and the Role of
Bases in US Geopolitical Strategy
July 6, 2011
Dr. Dante C. Simbulan, Sr.*
*Retired Professor of Political Science and
Former Professor, Philippine Military
University of the Philippines,
College of Arts
and Science, Polytechnic
University of the Philippines
Political Prisoner of the Marcos
Roman to Pax Americana
In its essence, Imperialism has not really changed through
the ages. It has attempted to change its stripes but it has retained its
substance. The old Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Spanish, British,
French, and the American Empires have much the same policies, goals, and
objectives which are: the policy and practice of extending or expanding its
power and dominion over other nations, either by direct conquest and
territorial expansion or by more subtle methods and not so subtle methods
in order to impose its authority and influence over the captive nations, or
This domination extends to all spheres of human activity – it seeks to
impose its will on the economic, political, social, and cultural life of
the victim nation. Old imperialism does this mainly through the use of
force, coercion, and intimidation. Its modern-day practitioners, however,
use a combination of methods.
The modern-day imperialists have learned from the bad experiences of old
imperialism and have modified and improved their methods. Their methods are
largely influenced by the main engine which drives imperialist expansion:
Driven by greed for more and more profits, it seeks:
A. The control of territories that
are sources of cheap raw materials to feed their hungry factories: oil and
gas, iron ore for making steel products, copper, silver, tin, nickel,
B. The control of
sources of cheap labor mainly from third world countries-- former colonies
in Asia, Africa and Latin America---as main targets.
C. The control of areas in
the world where excess capital can be profitably invested, generating vast
wealth and super profits which they bring home to their home countries,
while leaving the masses of peoples in the countries they exploit, poor and
hungry and their land devastated and robbed of its wealth and
D. The control of profitable
markets for their manufactured goods, for business and for trade, usually
the densely populated countries of the world with the targeted buying
This capitalist engine propels the imperialist country to
expand and extend its tentacles all over the globe. Its working slogans
are: Free Trade, Globalization, Privatization, Liberalization, Deregulation,
etc. It promises “development,” “growth,” and “prosperity.” In practice,
however, only the wealthy few they chose to be their junior partners or
business agents (compradors) have developed, have grown, and have
prospered. In practice, the sharks have taken over and have devoured the
weak. The big has eliminated the small. The rich have become richer while
the hundreds and hundreds of millions of the world’s poor have become
Modern-day imperialism uses more subtle and crafty ways
to attain its goals. It operates insidiously, always waiting for the
opportunity to entrap its victims. It employs deceptive ways of gaining its
foreign policy objectives, whether these be
economic, political, social, cultural, and military.
The art of deception has been perfected by the
practitioners of imperialism. They liberally use euphemisms, that is, the
substitution of agreeable inoffensive language for one that more accurately
describes reality but which suggests something unpleasant. They use the
word “aid,” instead of the more appropriate word “bribe” that better
describes the intent of their acts. (I discussed this more fully in “The
Art of Keeping Power” in “The Modern Principalia:
The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy,” by Dante
C. Simbulan, Quezon City:
The University of the Philippines Press, 2007, Chapter 5).
Imperialist forays and military interventions in many
parts of the world---in Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras,
Haiti, the Philippines, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon,
Somalia and, most recently, in Libya, were explained and “justified” as
“peace operations,” operations to save democracy and preserve freedom, or
otherwise made for “humanitarian” reasons or concern for human rights.
Modern-day imperialism, therefore, uses many guises,
hides behind many masks. It would camouflage or hide its real foreign
policy goals and objectives by emphasizing instead its “intention” of
spreading democracy, freedom, and human rights throughout the world. The aim
is to cloak or to hide its real economic and power goals.
The attainment of these objectives, of course, are
extremely detrimental and harmful to the peoples of the captive nations,
but they could be very enticing to the native ruling elites who see the prospect
of getting more wealthy, thereby increasing their power and dominance over
the masses of the people they rule if they join the imperialist bandwagon.
