(Alexander Cooley, Professor of Political Science at Bar- nard College in New York City, PhD advisor @ Columbia U, and faculty member of Columbia’s Harriman Institute and Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies; and Daniel H. Nexon, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and former International Affairs Fellow @ U.S. Department of Defense as a Council on Foreign Relations; 2013, American Political Science Association, “The Empire Will Compensate You: The Structural Dynamics of the U.S. Overseas Basing Network”)
American military preeminence derives from a variety of economic, organizational, technological, and political sources. Of these, political scientists have paid perhaps the least attention to the political architecture that sustains its “command of the commons”: “the world-wide U.S. base structure and the ability of U.S. diplomacy . . . to secure additional bases and overflight rights.”1 This neglect is unfortunate. The U.S. basing net- work not only plays a critical role in American global force projection, but it also enmeshes Washington in the domestic politics of its numerous base hosts, shapes bilat eral relations, and sometimes becomes a flashpoint for ant-Americanism.2 Shifting strategic priorities and the cur- rent pressure on U.S. defense budgets may lead to major transformations in the nature and distribution of the basing network.3 In every region of the world—from East Asia to Latin America—the changing politics of basing will have profound ramifications for global order and inter- national security.4 How should we make sense of the world-wide political dynamics of the U.S. overseas basing network? Many ana- lysts focus on specific basing arrangements. They acknowl- edge that developments in one part of the network impact those elsewhere, but still treat each bilateral relationship as essentially distinct. Studies in a diverse array of disci- plines, however, challenge this approach. They stress that anti-base and anti-militarist protest movements are becom- ing increasingly transnational in character and are thus starting to link together the politics of different basing relationships.5 Those who analyze the shifting character of anti-base political contention often work in a broader tradition that sees the world-wide basing network as the central consti- tutive element of “American Empire.”6 Ellen Lutz, for example, observes that, “Whether or not it recognizes itself as such, a country can be called an empire when its policies aim to assert and maintain dominance over other regions” and notes that “each [imperial power] used military bases to maintain some forms of rule over regions far from their center.”7 Scholars who make this claim examine the social and political pressures that U.S. bases exert on host com- munities;8 they also question the fundamental legitimacy of the U.S. overseas basing presence. Chalmers Johnson for example, notes that “Perhaps the Romans did not find it strange to have their troops in Gaul, nor the British in South Africa.” But, that “it is past time . . . for Americans to consider why we have created an empire . . . and what the consequences of our imperial stance might be for the rest of the world and for ourselves.”9 Indeed, Johnson argues that America’s basing relationships produce signif- icant political “blowback” across its empire that threatens U.S. security. In broad terms, we agree that drawing an analogy to “imperial orders” offers a useful analytical starting point for understanding certain features of the U.S. basing net- work. Both involve a hierarchical core-periphery system in which subordinate political units concede aspects of their sovereignty to a dominant polity under “particular, distinct compacts.”10 And these compacts often prove polit- ically contentious. But the basing network also deviates from imperial sys- tems in consequential ways. Washington seldom exercises rule over base hosts; nor does it monopolize the external relations of members of the basing network. The overall structure of the U.S. basing network looks like what John Ikenberry calls a “neo-imperial logic” that “take[s] the shape of a global ‘hub and spoke’ system” based on “bilateral- ism, ‘special relationships’, client states, and patronage- oriented foreign policy.”11 Within this structure, though, are arrangements that more closely resemble “liberal” and “multilateral” hegemonic orders—such as those among the United States and NATO members—where states retain their sovereignty but their relations are informed by a com- mon security purpose, shared values, multilateral agree- ments, and coordinating mechanisms. In this article, we examine the consequences of the hybrid character of the U.S. overseas basing network. We implement a classic explanatory strategy of assessing real- world institutional arrangements by focusing on how they involve similarities and differences with one or more ideal- typical form. We use theoretical analysis of the organiza- tional logic of imperial orders as a benchmark for making sense of the political dynamics of the basing network.12 In contrast, most analysis in security studies starts, albeit implicitly, with ideal-typical accounts of anarchical orders.13 Recent work has examined variations in forms of international hierarchy, but usually in the absence of well-developed account of the structure and dynamics of empires associated with comparative and historical scholarship.14 The crux of our argument: the hybrid character of the basing network risks producing many of the pathologies found in imperial systems, but without the full range of benefits empires realize from their organizational logic. In fact, contemporary globalization processes—such as enhanced global communications and opportunities for transnational mobilization—exacerbate these patholo- gies. They render Washington more vulnerable to credible threats of exit from host countries, coordinated resistance to aspects of U.S. basing policy, and hypocrisy costs endemic to maintaining heterogeneous bargains with diverse base- hosting regimes.15 Associated processes that once took decades now play out over a few years. Our analysis addresses two important themes in the study of contemporary world politics: international order and globalization. Concerns with U.S. relative decline have led to a flood of analysis about the nature of the American-led order and its likely fate. Much of this work focuses on very general aspects of order or the shifting dispositions and capabilities of specific states. It tends to sidestep systematic analysis of the concrete architecture of contemporary international order—such that associated with the U.S. overseas basing network or the flow of international trade.16 This architecture plays a key role in shaping the terms of power politics. Greater attention to it will also help us to understand the implications of novel features of contemporary world politics—such as various processes associated with globalization—for inter- national security. The article proceeds as follows: First, we assess the “empire of bases.” We develop our argument by assessing how similarities and differences between imperial sys- tems and the U.S. basing network account for observed dynamics in the history of the network. Second, we dis- cuss the impact of contemporary globalization processes on these dynamics. Third, we illustrate with short cases from negotiations in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Iraq. We conclude with recommendations for U.S. basing pol- icy. U.S. policymakers should avoid becoming politically dependent on any single host or even referring diplomat- ically to facilities as “indispensible.” They should strive to adopt more standard agreements, such as the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, and avoid binding them- selves to any particular individual regime or autocrat. More broadly, in this globalized world, policymakers must adapt to the growing hypocrisy costs incurred by pursu- ing evidently contradictory policies in the same region with different governments.