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August 27, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

Worldwide US Military Saturation

I’ve found a wicked cool interactive map, that shows the number of US troops stationed in various regions around the world since 1950. Its colour coded to represent the different amount of troops present. The data is taken from half yearly reports of troop numbers released by the pentagon.

Take a look at the interactive version of the map here, its really interesting to see how the more things change, the more stays the same – in international relations.


About the Author ()

Conrad is a very grumpy boy. When he was little he had a curl in the middle of his forehead. When he was good, he was moderately good, but when he was mean he was HORRID. He likes guns, bombs and shooting doves. He can often be found reading books about Mussolini and tank warfare. His greatest dream is to invent an eighteen foot high mechanical spider, which has an antimatter lazer attached to its back.

Comments (20)

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  1. Nick Archer says:

    Not many places left for them to conquer, i.e. Iran and North Korea…

  2. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Nick: That’s a gross oversimplification. Having troops stationed in a country is not the same as conquering it (unless you feel that 1 to 100 troops is an effective occupying force).

    There is a vast difference between conquering a country and merely sticking one’s nose in their business. America is not the Soviet Union.


  3. Nick Archer says:

    Yeah they just bankroll faux peoples revolutions in places like the Ukrain and Geogia through the National Endowment for Democracy…

  4. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    As opposed to the Soviet Union, which brutally enforced its narrow vision of communism against all manner of opposition for half a century? Hell, even its own so-called member states weren’t safe – Hungary in the 50’s and Czechoslovakia in the 60’s, both invaded for daring to implement the slightest changes in their socialist systems. Historically, communism has rarely actually been a true peoples’ revolution.

    All major ideologies fund sympathetic movements elsewhere in the world. The Soviet Union provided money and goods to North Korea, North Vietnam, Cuba, Ethiopia under the Derg, Afghanistan’s Communist Party, and countless others… hell, even Iran provides backing for Hizb’Allah and Hamas. America may have bankrolled some questionable movements in the past but they pale in comparison to the clandestine efforts of the Soviets.

    America is far from perfect, and I won’t deny it – nor will I try to defend Georgia or the Iraq War. But as far as superpowers go there’s been much worse.

  5. Ann Woofston says:

    Matthew_Cunningham’s argument is like, well, you’ve shown us a list of children being harmed by this child molester, I’m not saying it is good, but we should put up with him because there have been people somewhat worse…

  6. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Ann: I fail to see how your analogy is appropriate. Valid arguments make a far better case than meaningless name calling.

    By calling the US a ‘child molester’ you’re stating that America is the only adult in a world full of children. In effect you’re therefore implying that the rest of the world is lesser than, if not inferior to, America. Seems a bit contary to the point you’re trying to make.

    All nations are basically equal – it’s their actions and policies that define and distinguish them. In America’s case you have a nation that, despite its mistakes, is fundamentally dedicated to the principles of freedom of speech, worship and action. That’s not to say that at times it hasn’t been mired in self-interest and high-handed arrogance; however, overall, the values that America has propagated have been of tremendous benefit to the world.

    Besides, I think you’ll find that the American military presence in the vast majority of countries on the map (those with 1 to 100 individuals) are embassy staff, military attaches, and the occasional advisor.


  7. Dammit. I love you Matt.

  8. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Awww shucks… do you cuddle afterwards? :)

  9. Matt Russell says:

    “All nations are basically equal…”

    What planet do you live on?

    “…it’s their actions and policies that define and distinguish them.”

    Thanks for proving the point that a liberal can only be about 1% right about anything all the time.

  10. Matthew_Cunningham says:


    “What planet do you live on?”

    I stand by my comment that all nations are basically equal. At their core, they are – it is how they act, how they treat their citizens, the laws and policies they implement, the freedoms they allow, and the form of government they assume that separates the better from the worse.

    Case and point: America and the Soviet Union. Both meet the definition of a ‘nation’, so both begin from a starting point of equality. America chooses capitalism, the Soviet Union communism (Both have their merits; however, I won’t comment on which one I prefer and why because that would start a whole new debate. From my comments it should be fairly obvious). America chooses freedom of speech, worhsip and action, and ensures every individual the right to plot their own path and accumulate what wealth they can according to their natural and learned talents. The Soviet Union chooses a system of complete equality regardless of gender, race or class, but implements it in a way that requires an oversized, cumbersome and repressive bureaucracy that ensures basic freedoms only for those who do not dissent. Hence, in my opinion, one becomes better than the other because the policies it implements are more beneficial, less restrictive, and more efficient.

    “Thanks for proving the point that a liberal can only be about 1% right about anything all the time.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. I’m not a liberal, but neither am I a conservative. I happen to think there’s a time and place for both the left and the right, as not all situations can be handled with the same partisan brushstroke. Checks and balances and all that jazz.


