American Power Projection –– Policy Changes


An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 09 July 2003  

We have periodically reported the new system of American power projection across the world, which the ‘neo conservative’ ruling coterie of the Bush administration, have chosen to pursue with great zeal. (see ‘Straussian Waltz’).

In this piece we attempt to do a more thorough analysis of the American plans to conquer or control the world. Though no signs of WMD have to-date been found in Iraq and Saddam Hussain like Osama-bin-Laden is still suspected to be alive; worse still a mini guerilla war seems to have started taking a toll of American soldiers’ lives at a rate even higher than the Iraqi liberation war.

It appears as if the Straussian disciples are embarked on a strategy of unipolar control around the globe. To achieve this end, the ‘neo-conservatives’ that dominate policy making in the White House argue that the US alone is above international law and any system of international criminal justice. This also includes a marginalisation of the UN when it does not adhere to American needs.

The latest is that three dozen countries risk losing US military aid after missing a deadline for agreeing to protect Americans on their territory from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Now in the most extensive global realignment of military forces since the end of the Cold War, the Bush administration is creating a network of far-flung military bases designed for the rapid projection of American military power against terrorists, hostile states and other potential adversaries.

The US plan for the new world order follows a pattern which can be roughly described as follows: 

  • The creation of US hegemony in regions of geo-strategic importance to the US, for example UK (in “old Europe”); Romania and Bulgaria in South East Europe. (They are recipients of the largest security assistance in the region); Israel in West Asia; Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia; Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea in the Far East; Pakistan in South Asia and Australia in South East Asia.

  • Containment through engagement of independent powers –– like China , France , Germany , Indonesia , India , Malaysia , Russia .

  • Regime change in powers that aspire to challenge the US –– Syria , Iran , North Korea , and Cuba .

The US perhaps believes that as a benevolent imperial state it alone can ensure international security and peace –– “Pax Americana”. The White House is working out its agenda through a set of alliances as revealed in its military tie-ups, bases and military assistance programmes. One common denominator is that none of these is an equal alliance, i.e. they are based on various types, levels and extents of subordination. For instance, NATO besides being a military alliance ensures US interests and presence in Europe . Afghanistan and now Iraq are surrogates. UK and Israel are lap dogs.

Getting rid of weapons of mass destruction was the reason given for Iraq and now for threatening Iran . But given the failure of the Bush-Blair team to find WMDs, ridding the world of “pre-modern” oppressive regimes that are violating human rights is another way of seeking legitimacy for intervention.

The real reason behind this expansionism is the US aim to re-structure the international political system to suit its national interests and those of global capital. Its strategy is clear. First, to make US the safest place to park finance capital. Second, to provide itself and the major Trans National Companies (TNCs) safe and unbridled access to raw material and natural resources that have been denied to it by regimes opposed to the US or global capital. Third, to ensure a policing capacity at all geostrategic areas that are linked to these resources and the routes or lines of communication that transport these resources both to the US and other areas where their profits would be derived from this finance capital. Fourth, to ensure its hegemony so that the earlier three principles can be insured. These policies will ensure US dominance and the continuation of a unipolar world.

US military planners are engaged in two complicated processes. The first entails a rearrangement of existing military bases around the world, partly to complete the readjustment begun a decade ago when the threat of international communism ended and partly to reduce political dependency on any host nation. The deployment of US troops in Europe was originally designed to meet the threat of a Soviet invasion. That threat has disappeared but tens of thousands of US forces remain in Europe , largely because neither the Europeans nor the Americans want to tackle the sensitive question of their withdrawal.

The recent war in Iraq , however, changed the situation. Washington discovered that, while it could use these troops and their equipment in the Middle East , it could not fly them over the territory of some countries that opposed the war. The most spectacular change of strategy came with the idea of creating 'virtual' military bases around the world –– staging posts for US troops –– rather than long-term, fixed installations where US forces are stationed for decades.

The US has invested heavily in new transport aircraft –– vast monsters that can airlift whole units, complete with all their equipment, in a matter of days to any corner of the globe. The result is that the USA does not need many fixed bases; all it requires is the certainty that some areas around the world can be used as staging posts for the airlift of US forces whenever necessary.

This scheme has the added advantage of precluding political disputes, for the stationing of US troops can create huge difficulties. In contrast, the conclusion of agreements about the possible use of staging posts in case of crises can pass unnoticed. Few are aware that Washington has already created a constellation of such 'virtual' military bases on the territories of all the former Soviet republics in Central Asia , conveniently close to Iran , Afghanistan , India , Pakistan and China .

