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What Empire?

One tangible effect of all of our recent wars has been a marked proliferation of U.S. military bases around the world.  Since the end of the Cold War, the number of countries that host American bases has increased by almost one third, to over 60.  Whether this proliferation has been a serendipitous result of unavoidable armed conflict or is an integral part of our foreign policy is a question that must be addressed.

Soon after Bill Clinton took office, former secretary of defense Dick Cheney and one of his undersecretaries, Paul Wolfowitz, issued a report that warned against letting the U.S. military decline in the wake of the Cold War.  One of the essential elements in their defense strategy was the notion of projecting a “forward presence” that required establishing a network of  “forward bases” inside “host nations” around the world.

After receiving a lukewarm reception from the Clinton administration, their ideas were put on hold until George W. Bush took office, at which point a very similar report was issued by a fledgling think tank known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).  Their now infamous report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” by Paul Wolfowitz, among other neoconservatives, stated that “US forces are poorly positioned to respond to today’s crises” and that we must “reposition US...

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