  11. Argh. Couldn’t have put it better myself. I got your point about the sovereign equality of nations the first time matty matt.

    But, thats what a realist would argue. Structuralists would disagree – if sovereignty in the modern world is delineated by popular approval or support (as Rousseau argues) then states will only be equal when their citizenry enjoy the same equality. That would entail economic, and well as legal equality.

    Do you think that exists in IR?

  12. Nick Archer says:

    Mathew_Cunningham “That’s not to say that at times it hasn’t been mired in self-interest and high-handed arrogance; however, overall, the values that America has propagated have been of tremendous benefit to the world.”

    True points, can agree to agree on some things (Georgia mess/hypocrisy etc interesting reverse parallels to Kosovo with this, if South Osettia was further West and the Georgians were say slavs like the serbs were America would be the Russia in this case and the Russians would be the ones crying foul! WAIT? Didn’t they cry foul when Kosovo declared it’s independence in EXACT circumstances as Kosovo did?) and disagree on others (US Hegemony). There are worser examples than America out there, but don’t be fooled by the hype of the neo conservatives, American imperialism’s excesses hides behind the banner of freedom. At the end of the day it is the actions and policies of it’s politicians who are the evil doers there…

    Where the values fall down is when there is duplicitous activity (by the American politicians) masked by the rhetoric of their overall values (i.e. democratic system in the States) so they will then go in and prop up a dictator/strong man they like (e.g. Pakistan, Indonesia) if they are behaving and discard them when they stop behaving (e.g. Saddam, Noriega etc…)

    This topic is interesting one…

  13. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Conrad: I’m in two minds about the works of early nationalists like Rousseau and Locke. Locke argued that political right can only come into being when a majority come together and decide to surrender a portion of their individual sovereignty to a higher power. Rousseau reinforces this by stating that a nation without popular support is illegitimate and therefore holds no power over its citizenry.

    Both make sense from a realistic point of view… however, most of the early nations were formed not through a process of mass approval, but by the actions of a few intellectual elite. For the American Revolution, it was a handful of politically astute white landowners; for the October Revolution, it was a group of educated Marxists; for the French Revolution, it was a bunch of Enlightenment-inspired thinkers. The vast majority of the population in each case were poor, uneducated, and disconnected from the world of politics (especially so in Russia’s case due to the sheer size of its territory). They had to be ‘educated’ in the ways of the system that had taken root around them. Thus the measure of success was not the amount of grassroots support that a revolutionary movement had gained, but how well it was taken up by the population afterwards; hence, the policies it chose to pursue and the actions it took. Eugen Weber’s ‘Peasants into Frenchmen’ is a great study in this area.

    Nowadays things are different; communication media are far more widespread and ubiquitously available. People know more, and are better versed in what’s going on around them. Popular support, both domestic and international, plays a much bigger part in the formation of new nations. This support is garnered by publicising what a movement intends to do when it is in power – ergo, sort of an advanced footing on the measures that separate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ nations after their formation. What does this mean? I don’t know. But whatever the case may be, there is still always a ‘starting point’ for a new state that might be considered its ‘clean slate’ moment of equality.

    Does IR = Iran? If so, well, they have restrictions on action and dress (especially women), dictated by the lack of separation of church and state in government. Their political system is also very ‘closed circle’ in nature – a Supreme Leader without accountability, a Guardian Council appointed by him, a strict system of approval that electoral candidates must undergo in order to ensure they conform to the religious requirements of the state… i’d say that implies several deficiencies in legal equality. In saying that though, there’s far worse places in the Middle East.


  14. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Nick: Sorry, missed your post whilst I was typing. I’ll write a more lengthy response later. You’re right that the US has propped up rather ambiguous governments and leaders in the past – i’ll add Augusto Pinochet and Shah Reza Pahlavi to that list. But overall they have a far better track record than other powers.

    I agree on Kosovo. I respect their right to independence, but I am also a firm believer in the pwoer of the UN. Kosovo’s declaration, however popular, contravened the process of the UN. Consider this, however – how long had independance for these regions been on the cards before Russia’s declaration? How well publicised? How much international support did it achieve? And finally, how do the circumstances behind the two situations differ? I think you’ll see that Kosovo’s declaration and its subsequent wave of international support is somewhat different to Russia’s sudden decision to support the historically unrecognised secession of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the wake of an unpopular war against Georgia. Russia’s move reeks like a game of political tit for tat to me.


  15. I meant International Relations by IR. But liek, whatever. I do cuddle afterwards. if you were still wondering.

  16. Nick Archer says:

    “Russia’s move reeks like a game of political tit for tat to me.” – Matt

    Yeah it is tit for tat, next move was America’s i.e. the humanitarian aid, then it was Russia with the President’s rhetoric, then America with the Polish and Czech missile shield, then Russia handing out Russian passports in a 90% Russian population sea port in the Ukraine, then NATO being fast tracked for Georgia’s pending membership, then Russia declaring their support for the disputed territories and now a quite noticeable build up of NATO ships in the Black Sea and throw in there Condi’s visit to Tblisisi and the Georgian President eating his own tie ( and we have WWIII brewing (bit more comical than the build up to the last two I must ad!)

