Keep Amendment on Foreign Bases in NDAA

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the "National Defense Authorization Act" introduced by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar requiring that the U.S. military provide Congress with the cost and the supposed national security benefits of every foreign military base or foreign military operation. World BEYOND War had flooded Congressional offices with the demand for Yes votes.

Now, as the House and Senate reconcile their two versions of the bill, they need to know that we want this amendment left in it.

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Here is the text of the amendment as passed:

At the end of subtitle G of title X, insert the following: SEC. 10. REPORT ON FINANCIAL COSTS OF OVERSEAS UNITED STATES MILITARY POSTURE AND OPERATIONS. Not later than March 1, 2020, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report on the financial costs and national security benefits of each of the following for fiscal year 2019: (1) Operating, improving, and maintaining overseas military infrastructure at installations included on the enduring location master list, including adjustments that take into account direct or in-kind contributions made by the host nations of such enduring locations. (2) Operating, improving, and maintaining overseas military infrastructure supporting forward-deployed forces at overseas contingency locations, including adjustments that take into account direct or in-kind contributions made by the host nations of such enduring locations. (3) Overseas military operations, including support to contingency operations, rotational deployments, and training exercise.

In this video from C-Span, at 5:21, Rep. Omar makes the case for a need to justify foreign military bases, not just blindly fund unlimited and unknown empire. At 5:25 Rep. Adam Smith makes the case as well. One of their colleagues argues in opposition, but it’s difficult to find coherent meaning in what he says, and it’s hard to imagine what a persuasive case could be for the 210 No votes recorded. What could be the advantage of coating the globe with military bases without bothering to know what each one costs or whether each one plausibly makes you safer or actually endangers you?

The closing of U.S. bases and the removal of U.S. military personnel are critical to the elimination of war.

The United States has more than 150,000 military troops deployed outside the United States on more than 800 bases (some estimates are more than 1000) in 160 countries, and all 7 continents. These bases are the central feature of U.S. foreign policy which is one of coercion and threat of military aggression. The U.S. uses these bases in a tangible way to preposition troops and weaponry in the event they are “needed” at a moment’s notice, and also as a manifestation of U.S. imperialism and global domination — a constant implicit threat. Additionally, because of a history of military aggression, countries with U.S. bases are targets for attack.

There are two principal problems with foreign military bases:

  1. All these facilities are integral to preparations for war, and as such undermine international peace and security. The bases serve to proliferate weapons, increase violence, and undermine international stability.
  2. Bases cause social and environmental problems at a local level. Communities living around the bases often experience high levels of rapes committed by foreign soldiers, violent crimes, loss of land or livelihood, and pollution and health hazards caused by the testing of conventional or non-conventional weapons. In many countries the agreement that permitted the base stipulates that foreign soldiers who perpetrate crimes can not be held accountable.

The closing of U.S. foreign military bases in particular (they make up the vast majority of all foreign military bases) would have a significant effect on global perceptions, and represent a massive shift in foreign relations. With each base closure, the U.S. would become less of a threat. Relations with host countries would be improved as the base real estate and facilities are rightfully returned to local governments. Because the United States is far and away the most powerful and aggressive military in the world, the closing of foreign bases would represent an easing of tensions for everyone. If the U.S. makes such a gesture, it may induce other countries to address their own foreign and military policies.

In the map below, every color but gray indicates the permanent basing of some number of U.S. troops, not counting special forces and temporary deployments. For details, go here.

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