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New bases in Afghanistan – more outposts of America’s Empire

21 May 2009

The invasion of Iraq achieved what might be its primary purpose:  a chain of bases from which America can project power throughout the Middle East (see links at the end for more about this).  Now the colonization of Afghanistan begins (the past 7 years, Operation Enduring Freedom, being just a holding action).  Across Afghanistan a chain of bases rises.  Such as Camp Leatherneck.  Any bets on how long we’ll be there?

Huge U.S. camp arises in Afghan Desert of Death“, Reuters, 7 May 2009 — Excerpt:

A huge U.S. military camp is taking shape in the baking heat of southern Afghanistan for thousands of extra U.S. troops charged with defeating a resurgent Taliban. “This place was desert at the end of January. I mean: nothing, said Navy Captain Jeff Borowy,” the top U.S. military engineer in southern Afghanistan. “Now you’ve got a 443-acre secure facility,” he told reporters traveling with Gates.

Miles of sand walls topped with coils of barbed wire line the roads at the camp, linked to its British neighbor by a street nicknamed Atlantic Way. If placed end to end the sand walls at Leatherneck and 8 other sites being built for the troop influx in southern Afghanistan would stretch for a distance of 175 km (110 miles).

The marines at Camp Leatherneck are also building a giant parking area for helicopters and airplanes by laying down a mat of metal alloy on the desert floor. With a length of 4,860 feet a width of 318 feet, the mat will be the second largest of its kind in the world and the biggest in a combat zone, said Marine Lieutenant Colonel David Jones, commander of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, based in Yuma, Arizona.

… Even before {Obama} completed a review of Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, he ordered 17,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan, including the 12,000 Marines.

As America’s foreign policy becomes increasingly defined by our hubris and paranoia — seeing a world filled with nothing but client states, rivals, and enemies — we construct something almost unique in history:  an Empire with no economic basis.  Costing much, built with borrowed money, and providing no economic benefit to America (although enriching powerful special interests).  A monument to folly.

Other articles about our bases in Afghanistan

  1. Wikipedia entries about Helmand Province and Camp Bastion.
  2. Building Camp Bastion“, Channel 4 News, 24 February 2006 — Britain builds one of its biggest overseas military base in remote Afghanistan.
  3. Photos from Camp Bastion“, Michael Yon at his online magazine, 4 May 2006
  4. Meet the air-conditioned Marines at camp-do-nothing in Afganistan“, London Evening Standard, 29 October 2006
  5. Camp Bastion: Welcome to Helmand“, The Independent, 3 December 2006 — Tony Blair says it holds the key to future global security; a  report from the surreal £1bn Camp Bastion.
  6. Gates: Afghan-bound US troops outpacing equipment“, AP, 7 May 2009
  7. Pictures from Camp Leatherneck and elsewhere in Afghanistan, The War Scribe
  8. Orangekite1’s Weblog says “I read the US signed a 50 year lease to stay there.”  Has anyone seen information about this?

Articles about our bases in Iraq

  1. If the U.S. is ultimately leaving Iraq, why is the military building ‘permanent’ bases?, Friends Committee on National Legislation
  2. Iraq Facilities, Global Security.org
  3. Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq“, New York Times, 20 April 2003
  4. A Permanent Basis for Withdrawal?, Tom Engelhardt , 14 February 2006
  5. How Permanent Are Those Bases?, Tom Engelhardt. 7 June 2007
  6. Baseless Considerations, Tom Engelhardt, 4 November 2007
  7. A Basis for Enduring Relationships in Iraq, Tom Engelhardt, 2 December 2007
  8. Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq, FM site, 4 March 2008
  9. The Greatest Story Never Told, Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, 15 June 2008 — “Finally, the U.S. Mega-Bases in Iraq Make the News”

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).  Posts over 250 words will have a fold inserted (putting a “more” button in the comment), so make the opening text an interesting summary of your comment.

