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jeudi, 05 janvier 2017

Pourquoi l’US Navy est-elle à quai ?

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Pourquoi l’US Navy est-elle à quai?

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org 

On sait depuis longtemps, – en fait, depuis la fin de la Deuxième Guerre mondial, – que l’US Navy veille à garder en déploiement opérationnel un certain nombre de ses groupes de porte-avions, autour de cette unité centrale du contrôle des mers qu’est devenu le grand porte-avions d’attaque (CVA pour l’US Navy). Il s’agit d’une planification très complexe aujourd'hui parce que le nombre de CVA est réduit à dix et qu’un certain nombre d’entre eux doivent se trouver en relâche technique, soit pour une simple raison d’une nécessaire interruption du service pour repos et entretien courant, soit pour des périodes d’entretien plus fondamental (mise en radoub), soit pour des stades de modernisation, des réparations, etc.

Avec les CVA modernes, extrêmement complexes et d’un entretient délicat, ces périodes d’immobilisation s’allongent et rendent encore plus complexe la planification, alors que les crises ne cessant d’éclater et de se développer dans le monde. Quoi qu’il en soit, la Navy essaie d’avoir trois ou quatre unités en déploiements opérationnels en même temps sur toutes les mers du monde et selon les nécessités stratégiques du moment ; ces dernières années, des situations se sont présentées où ces déploiements simultanés étaient réduits à deux groupes, dans de courtes périodes intermédiaires où un CVA avait quitté sa zone opérationnelle alors qu’un autre se trouvait sur le point d’y arriver. Mais la situation actuelle est complètement originale et étrange : aucun déploiement opérationnel de CVA, une “première” depuis 1945, à la très forte signification stratégique et symbolique même si cette situation ne devrait durer que d’une à trois semaines.

Infowars.com s’empare de la nouvelle pour en faire une interrogation sur son sens politique et caché : pourquoi l’administration Obama a-t-elle ordonné ce repli de l’US Navy et ne se pourrait-il pas que cette mesure préparât une opération de type-falseflag d'ici le 20 janvier et la prestation de serment de Trump ?

« In what can only be described as a disproportionate appropriation of U.S. Navy assets, a blatant breach of standard protocol, and a possible set up for a false flag operation — the entire U.S. Navy aircraft carrier group, 10 active carriers, have returned to port and are now all sitting ducks. According to information displayed on GoNavy.jp, which tracks the current locations of all active aircraft carriers, the Obama Administration has ordered every single active U.S. aircraft carrier home.

» About 6000 sailors from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group returned to Norfolk, Virginia “out of nowhere” Friday, just ahead of New Year’s, after CVN69’s deployment on June 1. “The Eisenhower’s replacement carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, was delayed by more than six months in the shipyards and will not be able to replace the Ike until early” 2017, Navy officials say. [...]

» Additionally it’s important to note that radio talk show host Alex Jones has warned of a possible impending false flag, one that may come before President-elect Trump takes office.

» Could something be brewing on the horizon? »

C’est essentiellement à partir d’une enquête faite par FoxNews et difffusée le 31 décembre 2016 qu’il est apparu que l’US Navy se trouvait dans cette posture. Le texte que donne FoxNews en complément de son reportage filmé reste assez confus à cause du mélange des explications techniques et budgétaires et des arguments de communication que donnent les officiels contactés. Il semblerait que cette situation ne durerait formellement qu'une semaine, à l'issue de laquelle le USS Carl-Vinson quitterait sa base et son port d’attache de San Diego pour aller prendre position dans le Pacifique ou éventuellement dans l’Océan Indien (ce qui demandera un certain temps et ne comblera réellement le “vide stratégique” que vers le 20 janvier, – justement...).

Voici quelques extraits du texte de FoxNews :

« For the next week, not only will there be no U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Middle East, but there will be no American aircraft carriers deployed at sea anywhere else in the world, despite a host of worldwide threats facing the United States. [...]

» While there is no U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East right now, there is a large deck U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship with thousands of Marines on board as well as helicopters and some jets to respond to a crisis, according to officials. [...] In the meantime, the Navy tells Fox News the U.S. military has other jets available to make up for the aircraft carrier gap in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. The Navy can also “surge” a carrier now in port to deploy if necessary. But the absence of a deployed U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, long seen as a symbol of American power projection, is noteworthy. It is believed to be the first time since World War II that at least one U.S. aircraft carrier has not been deployed. [...]

