Facing the possibility of seriously cutting the Defense Budget, maybe we should think about withdrawing our military forces from bases located in foreign countries? Wouldn’t we save a bundle if we didn’t have our forces spread around the world? Considering the way many of them feel about us, pulling out seems like a win/win for everyone; right? How many of the host countries celebrate our presence on their soil?
I am not advocating that we withdraw our forces, quite to the contrary, but shouldn’t we think about it? Doesn’t it make sense that we reaffirm that assumptions regarding our national interests made many years ago have not changed? At the same time, our supposed allies can reconfirm that our presence is advantageous and desirable to them as well or maybe not.
We pay a lot to have a military presence in many of these countries which enables the host countries to allocate a much smaller portion of their own budgets for their own defense and military while substantially increasing our cost. Keep in mind that the cost is not just measured in monetary form; our military forces are made up from millions of young Americans that we ask to go in harms way to protect freedom around the world. Maybe I would feel different if our treaty partners asked their own kids to make the same sacrifice.
Since the European economy is significant, aren’t they capable of paying for their own forces? So what portion of our cost to protect their interests do they pay?
If they beefed up their own forces, couldn’t we support them from bases on American soil? And while we’re at it, who are we protecting the Europeans from? Since we already let almost every European country into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) aren’t they all our allies now? So who is the threat? Since we didn’t let the Russians in, they must be the threat along with China since nobody else has the ability to project force significantly beyond their own borders.
Besides America, who funds NATO? Besides America, whose forces constitute the muscle of NATO? Without America, what happens to political stability in Europe if we pull out of NATO?
What happens if we give NATO a notice of intent to reduce participation over the next five or ten years?
The same questions could be asked about mutual defense treaties between America and a bunch of Asian countries like Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines.
If we closed American bases in all those foreign countries, what would happen besides our Defense Budget going down? Or, would it go down? Would the world become less safe if the United States of America did not have bases in all these places supplemented by a Navy that patrols international waters around the globe? Isn’t that an important consideration?
How would a withdrawal of American forces affect the aggressive tendencies of countries wanting to have a louder voice in international politics?
When you get right down to it, isn’t our military presence around the world the only reason things are as safe as they are? What is that worth to our allies and ultimately to our own people? Shouldn’t we be asking that question?
If our Army had not driven Iraq out of Kuwait when Saddam Hussein invaded in 1990, what would the Middle East look like today? If our troops weren’t stationed in Saudi Arabia, would Iraq have control of all their oil too? How would that affect our national strategic interests or more importantly, how would it affect our NATO allies? Would a Middle East controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood be a threat to Great Britain,France or Germany?
What would those countries have done had we held back and done nothing in 1990?
Consider the plight of Israel. If our forces were not in close proximity to that country, what do you suspect would happen to them? The fact that they are allowed to have nuclear weapons means they will put up a good fight if they are attacked, but there is not much protecting them from an increasingly hostile Middle East.
The lessons we learned over the years taught us that it is easier to defend our own shores if we maintain a presence in those foreign countries. If we prevent destabilization of our “allies” they are more likely to actually be allies.
There are good reasons for America to have presence in all these far off foreign countries, both tactical and strategic. I’ve listened to the rationale from knowledgeable retired Army officers I respect so I don’t doubt that we need to keep our forces in place, the problem is that not everyone shares my concern about the intent of many of our supposed allies and clearly many of the countries that would benefit if we failed.
So is slashing Defense our best choice as we work to balance our budget? I’m concerned that many in our own country are prepared to find out the hard way.