Saturday, June 5, 2010

Are military bases a (resource) curse?

In Descent into Chaos, Ahmad Rashad argues that U.S. military bases in Afghanistan only serve to divide the efforts to unify the country. Clans or tribes are paid more than civil servants in Kabul to maintain and run the bases and these clans often compete to service the bases. The large amounts of payments are funneled into private accounts instead being repatriated to the central government in Kabul and undermines all its reconstruction efforts because the central government is very often less well financed than the warlords.

A reminder that military bases are a curse is the downfall of Yukio Hatoyama the Prime Minister of Japan for his failure to keep his campaign promise to close the American base on Okinawa. Perhaps the curse is that instead of America paying Japan, it is the reverse:

The Japanese government paid more than $5.2 billion for funding the stationing of U.S. troops in Japan in 2009. That includes facilities maintenance and improvements, Japanese support employee salaries, and other needs. Of that funding, $1.6 billion is for military support on Okinawa.

And there is indirect support, which includes waivers of taxes, road tolls and port fees for military operations, and SOFA personnel pay less tax on their cars than Japanese citizens.

Would things in Okinawa be different if America paid Japan like they are paying the warlords in Afghanistan?

Or would the situation turn out to be similar to Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan where America is paying $60 million (a year?) for using the facilities.

An additional $117 million will be given to the Kyrgyz government, including $36 million for upgrading the airport with additional storage facilities and aircraft parking, $21 million for fighting drug trafficking in the country, and $20 million for economic development.

Some of these payments have been alleged to have been embezzled by the people close to the administrations of Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev either by gaining rights to service the air base on by outright theft.

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