David Vine on the proliferation of “lily pad” military bases

According to TomDispatch, David has undertaken a tour of military bases around the world and his findings so far are that the number of bases “isn’t shrinking at all, and that ‘dismantling’ isn’t yet on the American horizon.” He reveals that while large bases may be on the decline, the Pentagon has built numerous “lily pad” bases. What does this mean for American foreign policy and security? Vine cautions:


While relying on smaller bases may sound smarter and more cost effective than maintaining huge bases that have often caused anger in places like Okinawa and South Korea, lily pads threaten U.S. and global security in several ways:

First, the “lily pad” language can be misleading, since by design or otherwise, such installations are capable of quickly growing into bloated behemoths.

Second, despite the rhetoric about spreading democracy that still lingers in Washington, building more lily pads actually guarantees collaboration with an increasing number of despotic, corrupt, and murderous regimes.

Third, there is a well-documented pattern of damage that military facilities of various sizes inflict on local communities. Although lily pads seem to promise insulation from local opposition, over time even small bases have often led to anger and protest movements.

Finally, a proliferation of lily pads means the creeping militarization of large swaths of the globe. Like real lily pads — which are actually aquatic weeds — bases have a way of growing and reproducing uncontrollably. Indeed, bases tend to beget bases, creating “base races” with other nations, heightening military tensions, and discouraging diplomatic solutions to conflicts. After all, how would the United States respond if China, Russia, or Iran were to build even a single lily-pad base of its own in Mexico or the Caribbean?

For more from David Vine, check out his book Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia.


  1. Hi is this book available in Hindi or any Indian languages?

  2. You have to ask yourself how many billions we could save by reducing these lily pad military bases by 40% or more?


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