  17. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Nick: You’re right, everything is about cause and effect when it comes down to it. But looking at the situation with Kosovo compared to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia’s championing of the latter lends itself more to political payback than to a genuine desire to see these nations become independant. The timing of its decision to support these breakaway provinces is not coincidental.

    I highly doubt the current situation will lead to World War III. Humanity has emerged unscathed from far direr political conundrums in the past. The entire forty odd years of the Cold War stand testament to the fact that nobody wants another World War. Two were quite enough.

    Regarding your former comment – I notice you used the phrase “American imperialism”. I’m not a fan of this term as it seems mostly to me to be a socialist catch-call similar to “capitalist stooge” or “fascist aggressor”. It’s too simplified. America may hold a form of cultural and economic hegemony over much of the Western world, but it wasn’t forced upon anyone at gunpoint. American values have been assumed by most of the world because they are the closest thing to the natural and just way of life, whilst providing minimal governmental and bureaucratic encumberances. Brushing all labels like ‘liberal’ and ‘neo-conservative’ aside, that’s pretty much the foundation of what America is about – individual liberty and a government that is both limited and accountable. If you want to call the (mostly) uncoerced spread of American values ‘imperialism’, that’s your call – but consider the connotations of the term first, and whether or not they’re justified and apprioriate.

    Interesting point about neo-conservatism (which by the way i’m not a fan of) – it has its roots in pre-WW2 American socialism. Hmmm…

  18. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    apprioriate = appropriate. Me spellz gud, yah

  19. Ann Woofston says:

    @Matthew: By “Child molester” I didn’t mean to call anyone names, nor do I mean to put the other countries down by referring them as children. “Child molester” is simply an analogy of someone doing something very bad. Sorry for not being PC enough. Please excuse me to take it back and use “Big Fat Bully Coconut A**hole” instead.

    To put it straight, what I actually meant was, the US blatantly invaded other countries for their goodness, this is bad, and is the main point of this article. The fact that Russia is currently in war with Georgia for whatever reason, should not be used as an excuse for the American’s behaviour in the past.

    Your comment of “All nations are basically equal?” is clearly flawed. All countries are equal in some sense, like what you’ve pointed out in your latter comments, but not in many other perspectives, such as military power, rights in the UN, and the ability of telling other countries what (they want them) to do. Namely, all countries (should) have equal power on their domestic issues, but not on international issues. The context of the article is clearly international, so your “generalization” is not only incomplete, but wrong…

  20. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Ann: Now you’re just being racist about coconuts. :)

    You missed the point of what I was trying to get across. I wasn’t critiquing your choice in metaphor on PC grounds – I was doing it because name calling and oversimplification bring nothing to the debate. Have a look a the difference between your first and second posts – the first uses name calling, whereas in the second you’ve raised a number of really good points. That’s the difference between a raw opinion and an opinion backed by argument.

    The map Conrad has posted is a piece of evidence, the interpretation of which can be made in a number of ways. THAT’S what the point of this article is – to incite discussion. What does it mean that America has troops in all but a handful of the countries around the world? Does it mean that they have ‘blatantly invaded’ all of these countries? Or does it mean that, as the vast majority of them fall in the 1 to 100 category (the kind of numbers associated with national embassies,which every country uses), this map gives a false impression of American military ‘bullying’?

    Also, let me make it clear – I am NOT trying to excuse America for its mistakes. God knows it’s made plenty of them. I believe that America should be held accountable much as the rest of the world is.The main point of my interest in this topic is that America is so overly criticized by everyone under the sun these days, for just about anything, that I feel the need to remind people of all the good it’s done. This form of criticism is often hypocritical and one-sided – it’s like it’s become ‘cool’ to hate the U.S., and being able to use the words ‘Iraq War’ and ‘oil’ in the same sentence is a sign of intelligence. This isn’t a dig at you, by the way – your second post clearly shows that you’ve given the topic a lot of thought and have some intelligent points to raise on the topic – but do you see what i’m getting at?

    I stand by what I said about the base equality of nations. You’re right in that this is an international comparison, but only in the sense that I am comparing the base domestic situations of different nations, isolated of each other, to each other. Does that make sense?

    But I completely agree with you about the UN. I have a lot of faith in international law but it is obvious that the UN – and in particular the Security Council – is in need of reform. Bear in mind though that the UN was designed and modelled to deal with the challenges the world faced after World War II. It may be an outdated structure nowaways but it was extremely useful at the time.

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