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts about our wars in Afghanistan:

  1. Scorecard #2: How well are we doing in Iraq? Afghanistan?, 31 October 2003
  2. Quote of the day: this is America’s geopolitical strategy in action, 26 February 2008 — George Friedman of Statfor on the Afghanistan War.
  3. Another perspective on Afghanistan, a reply to George Friedman, 27 February 2008
  4. How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?, 21 March 2008
  5. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust.
  6. We are withdrawing from Afghanistan, too (eventually), 21 April 2008
  7. Roads in Afghanistan, a new weapon to win 4GW’s?, 26 April 2008
  8. A powerful weapon, at the sight of which we should tremble and our enemies rejoice, 2 June 2008
  9. Brilliant, insightful articles about the Afghanistan War, 8 June 2008
  10. The good news about COIN in Afghanistan is really bad news, 20 August 2008
  11. Stratfor says that our war in Pakistan grows hotter; Palin seems OK with that, 12 September 2008
  12. Pakistan warns America about their borders, and their sovereignty, 14 September 2008
  13. Weekend reading about … foreign affairs, 19 October 2008
  14. “Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda” by George Friedman, 31 January 2009
  15. America sends forth its privateers to pillage, bold corsairs stealing from you and I, 9 February 2009  
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10 Comments leave one →
  1. senecal permalink
    21 May 2009 3:26 pm

    The depressing thing about the policies you describe here is that the more we persist in them, the more we create the conditions, the instability, the threats we say we are trying to combat.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. But the most depressing thing about these bases is that we’re not making a dime from them. Helmand Province is poppy-central for the world. If we are bringing the light of civilization to these people, they should joyfully pay us tribute (e.g., taxes, service fees, whatever) in return. Why are the folks we help so ungrateful?

    Like

  2. phageghost permalink
    21 May 2009 3:41 pm

    Glad to see this get brought up. It was IMO the primary objective of both wars, and of course gets fleeting mention in the press except to say “wow look at how impressive these bases are! A Pizza Hut in the desert, wait til they get a load of this in Peoria!”

    In Iraq it looks like the US has got its meta-stable satrapy in-place to give it cover, although it seems like all sides are waiting to see just what the “withdrawal” entails.

    In Afghanistan no realistic promise on the horizon for a meta-stable, let alone stable arrangement.

    How long will we be there?

    Until the money runs out . . .

    Like

  3. phageghost permalink
    21 May 2009 4:03 pm

    FM: “we construct something almost unique in history: an Empire with no economic basis. Costing much, built with borrowed money, and providing no economic benefit to America (although enriching powerful special interests)

    Maybe not without precedent. My rather superficial understanding of the Soviet relationship to Eastern Europe was that during the initial phases of the Cold War the Eastern European satellites provided a net economic subsidy to the USSR. During the later phases, the situation reversed, with the USSR subsidizing their empire for the perceived security benefits. The unsustainability of this arrangement relative to the economic base of the USSR directly factored into the fatal crisis of their empire.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Great point! Thanks for this comment!

    Like

  4. senecal permalink
    21 May 2009 6:48 pm

    Many people have observed that the American “empire” is not like former ones, in that we don’t generally occupy countries, but simply keep them in our orbit by various means, like economic coercion, bribery, and political corruption. These military adventures on the margins should perhaps be looked at in a different way — as prologues to the more typical semi-stable client state, or as signs of the breaking up of previously stable client states, or, more metaphysically, merely as a sign of the nervousness of the American ruling class that their time is coming to an end.

    Like

  5. 21 May 2009 9:30 pm

    From:Firesign Theater “Waiting For the Electrician or Someone Like Him

    INDIAN: Welcome, White Brother!
    WAGON BOSS: Injuns! Draw the wagons up into a circle!
    INDIAN: Why do you always do that?
    WAGON BOSS: We get better reception that way! Do you mind if I put this antenna up on yonder peak?
    INDIAN: That’s our Sacred Mountain.
    WAGON BOSS: This is our Sacred Antenna! It’s shaped like a cross! Made out of aluminum. Er-got any aluminum?

    The more things change the more they stay the same. Civilization Ho!

    Like

  6. 22 May 2009 6:22 am

    we construct something almost unique in history: an Empire with no economic basis. Costing much, built with borrowed money, and providing no economic benefit to America (although enriching powerful special interests).

