Conversation Starter: Associate Professor David Vine Discusses US Military Bases Abroad

At AU, public anthropology students work alongside thought leaders on the cutting edge of their field—professors driving discussion around the country and striving for meaningful, on-the-ground impacts.

One of these leaders is Associate Professor David Vine.

David’s newest book, Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, is drawing widespread attention to the impact of US military bases on foreign and domestic policy.

In Base Nation, David argues that by maintaining more than 800 overseas bases—occupied by hundreds of thousands of troops and their family members—the US incites geopolitical tensions, provokes resentment, and involves itself in situations that compromise democratic values.

“I hope it helps build a conversation, on Capitol Hill and nationally, about closing more US military bases overseas, many of which are unnecessary, hugely wasteful of taxpayer funds, and harmful in a variety of ways,” David said over email.

Because of its bases, the US finds itself partnering with dictators, enforcing ongoing colonial relationships in US territories, and undermining local economies. Not to mention the astounding financial drain: By David’s count, the US pours nearly $160 billion into maintaining bases and troops overseas each year.

“I’m encouraged that people across the political spectrum are beginning to realize that closing unnecessary military bases will help improve US and global security,” David said.


Getting the Word Out, from National Newspapers to Radio Spots

In an interview for NPR’s All Things Considered (which you can listen to here) David discusses the historical development of bases and the contemporary tensions surrounding them. In his New York Times Op-Ed, David argued for the shuttering of unneeded bases abroad—in addition to cutbacks the Pentagon seeks for domestic bases. In a piece for Politico, David discusses the reach of US bases across the world (with an infographic to illustrate).

David was also featured on the debut episode of Abby Martin’s new show, The Empire Files. His previous work includes the book Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia.


The Power of Research in the Classroom  

Beyond his deep dive into military bases, David’s research extends to issues including gentrification in Brooklyn, environmental refugees, homelessness and mental illness, and DC-area basketball.

David draws from all of his varied research interests to inform his teaching of AU anthropology students.

“I try to bring my research into all my classes,” David said. “I have designed classes specifically around my research, including the Anthropology of Militarism, Understanding War and Building Peace, and Writing Ethnography.”

The role of public anthropology in addressing public concerns is at the heart of David’s work, and he considers AU a good home. “The people here are wonderful,” he said. “Individually and collectively, I am especially glad that they are committed to pursuing scholarship that makes a difference in the world.”


Do these sound like people you’d like to learn from?

David Vine is just one of many AU anthropology professors committed to working toward meaningful change. Find out more about the master’s in public anthropology at American University.

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