Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mega-embassies and the long-term US posture in the Middle East and South Asia

Tom Engelhardt at his has been tracking an important aspect of US foreign and military policy, the expanding network of military bases around the world. This is little noticed in TV and much of the mainstream print press commentary. But every American should be asking why it is that we need a growing global network of military bases when, two decades after the demise of our main Cold War enemy the Soviet Union, our main claimed enemy is now claimed to be "Al Qa'ida", which if we mean Bin Laden's organization, probably consists of no more than a couple of hundred poorly-armed terrorist fanatics.

In The Stimulus Package in Kabul 11/14/2010 (TomDispatch titling can be confusing because the introductions are titled separately as though they are the main article title), Engelhardt talks about a little-noticed development. The US Embassy being constructed in Kabul is designed on a very similar concept to that in Baghdad, which was conceived as a kind of command-center for an intervention policy in the Middle East. He uses what I think is a clunky term, "mother ship", to describe this hubs. Noting that the Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan is a similar types, he writes:

Now, with the news in from Kabul, we know that there are going to be three mother ships. All gigantic beyond belief. All (after the usual cost overruns) undoubtedly in the three-quarters of a billion dollar range, or beyond. All meant not to house modest numbers of diplomats acting as the face of the United States in a foreign land, but thousands of diplomats, spies, civilian personnel, military officials, agents, and operatives hunkering down long-term for war and skullduggery.

Connect two points and you have a straight line. Connect three points and you have a pattern -- in this case, simple and striking. The visionaries and fundamentalists of the Bush years may be gone and visionless managers of the tattered American imperium are now directing the show. Nonetheless, they and the U.S. military in the region remain remarkably devoted to the control of the Greater Middle East. Even without a vision, there is still the war momentum and the money to support it. [my emphasis]
Can there be three "mother ships"? That's part of why the metaphor is clunky.

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