Coca Cola and Bombs: A Dangerous Cocktail

Coca Cola and Bombs: A Dangerous Cocktail


A commentary by Graeme H. Wallace, April 30, 2018


This paper relies on information passed down, personal contacts and observations and information sourced from Google, Google Scholar and You Tube. Some information may be biased however everything possible has been done to remove that bias.

The interest in this topic started when the press in both the USA and Australia began claiming that the world was being over-run by the Chinese because supposed military bases were being built in the South China Sea. This paper aims to illustrate the imbalance in the world between the bases the USA has, particularly on foreign soil to those that China has. Clearly the USA has a significantly greater footprint and a much more aggressive stance.


My father served in New Guinea for most of the time between 1939 and 1946 and spoke little about direct action as he was part of the First Australian Dental Corps. He did however talk proudly of the work done by the indigenous people, their friendliness and their support for the Australians. He was, however, less kind regarding the Americans. The first priority for them, he said, was installing the Coke (Coca Cola) machine.

Many Americans wanted gold put in their teeth and as New Guinea gold was relatively cheap and readily accessible, many got their wish – weren’t the dental and medical people in New Guinea to look after the sick and wounded and not to pander to the vanity of a few soldiers?

As the war moved on he was shocked at the way equipment, and even planes, were discarded by the Americans when they just needed maintenance. It was the start of the replace rather than repair concept. This provided a great source of raw material for making souvenirs which the Australians then sold to the Americans.

In our household it would have been heresy for us as children to suggest that the Americans had won the war as they were late to enter and in my father’s opinion poorly trained and relied on heavy assets rather than foot soldiers to gain ground.

Americans at War

If we look closely at all the conflicts that the Americans have been involved in the only war that they can really claim to have won was the American War of Independence. Australia has blithely followed them into conflicts only to end up looking foolish.

Today the Americans are urging us to take a stand against China which has built some small islands to use as bases to protect the shipping lanes to their major ports. We are told that this action is aggressive in nature, however, the Chinese policy is to buy a foothold in countries rather than to aggressively take control. Is this really the case and should we feel threatened? I suggest not. Indeed the former Prime Minister the Hon. Paul Keating said on National radio that what China was doing was just like a dog marking its territory. He went on to say that it was impossible to launch large rockets from these islands as the coral which was the foundation would collapse. Surely then the reason for their establishment is merely to indicate that they do have a foothold in the South China Sea.


USA Military Bases

Let us quickly take a look at the history of the USA and its military bases.

Hawaii - In January 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a provisional government composed of members of the American Committee of Safety. American lawyer Sanford B. Dole became President of the Republic when the Provisional Government of Hawaii ended on July 4, 1894. Controversy ensued in the following years as the Queen tried to regain her throne. The administration of President Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, which concluded that the removal of Liliʻuokalani had been illegal. The U.S. government first demanded that Queen Liliʻuokalani be reinstated, but the Provisional Government refused.

Congress conducted an independent investigation, and on February 26, 1894, submitted the Morgan Report, which found all parties, including Minister Stevens - with the exception of the Queen - "not guilty", and not responsible for the coup. Partisans on both sides of the debate questioned the accuracy and impartiality of both the Blount and Morgan reports over the events of 1893.

In 1993, the US Congress passed a joint Apology Resolution regarding the overthrow; it was signed by President Bill Clinton. The resolution apologized for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and acknowledged that the United States had annexed Hawaii unlawfully. This clearly showed that the USA had acted outside the law in order to have a military presence in the Pacific.

Greenland –The Thule Inuit had lived on the Northwest Coast of Greenland for many generations. They did not live in igloo’s but instead had homes built from stones and encased with grassed sods. This village was close to their traditional hunting grounds and in winter they could move out across the ice as far as Canada.

After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, Henrik Kauffmann, Danish Ambassador to the United States, made an agreement "In the name of the king" with the United States authorizing the United States to defend the Danish colonies on Greenland from German aggression - this agreement later led to a charge of high treason against Kaufmann.

