then, do embassies and Marine guards have to do with the U.S. Global Empire of troops and bases that garrison the planet? As mentioned at the onset of this article, apologists for the U.S. Global Empire attempt to dismiss our troop presence in so many countries by claiming that including Marines guarding embassies inflates the total number of countries in which we have a troop presence. The truth, however, is that whether Marine guards are counted or not, the United States still has a global empire that now encompasses 136 countries.
The source for information on U.S. troops stationed abroad is the quarterly publication entitled “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country.” This is published by a Department of Defense organization called the Directorate for Information Operations and Reports (DIOR). The latest edition that will be referenced in this article is dated March 31, 2004. Previous editions can be seen here. According to the DIOR, the information contained in its report of personnel strengths is provided directly by each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces; that is, the DIOR merely reports the information it receives. The DIOR publication does not indicate why troops are in a particular country, it merely reports the fact that they are there.
The issue here is whether the Marine Corps troops listed as deployed on foreign soil includes Marine guards at embassies. If the figure given for Marines in each country does not include embassy guards, then the United States does in fact have troops in 136 countries. Case closed. There is no need for this article other than to point out that the United States has added one more country (Guyana) since the first time I addressed the subject of the U.S. Global Empire. But if the figure given for Marines in each country does include embassy guards, then what apologists for the U.S. Global Empire are saying is that the United States does not have troops in 136 countries because Marine guards should not be included. Therefore, so they say, the number of countries in which the U.S. has troops should be limited to those countries in which we actually have bases. Of course, that is a problem as well, but it is not under consideration here since I have previously addressed the subject of the bases of the U.S. Empire.
Although the case could be made that these guards are what Lew Rockwell calls “armed servants for the spies and bureaucrats,” I am willing to agree with apologists for the U.S. Global Empire that Marine guards should not be counted when determining whether the United States has troops in other countries. This is also assuming that the “Personnel Strengths” document is accurate.
The issue cannot be settled by merely asking the Marine Corps how it determines the number of Marines it has in each country. No one I spoke with in the DOD or the Marine Corps ever heard of the “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country” document. And no one in the DOD or the Marine Corps that I sent the document to ever responded. Furthermore, when you start asking questions about Marines guarding U.S. embassies, DOD and Marine Corps officials get nervous (and sometimes downright belligerent) and start asking you questions about why you want the information.
After studying the “Personnel Strengths” document, and after determining which countries have a U.S. embassy, it looks as though the figures given for Marines deployed to foreign countries do not include Marine guards at embassies.
Of the 55 countries in which the United States does not have any troops (not just Marines), the following have a U.S. embassy:
Angola Armenia Belarus Benin Brunei Burkina Faso Cape Verde Central African Republic Croatia Equatorial Guinea Gabon Gambia Holy See (The Vatican) Lesotho Marshall Islands Mauritania Mauritius Micronesia Moldova Namibia Panama Papua New Guinea Rwanda Samoa Slovak Republic Sudan Swaziland Tajikistan Uzbekistan
If the figures include Marine guards, then this would mean that no U.S. embassy in any of these 29 countries had Marine security guards.
Some countries in which the United States has Army, Navy, and/or Air Force troops have a U.S. embassy but no Marines are listed as being in the country:
Belize Cambodia Eritrea Guyana Lebanon Madagascar Malawi Mongolia New Zealand Suriname Ukraine
If the figures include Marine guards, then this would mean that no U.S. embassy in any of these 11 countries had Marine security guards.
Other countries in which the United States has troops including Marines have a U.S. embassy but do not have the minimum number of 6 Marines necessary for embassy security guard duty.
Albania Botswana Bulgaria Cameroon Democratic Republic of the Congo Guinea Iceland Laos Luxembourg Malaysia Mexico Morocco Romania Serbia and Montenegro Sri Lanka Sweden Tanzania Zambia Zimbabwe
If the figures include Marine guards, then this would mean that no U.S. embassy in any of these 19 countries had Marine security guards.
There are 13 countries in which the only troops listed are Marines:
Azerbaijan Burundi Fiji Kyrgyzstan Latvia Mali Malta Mozambique North Korea Sierra Leone Togo Trinidad and Tobago Turkmenistan
The countries of Azerbaijan, Burundi, Fiji, Sierra Leone, and Trinidad and Tobago do not have the minimum number of 6 Marines necessary for embassy security guard duty. If the figures include Marine guards, then this would mean that no U.S. embassy in these 5 countries had Marine security guards. We do not have an embassy in North Korea for Marines to guard. Likewise, there are 167 Marines in Cuba but the United States has no embassy there either.