» It’s not the first time there was a carrier gap in the Middle East. Last fall, the U.S. Navy relied on a French aircraft carrier to fill the void when the USS Theodore Roosevelt returned home. At the time it was the first gap in carrier coverage in the Middle East since 2007.

» Other factors contribute to the U.S. Navy not having an aircraft carrier deployed anywhere in the world right now. [...] The congressionally mandated budget cuts known as sequestration have also been felt on the waterfront since 2011. After billions of dollars were cut from the Navy’s budget, ships such as the George H.W. Bush were forced to prolong their time in the shipyards, which had a ripple effect down the line. If the Bush had left the shipyard on time, she would have relieved the Ike in the Gulf or the Mediterranean, officials tell Fox News. »

On observera que les deux interprétations diffèrent notablement, Infowars.com posant aussitôt l’hypothèse d’un “coup” de l’administration Obama et FoxNews se contentant d’exposer les arguments de la Navy, tout en mettant en évidence le caractère stratégique extraordinaire de la situation qui symbolise bien le déclin de la puissance stratégique US. Il reste que cette occurrence effectivement extraordinaire se produit dans une séquence de grande tension aux USA, avec deux présidents, le sortant et le nouvel élu, en position d’affrontement jusqu’au 20 janvier et l’inauguration officielle du président Trump.

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Bien qu’une coïncidence reste effectivement possible, l’argument d’une situation provoquée ne peut être complètement rejetée, loin s’en faut. La Navy planifie de loin la situation de ses CVA, et il paraît plutôt étonnant qu’elle ait laissé se faire ce “vide” stratégique extraordinaire en plein processus de transition du pouvoir, dans une période où, en général, les forces armées US ont plutôt tendance, sinon mission de montrer leur puissance alors que le pouvoir politique est dans une position constitutionnellement incertaine. Cette remarque s'accompagne par ailleurs dans notre chef de la précision que nous sommes plutôt en complet désaccord sur l’énoncé de l’article d’Infowars.com selon lequel “l’administration Obama a ordonné que tous les porte-avions d’attaque de l’US Navy regagne leurs ports d’attache” (« ...the Obama Administration has ordered every single active U.S. aircraft carrier home... »). Une direction politique ne peut donner un tel ordre secrètement, surtout sur un temps très réduit comme l’article le laisse entendre, et l’US Navy de son côté ne se prêterait certainement pas à une manœuvre à long terme, demandant une planification à mesure, sans soulever l’aspect politique et stratégique complètement extraordinaire, sinon extraordinairement suspect de la chose dans la période actuelle de transition et de tension ; bref, il est difficile à des comploteurs, fussent-ils américanistes et de l’administration Obama, de jouer avec des groupes de porte-avions d’attaque comme l’on dirige des drones liquidateurs à 7.000 kilomètres de distance.

Il existe par contre une autre possibilité, qui est que l’US Navy ait volontairement effectué une telle planification pour priver le commandement civil d’une capacité importante de frappe, au cas où une opération de provocation (par exemple contre la Syrie) aurait été lancée pour tenter de déstabiliser, par exemple soit la candidature Trump, soit le président-élu Trump. (L’exemple choisi [Trump] est en fait le seul cas possible impliquant l’hypothèse d’une “opération de provocation” au vu de la distribution des pouvoirs, des candidats, de leurs programmes, etc., tout au long de la campagne USA-2016.) L’US Navy avait réalisé une opération de cette sorte, d’une façon politiquement très claire derrière les arguments techniques qui avaient permis de dégarnir les capacités d’attaque contre l’Iran dans la période 2006-2007, alors que les extrémistes de l’administration Bush (Cheney & sa clique) réclamaient une attaque contre l’Iran. De simples dispositions techniques, avec des procédures de remplacement arrangées dans un sens adéquat en modulant les déplacements des porte-avions avaient permis de réduire la présence de l’US Navy à deux, voire un seul CVA au large de l’Iran en juillet-août 2007, au moment le plus intense de la possibilité d’une attaque ; cette présence était absolument insuffisante pour le dispositif aérien et de soutien technique nécessaire à l’attaque stratégique envisagée. (On retrouve des traces de cette opération notamment dans le F&C du 18 juillet 2007 sur « Le porte-avions volant », tandis que de nombreuses autres références renvoient à un conflit ouvert entre des chefs du JCS et de l’US Navy, – les amiraux Mullen et Fallon particulièrement, – et les extrémistes de l’administration GW Bush.)