The first U.S.-sponsored installations at Thule were established after the US Secretary of State Cordell Hull and the ‘defected’ Danish Minister to Washington D.C. Henrik Kauffmann signed The Agreement relating to the Defense of Greenland in Washington, D.C. on the symbolically chosen date of April 9, 1941. The treaty, denounced by the Danish government, allowed the United States to operate military bases in Greenland "for as long as there is agreement" that the threat to North America existed. The USA did not waste time and gave the Inuit three days to move North from their village to what is now Qaanaaq. No compensation was ever paid to the Inuit. As with Hawaii this was an illegal takeover of land solely for use as a military base. Stories now exist of a radio-active material being lost in the sea close to the military base. The Inuit tell of disfigured seals, and of Narwhal with two tusks which tend to support the fact that there could very well be polluted water now in that area. The loss and manner of the taking of that land from the Inuit will never be forgotten by them.

The United States military is fond of talking about “lily pads” these days, referring to a network of new United States military bases around the world, but particularly in Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Africa. It’s not all that new in fact, and it’s not all that small. In 2005 the US army logistics journal predicted that economics and political hostility would mean that the United States would not have permanent, large-scale military installations in another country. The U.S. Army, so the argument goes, would use other countries’ existing facilities, with “only a skeletal staff and an agreement with the host country that the base could be used as a forward operating base in a time of crisis. These ‘lily-pad’ bases would be austere training and deployment sites often in areas not previously used for U.S. bases.”

In reality, of course, the United States has continued to maintain huge bases abroad, and has expanded its bases on its own colonial territories such as Guam. The U.S. also has a great many new, small, forward bases. The formal name for these small lightweight lily pad bases is Cooperative Security Locations, and the Pentagon’s Africa Command, for example, according to the Congressional Research Service in 2011 had “access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.”

These numbers have since been dwarfed by an extraordinarily rapid and extensive growth in the US military presence in Africa under the “small footprint” brand. In September 2013 Nick Turse documented a US presence in 49 of Africa’s 54 countries, mostly in the form of Cooperative Security Locations. Also, more or less unofficial Cooperative Security Locations in the form of bases for armed combat drones operated by the Central intelligence Agency or the military in the same part of the world – for example in Niger, Yemen, Ethiopia, and in the tiny island state of the Seychelles. These, together with US and coalition military bases in Afghanistan, some of them much larger than lily pads, make up the 60 or so US drone bases outside the United States. The light footprint that the lily pad approach is looking for is partly a matter of economics – it’s much cheaper to piggyback off an allied country’s facilities – or, in some cases, a country that may be none too willing, but is not in a position to say no. It is also, as Turse rightly points out, a sleight of hand: the illusion of a “small footprint” is also maintained by keeping the headquarters for AFRICOM out of sight in Germany.

Apart from the lily pads, America’s global network of bases numbers somewhere above 1,000 worldwide. This is not a matter of exaggeration: it’s simply that there is no authoritative count, even with the assistance of the Pentagon’s annual Base Structure Report to Congress on the real estate side of things. According to the Base Structure Report in 2012, the Pentagon had 666 facilities outside the United States, plus another 94 in territories such as Guam.

However, that real estate count did not include a single base or facility in Afghanistan – where there are more than 400. And then there are the Cooperative Security Locations, CIA “secret” bases, and so on. Not unreasonably did the late Chalmers Johnson speak of America’s empire of bases.

Why is the Pentagon thinking about lily pads? There are two main reasons. The first reason is simply financial – or more precisely, the combination of cost and extreme budgetary constraint and Congressional deadlock. Maintaining all those military facilities at home and abroad is an extraordinarily expensive exercise. Costs have to be cut, or sources of revenue to support found. Make them smaller, lighten the footprint, or share the burden. Better still, if possible, to get an ally to either contribute to the cost – as Japan does for example, in its massive “sympathy budget” contribution to the cost of US forces in Japan – or best of all, get the ally to provide the base access gratis, as Australia appears to be doing in many cases of US access to ADF facilities.

So how many bases does the USA actually have and where are they? The following list is obviously incomplete but provides a sample of the reach the USA has and how its focus is on employing large assets into any war effort rather than foot soldiers.

