6+1 Questions

10 February 2023, 0915 EST

What is the name of the book and what are its coordinates?

Michael A. Allen, Michael E. Flynn, Carla Martinez Machain, and Andrew Stravers. 2022. Beyond the Wire: U.S. Military Deployments and Host Country Public Opinion, Oxford University Press. Paperback (use code ASFLYQ6 for 30% off), ebook

What’s the argument?

U.S. military deployments — particularly the individual troops involved — anchor American influence abroad, and for many foreign populations they are the face of U.S. global power. That face isn’t always welcome. U.S. service members commit crimes, cause deadly accidents, and become embroiled in corruption scandals. We find that despite these (and other) sources of friction between U.S. deployments and their host countries, the everyday activities of U.S. service members in overseas communities on balance enhance U.S. “soft power” and generate support for their military mission.

Why should we care?

For over seventy years, the presence of hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members on foreign soil has profoundly shaped global politics. While other countries have stationed their forces on the territory of other sovereign states — including the Soviet Union and its successor state, the Russian Federation — the United States enjoyed an unparalleled political infrastructure for global force projection.

That may change as the People’s Republic of China continues to look for opportunities to expand its own overseas military presence. If current trends continue, Washington will increasingly need to convince host-state civilians to support a U.S. military presence over alternative suitors.

How do you convince readers that you get it right? 

The book is the product of three years of intensive research. We spent several weeks in countries that host U.S. military personnel and visited a variety of military installations. We conducted annual surveys over three years across 14 countries — with a final pool of about 42,000 respondents. We interviewed journalists, activists, politicians, diplomats, and U.S. service members in six host countries. We gathered many different perspectives on topics ranging from geopolitics and great-power competition to everyday life with the U.S. military as neighbors 

Why did you decide to write it in the first place? 

Each of us spent most of our careers trying to better understand the upsides and downsides of U.S. overseas deployments. With support from the Minerva Research Initiative and Army Research Office, we were able to work together to collect crucial data for answering the questions we address in this book. The book is a follow-up to an earlier article where we were able to draw some initial inferences after we completed the first wave of our survey. We also had many exciting and illuminating stories from our three years of fieldwork that a book format allows us to discuss in greater detail. 

What would you most like to change about the piece, and why? 

The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted our fieldwork in Japan and South Korea. Even though we conducted remote interviews, we would have preferred to conduct the same kind of in-country research that we did in Europe and South America.

We also know more now than we did when we started. We would change some of the questions we asked; if we could do it all over again, we would have conduct survey experiments to understand our core arguments better. We also would like to run surveys in some of the specific areas that are most affected by the U.S. presence, such as Okinawa in Japan or Ramstein-Miesenbach in Germany. We would also have liked to better explore the uncertainty around our prediction models. 

How much difficulty did you have getting the piece accepted? 

The process was atypically smooth. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to publish the book in the Bridging the Gap series at Oxford University Press. The Bridging the Gap and Oxford editors were easy to work with and supportive throughout the process. The reviewers were positive and offered constructive criticism that helped shape a better end product.