cover image Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World

Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World

David Vine. Holt, $35 (432p) ISBN 978-1-62779-169-4

Vine (Island of Shame), an anthropologist and scholar of American military policy, focuses on the cultural and political role of the global U.S. base structure. The U.S. military maintains, by Vine's count, approximately 800 bases "in more than 70 countries," discussion of which is generally confined to the contexts of foreign policy and national security. Vine takes an alternate tack, investigating the bases' financial and human costs to the U.S. and host countries. Military bases, he argues, "perpetuate a 21st-century form of colonialism, tarnishing our country's ability to be a model for democracy." Too often they are vestigial, mostly relics of the Cold War created from a "newly expansive concept of %E2%80%98national security'%E2%80%8A" and surviving more from inertia than intention. Their deterrent value is often marginal, and their impact often catastrophic. For security reasons, foreign bases are self-contained, culturally isolated "Little Americas." They displace local populations, enable "massive human rights abuses" by "murderous antidemocratic regimes," inflict "profound environmental damage," and nurture an "exploitative sex industry" that reinforces a culture of "militarized masculinity." Moreover, what has proved to be a huge cost to taxpayers has enriched a small community of war profiteers. Vine recommends comprehensive shutdowns, and his presentation is eloquent and persuasive. Maps & illus. [em](Aug.) [/em]