The United States, an Empire in the Shadows: Part I

This is my thirty-eighth weekly Blog regarding the state of leadership in America. In our collective past, kings, dictators, and tyrants have stormed across the pages of human history conquering territories and subjugating peoples in order to build the largest and most powerful kingdoms and empires. The areas seized were typically drained of their resources and levied with high taxes to maintain the life style of the ruling class and military apparatus necessary to secure and maintain the empire. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the granting of independence or autonomy for previous colonies under control of European countries, the turbulent age of empires is finally over, or is it? Today, despite granting independence to the Philippines and withdrawing from Panama, the US has nearly 150,000 troops stationed at close to 860 installations, bases or sites in approximately 150 foreign countries at a cost of about $65 Billion annually (these figures do not include the number of troops, bases, and costs for Iraq and Afghanistan). The original justification for the bases in Germany, Italy and Japan was due to post World War II occupations and need to oversee reconstruction. With the formation of the Soviet Union, we needed to remain in these countries and establish additional bases due to our policy of containment of communism in the Cold War era. With the Korean War and resulting stalemate, we left a large contingent of troops to support the South Korean military. And while there is rationale to support the existence of the numerous other bases, our sky-rocketing debt and shrinking budgets demand that we examine our own empire. Yes, we do have one, but it is not an empire on the old model of conquer and subjugate. This new model seeks to use these bases to project American power and influence throughout the world and discourage any would be aggressor. However, the existence and scope of this empire of the United States seems to have gone relatively unnoticed and unchallenged, existing in the shadows with minimal discussion regarding whether we still need and can afford this new age empire. The reasons given for maintaining it are that our presence reassures our allies, deters our enemies, provides for contingency responsiveness and fosters security cooperation. Okay, but the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is dead, Eastern Europe is free, and Japan is democratized and strong. South Korea remains a hot spot, but do we need 28,500 American troops to maintain the peace there? Why are the South Koreans and other countries not doing more to protect themselves? Clearly, we cannot close every overseas base and withdraw into a fortress America mindset. However, significant savings can be obtained if we are willing to explore other alternatives to project our power and protect our interests around the world. Part II of this piece will be published on 8/9/13.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in numerous leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a human resources director. Mr. Okum has written ”Leadership DNA,” a provocative and useful guide book allowing readers to broaden their understanding about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. This guide book shows you the various aspects of leadership, including examining good leaders’ behavior patterns as well as learning how to achieve your objectives and deal with poor managers that can potentially cripple you and your organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and Leadership DNA, visit

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