US Foreign Military Bases Aren’t “Defense”

“U.S. foreign military bases are the principal instruments of imperial global domination and environmental damage through wars of aggression and occupation.” That’s the unifying claim of the Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases (noforeignbases.org), and it’s true as far as it goes.  But as a signer of the Coalition’s endorsement form, I think it’s worth taking the argument a bit further. The maintenance of nearly 1,000 US military bases on foreign soil isn’t just a nightmare for peaceniks. It’s also also an objective threat to US national security.

A reasonable definition of “national defense,” it seems to me, is the maintenance of sufficient weaponry and trained military personnel to protect a country from, and effectively retaliate against, foreign attacks.  The existence of US bases abroad runs counter to the defensive element of that mission and only very poorly supports the retaliatory part.

Defensively, scattering US military might piecemeal around the world — especially in countries where the populace resents that military presence — multiplies the number of vulnerable American targets. Each base must have its own separate security apparatus for immediate defense, and must maintain (or at least hope for) an ability to reinforce and resupply from elsewhere in the event of sustained attack. That makes the scattered US  forces more, not less, vulnerable.

When it comes to retaliation and ongoing operations, US foreign bases are stationary rather than mobile, and in the event of war all of them, not just the ones engaged in offensive missions, have to waste resources on their own security that could otherwise be put into those missions.

They’re also redundant. The US already possesses  permanent, and mobile, forces far better suited to projecting force over the horizon to every corner of the planet on demand: Its Carrier Strike Groups, of which there are 11 and each of which allegedly disposes of more firepower than that expended by all sides over the entire course of World War Two. The US keeps these mighty naval forces constantly on the move or on station in various parts of the world and can put one or more such groups off any coastline in a matter of days.

The purposes of foreign US military bases are partly aggressive. Our politicians like the idea that everything happening everywhere is their business.

They’re also partly financial. The main purpose of the US “defense” establishment since World War Two has been to move as much money as possible from your pockets to the bank accounts of politically connected “defense” contractors. Foreign bases are an easy way to blow large amounts of money in precisely that way.

Shutting down those foreign bases and bringing the troops home are essential first steps in creating an actual national defense.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Privacy: J. Edgar’s Not The Hoover You Need to Worry About Anymore

Roomba 980

Is your vacuum cleaner spying on you? Hamza Shaban of the Washington Post reports that iRobot, maker of the “autonomous” Roomba vacuum, may eventually sell the internal maps of your home  the device builds to facilitate its work to the makers of other “smart home” devices.

In the latest phase of our frenzied technological advancement, it’s clear that yes, our gadgets do collect and use more and more information about us, and that that information progressively ramifies across more, bigger, and more integrated networks.

The bigger question: Is it worth it?

The answer: It depends.

Benjamin Franklin cautioned us against “giv[ing] up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety.” If he lived today, I think he’d be fascinated by the Internet of Things — and that in updating the quote above to describe it, he’d likely substitute “privacy” and “convenience” for “liberty” and “safety.”

I’m not going to try to tell you not to buy an autonomous vacuum or  smart thermostat or Amazon Alexa voice-activated device (I have a couple of those myself). They can be incredibly useful. They can make our lives better in significant ways.

But when weighing the associated costs, don’t forget to account for the risks inherent in sharing your information. Who’s gathering it? What will be done with it? Where will it end up, intentionally or otherwise? The commercial applications, however annoying and intrusive they might become, aren’t the half of it.

One not terribly far-out, if somewhat dystopian, prediction:

As autonomous vacuums and similar map-reliant devices become the norm (and as they get cheaper, that will happen), governments will become major customers for the information they gather. The obvious application for that data is law enforcement (for example, being able to call up the floor plan of a house when planning a search or raid). But you should also expect that your county assessor will use that information when calculating square footage for your tax bill, and don’t be surprised if city planning and zoning bureaucrats come knocking to talk about that addition you built without a permit.

And then, of course, there’s the criminal element (but I repeat myself). The same people who stole your credit card number at the gas pump last year may acquire and use this type of information to case your house for prospective burglary next year.

Watch yourself. And never forget that your stuff is watching you too.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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The State is at War — with the Future

RGBStock.com WWW

It’s turning into a long hot summer for the emerging global counter-economy.

In June and July, an international group of law enforcement agencies took down two of the largest “Dark Web” marketplaces, Hansa and Alphabay.

Then on July 25, the US Securities and Exchange Commission issued a weird, barely coherent, press release seemingly kinda sorta but not exactly declaring its own plenary authority over all things cryptocurrency.

On the heels of the SEC’s fit  of apparent glossolalia, the US Department of Justice announced its indictment of cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e for “money laundering” even as one of the site’s admins, Alexander Vinnik, was arrested in Greece.

What we’re seeing  is the latest bit of backlash from a  political establishment scared witless by technologies which threaten to make it superfluous.

A friend of mine who writes under the pseudonym dL notes that “[t]he trajectory of technology follows a repeated path. When first introduced, it gives an asymmetric advantage to the individual. Over time, the state catches up and the asymmetric advantage shifts to the state.” Maybe he’s right. Maybe the political class will be able to nip a bright future in the bud and maintain its grip on power.

On the other hand,  Victor Hugo seemed quite sure that “one withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas.”

We stand at the doorway of a future featuring money without borders, work and trade without permission. That future represents existential crisis for the political class: The end of the state as we know it. Absent the ability to tax and regulate its host, the parasite known as government starves and dies.

The situation is equally dire for the rest of us.

High-profile takedowns like the Silk Road, Alphabay, Hansa and BTC-e, large as they loom in the moment, are mere speed bumps. The road to the future remains open, and the only way to plausibly close that road off entirely is to essentially pull the plug on every technological development since the introduction of the personal computer. What would that look like? Think the Dark Ages, the Great Depression, and North Korea all rolled into one.

There’s no doubt that the American and global political classes are willing to go there. Any number of regimes have done so on a temporary and semi-effectual basis in times of unrest, and American politicians have seriously proposed ideas like an “Internet Kill Switch.” The excuse for such proposals is to protect us from terrorists and drug dealers, but make no mistake: Their real purpose is to protect our rulers  from us.

That’s what’s at stake, folks.  We can free ourselves or we can return to the caves. There is no third alternative.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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