Avec cette référence à l’esprit, on peut effectivement donner une signification politique à cette situation stratégique extraordinaire de l’US Navy, au moins pendant cette période vitale et très tendue de la transition. On sait depuis longtemps, au moins dans la période depuis 9/11, que les militaires US ont été la fraction du pouvoir la moins encline au déclenchement d’un conflit et, en général, aux diverses politiques bellicistes développées avec ce zèle par les pouvoirs politiques et certains services de sécurité. Par ailleurs, cette même situation stratégique de l’US Navy sert de rappel utile, de la part des militaire, des promesses du candidat Trump de restaurer l’outil militaire US dans toute sa puissance. Enfin, pour couronner cette addition d’arguments qui ont une logique commune mais qui sont finalement contradictoires dans leur signification à long terme, la situation actuelle de “vide stratégique” de l’US Navy renforce le choix supposé de l’administration Trump d’abandonner une politique belliciste et d’interventionnisme extérieur... Puisque, décidément et preuve par les CVA de la Navy, il s’avère que les USA n’en ont plus les moyens...

mercredi, 20 mai 2015

EE.UU. desvía su interés geopolítico hacia el Extremo Oriente

Ex: http://www.elespiadigital.com

El Ejército estadounidense baraja la posibilidad de usar buques y aeronaves para impugnar las reivindicaciones territoriales de Pekín en el mar de China Meridional, un movimiento que podría aumentar la tensión en una zona en disputa, informa 'The Wall Street Journal' citando a funcionarios estadounidenses.

Según 'The Wall Street Journal', el secretario de Defensa estadounidense Ashton Carter ha pedido a su personal que "busque opciones", incluido el uso de aviones de vigilancia sobre las islas y el envío de buques de guerra de EE.UU. a menos de 12 millas náuticas de los arrecifes del archipiélago de Spratly, que son reclamados por China.

Si EE.UU. desafía las demandas de China usando naves o buques de guerra y Pekín defiende su posición, el resultado podría ser el aumento de las tensiones en la región

"De ser aprobados por la Casa Blanca, este tipo de movimientos buscarían enviar el mensaje a Pekín de que EE.UU. no accederá a las reivindicaciones territoriales chinas sobre las islas artificiales en lo que EE.UU. considera aguas y espacio aéreo internacionales", reza el artículo.

De acuerdo con los funcionarios consultados por el rotativo, aunque EE.UU. ya ha expresado que no reconoce las islas artificiales como territorio chino, hasta ahora la Marina estadounidense no ha enviado sus aviones militares o buques a menos de 12 millas náuticas de distancia de los arrecifes para evitar la escalada de tensiones.

Las fuentes explicaron que actualmente existe un "creciente impulso" en el Pentágono y la Casa Blanca para tomar medidas concretas "con el fin de enviar una señal a Pekín de que la reciente construcción en las Spratly ha ido demasiado lejos y ha de detenerse".

Según 'The Wall Street Journal', la idea del Pentágono es que cualquier despliegue militar "aumentaría la presión sobre los chinos para que hagan concesiones sobre las islas artificiales".

Sin embargo, prosigue la publicación, ello podría tener el efecto contrario y hacer que Pekín "amplíe la construcción en desafío a EE.UU." y, potencialmente, dar lugar a nuevas reclamaciones chinas en la zona.

"Si EE.UU. desafía las demandas de China usando naves o buques de guerra y Pekín defiende su posición, el resultado podría ser el aumento de las tensiones en la región", advierte el artículo.

Las propuestas militares aún no han sido presentadas formalmente a la Casa Blanca, que tendría que aprobar cualquier cambio en la postura de EE.UU. sobre el tema.

Una caravana de buques ruso-china se acerca al Mediterráneo realizando maniobras

Dos corbetas chinas y un buque de misiles sobre cojín de aire de la Marina rusa han iniciado las maniobras conjuntas al zarpar del puerto de Novorosíisk rumbo a los estrechos del Bósforo y Dardanelos, que cruzarán este jueves.

