Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Tom Engelhardt surveys the American imperium of the 21st century:

Today, gunboat diplomacy seems like a phrase from some antiquated imperial past (despite our thirteen aircraft carrier task forces that travel the world making "friendly" house calls from time to time). But if you stop thinking about literal gunboats and try to imagine how we carry out "armed diplomacy" -- and, as we all know, under the Bush administration the Pentagon has taken over much that might once have been labeled "diplomacy" -- then you can begin to conjure up our own twenty-first century version of gunboat diplomacy. But first, you have to consider exactly what the "platforms" are upon which we "export force," upon which we mount our "cannons."

What should immediately come to mind are our military bases, liberally scattered like so many vast immobile vessels over the lands of the Earth. This has been especially true since the neocons of the Bush administration grabbed the reins of power at the Pentagon and set about reconceiving basing policy globally; set about, that is, creating more "mobile" versions of the military base, ever more stripped down for action, ever closer to what they've come to call the "arc of instability," a vast swath of lands extending from the former Yugoslavia and the former SSRs of Eastern Europe down deep into Northern Africa and all the way to the Chinese border. These are areas that represent, not surprisingly, the future energy heartland of the planet. What the Pentagon refers to as its "lily pads" strategy is meant to encircle and nail down control of this vast set of interlocking regions -- the thought being that, if the occasion arises, the American frogs can leap agilely from one prepositioned pad to another, knocking off the "flies" as they go.
Engelhardt covers many of the recent articles that have appeared on US military bases abroad, so read his whole essay for a succinct summary of what they have to say.