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What Good Are Domestic Military Bases?

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In an excellent 2016 article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “For U.S. Foreign Policy, It’s Time to Look Again at the Founding Fathers’ Great Rule’” (which I highly recommend reading), Texas A&M Professor Elizabeth Cobbs wrote:

In 2013, for the first time since the Pew organization began polling Americans on the question five decades earlier, the majority (52%) said the United States should “mind its own business” and allow other countries to get along on their own. Today, Pew finds, the number has risen to 57%.

That is an incredible statistic. After the debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, it seems that Americans are finally questioning the interventionist paradigm that has held our country in its grip since the Spanish-American War in 1898. They are questioning the notion that the U.S. government should serve as the world’s policeman, intervener, interloper, aggressor, assassin, kidnapper, and regime-changer.

The United States was founded as a non-interventionist, limited-government republic, one whose government did not “go abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” as John Quincy Adams put it in his Fourth of July address to Congress in 1821.

The conversion to an interventionist nation has been disastrous, especially in terms of the millions of people around the world killed and injured at the hands of the U.S. military and the CIA, the forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the new wars in Africa, the interventions and the drug war in Latin America, the hostile relationships with Russia, China, and North Korea, and other nations, the invasions and undeclared wars in Korea and Vietnam, the partnerships with brutal dictatorships, the foreign anger and rage that has led to a never-ending threat of terrorism, the massive immigrant crisis, the state-sponsored assassinations and kidnappings, the out-of-control federal spending and debt leading the federal government toward bankruptcy, and the destruction of liberty and privacy here at home, especially at the hands of the NSA, Homeland Security, the military, the FBI, the CIA, and other parts of the national-security state.

It’s really a no-brainer. To get back on the right road, all that America has to do is return to our nation’s founding foreign-policy principle of non-interventionism. That means closing or abandoning all the foreign military bases (including the one in Cuba), bringing all the troops home and discharging them, ending all partnerships and alliances with foreign regimes, including the dictatorships, and putting an immediate end to all foreign aid.

What about America’s huge empire of domestic military bases though? Should it remain intact?

Important question must obviously be asked, ones that are rarely asked by the mainstream press: What good are all those domestic military bases? What purpose do they serve? What do the military personnel do on those bases?

It’s safe to assume that many of the bases are used in support of America’s foreign military empire. But if the foreign military empire is dismantled, then the vast number of domestic bases that operate in support of the foreign empire become useless and could be dismantled.

In the 1800s, the U.S. military maintained forts to protect nearby communities from the Indians (i.e., Native Americans). But today, no city is under threat of an Indian attack. So what good are all those military bases?

What about a foreign invasion of the United States? The possibility of a foreign invasion is non-existent. No nation-state in the world has the manpower, equipment, personnel, or even the interest  in invading and conquering the United States. Of course, the officially proclaimed enemies of the U.S. Empire (at least for the time being) come to mind — Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, and Iran. Not one of them has the remotest military and financial capability of invading and conquering the United States, an action that would take millions of troops, hundreds of thousands of planes, tanks, and military transports, and millions of supplies to cross the ocean and successfully conquer the country. Why, the regimes in those countries are even broker than the U.S. government. And don’t forget: Notwithstanding his powerful military, Hitler’s military wasn’t even able to cross the English Channel and invade England. There is no possibility of any foreign regime crossing the Atlantic or Pacific oceans with a sufficiently large and powerful force that could successfully invade and conquer the United States.

Economic prosperity? Actually every domestic military base is a drain on overall prosperity. Remember, after all, what the 19th-century French libertarian Frederic Bastiat said about what is seen and unseen. It’s easy for public officials and the mainstream press to point to a domestic military base or project and say, “See, the military brings you jobs and prosperity!” What is unseen is all the jobs and prosperity that never came into existence because taxpayer had their money taken from them by the IRS to cover the costs of the domestic military bases or projects. Moreover, cities that have come to rely on military bases for their prosperity inevitably become lifeless, listless, and dependent political wards of the Pentagon.

Shutting down all those domestic military bases would have a doubly positive economic effect: Taxpayers would now be free to keep all the money that is currently being taken from them to fund the domestic bases. Moreover, all the military personnel currently on those bases would now be in the private sector producing wealth, rather than draining wealth through the non-productive, tax-draining activity on military bases.

What about terrorism? Anti-American terrorism is rooted in the U.S. policy of foreign interventionism. End foreign interventionism and the problem of anti-American terrorism comes to a screeching halt. To the extent that a few people continue to commit acts of terrorism, murder, rape, or other criminal acts, that’s what the criminal-justice system is for. An empire of domestic military bases isn’t going to prevent criminal behavior and it’s not the way to address criminal behavior.

Some proponents of the bases might say that the military has a right to continue maintaining them, even if they serve no useful purpose, as a reward for “winning” the Cold War. That’s nonsense. The United States was converted to a national-security state to wage the Cold War against “godless communism.” The Cold War ended in 1989. Given that the justification for the military-industrial complex, as President Eisenhower labeled it, disintegrated in 1989, the military empire should have been dismantled back then.

We have all grown up under a giant military empire, both foreign and domestic. It has been a big part of our everyday lives since we were born and, thus, many are loathe to part with it. But if we value peace, prosperity, harmony, and freedom, part with it we must.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.