Según un portavoz del Ministerio de Defensa ruso citado por RIA Novosti, los buques ya han iniciado los entrenamientos en su camino hacia la zona del ejercicio principal, situada en el mar Mediterráneo. Allí se les sumarán otros cinco buques de guerra rusos y una embarcación de apoyo china.

"Cada milla náutica del recorrido de los buques se utiliza con la máxima eficacia para el aprendizaje marino de las tripulaciones", agregó el oficial. En concreto, los tripulantes de las naves trabajarán en la coordinación de su comunicación y mejorarán conjuntamente sus capacidades de maniobra en alta mar.

La fase activa de los ejercicios navales tendrá lugar entre el 17 y el 21 de mayo. El pasado día 8 las corbetas de la Armada china atracaron en un puerto ruso por primera vez –en este caso en el de Novorossíisk– para participar el día siguiente en las celebraciones del Día de la Victoria.

Paul Craig Roberts: "Washington cometió un error que podría ser fatal para la humanidad"

La Casa Blanca está decidida a bloquear el surgimiento de las dos potencias nucleares clave, Rusia y China, ninguna de las cuales aceptará la hegemonía de EE.UU., opina el politólogo y economista norteamericano Paul Craig Roberts, quien considera que "Washington cometió un error que podría ser fatal para la humanidad".

"EE.UU. siempre ha tenido una buena opinión de sí mismo, pero con la caída de la Unión Soviética la autosatisfacción alcanzó nuevas cumbres. Nos convertimos en el pueblo excepcional, el pueblo indispensable, el país elegido por la historia para ejercer la hegemonía sobre el mundo", escribe el politólogo en un artículo publicado en su sitio web. Agrega que "esta doctrina neoconservadora libera al Gobierno de EE.UU. de las limitaciones del derecho internacional y permite a Washington usar la coerción contra Estados soberanos con el fin de rehacer el mundo".

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Debido a esta política, Pekín actualmente se está confrontando con la estrategia estadounidense conocida como 'Pivot to Asia' (giro a Asia), y con "la construcción de nuevas bases navales y aéreas de EE.UU. para asegurar el control de Washington en el mar de China Meridional, que ahora se define como una de las áreas de interés nacional para los estadounidenses", señala el autor.

Por otro lado, el intento de contener a Rusia es el origen de "la crisis que Washington ha creado en Ucrania y de aprovecharla para hacer propaganda antirrusa", explica Roberts.

Rusia y China finalmente se han dado cuenta de que tienen que elegir entre el vasallaje o la guerra

En su opinión, "la agresión y la propaganda descarada" de EE.UU. no han hecho más que convencer a Rusia y China de que "Washington tiene intenciones de guerra, y haberse dado cuenta de ello ha empujado a los dos países hacia una alianza estratégica".

Ni Rusia, ni China aceptarán el llamado "estatus de vasallaje aceptado por el Reino Unido, Alemania, Francia y el resto de Europa, así como Canadá, Japón y Australia", afirma el analista político, que añade que "el precio de la paz mundial es que todo el mundo acepte la hegemonía de Washington".

"En el frente de la política exterior, la arrogancia de la autoimagen de Estados Unidos como el país 'excepcional e indispensable' y con los derechos hegemónicos sobre otros países significa que el mundo se prepara para la guerra", escribe Roberts.

A su juicio, "a menos que el dólar, y con él el poder de EE.UU., se derrumbe o que Europa encuentre el coraje para romper con Washington y llevar a cabo una política exterior independiente diciendo adiós a la OTAN, una guerra nuclear es nuestro probable futuro".

El precio de la paz mundial es que el mundo acepte la hegemonía de Washington

En su columna, Roberts también aborda la cuestión de las celebraciones en Moscú del Día de la Victoria sobre el nazismo, que los políticos occidentales boicotearon, mientras que "los chinos estaban allí en su lugar", con el presidente sentado junto a Vladímir Putin durante el desfile militar en la Plaza Roja, lo cual, según el politólogo, marcó un "punto de inflexión histórico".

