Long Reach Of The US Border
No matter where you are in the world, you are
likely to stumble upon the US
By Belen Fernandez
summer, an American friend of mine was returning
he had been conducting PhD research.
Checking in for his connecting flight in Paris,
he was put on the phone with a representative of
US Customs and Border Protection for questioning
- since we all know
France shares a
border with the
Upon reaching America proper, my friend was
hauled off for interrogation at the airport in
New York on subjects ranging from the details of
to the issue of whether or not anyone had
suggested he join an armed group in
pick your own moral of the story. One
possibility, perhaps, is that academics that
insist on showing an interest in certain parts
of the world should build detention time into
their travel itineraries.
- more broadly applicable to the general global
population - is that, no matter where you are,
the US border can be brought to you.
While it might be tempting to blame US President
and his special brand of
for the frenzied expansion of the US border into
international spaces, the concept of the border
itself evolved some time ago into something
encompassing much more than physical territorial
ask the victims of the post-9/11 "war on
terror", which has eliminated countless human
lives for the ostensible purpose of securing the
Indeed, the US habit of interrupting
in Afghanistan and elsewhere with drone strikes
long predated the current head of state - though
adopted the drone obsession
with predictable zeal.
Closer to home, meanwhile, US-bound Central
American migrants regularly run afoul of the
amplified US border and find themselves being
Mexico - a country roped into serving as a first
line of defence against often-defenceless folks,
many of them fleeing violent conditions that the
US itself has played
no small part
for its part, gets to enjoy the additional perks
of being literally located on the US frontier,
drug wars and
economic devastation - not to mention the
essential criminalisation of Mexican-ness via
border fortification schemes and mass
Trump continues to plot his expanded wall on the
US-Mexico border, the subtler but no less
sinister expansion of the very idea of the US
border - and all that it entails - proceeds
While the US has over the decades
repeatedly been up in arms over
perceived enemy intrusions into its
own 'backyard' - see, for example,
the Soviets in Cuba or the more
recent ruckus over Iran's supposed
infiltration of Latin America - the
country persists in trampling over
other backyards at will.
Champions of empire
Beyond the matter of forcing international
airlines to get on board with every US whim in
and other life-complicating activities, there's
nothing like ubiquitous military bases to
reinforce the notion that the world in fact
belongs to America.
2015 book Base Nation: How US Military Bases
Abroad Harm America and the World, American
University's David Vine reported that, as of
that year, the US "controlled approximately 800
bases" outside the country.
had resulted in a situation in which, he said,
"we probably have more bases in other people's
lands than any other people, nation, or empire
in world history".
went on aptly to note that, for most Americans,
"the idea of even the nicest, most benign
foreign troops arriving with their tanks,
planes, and high-powered weaponry and making
themselves at home in our country - occupying
and fencing off hundreds or thousands of acres
of our land - is unthinkable".
to imperialism's gloriously hypocritical logic,
of course, America's disproportionate global
footprint hasn't stopped the US political
establishment from regularly accusing selected
nemeses of meddling in the internal affairs of
And while the US has over the decades repeatedly
been up in arms over perceived enemy intrusions
into its own "backyard" - see, for example, the
Soviets in Cuba or the more recent ruckus over
Latin America - the country persists in
trampling over other backyards at will.
When earlier this year the Gulf played host to
close encounters between the Iranian navy and US
ships, the Iranians were shamelessly
the aggressors despite the proximity of the
incidents to Iranian territorial waters.
ever-expanding border makes for an ever-bigger
backyard, it seems.
too, is as good a backyard as any, judging from
April 2017 report
from investigative journalist Nick Turse,
managing editor of the TomDispatch website.
American military officials have consistently
downplayed their presence in Africa, Turse
writes, but "a set of previously secret
documents, obtained by TomDispatch via the
Freedom of Information Act, offers clear
evidence of a remarkable, far-ranging, and
expanding network of outposts strung across the
goes on to predict that, "with the Trump
administration escalating its wars in Africa and
the Middle East, and the potential for more
crises … on the horizon", the US military
footprint will continue to grow "outpost by
outpost and base by base".
US border-without-borders is, you might say, a
crisis in itself.
Fernandez is the author of The Imperial
Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by
Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin
views expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of Information Clearing House.