Counting the Cost

Counting the cost of US military bases around the world

How much does the US spend on its military bases around the world? Plus, the meat industry and the French digital tax.

The assassination of Iran’s second-most powerful figure, Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike has led to the deployment of more troops to Iraq. And while Iran hit back and tensions appeared to ease, a US-Iran shadow war goes on.

Counting the Cost takes a look at the trillions spent on wars and the billions spent on maintaining US military bases.

There are 200,000 US troops stationed at hundreds of bases in countries and territories outside of the US. Despite President Donald Trump’s promises to remove US troops from the Middle East, the number of troops in the region has increased.

Since 9/11, American taxpayers have spent $6.4 trillion on wars and military action in the Middle East and Asia, according to the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University. And according to US central command, there are between 60,000 and 70,000 US troops in the Middle East.

Glenn Carle, former CIA deputy national intelligence officer and assistant professor at Boston College, explains that some host countries pay substantial amounts to maintain a US military presence while other countries do not necessarily make the same kinds of formal contributions.

“In Iraq, I’m not so clear that they are actually making a formal contribution to hosting us as much as they are happy to have us, I’m sure. So there will be ancillary or secondary indirect costs that the host country is paying certainly. But I don’t think that they are paying some sort of a fee to host 6,000 American soldiers now in several bases,” Carle says.

On how the latest US-Iran tensions may play out, Carle notes that the US political system is largely paralysed so that any “coherent, decisive action” in international relations is difficult to carry out.

“There has been strong inclination on the part of half the country to remove the American presence from Iraq, which is viewed as a disaster, and yet most professional national security officials or individuals think that it is necessary for the US to have some sort of a presence there, which is independent of whether we are the ones who broke the crockery or try to put it together, but that to leave now would be a problem,” says Carle.

“So I don’t see us leaving anytime soon, unless the incoherent and capricious man in the Oval Office actually manages to act upon his compulsions.”

Does the meat industry need to change to save the planet?

The hog and pork industry has taken a hit from African swine flu in China and Asia and the whole question of how we get our protein fix has gained prominence against the background of climate change.

Animal agriculture is responsible for about 9 percent of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions globally.

Justin Sherrard, global strategist for Rabobank, tells Al Jazeera that meat is a dietary staple for most people around the world, as much as staples such as rice or bread. He notes that the debate around the meat industry is not really about whether people are addicted to meat consumption.

“What it is about is how we are going to change the emission signature associated with meat production and consumption in the future,” Sherrard says.

“And on a positive side, we are starting to see commitments being made by the larger leading animal protein companies in Europe and in the US about reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their whole supply chain.”

Will France’s digital tax on Silicon Valley escalate trade war with US?

Silicon Valley’s tech giants have often been criticised for not paying fair taxes. Much of the problem exists because of international laws that allow corporations to pay their taxes in the country of their choosing.

But France is leading a group of nations in imposing a tax on the revenues of Google, Facebook and Amazon, and that has threatened to escalate a trade war.

The US has proposed tariffs on $2.4bn of French goods but the French have warned the EU will retaliate.

Italy, Austria, and Turkey have also imposed levies and the UK will likely follow, despite expressing interest in signing a trade deal post-Brexit with Washington.

Julian David, CEO of TechUK, explains that taxation is “still stuck in an old model” and it does not apply just to tech giants but any company using digital technology.

“The problem here is that the taxation system isn’t fit for the new world that we live in,” David says.