At the close of his address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars a week ago, President Bush announced a redeployment of 70,000 U.S. troops and 100,000 family members and civilian employees from overseas bases.
Some of the troops may go to East Europe or Central Asia, but, mainly, they and their families will be coming home to the United States.
Two cheers for George W. Bush, the only caveat being that the redeployments do not begin for two years.
Hopefully, the president’s decision will be the first of many to close foreign bases dating to the late Cold War period. We are Americans, after all, not Romans.
Why should there be any U.S. forces in Germany, 15 years after the Berlin Wall came down and 10 years after the Warsaw Pact disintegrated, the Red Army went home, the Soviet Empire collapsed and the Soviet Union broke apart into 15 countries? What is the threat to America from east of the Elbe? Is it the Czechs again?
Sixty years after World War II, why is America still responsible for defending Old Europe, where the only invaders are illegal aliens in leaky boats?
The Paris-Berlin axis of Chirac and Schroeder, with its hairy-chested defiance of America, is surely capable of defending Munich. Why not deed NATO, which sits in Brussels, to the EU, which sits in Brussels, and let fat, rich Old Europe pay for and provide for its own defense?
Since 1989, a seminal year in world history, there has been a dearth of fresh thinking in both parties. Thus, one is unsurprised to hear John Kerry lambaste President Bush for daring to close bases first established when this writer was in parochial school.
The purpose of NATO, created in 1949, was to deter war with Stalin’s Soviet Union and, if war came, to block an onslaught by a Red Army that might reach the Rhine in a week and bring all of Western Europe under Moscow’s control, shifting the world balance of power against the West. But, now that the Soviet army is gone from East Germany, what is the U.S. Army doing in West Germany?
The only alliance this country entered before NATO was the 1778 pact with France. Washington welcomed that alliance, which brought French troops and ships to America, for it meant victory in our war of independence. But no sooner was the war over than our statesmen were trying to wiggle out of the alliance with King Louis, who would eventually lose his head to a revolution. President Adams finally succeeded in 1800.
Even in World War I, Woodrow Wilson insisted the United States fight as an "associate," not an allied power of Britain, Russia and France.
Among the most successful alliances in history, NATO kept Moscow at bay without our having to fight a European or world war. So long as Moscow had huge armies in Eastern Europe and East Germany, most Americans backed NATO and opposed Democratic schemes to draw down U.S. troops. But those days are gone.
Yet, when the Cold War ended, not only did we rope in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO, but Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well. Today, NATO planes provocatively patrol the Russian-Lithuanian border. What are we thinking of?
How does an alliance with Estonia that commits us to war against a nuclear-armed Russia, should Moscow invade that tiny republic, strengthen America? It was at our urging that Russia walked out of those Baltic states. Why did we sandbag them by going in ourselves? Why are we rubbing their nose in their diminished status as a world power by planting NATO forces on St. Petersburg’s front porch? How would Americans react to Russian air patrols out of Nova Scotia?
When the United States came to South Korea’s rescue, 50 years ago, it had been a backward colony of Japan since Teddy Roosevelt’s time. Today, it is a dynamic nation with twice the population of North Korea, an economy 40 times as large and access to the most advanced planes, ships, guns, missiles and tanks in the U.S. arsenal.
Keeping 35,000 U.S. troops there only ensures that Americans will be killed and America committed from day one, should a second Korean War break out. As Americans are not going to send an army to fight such a war, is this wise? And with North Korea building nuclear weapons, U.S. troops on the DMZ would be a certain target.
President Bush should move U.S. forces off the peninsula, remove this irritant to our relations with both Koreas, and restore our freedom of action as to when and whether we wish to intervene in a second Korean War. Our alliance with Seoul is surely in South Korea’s interest – it guarantees her the backing of the most powerful nation on earth. But how does such a commitment halfway around the world strengthen the United States?
This country has handed out IOUs to go war to rescue scores of countries. Should two or more of those IOUs be called at once, we shall learn what foreign policy bankruptcy means.