Phantom Empire: The illusionary nature of U.S. military power
The U.S. has become a “Phantom Empire,” a country that appears to be powerful because it has a robust military presence abroad but cannot use garrisoned forces to achieve geopolitical objectives
Richard Hanania, Fellow, Defense Priorities
- The U.S. has become a “Phantom Empire,” a country that appears to be powerful because it has a robust military presence abroad but cannot use garrisoned forces to achieve geopolitical objectives.
- More than 225,000 U.S. troops and DoD personnel are stationed abroad in more than 150 countries. The largest deployments are to wealthy U.S. allies (Japan, Germany, and South Korea) capable of defending themselves.
- U.S. leaders often justify military commitments by arguing they preserve “influence.” But because American leaders are committed, in most cases, to maintaining troops abroad as a good in and of itself, the U.S. squanders most of its leverage to influence hosts. Threats to withdraw troops are not credible, making them irrelevant for most U.S. geopolitical goals.
- The sources of U.S. power and influence are ultimately rooted in economic prosperity and soft power. A foreign policy that cultivates these sources of strength over maintaining military commitments would better achieve U.S. geopolitical goals.