The United States currently employs over 1.3 million active military personnel with over 800,000 in reserves. According to data collected by Time Magazine, over 150,000 personnel are stationed overseas in over 800 military bases in more than 150 countries around the globe. This means that the United States’ military is involved in 76% of the world’s nations in some way. One has to wonder what this network of military infrastructure and resources hopes to achieve, and perhaps whether or not the goals of the federal government in this regard are in the best interest of the public at large.
In recent years, there has been an outcry by a minority of Americans who feel that the vastness of the military is draining resources that would otherwise be more useful elsewhere. These Americans also believe that many servicemen and women’s lives are being placed in potential danger by being stationed in lands that could be life-threatening, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, many of these people feel that it is more productive for the military to be “protecting the borders” by stationing active military personnel along the Mexican and Canadian borders. This is most likely to deter immigration and nefarious acts committed by crime organizations. Putting it simply, this minority has called for a return to times similar to that of pre-World War II. During this time, the public was very much against the idea of intervening in conflicts and developments overseas in an effort to build up and strengthen the home nation instead.
So, what are the goals behind the United States’ spread of military power around the globe? Firstly, the United States has economic and diplomatic interests in all 150 countries currently housing U.S. military personnel. The vast majority of nations with U.S. military personnel and bases are tasked with training the police and military force of the host nation. This serves as an effort to strengthen the civil and international defense of the country, which overall improves stability of the host country’s government. Subsequently, a stable and friendly country towards the United States is more willing to trade and offer support in times of conflict in the region. Additionally, it would enable the U.S. to project its ideology in order to develop capitalistic and democratic societies around the globe.
Secondly, the United States has flagged specific countries as nations within regions of strategic importance. These nations include Japan, South Korea, Spain, Germany, Kuwait, and Italy. These nations make up nearly 70% of all U.S. military personnel deployed overseas. They are important because they are either a huge economic power, beneficiary to the United States, or they are located close to rogue nations or superpowers that are not so friendly with the U.S., or both. The strategic placement of personnel within these regions allows the military to move swiftly if a situation were to arise that would require the United States’ armed forces, helping to counter any and all threats to the country and its allies.
Lastly, history tends to repeat itself. The United States’ isolationist attitude prior to World War II saw the domination of Nazi Germany over Europe and the near defeat of Great Britain, as well as the unchecked expansion of Japan into China and Southeast Asia. The U.S.’ unwillingness to act against the Axis powers brought the war to its doorstep with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, bringing over 3,500 casualties with it and forcing the U.S. to enter World War II.
Similarly, the U.S.’ dismissive attitude toward Al Qaeda and international terrorism in the 1990’s led to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the infamous attack on 9/11. This once again forced the U.S. to take action, with the nation declaring a “War on Terror.” International defense, as this is meant to demonstrate, proves that the U.S.’ interest starts where the conflict begins and that to protect the borders, it must immediately project itself to deal with any and all international threats.
Ultimately, the debate is still heated and both sides have valid points and arguments. Overall, it would seem that the United States has a vested interest in maintaining its military network all over the world in order to protect itself as a nation and help it grow, despite the distance the bases may be from the shores. With globalization continuing to grow, foreign conflicts are becoming more and more important for the U.S. to solve in order to protect the advancement of its economy and to prevent the deaths of potentially thousands of innocent individuals, both American and foreign.