Mars? Venus? Earth-like bodies elsewhere in the galaxy? Who knows? But here, at least, no great power, no superpower, no hyperpower, not the Romans, nor imperial China, nor the British, nor the Soviet Union has ever garrisoned the globe quite the way we have: Asia to Latin America, Europe to the Greater Middle East, and increasingly Africa as well.
Build we must. If someday Washington took to the couch for therapy, the shrink would undoubtedly categorize what we’ve done as a compulsion, the base-building equivalent of a hoarding disorder.
And you know what else is unprecedented? Hundreds of thousands of Americans cycle annually through our various global garrisons, ranging from small American towns with all the attendant amenities, including fast-food joints, PXes, and Internet cafes to the most spartan of forward outposts, and yet our “Baseworld,” as the late Chalmers Johnson used to call it, is hardly noticed in this country and seldom considered worthy of attention.
We built, for example, 505 bases at the cost of billions of dollars in Iraq (without a single reporter uncovering anything close to that number until we abandoned all of them in 2011). Over the years, millions of soldiers, private contractors, spies, civilian employees of the U.S. government, special ops types, and who knows who else spent time on them, as undoubtedly did hundreds of reporters, and yet news of those American ziggurats was rare to vanishing. On the whole, reporters on bases so large that one had a 27-mile fortified perimeter, multiple bus lines, and its own electricity grid and water-bottling plant generally looked elsewhere for their “news.”
Our latest base-building mania: Washington’s expanding “empire of bases” for its secret CIA and Special Forces drone wars in the Greater Middle East goes almost unnoticed (except at sites like this). We now, for instance, have a drone base in the Seychelles, an archipelago that evidently needs an infusion of money. Unless you had the dough for a high-end wedding in the middle of the Indian Ocean or a vacation in “paradise,” you’ve probably never heard of the place.