Political Challenges to the U.S. Overseas Military Presence, 1945–2014
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While the U.S. military depends on access to overseas bases to project military power around the globe both in peacetime and during contingencies, it has faced a variety of political challenges to this access. This report aims to fill a gap in the existing literature on this topic through a comprehensive and empirical analysis of the challenges the United States has confronted since 1945. The authors examine the kinds and severity of access problems the United States has faced and how these have changed over time and suggest how the United States can counter political threats to access. The authors find that, while political challenges to access have occurred regularly, the threat has often been overstated. Moreover, the United States faces two separate access problems: challenges to its peacetime base rights and difficulties securing contingency access permissions. Peacetime and contingency access are linked, but not in the way that many assume. Access to large permanent bases during peacetime does not increase the probability that the United States will be granted permission to use a facility during a crisis. Instead, only enduring partners — nations in which there is an elite security consensus in support of the U.S. presence — offer more reliable access during peacetime and in contingencies.