The U.S. has military bases in many nations and territories that are run by dictators, repressive regimes and less-than-democratic administrations, according to a May 16 report.
President Donald Trump has been criticized for his public invitations and support for authoritarian leaders like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Tom Dispatch reports.
Bipartisan U.S. support of repressive anti-democratic regimes has gone on for decades, dating back to President Harry Truman, and includes tens of billions of American taxpayer dollars.
Foreign strongmen who have historically received U.S. support include: Former Prime Minister of Spain Generalissimo Francisco Franco, ex-South Korean President Park Chung-hee, former Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and current Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh.
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Many of the 45 countries that the U.S. has military bases in qualify as "authoritarian regimes," per The Economist's annual Democracy Index from 2016.
The index rated the U.S. a "flawed democracy" because it dropped from 8.05 in 2015 to 7.98 in 2016, with 8.00 being the threshold for a "full democracy."
The rating was based on "electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties," notes The Economist.
The presence of U.S. military bases in authoritarian regimes helps prop up these anti-democratic despots, and prevents "the spread of democracy in countries like Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Niger, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates," Tom Dispatch notes.
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Politico reported in 2015 that the U.S. had almost 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories.
American taxpayers reportedly spent an estimated $85 to $100 billion maintaining troops and bases overseas in fiscal year 2014, according to Politico. The total tab for troops and bases in war zones was reportedly between $160 to $200 billion.
American author Chalmers Johnson wrote about U.S. militarization in foreign countries in his 2004 book, "The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic," according to Tom Dispatch:
...As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet.
This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class.
Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.
Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we are creating some thirteen naval task forces built around aircraft carriers whose names sum up our martial heritage -- Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John C. Stennis, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan.
We operate numerous secret bases outside our territory to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or e-mailing to one another...