Aunque la comparación de las bajas soviéticas con las de EE.UU., Reino Unido, y Francia juntas "deja totalmente claro que fue Rusia quien derrotó a Hitler", en su discurso con motivo del 70.º aniversario de la rendición de la Alemania nazi el presidente estadounidense solo mencionó a las fuerzas de EE.UU. En cambio, el presidente Putin "expresó su agradecimiento a los pueblos de Gran Bretaña, Francia y EE.UU. por su contribución a la victoria", recuerda el exasesor económico del Gobierno de Ronald Reagan.

Desde hace muchos años el mandatario ruso declara públicamente que "Occidente no escucha a Rusia", escribe el autor del artículo. "Washington y sus Estados vasallos en Europa, Canadá, Australia y Japón no escuchan cuando Rusia dice 'no nos presionen tanto, no somos el enemigo, queremos ser su socio'", lamenta Roberts.
 
Por culpa de la política de Washington, "Rusia y China finalmente se han dado cuenta de que tienen que elegir entre el vasallaje y la guerra", opina el politólogo, advirtiendo que "Washington ha cometido un error que podría ser fatal para la humanidad".

lundi, 24 novembre 2014

A Permanent Infrastructure for Permanent War

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A Permanent Infrastructure for Permanent War
 
Ex: http://www.tomdispatch.com

In a September address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama spoke forcefully about the “cycle of conflict” in the Middle East, about “violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery.” The president was adamant: “It is time to acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East.” Then with hardly a pause, he went on to promote his own proxy wars (including the backing of Syrian rebels and Iraqi forces against the Islamic State), as though Washington’s military escapades in the region hadn’t stoked sectarian tensions and been high-performance engines for “human misery.”

Not surprisingly, the president left a lot out of his regional wrap-up. On the subject of proxies, Iraqi troops and small numbers of Syrian rebels have hardly been alone in receiving American military support. Yet few in our world have paid much attention to everything Washington has done to keep the region awash in weaponry.

Since mid-year, for example, the State Department and the Pentagon have helped pave the way for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) launchers and associated equipment and to spend billions more on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles; for Lebanon to purchase nearly $200 million in Huey helicopters and supporting gear; for Turkey to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM (Air-to-Air) missiles; and for Israel to stock up on half a billion dollars worth of AIM-9X Sidewinder (air-to-air) missiles; not to mention other deals to aid the militaries of Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

For all the news coverage of the Middle East, you rarely see significant journalistic attention given to any of this or to agreements like the almost $70 million contract, signed in September, that will send Hellfire missiles to Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, or the $48 million Navy deal inked that same month for construction projects in Bahrain and the UAE.

The latter agreement sheds light on another shadowy, little-mentioned, but critically important subject that’s absent from Obama’s scolding speeches and just about all news coverage here: American bases. Even if you take into account the abandonment of its outposts in Iraq -- which hosted 505 U.S. bases at the height of America’s last war there -- and the marked downsizing of its presence in Afghanistan -- which once had at least 800 bases (depending on how you count them) -- the U.S. continues to garrison the Greater Middle East in a major way.  As TomDispatch regular David Vine, author of the much-needed, forthcoming book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Overseas Harm America and the World, points out in his latest article, the region is still dotted with U.S. bases, large and small, in a historically unprecedented way, the result of a 35-year-long strategy that has been, he writes, “one of the great disasters in the history of American foreign policy.” That’s saying a lot for a nation that’s experienced no shortage of foreign policy debacles in its history, but it’s awfully difficult to argue with all the dictators, death, and devastation that have flowed from America’s Middle Eastern machinations. Nick Turse

The Bases of War in the Middle East 
From Carter to the Islamic State, 35 Years of Building Bases and Sowing Disaster 

By David Vine

With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.

As in prior military operations in the Greater Middle East, U.S. forces fighting IS have been aided by access to and the use of an unprecedented collection of military bases. They occupy a region sitting atop the world’s largest concentration of oil and natural gas reserves and has long been considered the most geopolitically important place on the planet. Indeed, since 1980, the U.S. military has gradually garrisoned the Greater Middle East in a fashion only rivaled by the Cold War garrisoning of Western Europe or, in terms of concentration, by the bases built to wage past wars in Korea and Vietnam.