The use of compliant native rulers – the mercenary
elites, corrupt oligarchs, military dictators, and just plain undisguised
puppets – is another common technique of the imperialist. Their names have
changed through time – from the pejorative servants and vassals to rulers
of protectorates and client states, to the more appealing “friends and
allies,” and “partners in defending democracy and freedom” in the world.
The Strategy and Tactics of US
Imperialism under Obama
In May 2010, President Barack Obama
outlined a “National Security Strategy” in a White House Proclamation. In
this proclamation, he outlined “a strategy for the world we seek” and
explicitly stated: “Our national strategy is…. focused on renewing American
leadership so that we can more effectively advance our interests in the 21st
century. We will do so by building upon the sources of our strength at home
while shaping an international order that can meet the challenge of our
His emphasis is on “our multinational engagement with close friends and
allies in Europe, Asia, the Americas,
and the Middle East – ties which are
rooted in shared interests and shared values, and which serve our mutual
security and prosperity of the world.”
A lot of these, of course, are clever rhetorical formulations of a wily
American president. For the fact remains that US interests are really the
interests of the ruling capitalist elites of Wall Street which are closely
bound not to the peoples of the world but to the interests of the ruling
elites and corrupt oligarchies elsewhere in the world.
Obama also talks of sharing the costs of
protecting the world (read: the capitalist global empire) that is, of
involvement of regimes which are willing collaborators and accomplices of US
imperialism. By assuring the ruling elites of these countries of US protection and “assistance,” the US hopes to entice them to be part of an
“alliance” (the so-called “coalition of the willing” in Iraq and Afghanistan are good examples)
in defending the empire.
On February 2010, the US Department of Defense issued a Quadrennial Defense
Report that outlines the goals and implementation of Obama’s
“Top National Priorities”. These are:
A. Prevail in today’s wars (Iraq, Afghanistan,
B. Prevent and deter
conflict by a show of military strength (land, air, and naval forces around
C. Prepare to militarily
defend “US national interests”
D. Build the security capacity of
partner states (particularly in their counter-insurgency wars)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates states: “Our deterrent remains
grounded on land, air, and naval forces (around the world) capable of
fighting limited and large-scale conflicts in environments where
anti-access weaponry and tactics are used, as well as forces prepared to
respond to the full range of challenges posed by state and non-state
and Defending the US
Primary Role of Overseas US Military
At the end of the World War II, the US and its erstwhile “ally” against Hitler,
parted ways and the “Cold War” between the two superpowers began. The
arms race and space race started and the establishment of numerous military
bases also followed. In all these activities, both countries invested huge
By the end of the Cold War, the US
became the lone superpower with the USSR disintegrating to many nation-states. By this time, the US had
built on estimated 800 to 1,000 military bases and had stationed hundreds
of thousands of US troops around the world.
Determined to maintain its superpower status and to protect the vast
economic empire it had built, the US proceeded to divide the
world into Ten US Global Commands. All the US military bases in the world
were placed under these Military Commands.
After 9/11, the “Global War on Terror”, Pres. George W. Bush, fuming with
anger and outrage at the killing of 3,000 people in the Twin Towers by Al
Qaeda operatives unleashed the full might of US military power against
Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with 9/11. Bush and his Pentagon
minions invented reasons to justify a massive assault on Iraq, falsely
claiming that Iraq was a
threat to US
national security because of its weapons of mass destructions (WMD).
Without UN sanction and in violation of international law, the US unilaterally assembled a so-called
“coalition of the willing,” bombed and shelled with long-range missiles
Baghdad and other cities of Iraq, inflicting thousands of
civilian casualties. The invasion of Iraq
followed and after defeating a much-inferior and poorly equipped Iraqi
army, the US
succeeded in its purpose of having a “regime change”. The
anti-American Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein and many members of his
cabinet were tried, found guilty and hanged by the American-installed Iraqi
This invasion of a sovereign and independent country; the destruction of
its buildings, road, bridges and infrastructures; and the tortures and
killings of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of whom were civilians
were all war crimes and crimes against humanity under international
law which the imperialist countries are fond of invoking. But
the imperial US and its co-conspirators and accomplices who committed all
these crimes were not indicated but instead, it
was their victims – President Saddam Hussein and members of his cabinet
were the ones indicted as war criminals. This is Imperialist Justice.
