A lot of people think of the U.S. as an empire, but unlike the British, who had an empire of colonies, I've always felt challenged by the characterization of the U.S. as an empire. It feels right, but on what grounds. William Pfaff finally defined it for me in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs. The U.S. is an empire of military bases. They're cheaper than administering colonies, perhaps, and yet amazingly expensive. We have more than 1,000 bases worldwide, and by that measurement we're at or near the all time peak of our military empire. As everyone knows, our armed forces dwarf the militaries of all our rivals and allies put together. Consequently, the U.S. has come to resemble in many respects "a classical militarist state ? a society in which military and internal security demands are paramount and whose political imagination is dominated by vast threats yet to be realized." According to Pfaff, "This logically led to a reinforcement of the military?s role in U.S. foreign policy. As a consequence, Whether or not we "withdraw" combat troops from Iraq, the Pentagon is building what would appear to be an ?enduring? base complex there, able to serve as a center of U.S. strategic power in the region. The global U.S. base system was built to defend perceived U.S. interests abroad and to conduct global interventions (or indeed, if called on, to wage a world war). It is a system intended to deter war, but from the start, it has provided the means, the opportunity, and an incentive for U.S. military interventions in foreign countries. For me, this statement really sums it up: Without excessive exaggeration, one might say of the United States today what was once said of Prussia?that it is a state owned by its army. The questions I guess: does this massive empire of bases really serve America's security interests, or is it more and more the tail wagging the dog - our politics and foreign policy turned more and more toward the support and perpetuation of this massive military structure? And what did we get out of it? Between the beginning of the Cold War in Europe and the present war in Afghanistan, a period has passed that included the Korean War; the Vietnam War and the Cambodian invasion; U.S. interventions in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador (indirectly), and Somalia (in connection with a un operation, followed by sponsorship of an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia); and two invasions of Iraq and one of Afghanistan. None except the Gulf War deserves to be called a victory. He left out U.S.-led NATO intervention in the Baltic states, but still.