America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire Kindle Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0816649525
ISBN-10: 0816649529
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  • Length: 392 pages
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Product Details

  • File Size: 5820 KB
  • Print Length: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (August 29, 2007)
  • Publication Date: August 22, 2007
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00440CXXE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,659,241 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mja on March 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
As an American who has been affiliated with a few overseas military installations, I hoped that this book would deal with the sociocultural aspects of plopping thousands of middleclass Americans down in a different country and then tailoring their environment to make it seem as though they are still in Virginia or Illinois. America Town exceeded my expectations, as it provided a lot of new information that helped me to better understand some of the experiences I had in Asia, Western Europe, and The Med.
I would say that this is a "niche" book, so if you are not curious about how the US designs its overseas military bases or have not lived on one, then you might find this either unbelievable or boring.
Given our current controversial empire building in the Mideast, however, the way this book provides a history of how nations have always designed their occupations and then connects it to America would also appeal to anyone interested in geo-politics.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an unusual, highly specialized book, discussing the impact of US military bases in South Korea, with an emphasis on architecture and land-use planning. Korea is a country where every bit of land is precious, and Koreans are accustomed to living in accommodations that would be cramped by US standards. Thus, when the US takes land to create sparsely built suburbs for US military personnel, the effect is incredible illwill: From the Korean perspective, not only do Americans take their land, they then waste it. On the other hand, the US is faced with the dilemma that military personnel will rebel against assignments in Korea unless they can live in spacious, US-style housing.

The author persuasively argues that of all the problems in US-ROK relations, inefficient land use by the US military is the number one irritant. There doesn't seem to be a solution to this conundrum, although the US suffers in the long term due to the resultant anti-Americanism in South Korea.

US bases in Okinawa and Italy are also discussed, but the major emphasis is on South Korea.

Also, the author delves into a phenomenon that most Americans would find shocking - entire communities of prostitutes, isolated from the rest of Korea, staffed by women from the ex-Soviet states and other poor countries. These women exist in a legal no-man's-land beyond the control of Korean police, and when a US soldier or a pimp commits a crime against a prostitute, the prostitute's only recourse is the US military police.
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Format: Paperback
This is another book that has an excellent topic, but the book falls short. Four stars because it provides a great deal of information about the inception and operation of US bases abroad, particularly in Okinawa/ Japan, Korea and Italy, but the writing is three stars. The book could cover the same material and be half as long. An aspect worth noting is that American bases eat up a huge amount of land, and in heavily populated areas like South Korea, this is an extremely serious issue. If Gillem is correct, there is perhaps some racism operative as well.

Readers should be aware that there is a strong bias here against this kind of Americanization. He seems to argue that if we must have bases at least make them opportunities for understanding the host nation (host is of course ironic, the bases in Japan and Korea are opposed by most locals). There is also the fact that hundreds of bases with huge numbers of dependents offers lots of targets for people with hostile intent,
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Format: Hardcover
I believe America Town contains a profound message and supports the idea that one need only look toward at our contingency operations to identify digestible examples of the same challenges our military faces during stateside operations.

For those who have read "America's Town," I'd like to draw your attention to the article at the link. Not only does it pay tribute to the many men and women that have fought in Iraq, but it characterizes the basing trend presented in Gillem's book, America's Town (see chapters 2 & 3).

In fairness, Camp Victory is/was a vital command and control center during coalition counterinsurgency efforts; however, the sheer number of required supporting forces and contractors resulted in the establishment of an "America Town" on the grandest scale with bright lights that could be seen by those from a poorly illuminated in Baghdad.

Today, as our military closes Camp Victory and prepares to transfer it over to the Iraqi Government, one can imagine the fate of the now vacant fast food joints, gyms, theaters, PXs, and other amenities that made life bearable for our weary troops coming in from the outlying posts (which were definitely NOT mini-America towns to be sure!) for R&R. It is doubtful these artifacts of Americana have a useful role in a modern Iraqi government center.

"An American Outpost is Packing Up," Annie Gowen, 13 Sept 2011
[...]

Well, every Op Ed needs a "so what," so here's mine... Gillem's book proposes that we as a military have a tendency to not consider the implications of our basing actions outside the fence line. In fact he writes on pp. 35, "The planning maps produced by the U.S. rarely show anything beyond the fence line.
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