    Speaking of borrowed money:

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Obama administration is committed to reducing the federal budget deficit after concerns rose that the U.S. debt rating may eventually be threatened with a downgrade.

    “It’s very important that this Congress and this president put in place policies that will bring those deficits down to a sustainable level over the medium term,” Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. He added that the target is reducing the gap to 3 percent of gross domestic product or smaller, from a projected 12.9 percent this year.

    The dollar, Treasuries and American stocks slumped today on concern about the U.S. government’s debt rating. Bill Gross, the co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., said the U.S. “eventually” will lose its AAA grade.

    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: While a downgrade seems inevitable, the rating agencies previous actions suggest that the current talk is incorrect — and that the downgrade will not happen for several years. Although the ratings agencies can change their standards — or even act in an arbitrary manner — past downgrades have happened when a nation’s government debt/gdp ratio hit 100%. From economist David Rosenberg (September 2008):

    The downgrading of Canadian debt in 1995 and Japanese debt in 1998 highlight how far the United States should be from a downgrade of its sovereign debt. In 1995, Canada’s debt rating was cut from Aaa to Aa1. At that time, using IMF figures, Canada’s gross debt-to-GDP ratio was 114%. Similarly, when Japan’s debt was downgraded in 1998 from Aaa to Aa1, the ratio for Japan was 120%.

    Putting debt/gdp on a common standard is complex. For example, the US public debt is $7 trillion (50% of GDP), plus another $4.3T the government owes to itself (the fictional “social security trust fund”), plus the debt of government owned, partially-owned, and de facto guaranteed entities be included (FDIC, PBGIC, FNMA?). The core number of 50% is probably the key number, at least until the ratings agencies explicitly include future liabilities (esp employee pensions, medicare, and social security). Then ratings for most (not all!) of the western nations will get trashed.

    Like

  7. 22 May 2009 3:47 pm

    FM: “Any bets on how long we’ll be there?
    As long as we’ve been in Europe? … probably not. We’re running out of money, sooner.

    We need to learn how to do Nation Building with Human Rights far better, but most critics don’t have that neo-con ideal in mind, so are less than constructive. (Go home, let the terrorists win.) Tough choices, all likely outcomes look bad.

    Like

  8. senecal permalink
    22 May 2009 4:02 pm

    Tom: where’ve you been? You’re always thought-provoking, even though usually I disagree with you. In the above comment, you’re right in the sense that if we had any feeling for other human beings, we’d leave them alone in most cases, give them material/educational aid where possible. Unfortunately, “human rights” in current usage is more often a misleading pretext for intervention — as prior to the original Afghan invasion all the talk about restoring womens’ rights. Human rights was also the basis of the “ethnic cleansing” rationale for invading Yugoslavia, and is again for those who want to intervene in Somalia.

    Like

  9. 12 July 2009 1:54 pm

    i have travelled for many years since 1979 in the area. In 2004 I was a subcontractor for a school for USAID/Louis Burger in Khanashin, and in 2006 I surveyed the road from Nad I Ali to Camp Bastion for Pro Sima International. The force ratio is too low, won’t hurt the Taliban. It’s like puny pin pricks of no strategic consequence.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for posting. Always good to hear from people who have been there.

    Like

  10. jekah permalink
    4 November 2009 1:38 am

    Recent developments, such as Karzai brother’s link to the CIA and our reported efforts to bribe the Taliban into cooperation, seem to confirm your theory, but I have to disagree with your comment:

    — we construct something almost unique in history: an Empire with no economic basis. Costing much, built with borrowed money, and providing no economic benefit to America (although enriching powerful special interests). A monument to folly.

    I believe empires are initially created based on demographic and economic bases. But, when successful, they just try to subsist, like any other life form.
    Self preservation is probably the most frequent motivator for empires throughout history, starting with Fabius’ homeland. The Roman Empire’s reliance on bribes to placate the “Barbarian Tribes” was one of the indicators of its decline. The question, to me, seems to be “who, or what, are we trying to preserve?”. As a side comment/question, one could argue that empires are inherently monuments to folly; so what do we expect?

    Like

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