Mother Jones interactive military presence map

Mother Jones launched an interactive map that shows US military presence around the world from 1950 to 2007. It's based on worldwide troop data from the Pentagon. From Mother Jones:
These numbers are often fuzzy: Some deployments are classified, others are temporary, and just because the Defense Department claims 30 US troops in Indonesia last year doesn't mean 1,500 didn't pass through on training missions. Even so, the map, and the associated research, should give you a good feel for what the Pentagon is up to around the world.
Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide (Mother Jones)


  1. I believe this map includes the US Marines that protect all each US Embassy world wide. In larger countries with many American tourists, there are often several facilities in major cities.

    That substantially shades the map in a way that indicates a real military presence almost worldwide

  2. Iran looks a little…pale. I worry that the good doctors in Washington have some buckets of green paint to “fix” that.

  3. What I found interesting is Iran in 1980 is in the 1-100 category. I guess military personnel are included in the count, even if they are being held against their will.

  4. Uch, all I can say is that I think it’s bad that there are so many American military troops in all these countries, I would just like to say:
    Get the F*** out of my country! (Belgium)
    I think the numbers will only increase, though, too bad.

  5. @6: A fair point, but even if you ignore that category, there are still (to my count) 23 nations with more than 100 troops, including these whoppers:

    Germany: 57,155
    Japan: 33,164
    S. Korea: 26,076
    Italy: 9,701
    UK: 9,655

    (not to mention:
    Afghanistan: 25,700
    Iraq: 196,600 — must have been during the “surge”)

    I was under the impression that WWII had ended several decades ago, so why is it that we still have all those troops stationed in the former axis powers?

    It would be useful to have comparable information about other nations’ foreign troops, or perhaps (if it’s available) where British troops were stationed during its imperial heyday. Still, even without those comparisons, this doesn’t look too good for those who would deny US military imperialism.

  6. Well, South Korea makes some sense, although the US is winding down it presence there. As for the rest, Im not totally sure what the point of 60K guys in germany is, but it might be useful to know what the breakdown of combat guys to support guys is.

    Imperialism is one of those words that gets thrown around so much it has just about lost its meaning. Just because the US has a presence in a country does not mean it is exerting control over that country, which is a necessary component of Imperialism, IMO.

  7. Uh, the US is in South Korea because their neighbor has one of the largest armies in the world, chemical weapon armed artillery in shelling range of Seoul, and are still technically at war.

    Japan still has US troops buming around because Japan doesn’t have an army to speak of, shares many similar interests as the US, and it helps perpetuate a half century of US bending over backwards to please Japan (though the US does less of that these days). The US military hanging around Japan is almost as much an extension of Japanese will and power as it is American.

    Germany keeps Americans around because their bases are good for the economy (imagine thousands of Americans who have only been drink Budwieser discovering German beer… they keep the pubs full) and makes the US feel all warm and fuzzy towards them.

  8. The 1-100 category puts a big spin on the graphic: the U.S. is everywhere! Last I heard, there were no combat units stationed in Russia. I wonder what a similar mapping subtracting out military attaches or showing only combat units would look like.

  9. Well, the interesting thing about this map is the range of numbers, which makes this map more confusing. 10,000-40,000 is a big spread

  10. I think at least part of the Germany/Japan presence is historic, we took those places, were staying. The other part is to provide us with a means of staging actions nearby, Germany and the UK give us coverage of europe and Japan and a few others give us the pacific.

  11. Why does hte 2007 map have darker outlines for the countries? It’s hard to me to tell what’s happening between 2005 and 2007. Anyone else notice this?

  12. I think this map would enjoy far greater meaning if it had another interactive “dimension” such that the same [timeline vs. troop-presence] could be viewed for a range of countries–if, say, the same timeline could be viewed for all countries involved in wwI OR wwII.

    As it stands, the map relies too heavily upon the imagination for perspective. Which is why those who remark about “counting embassy guards as troops” are quite right to do so.

    Perhaps it would be better to make the lightest shade 5-100 or something–but including other countries would alleviate some of that while also raising the data out of the Aether.

  13. If you click on the countries on the map you get some more detail, but the detail is, well, a bit biased. For example, the blurb for Egypt says “Germ warfare!” but the text says that the US runs a clinic dedicated to the prevention of diseases. It even says that the US kept the unit open even during times of tension with Egypt. Hmmpf.

    Other blurbs are filled with weasel words and phrases like “some have claimed” or “it is believed” followed with unsupported BS.

    Consider this entry for Brazil:

    “Some observers believe the US is interested in the tri-border area because it would like to break up Mercosur, a regional trade agreement between Brazil and some of its neighbors.”

    Uh, some observers? Like who? How many and do they have any credibility? In Wikipedia, these would be WP:WTA or words to avoid.

    Its too bad, maps like these are really useful in visualizing concepts that are hard to sum up and get your mind around.