In the Persian Gulf alone, the U.S. has major bases in every country save Iran. There is an increasingly important, increasingly large base in Djibouti, just miles across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula. There are bases in Pakistan on one end of the region and in the Balkans on the other, as well as on the strategically located Indian Ocean islands of Diego Garcia and the Seychelles. In Afghanistan and Iraq, there were once as many as 800 and 505 bases, respectively. Recently, the Obama administration inked an agreement with new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to maintain around 10,000 troops and at least nine major bases in his country beyond the official end of combat operations later this year. U.S. forces, which never fully departed Iraq after 2011, are now returning to a growing number of bases there in ever larger numbers.

In short, there is almost no way to overemphasize how thoroughly the U.S. military now covers the region with bases and troops. This infrastructure of war has been in place for so long and is so taken for granted that Americans rarely think about it and journalists almost never report on the subject. Members of Congress spend billions of dollars on base construction and maintenance every year in the region, but ask few questions about where the money is going, why there are so many bases, and what role they really serve. By one estimate, the United States has spent $10 trillion protecting Persian Gulf oil supplies over the past four decades.

Approaching its 35th anniversary, the strategy of maintaining such a structure of garrisons, troops, planes, and ships in the Middle East has been one of the great disasters in the history of American foreign policy. The rapid disappearance of debate about our newest, possibly illegal war should remind us of just how easy this huge infrastructure of bases has made it for anyone in the Oval Office to launch a war that seems guaranteed, like its predecessors, to set off new cycles of blowback and yet more war.

 

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On their own, the existence of these bases has helped generate radicalism and anti-American sentiment. As was famously the case with Osama bin Laden and U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, bases have fueled militancy, as well as attacks on the United States and its citizens. They have cost taxpayers billions of dollars, even though they are not, in fact, necessary to ensure the free flow of oil globally. They have diverted tax dollars from the possible development of alternative energy sources and meeting other critical domestic needs. And they have supported dictators and repressive, undemocratic regimes, helping to block the spread of democracy in a region long controlled by colonial rulers and autocrats.

After 35 years of base-building in the region, it’s long past time to look carefully at the effects Washington’s garrisoning of the Greater Middle East has had on the region, the U.S., and the world.

“Vast Oil Reserves”

While the Middle Eastern base buildup began in earnest in 1980, Washington had long attempted to use military force to control this swath of resource-rich Eurasia and, with it, the global economy. Since World War II, as the late Chalmers Johnson, an expert on U.S. basing strategy, explained back in 2004, “the United States has been inexorably acquiring permanent military enclaves whose sole purpose appears to be the domination of one of the most strategically important areas of the world.”

In 1945, after Germany’s defeat, the secretaries of War, State, and the Navy tellingly pushed for the completion of a partially built base in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, despite the military’s determination that it was unnecessary for the war against Japan. “Immediate construction of this [air] field,” they argued, “would be a strong showing of American interest in Saudi Arabia and thus tend to strengthen the political integrity of that country where vast oil reserves now are in American hands.”

By 1949, the Pentagon had established a small, permanent Middle East naval force (MIDEASTFOR) in Bahrain. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy’s administration began the first buildup of naval forces in the Indian Ocean just off the Persian Gulf. Within a decade, the Navy had created the foundations for what would become the first major U.S. base in the region -- on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia.

In these early Cold War years, though, Washington generally sought to increase its influence in the Middle East by backing and arming regional powers like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran under the Shah, and Israel. However, within months of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s 1979 revolution overthrowing the Shah, this relatively hands-off approach was no more.

Base Buildup

In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a fateful transformation of U.S. policy. It would become known as the Carter Doctrine. In his State of the Union address, he warned of the potential loss of a region “containing more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil” and “now threatened by Soviet troops” in Afghanistan who posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.”

Carter warned that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America.” And he added pointedly, “Such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

With these words, Carter launched one of the greatest base construction efforts in history. He and his successor Ronald Reagan presided over the expansion of bases in Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region to host a “Rapid Deployment Force,” which was to stand permanent guard over Middle Eastern petroleum supplies. The air and naval base on Diego Garcia, in particular, was expanded at a quicker rate than any base since the war in Vietnam. By 1986, more than $500 million had been invested. Before long, the total ran into the billions.