Afghanistan – 9 Marine and 7 Airforce

ahrain – One Navy and two Airforce

Cuba – One Navy

Diego Garcia – One Navy

Djibouti – One Navy

Germany – 38 Army, 5 Airforce and one Marine

Greece – One Navy

Greenland = One Airforce

Honduras – One Airforce

Israel – 1 Radar base and one Navy

Italy – 3 Navy and 3 Airforce

Japan – 84 Army, 4 Navy, 3 Airforce and 12 Marine

Kosovo – unknown

Kuwait – One Navy and 2 Airforce

Oman – 2 Airforce

Portugal – One Airforce

Qatar – One Airforce

Singapore – One Airforce

South Korea- One Navy and two Airforce

Spain – One Navy and one Airforce

Turkey – One Airforce

UAE – 2 Navy and One Airforce

United Kingdom – 3 Airforce



Chinese Military Bases

Let us now look at how many overseas bases that China has. This is quiet easy as apart from the new islands in the South China Sea it only has one overseas base. This is located in Djibouti on the horn of Africa. China has framed the base in terms of an effort to showcase itself as a rising, but responsible global player, supporting existing ant-piracy patrols and peacekeeping missions on the African continent, which is a hub for Chinese investments. China has sent navy ships to patrol the Gulf of Aden off Djibouti and Somalia since 2008, the first time that China has sent naval ships outside its territorial waters in more than 600 years.

The current controversy surrounds the seven islands that China is creating in the South China Sea. Is this to provide bases for aggressive military action or merely to let others and particularly the USA understand that China is not in the business of forcibly taking over land from other countries to build its bases – it will create its own land.

The outlook is much more than that, as China will take control economically by purchasing industrial and agricultural assets in countries such as Australia and the USA. Indeed it controls much of both of those economies through debt financing. As of December 2014 China held almost $1.4 trillion of America’s $18.1 trillion debt apart from the direct investment in assets of approximately $16 billion annually.

In Australia China could hold almost 20% of Australian debt this being approximately $130 billion of the total debt of $730 billion owed.

With China controlling so much of the US and Australian debt and owning more and more on-land assets it is highly unlikely that Australians could expect China to want to take up a military operation against either country.

It would seem obvious that the Chinese military might is considered far more important in protecting its own country from invasion than invading others when an economic takeover is far neater and more effective with very little clean up after such action. This does not take away from the fact that the Chinese military is well trained and very disciplined in its approach and would be extremely effective if a war broke out.

So who do we Trust?

It is clear that China wants to be a major leader in world issues but it seems equally clear that it is not in its psyche to militarily acquire this position. The USA on the other hand makes it very clear that it wants to be the global police force imposing its will wherever it has some influence. The latest rantings and activities coming from the White House should make it very clear that unless Australia is careful it will be led into another war just following the Americans who will drop the bombs while it leaves its allies to do the ground work .


The President of the USA seems hell bent on aggravating situations around the world. Why stir up North Korea as China will control that situation. China will not want war on its doorstep and its Buddhist philosophy encourages tolerance. Why stir up Russia as it is large enough to look after itself and it too does not really need to have war on its doorstep. Why stir up China as the islands it has built are just sand atolls which do not have sufficient stability to hold massive armaments. The USA at the moment is a dangerous partner and we should be carefully limiting our response to any of its demands.

The reaction of China to North Korea compared to that of the USA is extremely interesting. China paraded its military might at home just to indicate to the world that not only did it have the fire power, but it had disciplined ground troops who were extremely well trained to fight if needed. The USA, by contrast, shot off some missiles, flew some bombers across North Korea and sailed an aircraft carrier close to their coast thus escalating tensions. This is what we can expect from the USA if wars are to break out. Their untargeted bombing strategy has already been clearly demonstrated in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and to what effect?

Clearly the USA is not to be trusted, and if we want peace and stability in the region it is abundantly clear that we need both our business and military ties with China strengthened.


Clearly there are dangers with both scenarios. To blindly follow the USA could lead to another war with countless loss of life. To ignore the influence exerted by China it is economic expansion could lead to a loss of the Australian lifestyle and there being diminished resources available to our residents as products are shipped back to China.

The watchword in each case must be to tread with care and keep alert.

Graeme H. Wallace OAM, KCSJ

April 30, 2018

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