Letter from the Indian Ocean

The marines of Expeditionary Strike Group Five take on the tsunami.

  1. The United States military has a long and bitter history of being constrained by the countries that host its overseas military bases. Thailand in 1975 objected to U.S. Marines using Thai bases to stage their response to the seizing of the American freighter Mayagüez by the Khmer Rouge. Costa Rica in 1979 ejected a U.S. Air Force unit that was preparing to evacuate Americans from Nicaragua. And Spain and France in 1986 refused to let U.S. planes based in Britain fly over their territory on their way to bomb Libya. When the government of Turkey refused, in early 2003, to allow American forces to invade Iraq across the Turkish border, Pentagon planners got serious about freeing the United States from the sensitivities of allies. The technology already existed to resupply warships on the high seas. Reorganizing the Navy to do so as a matter of routine could mean never having to use foreign bases at all. As naval officers like to put it, “sea-basing” allows the United States to project its ...

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