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Political Spectrum: Military bases on foreign soil

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July 28, 2011 by wcobserver

This column highlights the range of political thought in our society by presenting commentary from various ideological perspectives. Occasionally we ask a question of two commentators and print their answers, side by side. We also invite commentators to submit an essay on any topic that promotes their political philosophy. We publish these essays as “Voice from the Left” and “Voice from the​ Right.”

The perspective from the Left will be presented by John Gray of Greenland who is a self- described “Social Democrat.” 

ANSWER: NO!

EXPLANATION: 1000 is even higher than the 850 bases documented by Chalmers Johnson in his excellent series of books, Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis. But, considering the number of “black sites” in the U.S.A. and elsewhere, detailed in Blank Spots on the Map, by Trevor Paglen, which number in the hundreds, even that 1000 number may be a bit low.
Unless we are aiming to control the world with a global military empire, there is no reasonable explanation why we should spend more on warring than on all other responsibilities combined. The “on-budget” part of the military consumes approximately 60% of our entire annual budget. These off-budget black sites, off-budget wars, and off-budget programs cut yet more deeply into our resources. Turns out, if you look at a map of where the military trouble spots are and where oil is, you will find it hard to deny that our armies are being used in service to private oil interests. We protect their assets in areas where they could not venture otherwise. They don’t seem to give families who lose their young men and women to those wars much of a discount on gas, do they?

The current flap in Washington about ‘Debt Ceiling” is trying to balance this totally out of whack spending by stealing from pensioners, Medicare recipients, and Social Security recipients. We could cut the 1000 bases to 500 and still have the largest military in the world. It would still be larger than the next 10 largest nations combined. Removing the wage cap on FICA would protect Social Security forever. National health care would cut the cost of health care in this nation just about in half. It would protect your home from loss to the health care system to pay for your expenses at end of life. You could leave it to your kids instead.

We should be talking instead about lowering the age to qualify for Medicare. We should be improving the safety net of Social Security. We should be once again providing a free college education to all who are willing to work for one. Instead, we make war and killing our way of life. We are better than that, people!

You see all around that the “sainted” private industries are reneging on their pension responsibilities. They no longer pay their fair share of taxes. They are the ones who shipped your jobs to foreign lands. You certainly can’t count on them to protect you in your old age. If corporate everything is so great, then why do corporate-produced tomatoes taste like cardboard?

I think we need to rebuild here. For about 10 years, we need to say, as a nation, “If you don’t make it here completely, you can’t sell it here”. A good job will cure a lot of ills.

The view from the Right will be presented by Randy Alexander who ran for the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2010. Mr. Alexander, a Springdale resident, is Chairman of the Washington County Tea Party and describes himself as a “Constitutional Conservative.”

I do not have the information required to state definitively that 1,000 bases on foreign soil are either needed or not needed; but that number seems excessive to me. First, let’s acknowledge that national defense, unlike a lot of things Congress wastes money on, IS actually a constitutionally mandated responsibility. It is therefore right and appropriate to spend money on military bases and other national defense expenditures. But it is difficult to see how 1000 bases on foreign soil are needed to actually protect and defend the United States. I suspect that some of the military strength we project around the world is “needed” because other countries have decided to let us bear the burden of their defense, as well as our own. Secretary Robert Gates addressed this recently in his farewell speech to NATO. It also seems likely that some of these foreign bases are simply a carry-over from NATO’s original charge to protect us from Soviet Communism; although they served a valid purpose originally, the type of threat we face today has changed; and our response needs to be amended to reflect current realities.

Although not specifically included in the question, there is no doubt in my mind that the number of bases we operate on U.S. soil is excessive. Several commissions over the years have all recommended a reduction in domestic bases but little progress has been made. People agree in principle but they do not want to see “their” bases closed. Politicians vigorously defend bases in their district because that is a sure winner back home. We need to understand that the military is not a jobs program, and neither is its purpose to provide economic benefits to a particular state or community.

Although adequate military spending is essential, it is important that federal dollars be used efficiently and targeted to the highest priorities of national security. I believe most Americans are weary of our nation serving as the globe’s police force but also understand our unique role to defend liberty, the success of which will continue to require U.S. military to operate beyond our borders. The question is whether or not we have achieved the right balance between these competing interests. A thorough review is overdue and a frank assessment of the role that each foreign base plays in keeping us safe is a good place to start.

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