Changes In US Military Strategy
By: Gilberto López y Rivas
Starting with the application of anthropology in the counterinsurgency work of the United States and with the presence of social scientists as advisors in the field of that country’s combat brigades in their neocolonial wars, a growing number of professionals in that discipline have given us the task of studying the magnitude, characteristics and consequences of this non-communal imperialist effort for maintaining its military hegemony to safeguard its economic, corporate and geo-strategic interests in the world. Thus, the anthropologist colleague David Vine, who prepares a book about the more than one thousand US military bases in 150 countries (to which one must add the 6, 000 bases inside the US), published the article “The Lily-Pad Strategy,” which Rebelión translated (18/7/12), in which he reports on the silent transformation that the Pentagon brings to a head for all the system of military bases outside US territory, which means a new and dangerous form of war.
According to Vine, US soldiers increase the creation of bases on the entire planet, which they call lily pads (those leaves or plants that float on the surface of water and that are useful to frogs for leaping towards their prey) and that consist of “small secret and inaccessible installations with a restricted quantity of soldiers, limited commodities and weapons and previously secured supplies… Similar lily-pad bases have become a critical part of a developing Washington military strategy that points to maintaining United States global domination, doing more with less in a world more competitive all the time, each time more multi-polar.”
Chalmers Johnson, another academic critical of his government and studious of these themes, maintains that: “this enormous network of military establishments on all continents, except Antarctica, constitutes a new form of empire –an empire of bases with their own geography that that doesn’t seem that it could be taught in any middle school class. Without comprehending the dimension of this world ringed with bases on the planetary ambit–, one cannot attempt to comprehend the dimensions of our imperial aspirations, or the degree by which a new type of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.” (“America’s Empire of Bases” in Tomdispatch. com)
Johnson outlines that the military branch of the United States government employs about half a million soldiers, spies, technicians and civilian contractors in other nations, and that those secret installations, besides monitoring what the people in the world, including US citizens, are talking about, or finding out the content of faxes and e-mails that they are sending, benefit the industries that design and provide arms to their armies. At the same time, “one task of those contractors is to maintain the uniformed members of the empire lodged in comfortable quarters, well fed, entertained, and supplied with vacation quality infrastructure. Whole sectors of the economy have come to depend on soldiers for their sales.” During the war for the conquest of Iraq, Johnson reports that the Defense Department, while it was ordering an extra ration of cruise missiles and tanks that made use of munitions with depleted uranium, also acquired 273, 000 bottles of a sun block that benefited companies with those products situated in Oklahoma and Florida.
Different from the big bases that appear to be cities, like those that the armed forces occupy in Japan and Germany, the lily pads are constructed with discretion, trying to avoid publicity and the eventual opposition of the local population, Vine reports. We’re dealing with small and flexible operations bases, “closer to foreseen conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America… Pentagon officials dream about an almost unlimited flexibility, the ability to react with notable speed in the face of events in any part of the world, and therefore something that approaches a total military control of the planet.”
In what touches our America, Vine points out that: “after the expulsion of the soldiers from Panamá in 1999 and from Ecuador in 2009, the Pentagon has created or updated new bases in Aruba and Curacao, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Peru. At other sites, the Pentagon has financed the creation of military bases and police capable of harboring United States forces in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and even in Ecuador. In 2008, the Navy reactivated its Fourth Fleet, inactive since 1950, to patrol the region. The soldiers can wish for a base in Brazil and they tried fruitlessly to create bases, supposedly for humanitarian and emergency aid, in Paraguay and Argentina.” We don’t doubt that one of the reasons for the State coup against President Lugo was his refusal to install bases on Paraguayan territory.
Now that many social scientists have removed the use of “ideological” terms like class or imperialism from academia, due to considering them unfashionable, a key conclusion of colleague Johnson stood out in which he touches on the military expression of this latter concept: “Some time ago, one was able to trace the expansion of imperialism by counting the colonies. The United States version of the colony is the military base. Following the policy of global change of bases, one can learn a lot about our each time greater imperial position and militarism that grows in its vertex. Militarism and imperialism are Siamese twins joined at the hip.”
When will the next leapfrog be from the lily pad closer to the prey?
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, August 3, 2012
English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee