The US’ Overseas Military Base Strategy

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
you probably are someone who likes learning about interesting things. One topic that I personally think is quite
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of probability, Brilliant has five fantastic courses taking you all the way through the
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Author:

100 thoughts on “The US’ Overseas Military Base Strategy”

  • Why don’t you do a program on how illegal immigration and drug smuggling is extremely harmful to and is killing Americans.

  • Okinawa is lucky America didn’t keep the entire island for itself the fact that so many Americans were killed and permanently injured during the battle of Okinawa gives us that right. Because if Japan had won the war I’m pretty sure they would’ve completely taken over America and would know longer call it America but rather it would be called a greater Continent of Japan. America has not burdened anybody we have been defending these people at a massive cost to the United States and believe me Japan would be consumed by China if our yes our American bases were not located in their country so all these other countries can go to hell they only exist because America has protected them from the psychopathic devils that want to consume them and their population

  • realmenchangediapers says:

    Me: I wonder if the US is the only country who does this.
    Wikipedia: List of countries with overseas military bases.
    Reaction 1: Woah, they are not.
    Reaction 2: Germany and Italy both have military bases in the US!
    Reaction 3: How close to one another are the Iranian and the Israeli bases in Eritrea? Or the American and the Chinese bases in Djibouti?
    Reaction 4: Iran's base in Syria is really really close to Israel's border. Is that the place Israel has bombed a few times?

    Well, thanks for that rabbit hole.

  • gentleman.n1 : Instagram says:

    America : Let's put bases and missiles close to Russia
    Russia : Okay but we put missiles in Cuba
    America : Noo are you crazy?!
    Breaking news : Russians BAD

  • Good Morning Everyone, do u remember when the President was respected among International Leaders and the World? Can we bring that back please. This guy in office… Yeah… Sigh… Literally the Worst. You know it too. Come on. Admit conservatives.

  • So here are mostly Amercians: Do you have ever thought, what feeling you would have, if you were surrounded by that many military bases? I would defintively start builiding a nuclear bomb, because it is the only way to counter that military threat… So please do not ask yourself why Iran, North Korea and so on are building a nuclear bomb, it is just the only way for them to oppose…

  • an excellent summary for anyone who aren't appreciative of their freedom. This is the longest stretch in human history where there isn't a major world war going on. These bases should be seen as Police Stations where people don't misbehave because the US Military will show up with overwhelming force. The reality is we need these bases. For the countries the US bases are in right now, imagine how much worse it would be undefended against your greatest rival. Then you would call the US for help.

  • The map at 4:30 showing the East Coast of Australia, showed no US Bases, yet, in the early Nineties, there were joint bases at Richmond, Amberley and Williamtown AFBs, The US having both separate and joint areas within those bases. At the time, the public were not aware of these bases other than Pine Gap and the Three OTHR facilities, thanks to the Anti-Nuke Protests and the band Midnight Oil.

  • Actually, these aren't US bases, we only have a presence… So much anti Military bullshit.. Go live there ass hole.. You suck mama's titty, and rip on those that make it possible for blubby boys to suck on mama instead of being part of the "Man Thing'.. Ha ha ha bitch/…..

  • So, just no talk of imperialism or cultural hegemony? Like, I really shouldn't expect more of the channel that was okay with human rights violations for the sake of GDP growth.

  • This amount of bases all over the world…🤨 And the explanation … 9:18 Like why would a country want to get fast into a fight, which is not taking place in their OWN country. I know because there is distress, but is the USA a war fighter for the whole world?! Better cooperate with other nations and don't act in this egoistic way….. and also keep calm everybody the world is not your enemy! 😊

  • While I of course don't support putin, he was right in an interview where he said that Russia has very few foreign military bases, and yet the US call them the aggressors.

  • goran stojanovic says:

    USA doeswent have Allies it only has vassals that most of dthem were bullied into beig vassals also USAs military bases tells just who is the biggest agreesor out of any country.And also shows USAs hypocty bcs if another country establish a base or even a small training camp in countries that are ACTUAL ALLIES and in countries that ASKED for a base/traning camp to be established USA immedietly go in frenzy propaganda mode acting dumb and talking shit butwhen USA does it via war and destruction and illegal ways of establishing bases and by organizing coups to put in power its people that will do the work instead of USA then it all fine and dandy and thast like how 93% of USAs bases were established/made in first place.

  • In relation to 9:00. From an electromagnetics perspective, relay via low earth orbit satellites with inter-satellite links across significant distances would have less delay than doing the same through a fiber optic cable following an arc connecting the same points on a great circle. The overhead of using a satellite would be a function of the number of switches made, and the additional distance traveled by the signal to reach the satellites. Any transit distance greater than four altitudes would favor satellite communications, if assuming no additional switching time, aka bent pipe. Taking starlink as an example, orbiting at 550 km, any two points greater than 2200 km apart would have less communication delay using a bent-pipe satellite relay. Washington and Ramstein are ~6500 km apart for example.
    So why is this not used more frequently? Intra-orbit inter-satellite links are relatively technologically immature, although there have been major strides within the past decade, with starlink being speculated to be the first commercial constellation to make use of them. Previously, inter-satellite communications have been mainly performed by higher-orbit backbones. When considering geo-synchronous satellites for the relay, there are no two points on earth where it would be faster to communicate via geo-synchronous relay than a direct fiber optic cable.

  • Hey another idea for would be the system the red cross uses for their blood drives and how they get a ton of people through the system

  • American criminals thay cannot fix thay own problems in America like madicare and thousands of people sleeping on the streets people are diying beacose thay cannot ford medical bills and USA soupstube richest country in the world that’s only fore the richest criminals who don’t care about humanity.

  • Патрикей Маринович says:

    USofA – Malignant Tumour
    USofA Military Base – Cancer Metastasis.
    USofA Soldier – Cancer Cell

    EffectiveTreatment – Nuclear Medicine, Chemotherapy.

    Current Ineffective Treatment – Homoeopathic Globuli.

  • The first report was for real property. That probably referred to bases the US owns i.e. real property. Bases where the US does known own the land were probably not in that report.

  • Just want to point out that those two bases in Norway do not exist. Norway do not allow allied nations to have bases on Norwegian soil. And if you define bases as storage of military equipment, then those two dots are placed at the wrong cities. The most known is placed outside of Trondheim, in the middle of Norway.

  • I come from a country that was occupied by Russia for 50 years and I feel safer with the American bases in Europe. I know that Americans are not perfect but better than Russians or Chinese.

  • heheh G 5, and ''good luck'' I mean with Russia China and Iran, I mean before ''we'' get together with Taliban(19 y. strong) hehehehehe

  • There is no curvature of the earth. Your facts are not straight. You forgot to mention the destructive role your country is doing.

  • The US Overseas Airbase in Okinawa is like a big security guard.
    You don't want him there, until you are in trouble and then you have to beg him to came back. 
    The community want to use the land for commercial purposes? The community is poor and just want jobs.
    As I see it, they already provide this and security at the same time. So, win-win. Why mess up a good thing. Ugh, people.

  • Kind of lacking in research, seems to rely largely on primary (good) sources and anti-US secondary sources. Okinawa is a big island with a big population, and only showing the negative aspects is kind of disingenuous. Also, like most civs, you seem to think aircraft carriers and long-range transport aircraft are "good enough" and don't seem to have any understanding of just how critical foreign staging areas are (other than the one base in Germany example). It's not that you didn't do your research, you just didn't do enough on a politically-charged topic and then try to get people to come to a conclusion that you want. Stop spewing propaganda please.

  • im disliking and reporting every single video you make since you're a shithead americunt from an evil fascist civilian-killing concentration camp country.

  • God Forbids if any other country such as RUSSIA OR CHINA ever has this many bases, then the world will fkd up beyond repair MORE THAN WHAT IT IS RIGHT NOW.

