This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Protection or Provocation: Does Hosting a U.S. Military Base Increase the Incidence of Terrorist Attack in a Country?




Smith, Robert

Type of Degree



Political Science


Historically, and particularly since the end of World War II, United States military installations overseas have served to protect the U.S. and the nation hosting the installations against prevailing international threat. However, as international threat has transitioned from nations and militaries to small groups or individuals the efficacy of a U.S. base in a foreign country to provide security is called into question. This study examines the relationship between U.S. military bases in a foreign country and terrorist attacks in that country from 1999 to 2008. During this period there was an ongoing effort to restructure U.S foreign policy, including military doctrine and force structure, to face a changing international environment. Using a mixed methods design, the study draws from base politics literature, social science literature and terrorism literature to develop an understanding of how presence and numbers of U.S. military installations in a country are related to the terrorist attacks in that country. Quantitative analysis finds that, with few exceptions, there is no significant relationship between U.S. installations and terrorist attacks in a country when evaluated at the global or regional levels. Furthermore, the study identifies a distribution anomaly which occurs when relating counts of bases and attacks. The qualitative analysis, using an intervention analysis design, finds only minimal evidence of a relationship between U.S. bases and terrorist attacks in a country when examining countries which allowed the first U.S. base into the iv country or removed the last U.S. base in the country during the study period. Further, this analysis finds that U.S. bases in a country are, at best, tangentially related to terrorist attacks in a few countries. For the majority of the countries studied no relationship was evident. Thus, while terrorist attacks may be a consideration one of the many factors in the domestic and international environment in the base decision making process, despite an abundance of rhetoric to the contrary, there is no specific justification for terrorist activity to have a position of great importance in the process.