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Journal of Cold War Studies 4.2 (2002) 146-147

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Book Review

America's Overseas Garrisons:
The Leasehold Empire

C. T. Sandars, America's Overseas Garrisons: The Leasehold Empire. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2000. 354 pp. $65.00.

C. T. Sandars has written an eminently readable account of the extensive network of military facilities that were leased by the United States from a variety of countries in the post-1945 period. Sandars calls this network a "leasehold empire" to distinguish it from earlier forms of empire (notably those of Britain and France). Sandars makes the point that the leasehold empire relied on a wide array of negotiation, terms, and the conditions for its maintenance, even if the United States at times behaved like a colonial overlord.

Sandars, who is a civil servant in the British Ministry of Defence, says that the purpose of his book is "to illustrate the varying political environments in which the United States sought to build up elements of her global security system after the Second World War and to analyse the problems she encountered as a result of different host nation attitudes and policies" (p. vi). He offers the caveat that the book does not extend to military facilities established for specific military operations, such as the Vietnam War, an omission that may disappoint some. Although Sandars generally describes the varying political environments in fascinating detail, his coverage of the congressional perspectives—perhaps because of his location and professional commitments—is thin. For instance, the 1948 Vandenberg Resolution, the 1950 "Great Debate" in the Senate, and the successive Mansfield Amendments in the 1970s are mentioned only fleetingly or not at all. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe the main thrust of the book as politico-military, and not the general political environment as such.

America's Overseas Garrisons is not intended to be a comprehensive account of each military base leased to the United States. Sandars's aim instead is to chart the development of the basing system and to examine the wide range of bilateral relationships within it. In this he admirably succeeds. However, some factors that may have shaped the system—and that may be apparent to the discerning reader—are not explicitly mentioned. For instance, the role of military technology is not specifically examined, even though one of the more curious aspects of the leasehold empire is that the advent of intercontinental-range missiles, the lack of which had been cited as a reason to seek overseas basing, apparently had little impact on the demand for basing rights.

The economics of basing is one of the closely related subthemes of the more general politico-military discourse. Sandars notes that one of the explanations for the spectacular acquisition of bases and basing rights in the aftermath of World War II was the sheer economic strength of the United States. Similarly, the difficulty of maintaining the "leasehold empire" can be attributed to the increasing costs of maintaining expensive overseas garrisons and the increasing demands for concessions in return for access. Sandars notes that by the end of the 1980s thirteen countries were receiving security assistance, in various forms, in return for the hosting of U.S. forces. However, [End Page 146] 80 percent of this assistance was allocated to Greece, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and thePhilippines. Sandars notes that the increasing demands of these countries "led todifficulties between the United States administration and Congress at a time ofmounting deficits and increasing budgetary pressure within the United States"(p.305). This was an important aspect of the overseas garrisons, and it mayagain make some readers wish for a more detailed examination of the role of Congress.

The politico-military focus of the book leads to many detailed and rich discussions of the strategic utility of various geographic locations for basing, the negotiations and terms for military access, and the all-too-frequent wrinkles in the subsequent agreements. Sandars also notes the willingness of the United States to negotiate with less than salubrious regimes in a number of cases, in which national...