Meanwhile, the BIG OIL companies of the US and its Western accomplices
are now in control of Iraqi oil.
The US Global Military Commands
below shows the different US Global Military Commands, their areas of
responsibility, the year of their establishment, and the location of their
US African Command
All 53 African countries
US European Command
Europe, the former states of the USSR, Greenland,
parts of Atlantic & Arctic Oceans
US Central Command (USCENTCOM)
Covers the “central” area of the globe between Europe and the Pacific Command
US Pacific Command
North Pacific Ocean, South Pacific Ocean to
US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM)
Continental US, Canada,
part of Arctic Ocean (up to the North
US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)
Panama (now Florida,
Caribbean, Part of Atlantic, Central America
and South America, down to the Antarctica
US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)
Anywhere in the world where needed
US Transport Command .
Scor AF Basd
Anywhere in the world where Troops, war
equipment & supplies are needed
Two other Commands with Global Jurisdiction were
created, the US STRATEGIC COMMAND (USSTRATCOM) and the US JOINT FORCES
COMMAND (US JFCOMMAND).
In addition to
the above US
military global commands, the CIA and the FBI have also been tasked to
expand their areas of responsibility. They operate openly or covertly
anywhere around the world, often without the knowledge or permission of the
country where they operate. The CIA had been operating around the
world clandestinely a long time ago. It has its African Division, Far
East Division, a Near East Division, a Western Hemisphere Division, A
Central American Task Force, Operations Groups in Iraq, Nicaragua,
South Asia, etc. (see Secret Wars of the CIA by John Prados, Chicago,
Even the FBI,
which is a domestic investigating agency of the US Justice Department, normally operating in
the United States,
has now embarked on many overseas operations. It arrests suspected
“terrorists” in the territories of supposedly sovereign and independent
countries like Pakistan, Yemen, Central and South America and other
countries in Africa and in the Middle East. Indeed, both the FBI and
the CIA are acting like self-appointed (although illegal)
international policemen, exercising police powers in many parts of the
world in violation of the independence and sovereign rights of
countries, violating principles of international law and the UN
Charter, which the US says it subscribes to.
One interesting thing to note is the sheer arrogance
imperialism in placing the whole world under its US UNIFIED GLOBAL
COMMANDS. Even big and powerful countries which are potential
adversaries (like Russia
were placed under the area of responsibility of these US Military Global
Commands. Russia was
placed under the responsibility of the US European Command (US EUCOM) and China and India were placed under the US
Pacific Command. No other country has done this before, dividing the whole
world into actual US Military Commands, each under a four-star general or
admiral with the specific mission to protect, defend and enhance US
national interests in their respective areas of responsibility. The
accusation that the US
has appointed itself the “international policeman of the world” is a valid
one for it assumes that it can act preemptively and arbitrarily, in
violation of international law, in removing or combating what it perceives
as “threats to its national security,” particularly in pursuing its
so-called “global war on terror.” The only problem is its definitions
of “terror” and “terrorist” organizations are rather vague and
flexible. It does not apply to the US and its allies and their war
crimes and crimes against humanity in their numerous military interventions
throughout the world that actually terrorize hundreds of millions of
people as acts of terror!
THE DOD BASE STRUCTURE REPORT
This US Defense Department Report outlines the US military
installations built around the world.
A second DOD Report released on December 31, 2010 shows
the distribution of active duty US military personnel by regions and by
country numbering 1,429,367 worldwide: 1,137,716 (in the US and its territories) and 458,500 in foreign countries. This
Report also indicate that 101,468 of these are “afloat,” meaning that they
are deployed in US Naval Warships operating
around the world.
A New Development: A few of the large bases has been
reduced but an increasing number of ”Access Arrangements” and
other forms of Military Cooperation Agreements have been signed as
shown in the map. (countries with Access
Arrangements, and Cooperative Security Location.)
