Just got back from the American Naval Base on Crete. You know, the one in Souda Bay, the largest natural harbor in the Mediterranean, only place you can dock four aircraft carriers simultaneously. It's kind of a big deal. They also have a series of runways where they keep flying metal death machines that rain hellfire on the enemies of liberty and justice. Oddly they actually share the runway with a neighboring Greek commercial airport. There they keep the equivalent of flying tour buses that ferry countless Germans in socks and sandals to and fro paradise.
Upon our arrival they took our passports and handed out security clearance cards as we filed into a tour bus. In retrospect that seems like overkill since we toured what probably amounted to like 100 yards of pavement. Turns out the U.S. is a little secretive about their geostrategically vital naval base. The difference between the Cretan lands and the American base was striking however. Crossing the line from the village of Marathi into the Souda Bay facility was like driving straight into suburban Florida- baseball fields, green lawns, and patio grills abound. Anywho, they make a really mediocre fajita but on the bright side it was the first time I'd seen hot sauce in years and I got pretty aggressive with it. In all actuality, it was probably a very good fajita covered in half a gallon of mediocre hot sauce.
Our tour of the base was punctuated by a full briefing as to the mission of the base, and it's responsibilities relative to American interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Situated at the crossroads of three continents, NSA Souda Bay is charged with the maintenance of vital choke points in the Suez Canal and the Dardanelles. Without free access to these waterways, global shipping and trade would be severely hampered- dealing a hefty blow to the U.S. and world economy. Besides this, the Suez and Dardanelles provide the quickest maritime access for the U.S., NATO, and any western power to the Indian Ocean and any interest- military, economic, or otherwise- a state or organization might have there. According to the commanding officer at the base, nearly every military ship that crosses through the Suez to the Indian Ocean begins its journey at NSA Souda Bay and some 200 ships a year stop at the facility to refuel, rearm, and resupply.
Overall, the base was an enlightening experience as we saw geostrategy applied to policy on a base of vital importance to the United States and liberal democracy as a whole. The base itself was a testament to the global reach of the preeminent military power in the modern age. Yet it was also a testament to the adaptability of U.S. armed forces in times of austerity- the shared runway, installation of turf, and increased emphasis on fuel management all exercises to conserve and preserve in a time of tightening budgets and increased environmental awareness. Other than that it was also nice to see familiar, American faces and hear familiar American English- a welcome, if brief escape from the cultural immersion that has been the past several weeks.