Soon enough, that Rapid Deployment Force grew into the U.S. Central Command, which has now overseen three wars in Iraq (1991-2003, 2003-2011, 2014-); the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2001-); intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984); a series of smaller-scale attacks on Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011); Afghanistan (1998) and Sudan (1998); and the "tanker war" with Iran (1987-1988), which led to the accidental downing of an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 passengers. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA helped fund and orchestrate a major covert war against the Soviet Union by backing Osama Bin Laden and other extremist mujahidin. The command has also played a role in the drone war in Yemen (2002-) and both overt and covert warfare in Somalia (1992-1994, 2001-). 

 

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During and after the first Gulf War of 1991, the Pentagon dramatically expanded its presence in the region. Hundreds of thousands of troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the war against Iraqi autocrat and former ally Saddam Hussein. In that war’s aftermath, thousands of troops and a significantly expanded base infrastructure were left in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the military expanded its naval presence at a former British base in Bahrain, housing its Fifth Fleet there. Major air power installations were built in Qatar, and U.S. operations were expanded in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003, and the subsequent occupations of both countries, led to a more dramatic expansion of bases in the region. By the height of the wars, there were well over 1,000 U.S. checkpoints, outposts, and major bases in the two countries alone. The military also built new bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (since closed), explored the possibility of doing so in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and, at the very least, continues to use several Central Asian countries as logistical pipelines to supply troops in Afghanistan and orchestrate the current partial withdrawal.

While the Obama administration failed to keep 58 “enduring” bases in Iraq after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, it has signed an agreement with Afghanistan permitting U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2024 and maintain access to Bagram Air Base and at least eight more major installations.

An Infrastructure for War

Even without a large permanent infrastructure of bases in Iraq, the U.S. military has had plenty of options when it comes to waging its new war against IS. In that country alone, a significant U.S. presence remained after the 2011 withdrawal in the form of base-like State Department installations, as well as the largest embassy on the planet in Baghdad, and a large contingent of private military contractors. Since the start of the new war, at least 1,600 troops have returned and are operating from a Joint Operations Center in Baghdad and a base in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil. Last week, the White House announced that it would request $5.6 billion from Congress to send an additional 1,500 advisers and other personnel to at least two new bases in Baghdad and Anbar Province. Special operations and other forces are almost certainly operating from yet more undisclosed locations.

At least as important are major installations like the Combined Air Operations Center at Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base. Before 2003, the Central Command’s air operations center for the entire Middle East was in Saudi Arabia. That year, the Pentagon moved the center to Qatar and officially withdrew combat forces from Saudi Arabia. That was in response to the 1996 bombing of the military’s Khobar Towers complex in the kingdom, other al-Qaeda attacks in the region, and mounting anger exploited by al-Qaeda over the presence of non-Muslim troops in the Muslim holy land. Al-Udeid now hosts a 15,000-foot runway, large munitions stocks, and around 9,000 troops and contractors who are coordinating much of the new war in Iraq and Syria.

Kuwait has been an equally important hub for Washington’s operations since U.S. troops occupied the country during the first Gulf War. Kuwait served as the main staging area and logistical center for ground troops in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are still an estimated 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and the U.S. military is reportedly bombing Islamic State positions using aircraft from Kuwait’s Ali al-Salem Air Base.

As a transparently promotional article in the Washington Post confirmed this week, al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates has launched more attack aircraft in the present bombing campaign than any other base in the region. That country hosts about 3,500 troops at al-Dhafra alone, as well as the Navy's busiest overseas port.  B-1, B-2, and B-52 long-range bombers stationed on Diego Garcia helped launch both Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan. That island base is likely playing a role in the new war as well. Near the Iraqi border, around 1,000 U.S. troops and F-16 fighter jets are operating from at least one Jordanian base. According to the Pentagon’s latest count, the U.S. military has 17 bases in Turkey. While the Turkish government has placed restrictions on their use, at the very least some are being used to launch surveillance drones over Syria and Iraq. Up to seven bases in Oman may also be in use.

 

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Bahrain is now the headquarters for the Navy’s entire Middle Eastern operations, including the Fifth Fleet, generally assigned to ensure the free flow of oil and other resources though the Persian Gulf and surrounding waterways. There is always at least one aircraft carrier strike group -- effectively, a massive floating base -- in the Persian Gulf. At the moment, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson is stationed there, a critical launch pad for the air campaign against the Islamic State. Other naval vessels operating in the Gulf and the Red Sea have launched cruise missiles into Iraq and Syria. The Navy even has access to an “afloat forward-staging base” that serves as a “lilypad” base for helicopters and patrol craft in the region.

