Sixteen years ago, the Philippine Senate made the historic vote to shut down what American analysts once described as probably the most important basing complex in the world — the US military bases in Subic and Clark, along with other smaller support and communications facilities in the country.
Taken after long and emotional debates, the Senate vote shook the Philippines relations with its most important ally. That one small and weak country could say no to what by then had become the worlds only remaining superpower reverberated across the world.
Since then, every move by the US military in the Philippines has provoked controversy. For the most part, however, the question has tended to be framed in terms of whether the US is seeking to re-establish the kind of bases it had in the past. Such framing has consequently allowed the US and Philippine governments to categorically deny any such plans. But what has since emerged is not a return to the past but a new and different kind of basing.
Since the end of the Cold War, but in a process that has accelerated since the Bush administration came to office, the United States has embarked on what American officials tout as the most radical reconfiguration since World War II of its global defense posture.
This term no longer refers simply to the over 850 physical bases and installations that the US now maintains in around 46 countries around the world. As US Defense undersecretary for policy Douglas J Feith explained, We are not talking only about basing, we’re talking about the ability of our forces to operate when and where they are needed.
Billed as the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy, the plan seeks to comprehensively transform the US overseas military presence – largely unchanged since the 1950s – in light of perceived new threats and the US self-avowed grand strategy of perpetuating its status as the worlds only military superpower.
The [US] military, declared President George W Bush, must be ready to strike at a moments notice in any dark corner of the world. To do this, the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, an official document required by the US Congress of the Penta