Policy Memos

U.S. Military Bases in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Economic Lessons from Okinawa

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The new United States and coalition force military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, established in 2002, have not attracted much media attention in the West. Yet as we know from cases elsewhere in the world, the presence of U.S. troops can sometimes serve as a flashpoint for political protest and unrest. In places ranging from Korea to Puerto Rico, U.S. military bases have sometimes been seen in the local popular imagination to represent the heavy hand of foreign imperialism. In Saudi Arabia, the very fact of the U.S. military presence probably helped ignite militant Islamic terrorism.
Yet the stationing of troops abroad remains an important component of U.S. military strategy, especially in the ongoing struggle against terrorism and instability in the Middle East and Central Asia. It is therefore worth considering whether there are actions that U.S. authorities can take to minimize the negative impact of those bases, and strengthen the likelihood that their presence will be welcomed by locals. The experience of U.S. military bases in Okinawa provides some important lessons in this regard. [...]

About the author

Professor; Chair of the Political Science Department
Barnard College, Columbia University