Monday, March 29, 2010

Empire of Bases or Baseless Empire?

The US has the most impressive array of bases in the history of the world. Yet there is growing reason to question whether the US can actually exercise power--get others to do what they want--through the empire of bases.

It is striking that even in Iraq and Afghanistan,countries where the US maintains a giant military presence and the political leadership perhaps could be described as US puppets, the US is increasingly seen as just one of several countries to deal with, by actors including that leadership ("Karzai has coolly defied the President Barack Obama's do-or-die diplomatic campaign to "isolate" Iran in the region - not once but twice during the past fortnight"). Controlling foreign policy is, after all, practically the first directive of empire. Whether you have direct or indirect rule, whether you regard the ruled as citizens of the empire or something else, all that may vary. But if a state is part of your empire, you must be 'the decider' as to who they are allying themselves with worldwide. Otherwise the concept of empire--real or de facto--is meaningless. In the New Left Review, Tariq Ali commented that China may be building pipelines and importing oil and gas from Afghanistan, but it remains dependent on US troops for protection. The concept should be turned around. Why would China complain if the US is picking up the tab and doing the dirty work of policing these resource routes. And what exactly is the US accomplishing if the oil and gas are heading east?

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