A Withdrawal Plan I Can Agree With

I see that Bush has announced a troop withdrawal from Europe and South Korea. This is an excellent idea that could have been implemented years ago. The troops in South Korea were positioned as a tripwire for the Cold War. South Korea is capable of defending itself against an agressive North Korea and has had large protests to get rid of the troops for decades. If we feel the need to invade North Korea, it can be done without the non-strategic tripwire installations. But frankly we wouldn’t be invading North Korea without Chinese help anyway. Far more likely is a strike against the nuclear plant.

Troops stationed in Germany have mainly been a drain to the U.S. for more than a decade. They aren't located near the modern threats and have been the subject of much criticism for years.

Furthermore, this is a nice hint that Europe might want to consider funding a more realistic level of its own defense.

In a 'what liberal press' headline I see "Bush's Withdrawal Plan Could Draw Votes". First, I'm not sure that it is particularly likely to draw votes from military families if they weren't inclined to vote for Bush anyway--considering that, according to the Guardian, the plans won't be implemented until sometime between 2006 and 2011. Second, is that really the most important facet of one of the most important troop realignments since arranged to put troops in South Korea?

This Mark Steyn piece is a bit over the top in tone, but has a few very well placed comments:

My confrère was falling prey to theories of "imperial overstretch". But, as I wrote at the time in an article on "the death of Europe", "if you're not imperial, it's quite difficult to get overstretched. By comparison with 19th-century empires, the Americans travel light."

America's main "overstretch" lies not in Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa, but in its historically unprecedented generosity to its wealthiest allies. "The US picks up the defence tab for Europe, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, among others," I wrote. "If Bush wins a second term, the boys will be coming home from South Korea and Germany, and maybe Japan, too."

Well, the second term is not quite here. But America has already quit Saudi Arabia, and plans for South Korea and Germany are well advanced. When scholars come to write the final chapter in the history of the European continent, the six-decade US security guarantee will be seen as, on the whole, a mistake. Not for America, but the Continentals.

The so-called "free world" was, for most of its members, a free ride. Absolving wealthy nations of the need to maintain credible armies softens them: they decay, almost inevitably, into a semi-non-aligned status.

Even now, the likes of Mr Bruch see the US military presence in Europe in mainly economic terms - all those German supermarkets and German restaurants that depend on American custom. But, looked at in defence terms, if Don Rumsfeld wants a light, mobile 21st-century military, the last place to base it is the Continent: given that the term "ally" is now generally used in the post-modern meaning of "duplicitous obstructionist", it's not unlikely that any future Saddamesque scenario would see attempts to throw operational restraints around the use of US forces in Europe.

He then suggests a parallel between European reliance on US military power and EU subsidies from Germany:

The Germans get 11 per cent of the votes in the Council of Ministers and pony up 67 per cent of the EU's net contributions. And sooner or later, they'll figure out that pandering to a pampered populace at home is one thing, subsidising it Continent-wide is quite another. Then they really will go on the offensive.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at August 16, 2004 11:23 PM