The US’ Overseas Military Base Strategy
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The US’ Overseas Military Base Strategy


This video was made possible by Brilliant. Learn complex topics simply with Brilliant
for 20% off by being one of the first 200 to sign up at brilliant.org/Wendover. If you ask the US military how many bases
they have overseas, you won’t really get an answer. They don’t make it all too hard to find
out about the larger ones—Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Thule Air Base in Greenland, Camp
Hansen in Japan. These all show up on the closest thing to
an official catalogue of the US military’s real estate there is—the annual Department
of Defence Base Structure Report. According to this document the American military
has some 514 sites outside of its borders, but, there are some noticeable omissions to
this list. For example, the US has a rather secretive
drone base in central Niger, however, according to this list, it doesn’t exist. The US has more than ten sites in Syria, however,
according to this list, they don’t exist. The US has a satellite surveillance facility
in Australia’s Northern Territory so well known, in fact, that it has a whole fictional
TV show based on it, but, according to this list, it doesn’t exist. In fact, according to this list, there are
just four defense department installations in Africa—a base in Djibouti, a joint British-American
base on Ascension Island, an NSA site in Kenya, and a Naval Medical Research facility in Egypt. Of course, if you dig a little deeper into
the vast archive of unclassified military documents, you find this—a slide from a
presentation clearly showing 34 US military sites in Africa. With omissions such as these, one can assume
that that total 514 number is far from the real count of how many facilities the US military
maintains abroad. Part of this could be attributed to the fact
that it’s sometimes tough to define what a military base is. Again looking at the African continent, the
only site that looks like what most would traditionally think of as an overseas military
base is Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. It is the only permanent, exclusive US military
site, at least according to their own definition, on the continent, hosts about 4,000 members
of the US military at a time, and is the primary base of operations for the US Africa Command. You see, the US military splits the world
into six regions each with their own infrastructure of bases. Each has a hierarchy of sites. The highest, in the case of Africa Command,
are those permanent, full-blown bases—the one in Djibouti and the one on Ascension Island. One step below that are what are called Cooperative
Security Locations. These are, according to the US military’s
definition, “host-nation [facilities] with little or no permanent U.S. personnel presence,
which may contain pre-positioned equipment and/or logistical arrangements and serve both
for security cooperation activities and contingency access.” CSL’s are useful to the US military because
they are much less flashy and less permanent—they don’t require the same kind of political
capital as to set up as a full-size base like the one in Djibouti. Bases are often unpopular and receive press
scrutiny, both in the US and the host country, so small, few-hundred person CSL’s have
the advantage of being able to be set up with, essentially, no publicity. You can think of them as smaller versions
of the kind of bases you find in Djibouti or Ascension island which can, rather quickly,
become bigger bases should the need arise. The remaining twenty known sites on the continent
are what are called contingency locations. Now, this terminology can be used for a lot
of different types of facilities, but, in essence, what it means is that these are temporary
sites established as part of ongoing missions. For example, the contingency location in Garoua,
Cameroon was set up for the Americans to provide logistics and intelligence support in the
Cameroonian’s fight against Boko Haram. What that actually means, though, when you
break through the military’s PR language, is that this is a drone base. Unlike other American drone bases, it’s
relatively easy to find info about the one in Garoua perhaps because it’s primarily
home to surveillance drones, rather than strike drones. For other contingency locations, though, it
is much less clear what exactly their purposes are and for some, they aren’t even publicly
acknowledged. For many, the US military just has small agreements
with foreign governments and the general public gets very little info at all. So, the final, real answer for how many US
bases there are abroad is that we don’t know. If you define every military installation
as a base, compiling all publicly available information, one set of research reached a
number of 800. Of course, the real number could be something
far different from that but as the general public, there’s just no real way to know. But the next question that arises about the
US’ overseas presence is why? In the era of nuclear weapons that can obliterate
any city on earth in an hour, aircraft carriers sailing worldwide with more aircraft than
some country’s air forces, and airplanes that could land troops in any country on earth
in a day, why does the US bother spending so much money maintaining bases in allied
countries during peacetime? The primary reason has to do with a military
concept known as the loss of strength gradient. This concept essentially theorizes that, the
further a conflict is away from a military’s home country, the less military power that
nation is able to bring to the fight. This is largely because it is, of course,
complicated and expensive to bring troops and equipment over long distances. The book that originally defined this loss
of strength gradient proposed that the way to counteract this effect was to establish
bases outside of a country’s home territory since these can help reduce the effective
distances to conflict and, therefore, it’s easier to bring more power to the fight. The US has certainly taken this concept to
heart and has put quite a lot of work into trying to flatten out their loss of strength
gradient. That is to say, they want to make it just
as likely that the US would win a war in east Asia as North America. As an example of how these bases aid that
mission, much of the operations of the US’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were conducted
here—at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This base and the other surrounding US military
facilities in the Rhineland-Palatinate state make up the largest grouping of American service
members in the world and one of the largest groupings of Americans anywhere outside the
US. The city that Ramstein and many of the other
facilities are in is home to only about 100,000 full time residents, however, the American
bases are staffed by more than 50,000 personnel at any given time. This makes Ramstein Air Base like a small
American city in Europe. It has outposts of plenty of American restaurant
chains that you won’t find anywhere else in Germany—Johnny Rockets, Chili’s, PF
Chang’s—in addition to an American-style department and grocery store. It has an American post office, an American
high school, four baseball diamonds, two American football fields, American suburban style housing,
