From May 31 to June 2 I attended the Radfest conference in Lake
Geneva, Wisconsin, where I heard Zoltan Grossman speak. Grossman,
a long-time peace activist who recently received his doctorate
in geography, shared with conference participants his insights
about a largely ignored consequence of U.S. military interventions
in the last decade. The information he presented strongly suggests
that the installation of new U.S. military bases has been one
of the primary purposes of these wars.
Grossman explained that as a result of the increasing economic
strength of the European Union and the East Asian economic bloc
since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been making geopolitical
decisions to counter the possibility of being excluded from much
of the Eurasian land mass. This explanation helps to make it clear
that the choices of U.S. military interventions were based not
on the official explanations, let alone the needs of the local
people, but on whether there was an opportunity to develop a U.S.
sphere of influence in the strategic area bounded by Europe, Russia,
Regularly deploying its undisputed military strength under various
guises such as stopping "ethnic cleansing" and responding
to Islamist militancy, the U.S. has been installing bases in new
strategic regions as a future counterweight to its economic competitors.
Planners for each intervention focused on building new U.S. military
installations or securing basing rights at foreign facilities
in order to support the coming war. But once the war ended and
the media spotlight shifted to other events, the U.S. forces were
not withdrawn, even when the U.S. was breaking promises by doing
To make his points, Grossman reviewed each of the military interventions
of the last decade, showing maps of the bases installed each time:
the Gulf War, Somalia, the wars in the Balkans, and Afghanistan.
Before September 11, the U.S. had more than 60,000 troops operating
in more than 100 countries. Since then it has deployed troops
in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia, as well as
in the Philippines and Colombia. Everywhere there are U.S. bases,
the local population resents the presence of the troops, increasing
possibilities for future blowback. The cover story for each of
these interventions varies according to the situation. Often they
don't make much sense upon any kind of serious investigation,
but they apparently have been good enough for the majority of
people in the U.S., who generally have very little knowledge about
the rest of the world in general and U.S. foreign policy in particular.
After supplying Iraq with arms for years, the U.S. diplomatically
winked that it would not object to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
When it happened, however, the U.S. used the invasion as an excuse
to build large bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and obtain basing
rights in the Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United
Arab Emirates. Grossman explained that the Gulf War was about
oil, but noted that the U.S. only imports about five percent of
its oil from the Gulf (most of our imported oil comes from Colombia,
Venezuela, and Ecuador). Most Gulf oil goes to Europe and Japan.
So the U.S. permanently stationed bases around the Gulf not only
to counter Saddam Hussein, continue bombing Iraq, and quell potential
internal dissent in the oil-rich monarchies, but also to secure
control over European and East Asian oil sources.
One of the proxy wars of the 1970s and '80s was between U.S.-backed
Somalia and Soviet Union-backed Ethiopia. In exchange, the U.S.
received the right to use Somali ports, strategically located
at the southern end of the Red Sea, linking the Suez Canal to
the Indian Ocean. When the Somalian dictator was overthrown, the
U.S. used the chaos and famine as an excuse to try to move in,
with the disastrous battle at Mogadishu as a result. After the
U.S. withdrew, it was able to obtain basing rights just across
the Red Sea in Yemen.
Although the U.S. has ignored, and even supported, "ethnic
cleansings" in various places around the world, the Serbs
were fingered as the demons to justify interventions in Bosnia
in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999. As a result, there are new military
bases in Hungary, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo. In the
event that European efforts to build an independent military force
outside the U.S.-commanded NATO eventually succeed, the U.S. now
has a massive military presence in Eastern Europe.
Afghanistan has long been identified as a geopolitically strategic
location, and it also happens to be part of the route for a planned
Unocal pipeline. When the Taliban proved insufficiently cooperative
to get the Caspian Sea oil project moving, the U.S. used the September
11 attacks as an excuse to bomb one of the world's poorest countries.
New bases and basing rights in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan enabled the war on Afghanistan, and
remain as the security system for the new Caspian Sea oil infrastructure.
Grossman also mentioned the "war on terror" being used
as an excuse to deploy troops in the Philippines and re-establish
a military base there, and the "war on drugs" as the
justification for the military escalation in Colombia. In all
of these interventions, the U.S. did not go to war as a last resort,
despite propaganda reports to the contrary in the U.S. corporate
media. War just presented a convenient opportunity to further
larger economic goals. This also sheds light on what otherwise
seems like strange behavior:
Geopolitical politics may also help explain the reluctance of
the U.S. to declare victory in these wars. If the U.S. had ousted
Saddam from power in 1991, his Gulf allies would have demanded
the withdrawal of U.S. bases, but his continued hold onto power
justified intensive U.S. bombing of Iraq and a continued hold
over the Gulf oil region. The fact that Osama bin Laden and
Mullah Omar have not been captured in [nine] months of war also
provides convenient justification for the permanent stationing
of U.S. bases in Central and Southern Asia. All three men are
more useful to U.S. plans if they are alive and free, at least
for the time being.
Grossman's analysis provides an important piece of the puzzle
for peace activists trying to strategize against the current war
juggernaut and provide public education to help people understand
how the economic motivations fit into the current crisis:
Whether we look at the U.S. wars of the past decade in the Persian
Gulf, Somalia, the Balkans, or Afghanistan, or at the possible
new wars in Yemen, the Philippines, or Colombia/Venezuela, or
even at Bush's new "axis of evil" of Iraq, Iran, and
North Korea, the same common themes arise. The U.S. military
interventions cannot all be tied to the insatiable U.S. thirst
for oil (or rather for oil profits), even though many of the
recent wars do have their roots in oil politics. They can nearly
all be tied to the U.S. desire to build or rebuild military
bases. The new U.S. military bases, and increasing control over
oil supplies, can in turn be tied to the historical shift taking
place since the 1980s: the rise of European and East Asian blocs
that have the potential to replace the United States and Soviet
Union as the world's economic superpowers.
Much as the Roman Empire tried to use its military power to
buttress its weakening economic and political hold over its
colonies, the United States is aggressively inserting itself
into new regions of the world to prevent its competitors from
doing the same. The goal is not to end "terror" or
encourage "democracy," and Bush will not accomplish
either of these claimed goals. The short-term goal is to station
U.S. military forces in regions where local nationalists had
evicted them. The long-term goal is to increase U.S. corporate
control over the oil needed by Europe and East Asia, whether
the oil is around the Caspian or the Caribbean seas. The ultimate
goal is to establish new American spheres of influence and eliminate
any obstacles -- religious, militants, secular nationalists,
enemy governments, or even allies -- who stand in the way.
Information sources: presentation at Radfest, May 31, 2002;
"New U.S. Military Bases: Side Effects or Causes of War?"
by Zoltan Grossman, http://www.counterpunch.org/zoltanbases.html;
"How to Reduce Terrorism: Bring American Troops Home,"
by Thomas Gale Moore, San Jose Mercury News, June 11, 2002; "Oil
Rigged," by Thad Dunning and Leslie Wirpsa,
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)