Update on the Empire

If it is true, as Ambrose Bierce (1842—1914) said, “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography,” then empire must be God’s way of making Americans masters of the subject since the United States now has troops in 159 different regions of the world. We know this is true, not because some opponent of U.S. imperialism says so, but because the Department of Defense publishes a quarterly report called the “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country.” Although these reports used to be issued by the Defense Department’s Directorate for Information Operations and Reports (DIOR), they are now prepared by the Statistical Information Analysis Division of the Defense Manpower Data Center. The latest report is dated September 30, 2006. Previous reports can be seen here. I first reported on this in an article published on March 16, 2004, and called “The U.S. Global Empire.” There I documented that the U.S. had troops in 135 countries, plus 14 territories that were not sovereign countries — some controlled by the United States and some controlled by other countries. 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 last time I reported on the extent of the empire, December 5, 2005, in “Today Iraq, Tomorrow the World,” it had grown to encompass 155 different regions of the world. Today it pains me to report that the U.S. empire has now extended its tentacles to 159 regions of the world: 144 countries and 15 territories. To the original list of 135 countries I gave in “The U.S. Global Empire” can now be added: Angola Rwanda Armenia Slovakia Gabon Somalia Guyana Sudan Moldova Uzbekistan North Korea can be removed from the list. Yes, the “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country” document that I originally used in 2004 said that there were four U.S. Marines stationed in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Since there are 192 countries in the world besides the United States, this means that the U.S. military has troops in over 70 percent of the world’s countries. And this doesn’t include territories that are not sovereign countries. The 15 territories in which the United States now has troops are: American Samoa Micronesia Diego Garcia Northern Mariana Islands Gibraltar Palau Guam Puerto Rico Greenland St. Helena Hong Kong Virgin Islands Kosovo Wake Island Marshall Islands The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and the Northern Mariana Islands make up the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Wake Island are all territories of the United States. Here we might ask, not why does the United States have troops in these areas, but why does the United States have control of these territories to begin with? Although Donald Rumsfeld once claimed that the United States is not imperialistic and doesn’t seek empires, what else are you going to call this global presence in 159 regions of the world? Do all these countries want U.S. troops on their soil? Is there really any reason why the United States still has 64,319 troops in Germany, 33,453 troops in Japan, and 10,449 troops in Italy — sixty years after World War II? And what are we doing with 1,521 troops in Spain, 414 troops in Honduras, and 347 troops in Australia? And why do we have 31 soldiers in Cote D’Ivoire? Cote D’What? Cote D’Where? How many Americans can locate Cote D’Ivoire on a map or have ever heard of it? How many even care? (For the record, Cote D’Ivoire is next to Burkina Faso.) Scholarly advocates of American imperialism, like CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot, reject the term imperialism, but hold, like Boot, that the United States “should definitely embrace the practice.” Boot subscribes to what can be called twenty-first-century gunboat diplomacy. He believes that the United States should impose the rule of law, property rights, and free speech on Iraq “at gunpoint if need be.” Since “Iran and other neighboring states won’t hesitate to impose their despotic views on Iraq; we shouldn’t hesitate to impose our democratic views.” Less sophisticated apologists for U.S. interventionism and imperialism, along with the usual assortment of chickenhawks, armchair warriors, Bush lovers, Christian warmongers, Republican Party loyalists, and other “conservatives” who defend the military and the warfare state, attempt to dismiss U.S. global hegemony over the majority of the planet by claiming that many of the U.S. troops stationed abroad are just embassy guards. Since I have already showed in “Guarding the Empire” that it definitely is not the Marine guards at U.S. embassies overseas that account for the U.S. troop presence in so many countries, I will not address that point again here. The other argument is that the presence of U.S. troops in so many countries is really not an issue because in some countries the United States has only a handful of its soldiers. Now, it is true that the United States only has a handful of troops stationed in some countries (e.g., 9 in Albania, 7 in Latvia, 3 in Laos), but focusing on how few troops are actually in some countries misses the point entirely. The issue is U.S. troops on foreign soil. They have no business there. Period. No bases, no troops, and no military advisors. Echoing the inscription on the Liberty Bell, President Bush closed his second inaugural address with the statement that “America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof.” But rather than proclaiming liberty, the stationing of soldiers in 159 different regions of the world and garrisoning the planet with military bases does just the opposite. Instead of proclaiming liberty, it proclaims imperialism, interventionism, militarism, and jingoism — all with devastating consequences for those countries that dare to question American hegemony.