and even campuses of four American universities—University of Maryland, Oklahoma, Central Texas College,
and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Quite a lot of work is put into making sure
that Ramstein is as similar to any base in the US as possible—both in terms of lifestyle
and capability. One central role for Ramstein and other US
bases in Europe during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was as a stopover point for personnel
and cargo en route to combat. Ramstein’s convenient location, less than
a seven hour flight from all of the middle east, where many of the US’ recent military
operations have been, makes it a pivotal logistics hub since it would be far more complicated
to fly personnel and cargo nonstop to theatre over the more than eleven hour flight from
the continental US to the Middle East. Still today, with less US presence in the
middle east, Ramstein plays a central role in getting US military members to Europe. There are regular flights, typically about
twice a week, from Baltimore to Ramstein in addition to a number of regular flights from
stateside military bases like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Dover Air Force Base
in Delaware, and McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. These are not flights on commercial airlines
but rather charter flights available only to members of the military operated by charter
companies like Atlas Air and Omni Air International. Beyond its role as a logistics hub, Ramstein’s
geographic position plays a critical role in the US’ use of drones in the Middle East. You see, American drones are communicated
with by satellite but, due to the distance between the Middle East and Creech Air Force
Base in Nevada, where the communications from the different drone piloting sites across
the US are centralized, a single satellite could not convey information from Creech to
the Middle East. That’s just because there’s too much curvature
in the earth for a satellite at a reasonable orbit altitude to have line-of-sight with
both areas. They could have one satellite relay info to
another, but this would significantly increase the time it would take for the signal to travel
from Creech to the drone and, when piloting and attacking remotely, one needs as close
to real-time communications as possible. Therefore, the signals travel by fiber optic,
transatlantic cable from the US to Ramstein where a relay station then sends the signal
up to a satellite based over the area that can communicate with America’s drones in
the Middle East. Without Ramstein, these drones would not be
nearly as capable. Beyond convenience and capability, another
major reason for America’s heavy overseas military presence is power projection. This is a term used by militaries that refers
to, according to the US Department of Defense’s definition, “the ability of a nation to
apply all or some of its elements of national power—political, economic, international,
or military—to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from multiple dispersed
locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability.” In this context, it’s essentially how fast
a country can get to the fight, if a fight should arise. Power projection is as much an offensive power
as a defensive one. It’s about making sure that every other
country in the world knows that America can and potentially will respond to whatever they
decide is a threat in a timely manner. According to the US Department of Defense,
the four countries that currently present the greatest potential national threat to
the US are Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea. Looking at the global map of bases, it’s
no coincidence that the greatest concentrations of overseas bases are near Russia’s population
center in the east, in the Middle East, and in East Asia. Meanwhile, there’s relatively little US
military presence in South America, Africa, South and Southeastern Asia, and Australia
since there are fewer threats to the US in these areas. Still, though, the US military has a nearly
permanent presence on every continent. Even on Antarctica, where by international
treaty militarization is banned, the US military skirts this regulation by dealing with the
logistics of supplying American research bases, which is allowed by the treaty. Some might characterize this experience with
Antarctic operations as, “convenient,” in the event of any future conflict in this
region. While the US’ network of overseas bases
in only a part of its overall power projection mission, which also includes its nuclear weapons,
aircraft carriers, submarines, and more, the main messaging they convey is that the US
can get to anywhere fast. But, predictably, these bases are controversial—both
at home in the US and abroad. As one example, this is the island of Okinawa,
Japan and this is the land used by the US military. On this dense island of 1.5 million, 26,000
US service members man these sites. While the Japanese government is supportive
of the US presence in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan, locally, there have been decades
of tensions between Okinawans and the US military. The US bases there have been an economic,
social, and environmental burden on the island as, while the US military’s presence in
Japan as a whole is viewed largely as a benefit for the country, Okinawans are the ones that
have to put up with having a large proportion of their home under the control of a foreign
military. Okinawans reportedly feel like they’re being
ignored by mainland Japan and they’ve therefore been protesting, particularly against a forthcoming
base move to a new site on the island, for years. This is the story for pretty much every country
that hosts US military bases—they’re often considered by foreign governments as a benefit
for the country as a whole since it give them an essence of protection by perhaps the most
powerful military in the world, but it comes at a burden to the communities the bases are
physically located in. In Okinawa, while the bases do provide a decent
amount of employment for locals, it’s now thought that the island could be better off
economically with the land that these bases take up being used for commercial purposes. Back in the US, some believe that their tax
dollars are being used to defend other countries. Some consider these overseas bases antiquated
in the era of international military alliances like NATO, extensive aviation infrastructure
that can get US forces anywhere on earth in a matter of hours, and the deterrent threat
of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, others would argue that they are
crucial assets to US diplomacy and power projection. They would argue that their very existence
maintains the US’ superpower status. This is all to say, simply, that the US military’s
worldwide presence is controversial… but likely effective. They certainly do make the US military seem
more formidable in the international eye which many Americans would consider a positive,
but the final, grand question is at what cost? With the cost in dollars, the cost in geopolitical
tensions, the cost in community detriment, the simple cost in how the world views the
United States as a country, is it worth it? If you’re a viewer of Wendover Productions
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100 Comments

