By Chalmers Johnson
August 22, 2008
The Pentagon’s foreign overtures are running into a world of public opposition.
Imperialism, meaning militarily stronger nations dominating and exploiting weaker ones, has been a prominent feature of the international system for several centuries, but it may be coming to an end. Overwhelming majorities in numerous countries now condemn it—with the possible exception of some observers who believe it promotes “stability” and some United States politicians who still vigorously debate the pros and cons of America’s continuing military hegemony over much of the globe.
Imperialism’s current decline began in 1991 with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and the collapse of its empire. The United States now seems to be the last of a dying species—the sole remaining multinational empire. (There are only a few vestiges of the old Dutch, English, and French empires, mostly in the form of island colonies and other enclaves in and around the Caribbean.) As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made clear, the United States is increasingly stressed by the demands of maintaining its empire through its own military resources. Change is in the air.
According to the Pentagon’s 2008 “Base Structure Report,” its annual unclassified inventory of the real estate it owns or leases around the world, the United States maintains 761 active military “sites” in foreign countries. (That’s the Defense Department’s preferred term, rather than “bases,” although bases are what they are.) Counting domestic military bases and those on US territories, the total is 5,429.