As we debate an exit from Afghanistan, it’s critical that we focus not only on the costs of deploying the current force of more than 100,000 troops, but also on the costs of maintaining permanent bases long after those troops leave.
This is an issue that demands a hard look not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but around the globe—where the US has a veritable empire of bases.
According to the Pentagon, there are approximately 865 US military bases abroad—over 1,000 if new bases in Iraq and Afghanistan are included. The cost? $102 billion annually—and that doesn’t include the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan bases.
In a must-read article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences, anthropologist Hugh Gusterson points out that these bases “constitute 95 percent of all the military bases any country in the world maintains on any other country’s territory.” He notes a “bloated and anachronistic” Cold War-tilt toward Europe, including 227 bases in Germany.
Amen. One can easily view the current timidity on the slow, surgical removal of fixed fractions of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as overly modest. But the extent of the restricted debated in this country about foreign policy becomes even more brazen once we recall what the debate should include: retracting our 1,000+ base, 135 some odd country military empire.