A M1A2 Abrams tank with 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, hunts for the enemy in the Hohenfels Training Area during Combined Resolve II, May 29, 2014. The armored vehicles are part of the European Activity Set, a battalion-sized set of equipment pre-positioned on the Grafenwoehr Training Area to outfit and support U.S. Army forces rotating to Europe for training and contingency missions in support of the U.S. European Command. The EAS will be used for the first time by the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during exercise Combined Resolve II at the U.S. Armys Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach/Released)

In the words of some of the strategy’s strongest proponents, the goal is
“to create a worldwide network of frontier forts” with the U.S. military
serving as “the ‘global cavalry’ of the twenty-first century.” With as many bases as possible, the military hopes always to be able to turn from one nation to another if it is denied base access in a time of war.

While the reliance on smaller bases may sound preferable to the huge
bases that have caused so much harm and anger in places like South Korea and Okinawa, the construction of lily pads in an increasingly long list of nations including Ghana, Gabon, Chad, Niger, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Aruba, and Poland, represents the growing militarization (and likely destabilization) of even larger swaths of the globe and a dramatic expansion of an imperial vision to dominate the world militarily. And, as the once “austere” base on Diego Garcia shows, installations that might start out as lily pads can quickly grow into massive behemoths…

While previous
empires generally sought to dominate as much of the globe as possible
through the direct control of territory, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the U.S. Empire has increasingly accomplished the same not only through economic and political tools but also through a global network of extraterritorial U.S. military installations that allow the control of territory vastly disproportionate to the land actually occupied.

Viewed geographically, one sees how the small-scale acquisition of territory for island bases has allowed the United States, like empires before it, to dominate large swaths of ocean territory upon which global trade and economic expansion relies. Coupled with a powerful navy, an island base provides the force to effectively rule areas of ocean and transiting military or commercial traffic. In the Pacifi c, controlling bases from Okinawa and Japan’s main islands to Guam and Pearl Harbor has allowed the U.S. Navy to make the ocean an “American lake.” Maintaining a base on Diego Garcia has helped the United States exert similar control in the Indian Ocean, particularly over oil traffic from the Persian Gulf. In the role that island bases and navies play in patrolling sea lanes and protecting oceangoing commerce, one sees a very direct way in which overseas bases undergird the economics of U.S. Empire.

Bringing us back to Iraq and Afghanistan, the base helps show how
these wars were not the aberrant actions of a single presidential administration but were instead, in important ways, the fulfi llment of a strategic vision for controlling a large swath of Asia and, with it, the global economy, dating to at least World War II (and signifi cantly advanced by Diego Garcia). As others have shown, the wars have significantly advanced the pursuit of U.S. control over Central Asian and Persian Gulf oil and natural gas supplies through the presence of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and private military contractors and the creation or expansion of bases in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Th e strategic logic of Diego Garcia, of using bases to control resource-rich regions, becomes even clearer when one considers reports that the United States has been exploring plans to develop a new base off the oil-rich west coast of Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea, on one of the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. Currently, oil imports from the Gulf of Guinea account for 15 percent of the U.S. total. Many predict that the share will grow to 20 percent by 2010 and 25 percent by 2015. Continent-wide, the Council on Foreign Relations has suggested, “By the end of the decade sub-Saharan Africa is likely to become as important as a source of U.S. energy imports as the Middle East.” Indeed, this may have already come to pass. Looking at São Tomé, at least one U.S. official has described the proposed base as “another Diego Garcia.”

Th e story sounds eerily familiar: In July 2002, the Deputy Commanderin- Chief of the U.S. European Command visited the islands. The next month, then-President of São Tomé and Príncipe, Fradique de Menezes, told Portuguese television that he “received a call from the Pentagon to tell me that the issue [was] being studied.” He added, “It is not really a military base on our territory, but rather a support port for aircraft, warships, and patrol ships.” Since 2002, several U.S. companies, including Exxon-Mobil and Noble Energy, have won oil exploration concessions in the Gulf of Guinea. At the end of 2006, the military built a radar installation on the islands. Th e following March, 200 U.S. marines conducted four days of military exercises. Months earlier, the U.S. military announced the creation
of its first-ever “Africa Command” (AFRICOM) to oversee military
operations on the continent. Elsewhere, U.S. officials are considering the creation of or have already established bases in Algeria, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda. Officials have repeatedly denied having any interest in a base on São Tomé.

—  Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia by David Vine

Tankbusters head back to Europe.

Airman 1st Class Nelson A. Walker, of the 9th Air Support Operations Squadron from Fort Hood, Texas, observes an A10 Thunderbolt II during a live fire exercise as part of Combined Resolve II at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. 

(Photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda Nall, 22 MAY 2014. Article compiled from U.S. European Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe News Releases, 11 FEB 2015.)

The US Air Force has deployed 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, as part of a theater security package in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, U.S. European Command officials announced yesterday.

About 300 airmen and support equipment are deploying with the A-10s from the 355th Fighter Wing, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

“While in Germany, these aircraft will forward-deploy to locations in Eastern European NATO nations,” said Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, Eucom spokesman. “Units will conduct training alongside our NATO allies to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and stability of Europe.”

Demonstration of Continued Commitment

Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of U.S. European Command’s and U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s continued commitment to NATO’s collective security and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region, officials said.

“The Air Force has been rotating forces as a part of OAR for the past year,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, vice commander of USAFE and Air Forces Africa. “The [theater security package] is another way the Air Force is increasing rotational presence in Europe to reassure our allies and partner nations that our commitment to European security is a priority.”

The Air Force’s forward presence in Europe provides the support infrastructure needed to increase the current force and build new and deeper partnerships across the continent, Jones added.

The A-10s are the first of several theater security package deployments to Europe, officials said, adding that rotations generally will last six months, depending on mission and Eucom requirements.

Although this deployment is a first in Europe, officials said, the Air Force has been conducting similar theater support rotations in the Pacific region since 2004.

A U.S. Army paratrooper assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Special Troops Battalion exits a U.S. Air National Guard 133rd Air Wing MN ANG C-130 Hercules aircraft, April 13, 2015, over Juliet Drop in Pordenone, Italy. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands areas of responsibility within 18 hours.(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo/Released)