  • Trevor Matthews

    Sea level rise possesses a greater threat to the US lives than its traditional enemies. This is fuelled by burning fossil fuels. It's time to take the changes seriously to save lives in the US.

  • Edward Bernays

    So thats where your missing trillions is going ….. equivalent to stealing $65,000 per American citizen. You poor schmucks …😂

    https://youtu.be/J1tiGArOpZI

    https://youtu.be/MJ5K4lezE3E

  • M Lee

    This is one of the key reasons the US has poor infrastructure, no health care, decrepit roads, no high speed rail etc. Imperialism, in last 100 yrs the US has only had 16yrs where they were not in a war or creating a war.

  • 360Cruzerman

    Peace has increased since America started policing the world. You are less likely to die from war then at ant other point in history. Thank you America.

  • Trent Petersen

    Place ten military bases in every country around the world. Overthrow democracies and invade countries on fake WMD's. Watch your infrastructure and health care and middle class fade into nothing. Build walls as others build roads and bridges. Wage non-stop war.

  • A Iron Dot

    So in Okinawa they aren’t protesting the base move, they are protesting the fact that the base is still there. We where supposed to give MCAS Futenma back to Oki about 3 years ago but we keep pushing it back. Interestingly enough that makes us not want to update the base because we keep thinking we are moving the base, so that means the barracks and surrounding buildings are really old and falling apart

  • Everquest Sales

    I just woke up and walked out to my hot tub in back yard while sipping on coffee and listening to the birds. Yes our power projection is worth it.

  • Tony Dean

    Liberals are furious that so many countries gleefully allow the US to have military bases on their property.  "The US is BAD!  How can they like us?????"

  • D Staff

    One can only MAINTAIN this strategy for so long until it deteriorates from lack of funding, moral, and enemy forces… nations,empires, regimes, caliphates, kingdoms and what whatever else definition of collective power ALL fall down.. The US should really look into how to remedy that curse of history as it expands beyond American borders exponentially greater in human history..

  • Andrés Falcone

    I just want to note that the supposed US military base in Concón, Chile is just fake news and dumb conspiracy theories spread by (mostly) left-wing "alternative" media and Twitter users.
    The base, called "Fuerte Aguayo", is a just Chilean Marines base that also houses the Chilean "Joint Center for Peacekeeping Operations" (Cecopac). Cecopac is a military institution that provides training, preparation and research for UN peacekeeping missions to the different branches of the Chilean armed and police forces. I wouldn't be surprised if there's some American professors and military advisers working there, but it's just a Chilean educational and academic research center.
    Of course, "alternative" media said than the UN and US (because the difference doesn't matter for them) where bringing in a battalion and some other dumb shit like that.
    As far as I know, there aren't and have never been any foreign military bases in Chile.