THE GLOBAL STRATEGIC STRAITS
In order to protect and defend US strategic interests and
hegemony throughout the world, the US and its allies have
established control over strategic straits (chokepoints) around the world.
These chokepoints control the economic lifeblood of the
world --- the shipping lanes where the commerce and trade of the world and
the naval warships that protect such interests and commerce of the major
The deployment of overseas US military bases globally is
intended, among others, to provide
protection and defense of these vital and strategic straits.
The history of how these strategic straits came under the
control of the imperial powers is closely linked to the wars and conflict
due to the global expansion of the empire-building western powers.
The narrow channel of Gibraltar connects the Mediterranean Sea with the
Atlantic Ocean and the countries of Europe.
It is also a very important shipping route to the trading countries of
Southern Europe and Northern Africa.
Through the Suez Canal, these countries are able to trade with Western Asia and beyond. In the past, wars have
been fought to control the Strait
Much of the world’s oil coming from the oil-rich region of the Middle East
(Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran) pass
through the narrow Strait of Ormuz. Iran has a
strategic interest in Ormuz because some of the
small islands along the strait belong to her. In a future war over
oil, Ormuz will certainly be a vital area of
contention. The U.S.
has permanently stationed naval forces in the area.
The Suez links the Mediterranean to
the Red Sea, thence to the Gulf of Aden
and the Horn of Africa. The Suez Canal shortens the shipping lanes
from Europe to India and
the rest of Asia by over 5,000 miles.
From 1875, the British Empire controlled
the Canal. In 1922, the British granted a fake independence to Egypt which
continued to be ruled by corrupt monarchs who were British proxies.
The British retain effective control of Egypt,
particularly the Suez Canal where they
maintained military and naval bases and garrisons. It was only when
Col. Abdel Nasser, an Arab nationalist leader who
overthrew the British puppet, Egyptian King Farouk, when the British were
forced to give up control of the Canal in 1956. When Nasser
nationalized the canal, the US
proxy in the Middle East, Israel,
while the British and the French sent their armed forces to retake the
was reopened in l957. The Suez Canal
was closed again during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It was not
reopened until 1975.
STRAIT OF MALACCA
The Strait connects
the Indian Ocean (and beyond) with the South China Sea
and the Pacific. Bordering Sumatra (Indonesia),
Thailand and the
it is the shortest trade route between India
The Strait of Malacca is one of the most
heavily travelled channels in the world. In
the past, it came successively under the control of the Arabs, the
Portuguese, the Dutch (who colonized Indonesia)
and the British (who colonized Malaya and Singapore). Today giant
oil tankers from the Middle East transport oil to China, Korea,
Japan and other
countries of South East Asia and East Asia.
Shipping pass through the Spratleys whose
ownership is now the bone of contention between the Philippines, Vietnam,
Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan
is (again) trying to insert itself into the conflict.
The Panama Canal links the
East Coast of the US,
the Atlantic and the Caribbean
the Pacific and Asia. Panama used to be part of Colombia.
When the US saw the
great potential of linking the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean and Asia
through a canal, it encouraged and aided a local rebellion against Colombia.
The rebels, with US
support won the Panama
section, and declared independence from Colombia in 1903. The US immediately recognized the new country of
Panama and took control
of the Canal Zone. Under a treaty,
the Canal reverted back to Panama
but the Canal is still virtually under US protection and control.
HORN OF AFRICA
Traditionally, the “Horn of Africa” refers
to the region consisting of Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. After 9-11, the US took
interest in the region by virtue of its strategic location. Yemen, the country where Osama bin Laden was
born and where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based became a country
of interest to the US.
So is Somalia
where a strong anti-US Islamic movement was in .power.
wanted a base in the Horn of Africa from which it could launch wars of
intervention in the region. Through dollar diplomacy and the promise
of continuing aid, the US
persuaded the Djibouti
government to lease around 57 acres in Djibouti. In 2006, an
access agreement was made and the lease of land was increased to 500
acres. The lease agreement was for 5 years but it can be renewed.