But supposing that the figure given for Marines in each country does include Marine security guards at embassies, we still have a problem. Most of the countries with a U.S. embassy that have the minimum number of 6 Marines that are necessary to provide embassy security guard duty also have Army, Navy, and/or Air Force troops as well. So whether the figures include Marine guards is irrelevant. The following countries have a U.S. embassy, troops from the Army, Navy, and/or Air Force, and at least 6 Marines:
Afghanistan Algeria Argentina Australia Austria Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belgium Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Brazil Burma Canada Chad Chile China Colombia Costa Rica Cote d’lvoire Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Estonia Ethiopia Finland France Georgia Germany Greece Guatemala Guinea Haiti Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia/East Timor Iraq Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kuwait Liberia Lithuania Macedonia Nepal Netherlands Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Norway Oman Pakistan Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Portugal Qatar Russia Saudi Arabia Senegal Singapore Slovenia Spain South Africa South Korea Switzerland Syria Thailand Tunisia Turkey Uganda United Arab Emirates United Kingdom Uruguay Venezuela Vietnam Yemen
The “Personnel Strengths” document includes the country of East Timor under Indonesia so it is impossible to determine exactly how the 10 Marines in that region are divided between the countries.
Of the 13 countries in which the only troops listed are Marines, 6 were previously eliminated because either the United States did not have an embassy in the country or there was not the minimum number of 6 Marines necessary for embassy security guard duty. This leaves only the following seven countries as potential examples of countries with a U.S. embassy guarded by Marines that should not be included in the total of 136 countries in which the United States has troops:
Kyrgyzstan Latvia Mali Malta Mozambique Togo Turkmenistan
But a comparison of the current “Personnel Strengths” document with the previous quarterly editions shows that this is not the case. For example, Kyrgyzstan, which is now listed as having 8 Marines, had 14 Marines three months ago and 27 Marines six months ago. And Malta, which is now listed as having 4 Marines, had 7 Marines three months ago and 3 Marines six months ago. This could not possibly be just Marine embassy guards. The next quarterly report of “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country” is sure to have similar changes.
So the fact remains: Marine guards or no Marine guards, the United States has troops in 136 countries.
But even that figure is too low, for the United States also has troops in Dependencies and Areas of Special Sovereignty. These are territories controlled by countries that may be located thousands of miles away from the mother country. For example, the United States has troops in Great Britain and areas controlled by Great Britain such as Gibraltar (on the southern coast of Spain), Diego Garcia (an atoll in the Indian Ocean), and St. Helena (an island in the South Atlantic Ocean). The United States has a 234,022-acre Air Force Base in Greenland, a region controlled by Denmark since 1721. Then there is Kosovo (an autonomous province of Serbia) and Hong Kong (a special administrative region of China).
Aside from the 50 states of the United States, there are also U.S. troops in areas we control like Guam (an island in the Pacific Ocean), Johnston Atoll (an atoll in the Pacific Ocean), Puerto Rico (an island commonwealth in the Caribbean Sea), and the U.S. Virgin Islands (islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico).
According to the “Personnel Strengths” document, the United States also maintains 23 army personnel in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. After World War II, these island groups in the Pacific Ocean came under the control of the United States. This “Trust Territory” now consists of three sovereign countries (Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau) and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States.
If these additional areas that have U.S. troops are counted, then it could be said that the United States has troops in 150 countries or territories. It is now easier to list the countries in which the United States does not have troops instead of the other way around. So, although this list could change tomorrow, the following countries are not officially reported as having any U.S. troops:
Andorra Angola Armenia Belarus Benin Bhutan Brunei Burkina Faso Cape Verde Central African Republic Comoros Croatia Dominica Equatorial Guinea Gabon Gambia Grenada Guinea-Bissau Holy See (The Vatican) Iran Kiribati Lesotho Libya Liechtenstein Maldives Mauritania Mauritius Moldova Monaco Namibia Nauru Panama Papua New Guinea Republic of the Congo Rwanda Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Seychelles Slovak Republic Solomon Islands Somalia Sudan Swaziland Tajikistan Tonga Tuvalu Uzbekistan Vanuatu
U.S. Foreign Policy
In his Farewell Address, George Washington warned against “permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world” and said that the United States should have “as little political connection as possible” with foreign nations. But he also warned us about “those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.”
If any country ever had an overgrown military establishment, it is the United States and its military juggernaut. Before the recent Iraq war, the United States outspent the “evil” rogue nations of Iraq, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Libya, and Cuba on defense spending by a ratio of twenty-two to one. The actual amount that the United States spent on “defense” during fiscal year 2004 has been estimated by Robert Higgs to be about $695 billion. The United States is also the biggest arms exporter, accounting for about half of all global arms exports.
Most of this spending could be eliminated if the United States returned to the foreign policy ideas of the Founders. Current U.S. foreign policy can only be described as reckless, interventionist, militaristic, and belligerent. This can lead to severe consequences, as Chalmers Johnson has pointed out in his incredible book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, “The suicidal assassins of September 11, 2001, did not u2018attack America,’ as political leaders and news media in the United States have tried to maintain; they attacked American foreign policy.”
Now threats can emerge quickly. An organization like al Qaeda, headquartered in a country on the other side of the earth, in a region so poor that electricity or telephones were scarce, could nonetheless scheme to wield weapons of unprecedented destructive power in the largest cities of the United States. In this sense, 9/11 has taught us that terrorism against American interests “over there” should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America “over here.” In this same sense, the American homeland is the planet.
The 9/11 attacks were just the beginning of a worldwide revolt against the current U.S. foreign policy of a global empire. Only a Jeffersonian foreign policy of peace, commerce, friendship, and no entangling alliances can arrest the menacing U.S. Empire.