  • Fritz Smith

    THREATS THREATS THREATS!  Throughout this video, I hear a lot of PR language to justify Americas presence around the globe.  Note: Russia, France, and the UK have only 30 military base around the world, COMBINED!  So tell me sir: who the hell is the real aggressor here?  And who is sponsoring this video?  PS: this video is as transparent as propaganda can be.  THUMBS DOWN DUDE!  But you can pick-up your check from JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command).

  • Bishal Uprety

    we dont need us army in nepal only normal people are welcome here no with arms bombs and gun.you should stop your base planning in nepal ………… our land is not made for your weaponery play ground …….

  • civil engineering

    US military protect different countries due to their bases in these countries…. but protection from whome?????? 😂😂… may be allien.

  • Klaus Pallesen

    Thank God for the US having those bases. If I have to choose between the semi-dictatorship in Russia, or the totalitarian, dystopic brutal dictatorship in China, I choose the US. Yes they’re far from perfect but they’re the only ones to protect us from brutal violent dictatorships like China, Russia, North Korea, ISIS. Thank US for being there. And I’m not even American. But try to go around in America with a t-shirt with “Freedom to Alaska” on. Noone cares. You go around with a t-shirt in China that says “ Freedom to Tibet” or anything, the police pick you up, brutally beats you and throws you in a jail for 20 years. The world is not a fun place to be with brutal murderous dictatorships! The US is the least evil, and I therefore stand by them! Besides, those bases are WANTED by the host countries and bring a big economical advantage to the area.

  • FloOb

    All US citizens should be allowed free holidays to the country's bases. That way we can enjoy the countries our government is oppressing. The British knew how to enjoy their empire yet we just stay home polishing our nukes.

  • stilldownwiththemutantunderground

    The Nordics seem to have extremely few U.S military bases, and we're arguably among the most peaceful stable democratic equal and legitimately free countries in the world. Also proof that at the very least for some countries it's absolutely possible to survive and thrive without a bunch of Yankees setting up camp on your front lawn.

  • REgamesplayer

    You should have done more research and answered one of your questions. How much roughly it is estimated to cost for USA tax payers.

  • Billy Taylor

    Who's side are you one? Are you an American? I think you'd rather see the country of America week wouldn't you? No America's military needs to stay might and strong So if a country doesn't like it like Japan or maybe they shouldn't have been joining the Axis powers huh.

  • Arsene Who?

    According to reports, the US has around 800 military bases around the World and most of them surround either Iran, Russia or China.

  • Arsene Who?

    Most powerful air force in the World is? The USAF.
    2nd most powerful air force in the World? The US Navy.
    These require Worldwide bases so that's the reason why the United States dominate everywhere.

  • Perfectly imperfect

    Intresting how US bases can be seen all over the World map except with the countries with heavy military like China, India, Russia.

  • ChocolateCookieBoi

    Ok I feel I should give my two cents here. I'm a military family member and I have flown on Omni Air International. It. Is. Amazing. The only airline food I'll ever eat.

  • kreiseltower

    I live very close to Ramstein and I don't have the impression that the (very close) locals have a grudge against this base. Sure, some are not happy with plane noise etc. but that has nothing to do that they don't want the military to be here. In contrast the base is like the biggest motor of local business.

  • MD W

    United States of Terrorism. Biggest corporation for terrorists. It has 50 branches that is to collect taxes and spend most of that money on TERRORIZING other countries :). Its parent company is the Federal Bank. That's the truth United States of Terrorism. In the name of freedom HAHAHAHA

  • Epic Terry

    this is cool but i don't think we should be revealing informaiton like this, its like the Wikileaks Iraq leak, does nothing but hurt us and ignore the enemies. videos on secret russia or chinese bases would be better

  • HOHOHO YT 123

    Hi wendover production,im from indonesian.
    In my country there are "sunda empire" that they klaim control all mainland of the world. Can you explain what they are up to?

  • Brennen Cox

    12:00 umm, for the case of Japan, yes, US tax dollars are being used to defend Japan. The US gov't demanded the unconditional surrender of the (Imperial) Japanese military. Thereafter, the US would defend Japan against any and all attacks.
    Do you want Japan raping the Pacific theater again?