The US Africa Command can
now launch COIN operations in the rest of Africa with the Djibouti base at
Camp Lemonnier as the
logistics and launching area.
In 2006, the US Africa
Command was able to persuade the Ethiopian government to invade Somalia.
The US provided money,
weapons and munitions, military advisers to the invading Ethiopia
army. The Somalian government was toppled
and the President was replaced by one more acceptable to the US.
In protecting and defending the global interests of the
US, Barack Obama and
his strategic planners in the Pentagon and
the State Department have shifted from the unilateral and arrogant “cowboy”
approach of Pres. GW BUSH to a multilateral policy in which it tries to
involve fellow imperialist powers before launching its defense of the
Empire and its wars of aggression.
The US is now experimenting with a new form of
warfare involving the collaboration of (1) Special Forces
and (2) the CIA’s paramilitary units of its “Special Activities
Division’ and (3) other units of the US Armed Forces. The
Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (part of SOCOM) runs the
show. This new form of warfare is now being tested in Yemen, Afghanistan
and Pakistan and in
training sites in Fort Bragg,
North Carolina (Home 0f Special Forces
) and in Fort Benning, Georgia
( Home of the Rangers).
The assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan is
a result of such new method of the US Special Operations Command. It
was an operation participated in by the CIA (use of
Pakistani “assets,” intel-gathering
Drones, the US Navy warship and the aircraft carrier-based SEALs who executed the final assault. It was an
operation which took months (maybe years) in the making.
This new form of warfare is complemented by the COIN shift from a purely conventional approach
(the use of conventional forces) to the application of “Soft Power”
(e.g. psychological and asymmetrical warfare). Initiated by Sec.
Donald Rumsfeld and tried in several countries of
Africa it has been expanded by Sec. Robert Gates and it is now being used
in many countries faced with “insurgency” problems (read: revolutionary
movements) . (See 2009 US Counter Insurgency Guide; In the Philippines we now have OPLAN ”Bayanihan” being implemented by the Armed Forces of the
Except for the major Headquarters located in
continental US and abroad, the US is experimenting more and more on the use
of ACCESS agreements (SOFA, MLSA, VFA, etc.),
stationing smaller, housekeeping forces and highly trained
Special Operations Forces to wage “asymmetrical” or
"irregular warfare” against any non-state forces that are
hostile to the interests of US Imperialism and its local ruling
partners. Targeted enemies include revolutionary forces fighting for
national and social liberation, which are first demonized and tagged as
“terrorist” organizations to justify their “legitimate” inclusion against
global war on terror.
In the “US Global War on Terror,” US military forces are
authorized by their superiors (civilian and military) to violate
international law, the territorial integrity of independent and
sovereign states (e.g. Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines); conduct
preemptive strikes, decapitate (assassinate) a country’s political
leadership, effect regime change, torture or kill civilian suspects, etc.
(Examples abound: Haiti, Honduras, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq and
Afghanistan; there are ongoing attempts in Libya and Syria by US and
NATO (and most probably Israel’s notorious MOSSAD). Obviously these are all
indictable war crimes but the International Criminal Court and the UN
Security Council, strongly influenced and manipulated by the US and NATO,
are turning a blind eye, pretending not to notice these gross
violations of international law and crimes against humanity, or are just
looking the other way!!
differs from George W. Bush only on the emphasis in the use of “soft power”
rather than the use of brute military force. But Obama’s
way, while more subtle and deceptive, also aims to protect
the so-called “strategic interests” of US Imperialism.
The peoples of the world must unite as one and resist
these criminal violations of international law and the territorial
integrity of sovereign and independent states by US Imperialism.
There is an urgent need for the world’s peoples to unite
in solidarity and wage a global struggle to
eliminate all US
military bases in the world; unite and struggle against all
forms of intervention by US IMPERIALISM and its collaborators!
Let us all join hands and struggle for Peace with Justice
throughout the world!
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