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First take/bases

Some weeks ago I posted on Facebook a link to a summary list of U.S. military bases around the world – hundreds of them, more than 600 by that count, leading to my question of why we need so many bases around the world. I got some gentle blowback, the main thrust of which was that the count and the list was too simplistic. Many of the “bases,” the response went, were actually just tiny outposts, some maybe unmanned, nothing like what we think of as a military base. Fair enough. Military bases no doubt were a lot more varied than the list or post seemed to allow for, and the reality probably was more complex than I’d allowed for. Happily, I was able to follow up in reading a new book (published in late August) called “Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World” by David Vine. I would recommend those Facebook readers and anyone else interested in the subject (all Americans should be) pick it up and read for the details, which Vine supplies. He gets into the wide variety and nature of U.S, military bases overseas, and points out that while fewer than 70 are really big bases (“Little Americas” like Ramstein in Germany, which look like full-scale U.S. cities transplanted to another country), many others are substantial, and many of the little ones (called “Lily Pads”) may carry large costs and implications even when few military personnel are assigned there. Vine also points out that some bases are run by contractors – and a few are even owned by contractors and leased back to us (and used by our military), so we can maintain the fiction we have no formal military base there. This is a subject on which more of us really ought to be more conversant. After reading “Base Nation,” I think I am, at least somewhat more than I was. – rs

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