The bases are being built or expanded in countries such as Qatar , Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan , and the US territory of Guam . The new bases will become key nodes in the implementation of the administration's doctrine of preemptive attack against terrorists and hostile states believed to have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The withdrawal of US troops from the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea , announced last month, and the recent removal of most US forces from Saudi Arabia are the opening moves in a complex shift that should replace most large, permanent US bases overseas with smaller facilities that can be used as needed.

This new network of bases corresponds to what defence officials call an "arc of instability" that runs from the Andean region in the Southern Hemisphere through North Africa to the Middle East and into Southeast Asia. America would still maintain a ring of permanent military "hubs" on US territory, such as Guam , and in closely allied countries, such as Britain and possibly Japan . But many of the major bases on which it had relied, such as those in Saudi Arabia , Turkey , Germany and South Korea , will be replaced by dozens of spartan "forward operating bases" in southern Europe , the Middle East and Asia , maintained only by small, permanent support units.

Beyond the hubs and forward operating bases would be a ring of "forward operating locations," or prearranged but unmaintained staging areas that US forces would be allowed by host nations to occupy quickly in the event of a conflict. These forward facilities would be augmented by greater reliance on basing forces and equipment aboard ships at sea, and on pre-positioning forces and heavy combat equipment at staging areas along major shipping routes.

Although US forces have vacated two large permanent air bases in Saudi Arabia and Turkey used for patrolling the northern and southern "no-fly" zones over Iraq for more than a decade, they have established forward operating bases in Bahrain , Kuwait , Qatar , Oman and the United Arab Emirates . Military personnel are stationed in all of those countries, with 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain , a major Air Force operations center in Qatar and two huge Army bases in Kuwait . But there are no combat units permanently based in any of those countries, as there are in Germany , home to the Army's 1st Armored and 1st Infantry divisions.

The continued basing of 60,000 Army troops in Germany , where they have been since the end of World War II, is under review. Pentagon wants to continue using Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany , and view it as a critical hub facility for supporting deployments to more distant forward operating bases and locations. One scenario under consideration, calls for the troops in Germany to be brought home and based in the United States .

They could then be rotated on six-month assignments in countries such as Poland , Bulgaria and Romania , which are closer to the Balkans and Central Asia and less restrictive than Germany as training sites. There is interest in operating locations along southern European shipping routes in Italy , Spain and Portugal . Farther east, in Central Asia , it is planned to maintain bases in Uzbekistan , Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan , which were established in 2001 to support the war in Afghanistan . The Pentagon is hoping to possibly re-establish bases or locations in the Philippines , although it is not clear how receptive the Philippine government will be.

Pentagon is also considering bases or staging areas in northeast Australia , where the US military has close ties and excellent training relationships with the Australian military. But some sources doubt that any forthcoming agreements would call for US Marines to be permanently based there. Last month, there were unconfirmed reports that Pentagon had also sounded India for some base facilities.

US is using military aid as leverage to advance its agenda. To win over allies for their Iraq and West Asia policy, several countries have been sanctioned military aid. These include Turkey –– $1 billion in economic aid; Jordan , $700m economic and $406m in military aid and an additional $1.4b in defence department reimbursements. Israel will receive $1b in military aid plus $9b in loan guarantees. Egypt got $300m in economic aid. Fifteen countries –– Bahrain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Oman, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia received a total of $308m military aid for the “logistic support” they provided for the Iraq war. (The Prime Minister of Slovenia announced that his country was erroneously listed as a member of the Coalition and would not receive the $4.5m in US military aid.) In addition to this, Pakistan received $200m in military aid for border security. They have now been promised an additional $3b for the next three years, half of which for defence related purposes. The Philippines , an old US base, has a “visiting forces” agreement and received $92m worth of excess military equipment. In addition, Columbia and Equador are also to receive military assistance. The new recipients like Georgia got $64m in military aid and training to “fight Arab soldiers with ties to Al Qaeda.”

Little is being said in public and, for the moment, most of the changes are imperceptible. Yet they amount to an extraordinary reassessment of the way US forces will be positioned around the world. Washington is hell bent to plan for wars anywhere around the globe. However, most troops will be positioned in the US , rather than in forward bases on various continents. Some of the NATO allies like France and Germany have strongly opposed US moves as evident from Iraq .

Russia and China , despite their growing contacts with the US , are in favour of a multi-polar system and oppose unilateralist policies. India too would favour a world order without US or any single power’s monopoly. But the present economic, technological and military superiority of America puts it in an envious position to rule the roost. The rest have no go but to wait and watch.



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