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

David Vine Base Nation

In August, Metropolitan Books published Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World by David Vine, associate professor of anthropology. It has received praise from reviewers and wide-ranging media coverage. Watch Vine’s NPR interview here. See his Politics & Prose talk here, and read his New York Times opinion piece here.  


From the Jacket

From Italy to the Indian Ocean, from Japan to Honduras, a far-reaching examination of the perils of American military bases overseas.

American military bases encircle the globe. More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, the US still stations its troops at nearly a thousand locations in foreign lands. These bases are usually taken for granted or overlooked entirely, a little-noticed part of the Pentagon's vast operations. But in an eye-opening account, Base Nation shows that the worldwide network of bases brings with it a panoply of ills--and actually makes the nation less safe in the long run.

As David Vine demonstrates, the overseas bases raise geopolitical tensions and provoke widespread antipathy towards the United States. They also undermine American democratic ideals, pushing the U into partnerships with dictators and perpetuating a system of second-class citizenship in territories like Guam. They breed sexual violence, destroy the environment, and damage local economies. And their financial cost is staggering: though the Pentagon underplays the numbers, Vine's accounting proves that the bill approaches $100 billion per year.

For many decades, the need for overseas bases has been a quasi-religious dictum of US foreign policy. But in recent years, a bipartisan coalition has finally started to question this conventional wisdom. With the US withdrawing from Afghanistan and ending thirteen years of war, there is no better time to re-examine the tenets of our military strategy. Base Nation is an essential contribution to that debate.


“US national security policy rests on the assertion that 'forward presence' contributes directly to global peace and security. In this powerful book, David Vine examines, dismantles, and disproves that claim. He demonstrates that America's sprawling network of overseas bases imposes costs—not only financial but also political, environmental, and moral—that far exceed what the Pentagon is prepared to acknowledge. Base Nation offers a devastating critique, and no doubt Washington will try to ignore it. Citizens should refuse to let that happen."

-Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Limits of Power and Breach of Trust


“Who knew that we have more than eight hundred bases around the world? And what do our troops do there when they're not busy intruding into other people's conflicts? Such questions lie at the heart of David Vine's remarkable, impeccably written, and clearheaded analysis of the costly madness that is America's current colonial-military complex. His book is a marvel, and all in power should read it.”

 - Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic and The Men Who United the States


“Just looking at the maps in David Vine's thoroughly documented Base Nation will give you the chills—and seduce you into reading the book. He's performed a kind of modern day treasure hunt, finding and displaying our military forces all over the globe, and then thinking deeply about whether their far-flung presence will achieve or undermine the goal of fostering a peaceful and prosperous world."

- Dana Priest, coauthor of Top Secret America


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