In Israel, there are as many as six secret U.S. bases that can be used to preposition weaponry and equipment for quick use anywhere in the area. There’s also a “de facto U.S. base” for the Navy’s Mediterranean fleet. And it’s suspected that there are two other secretive sites in use as well. In Egypt, U.S. troops have maintained at least two installations and occupied at least two bases on the Sinai Peninsula since 1982 as part of a Camp David Accords peacekeeping operation.

Elsewhere in the region, the military has established a collection of at least five drone bases in Pakistan; expanded a critical base in Djibouti at the strategic chokepoint between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean; created or gained access to bases in Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Seychelles; and set up new bases in Bulgaria and Romania to go with a Clinton administration-era base in Kosovo along the western edge of the gas-rich Black Sea.

Even in Saudi Arabia, despite the public withdrawal, a small U.S. military contingent has remained to train Saudi personnel and keep bases “warm” as potential backups for unexpected conflagrations in the region or, assumedly, in the kingdom itself. In recent years, the military has even established a secret drone base in the country, despite the blowback Washington has experienced from its previous Saudi basing ventures.

Dictators, Death, and Disaster

The ongoing U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, however modest, should remind us of the dangers of maintaining bases in the region. The garrisoning of the Muslim holy land was a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks. (He called the presence of U.S. troops, “the greatest of these aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the prophet.”) Indeed, U.S. bases and troops in the Middle East have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization” since a suicide bombing killed 241 marines in Lebanon in 1983. Other attacks have come in Saudi Arabia in 1996, Yemen in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole, and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Research has shown a strong correlation between a U.S. basing presence and al-Qaeda recruitment.

Part of the anti-American anger has stemmed from the support U.S. bases offer to repressive, undemocratic regimes. Few of the countries in the Greater Middle East are fully democratic, and some are among the world’s worst human rights abusers. Most notably, the U.S. government has offered only tepid criticism of the Bahraini government as it has violently cracked down on pro-democracy protestors with the help of the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

 

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Beyond Bahrain, U.S. bases are found in a string of what the Economist Democracy Index calls “authoritarian regimes,” including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen. Maintaining bases in such countries props up autocrats and other repressive governments, makes the United States complicit in their crimes, and seriously undermines efforts to spread democracy and improve the wellbeing of people around the world.

Of course, using bases to launch wars and other kinds of interventions does much the same, generating anger, antagonism, and anti-American attacks. A recent U.N. report suggests that Washington’s air campaign against the Islamic State had led foreign militants to join the movement on “an unprecedented scale.”

And so the cycle of warfare that started in 1980 is likely to continue. “Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group,” retired Army colonel and political scientist Andrew Bacevich writes of the Islamic State, “there is little reason to expect” a positive outcome in the region. As Bin Laden and the Afghan mujahidin morphed into al-Qaeda and the Taliban and as former Iraqi Baathists and al-Qaeda followers in Iraq morphed into IS, “there is,” as Bacevich says, “always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.”

The Carter Doctrine’s bases and military buildup strategy and its belief that “the skillful application of U.S. military might” can secure oil supplies and solve the region’s problems was, he adds, “flawed from the outset.” Rather than providing security, the infrastructure of bases in the Greater Middle East has made it ever easier to go to war far from home. It has enabled wars of choice and an interventionist foreign policy that has resulted in repeated disasters for the region, the United States, and the world. Since 2001 alone, U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen have minimally caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and possibly more than one million deaths in Iraq alone.

The sad irony is that any legitimate desire to maintain the free flow of regional oil to the global economy could be sustained through other far less expensive and deadly means. Maintaining scores of bases costing billions of dollars a year is unnecessary to protect oil supplies and ensure regional peace -- especially in an era in which the United States gets only around 10% of its net oil and natural gas from the region. In addition to the direct damage our military spending has caused, it has diverted money and attention from developing the kinds of alternative energy sources that could free the United States and the world from a dependence on Middle Eastern oil -- and from the cycle of war that our military bases have fed.

David Vine, a TomDispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other publications. His new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, will appear in 2015 as part of the American Empire Project (Metropolitan Books). For more of his writing, visit www.davidvine.net.

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Copyright 2014 David Vine