  14. Thank God most of you correctly pointed out the presence of Marines guarding the Embassies/Consulates, military attaches, and the ridiculous comments about the US presence in most countries. My faith in the average person to spot BS has been elevated.

  15. I thought I’d share this with everyone.
    This is a closeup of the Zhukovskiy airfield in the Moscow military district. The plane I’ve zoomed in on is a C-17 Globemaster, made by our buddies over at Boeing (originally, it was a McDonnell-Douglas project, which ironically competed against Boeing. But I digress…). There are only two primary operators of that plane, the USAF and the RAF. However, me thinks that’s a USAF bird right there. What it’s doing there is a complete mystery (stumbled across it months ago whilst looking at all the pretty white Tupolev Blackjack bombers). Considering what this strip is used for (aircraft tests), it just seems even more mysterious. However, there have been, in recent years, a number of joint US/Russian aerospace projects, not including the International Space Station.
    Suffice to say, the presence of such a large American-built military airlifter on the ground in a country whom we were recently vigorously shaking our fist at is interesting.

  16. The rationale most Americans put forth to deny the extent of our nation’s imperial reach would be comedic if not for the misery it inflicts on millions worldwide.

    Rather than admit the obvious when confronted with clear data, here are some of the excuses given on this comment thread:

    — Marines in US embassies queer the data.
    — Germany does not want American troops to leave because they spend so much on beer and pretzels.
    — American troops are “bumming around” Japan (sounds positively Bohemian) because the two nations have “similar interests” (like two old friends playing dominoes on a cool summer evening) and as an extension of America “bending over backwards” for half a century. (With gifts like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, most nations have good cause to fear the “friendship” of America).
    — The US is in South Korea but is “winding down” its presence there. I’m sure Iraqis will be pleased to know that if American troops “wind down” there at a similar rate, we should be at about 50% of current numbers by 2058 and a complete withdrawal can be expected long about 2108.

    Someone also said this:

    >> Imperialism is one of those words that gets thrown around so much it has just about lost its meaning.


    It still means exactly the same thing in the rest of the world.

    It is only in America where words like imperialism and torture are watered so the populace does not have to come to terms with the reality of their actions. Notice I said “their” actions. Not the actions of their government or a particular political party. All Americans, myself included.

    If anything, this map’s numbers are WAY low. It says there are nine American troops in Ethiopia and twenty seven in Somalia. This is a joke. The US only last year provided intel, weapons, and troop support (so-called advisers) in Ethopia’s aggression against certain Somali factions. And, of course, America was providing the very same support to factions in Somalia. Encouraging instability to justify an expanded deployment in and around Sudan and the Ogaden in 2009. Oil fields in the Sudan rival those of Saudi Arabia and the Ogaden contains possibly the largest deposits of uranium ore in the world.

    And zero troops in the Central African Republic? There were definitely American troops present in 2004 when American soldiers held the kidnapped Aristide there.

    In addition, what is the definition of US troops? Most of America’s “soldiers” are private armies and mercenaries. Also, much of our warfare efforts are deployed from office parks in Maryland or Florida or Virginia. We can disrupt another nation, destabilize, or assist favored factions in their mayhem without a single soldier setting foot on foreign soil.

    American imperialism is clear and omnipresent. The apologists on this thread are loathe to come to terms with the 800-pound gorilla (choosing instead to debate the exact color of the many discarded banana peels at his feet) that is all too terrifyingly obvious to the humans who reside outside of the United States.

    I’m an American living in Germany.

    And the rest of the world is sick of our shit.

  17. #22 Clear data, huh?

    Take your medicine, your giving liberals an even worse name then they already have.

  18. From a Mojo editor: The 1-100 troops designation was used because we had too many color gradations, and it was hard to discern between them online. In a print version of the map, recognizing the “embassy guards” issue, we had another couple of gradations, including a 1-10 troops category. Now, based on this feedback, we’re planning to tweak the online maps such that the neutral (zero troop) color applies to 0-10 troops. That should largely take care of the “embassy guards” criticism. (We’re also cleaning up some technical glitches that have caused a few countries to show up the wrong color.)But lest people misread what this is all about, the heart of the map is in the profiles that appear below when you click on a country. They say much more than the Pentagon’s troop data does. Thanks for the feedback, and we hope you find the map and entire package both informative and useful.

  19. #24 Wow that MJ is proud of the country profile is particularly telling, I considered it more biased and unfounded then the map gradient thing.

  20. I like to think of it as the American Empire; that sounds so cool; more historical resonance. Rome’s legions were 5,000 strong. Think of it like … ”Our legions on the Rhine, our legions on the Tigris, our legions…” See what I mean? Much cooler.

  21. Almost forgot . . .

    ”…imagine thousands of Americans who have only been drink Budwieser discovering German beer…”

    The drink of real legionnaires!

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