The USA’s (Non-) Basing Strategy in the 2000s: A reappraisal


  • Alyson J.K. Bailes



After the terrorist strikes of 2001 the US adopted an interventionist military posture that saw overseas bases as transit and access points for combat zones, rather than as tokens and instruments of long-term cooperation with Allies. US stationed forces in Europe were thinned out further while new missile defence bases were planned close to Russia’s frontiers. Major basing changes were also planned in the Far East, tending to reduce the direct territorial support for local partners. These shifts caused turbulence abroad at the time and were also challenged by Congress on cost grounds. In retrospect, the military-technical concept behind them can be criticized as relying excessively on rapid intervention and remote strikes, while underplaying ground control and the importance of local expertise. Politically the new approach overlooked both the importance of established partnerships in democratic regions, and the multi-sided symbolism of bases themselves. In strategic terms, the post-9/11 military doctrine now looks over-risky, one-sided and inadequate to serve the full range of vital US interests in a globalizing, interdependent world. President Obama’s new strategic goals recognize this, but are unlikely to lead to restoration of old-style bases on any significant scale. Yet the importance of controlling territory and being able to exploit its resources looks set to grow, rather than decline further, in view of the climatic, economic and demographic trends of the present century.

Author Biography

Alyson J.K. Bailes

Adjunct Professor, University of Iceland.




How to Cite

Bailes, A. J. (2011). The USA’s (Non-) Basing Strategy in the 2000s: A reappraisal . Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 7(1), 23–40.



Peer Reviewed Articles