For the past sixty years, the United States has presided over history’s
largest military empire. Despite the long and bloody war in Iraq and
President Barack Obama’s promise to draw down the troops sta-
tioned there, for this military empire there is no end in sight. As the
past sixty years have shown, once bases are built, U.S. military com-
manders and military strategic planners are loath to give them up.∞
While some critics have exposed in recent years the degree to which
the vast network of U.S. military bases project power across the
globe, their existence has barely filtered into the national conscious-
ness. Media sources in the U.S. rarely mention the bases when
discussing America’s footprint in the world. Consequently, most
Americans would be stunned to hear that the United States main-
tains military bases in more than 150 countries.≤ The emphasis in na-
tional media coverage on America’s sprawling military reach is gen-
erally on the troops (or their loved ones at home)—their heroism
and willingness to sacrifice and how the troops represent that which
is best about America (and all too often lacking in civilian life).≥
Ann Laura Stoler’s observation that ‘‘the United States is not a
phantom empire just because it is a flexible one’’ (Stoler 2006c, 19)
reveals how even this prominent scholar of empire ignores the phys-
ical manifestation of America’s footprint in the world. None of the
host countries, and especially the local women and men living in
and around U.S. military bases worldwide, would ever consider the
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