  • I think it not the puplic choice to decide whether they can or can’t have a base when the next Great War come we all needs the base alie or not

  • Elizabeth Fields says:

    When you said that the drones are controlled through a fiber optic cable that stretches from Nevada to Germany, my mind was blown. I'd love to see a video just about that!

  • America is basically doing what the Athenian empire did except they don't really force other countries to pay ridiculous taxes for protection yet

  • Alejandro Aguilera says:

    The Sun never sets on the American Empire
    Imagine if we spent the Trillions to operate these bases on upgrading our infrastructure or pursuing science, oof

  • Meanwhile watch this video https://youtu.be/GQd3N2ImyyM and note the news ticker at the bottom of the screen. Discussing Defense Spending is off-limits.

  • The biggest threat to the USA is the USA.

    Dumb strategy when you only have imaginary enemies.

    Dumber yet when you imagine that 99% of these bases would cease to exist within a few hours of a big power war. It's the missiles and the war would be finished before it even began.

    Far better to get along and not be crazy.

  • 11:00 FOr more context in Okinawa about why the locals hate the base and servicemen so much, there were multiple cases of drunk driving, assault, and rape (including the kidnapping and rape of two different teenage girls in two separate incidents) that result in the locals having very justified negative feelings towards the military personnel there. Due to the crucial role the US plays in defending China from North Korea I doubt the Japanese government will do anything about the US on Okinawa, but that might be a completely different story if/when they start to remilitarize.

  • Some of the information in the video is either the wrong data or the author doesn't know. As a person who worked in the middle east, I know personally with 100% accuracy that there are big US air force bases in Bahrain, Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar, Muscat, and UAE. what interesting is that many of this base is technically under the local air force title so you won't find any details in the US books but you will not find a single local air force ppl there. Compare to German Air force base this are much bigger, middle of nowhere and the US air force fly not to Germany but to this middle eastern countries before they enter the conflict zone. Now the US can wage a war anywhere on globe with short notice but this bases are mainly logistics hubs where military hardware is distributed for possible future conflicts. we can move personals with ease but the problem is heavy equipment in case needed with short notice, for that purpose these bases are maintained.

  • after watching this video, the conclusion is that the most powerful country (USA) yet they are scared. They only attack vulnerable countries with huge resources (OIL). If any middle eastern country refuse to cooperate with them, they will face the same fade as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

  • Locations of military forces:
    The USA: mostly in other countries, a few at home.
    The rest of the word: mostly at home, a few in other countries.

  • It is important (and much needed) for the US to remain engaged in the world, but how much is an issue.

    At a certain point it becomes more self defeating.

    US military budget is a massive $800B. Ridiculous considering much needed reform in medical system for the average American and the opiate (self inflicted) 'epidemic'.

    BUT certain sacred cows cannot be touch. Why the US marines in this day and age needs its own separate air force is anyone's guess. Does it need its own navy to get to where it needs to?

    The waste in expenditure is both self serving and shocking.

    The 'military industrial complex' and the dependency on fossil fuel dictates to much extend over US involvement around the world.

    The United States is blessed with brilliant Geography far away from most threats (aside from Central American fruit bearing immigrants)

    Why it needs to be so much involved containing certain countries on its own is beyond comprehension. Too many extends, Trump is in a way right that NATO and certain other countries have more than enjoyed a free ride and that the US should not be held to policing the world alone.

    In terms of bases, an interesting area you overlooked is Singapore.

    It provides logistics for US navy transiting to the gulf in wake of the Philippines refusal to extend on Clark and Subic but it was a "Bases for Places" arrangement.

    The actual footprint is incredibly low and it suffers none of the poor reputation US forces have in Japan/Okinawa.

    The sooner the US reduces and weans itself off of cold war legacy thinking and some of these legacy bases IMO the better.

    It needs a lighter and more intelligent way of surveillance and assistance of its friends without so much repercussions in hot spot regions such as the Middle East or Asia which ends up frankly counter productive.

    The last thing the US should want is to be prey to local politics in these regions.

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