  • The Unknown Gamer

    US does not have an air base in the Philippines anymore. It was previously located in Clark, Pampanga but it was disbanded and currently it is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

  • Romeo Arsolon Jr.

    Pack up thy things, pull out thy bases in the Philippines.. nonsense corrupted vain VFA or military exercises.. Mga bwisit! Pigs

  • Randal140d

    "Loss of Strength": the gradient may be attributed to the unnamed document. but "bases" as force projection goes back thousands of years. Base, Fort, Castle even some cities in history exist for these offensive operations.

  • Larry Willamson

    IT IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY.
    The US Military is simply an extension of the WAR Machine that is about making a few rich at the expense of having world Peace.
    The War Machine has bought the US Government to keep these outdated systems alive for the sake of profits not security.
    It needs to be dismanteled and the money used to improve lives of the majority, not just a few. Just say No the endless wars, vote.

  • Rex Luther

    My strategy is to close all over seas military bases and use the money to repair our inner cities and help our home less and secure our borders.

  • Joseph Burton

    I don’t see how we are a burden to the overseas community. Without the Troops a lot of the areas close to the bases they wouldn’t really have community.

  • mohammad kazemi

    Is Germany so incompetent in defending itself that it needs a foreign military base to "benefit" its locals ? You do realize that when you let a foreign country to build military bases in your homeland you open the doors to potential spying, mischievous and abusive behaviors from soldiers in the bases (like reported rapes in Afghanistan or pakistan) or a potential government overthrow (like Ajax operation ) ! I don't remember Germany having troublemaking neighbours ! I literally can't find a single reason why Germany would benefit from a US military base ! There are no threats around it and it's doing good on its own ! And if the government that hosts them should pay for it (like iraq) then it's literally a parasite that eats that country from within.

  • Thomas Danielsen

    5:45 win a war. Name 1 war the USA has won fx since 1999. Afghanistan, no. Syria, no. Iraq, no etc. Created caos and unstability, yes yes and yes. That most be the goal.

  • luan assis

    i work in one of the bases here in japan as a non american non japanse civilian, and yeah even the base that i work in (not okinawa) things are complicated.
    i for one just enjoy the easy well paid job that i dont need to do anything, and bonus etc that comes from Japanese AND American tax payers moneys lol.
    if you have one of these bases near you all i can say is exploit early and exploit fast because no king rules forever.

  • Kim Asher

    Now if we could only force them to like us. We dont even like us. Imagine a coupla hundred Marines moving in next door. I only say Marines because I was a Marine in Okinawa and being younger and drunker we were loud and rowdy once or twice. A day. Lets all face it Marines are balls out full on 24/7 witout a doubt the finest guys youll ever want to be around. You can count on them always but im sure that looking back on it now, those who were non Marine and happened to have the honor of crossing paths with my friends and me on certain occasions like the full moon or the Marine Corps Birthday might have been left with a lasting impression. For which I appologize by the way. Ive mellowed considerably. What Im getting at is hell it was all my fault, blame me. That was a long long time ago and the young folks in now are more dignified and respectful than i might have been. I'm sure the Naha local cops are still pissed about the deal with the three cops and the car window thing. I wont go into it but sorry about the nose of the guy in the backseat with me , for which i deserved a broken foot we'll let bygones be bygones. I hold no animosity towards them. But if you dont know our military personally ,to know us is to love us, then some foreign type people might be taken aback. Looking back i can see where this could happen. Like I said blame me hug a jar head youll be glad you did

  • Ian Hobbs

    America also has an airfield interest in The Gambia . Yundum is listed as an emergency airfield for Shuttle landings as it is directly in the shuttle flightpath.

  • M Jave

    It’s so sad that in USA 🇺🇸 local politics play such a role in defending the nation and defending the locals! Soldiers becomes homeless after going through hell for serving while local c0p gets all the protection and benefits for serving the same country?🧐👍🇺🇸🕺

  • M Jave

    It’s all about resources from first civilization till today, humans are still evolving and till we become more resourceful or more civilized or less populated or less animals like or whatever but we need a better nation with better leaders to guide us the right way, may be Jesus or even more powerful than him because we force him back to heavens 2020 years ago😇 god bless humanity 🙏🏽

  • Pragmatic Cynicism

    "The U.S. military presence around the world is controversial, but effective."

    On a completely unrelated note: extortion rackets are also controversial, but effective.

  • Akash Chandra

    Thank God India may be the only ally of US who don't have a US military base in India. Yeah because we are bestie with Russia. 😌

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