Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Kerry - still fighting the last war 

You really have to give it to John Kerry. Not only does he still continue to re-fight the war in Vietnam (more than thirty years after President Nixon declared the end of the major combat operations), as opposed to focusing on something more contemporary, like Iraq; but now the Democratic presidential contender is determined to prove he can reach even further back in time for strategic inspiration:

"John Kerry will on Wednesday set out his opposition to the Bush administration's plans to bring home 70,000 US troops from permanent overseas bases, leaving their future dependent on the outcome of the presidential election.

"Setting out one of the few clear strategic differences between himself and George W. Bush, Mr Kerry is expected to argue that the withdrawal of troops from Europe and Asia threatens to undercut alliances and weakens America's ability to project its power overseas."
The "two war" strategy has been an integral part of the Cold War military paradigm, allowing the US forces to fight one major conflict in South East Asia and another one concurrently in Europe. John Kerry might be reporting for duty, but unfortunately only to fight the last war.

There might be a reasonable argument to be made about maintaining military presence in South Korea, however strong the temptation to say to the Korean people "You don't like our forces in your country? See how much you'll enjoy living under Kim Jong-il's enlightened leadership." But the American bases in Western Europe no longer protect the Europeans from anything, even the consequences of their own strategic stupidity. They
neither generate any local goodwill anymore, nor strengthen the alliance, much less allow the US to project its forces more efficiently, seeing how many restrictions the host countries put on the use of the facilities. It might be time for the realism to have one over symbolism - but not if John Kerry gets to the White House (if you want the same arguments expressed in a much better way, check out this "Opinion Journal" article).

It would be unfair to say that Kerry's mindset is September 10, 2001. At best, it is September 10, 1988, at worst, 10 September 1968.


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