Friday, April 15, 2005

The redeployment 

The news many of us have been waiting for:

"The U.S. Army will reduce its force of 57,000 soldiers in Germany by two-thirds as part of a government strategy to address the threat of terrorism worldwide... The cuts will begin early next year with the move of some soldiers from Germany to the U.S., from where they eventually may be redeployed to Iraq or other regions."
According to another report:

"The proposed troop reduction would result in only four of the 13 main operating bases remaining. The four bases would be Wiesbaden, in central Germany, which would become the European headquarters for U.S. ground forces, Kaiserslautern in western Germany, Grafenwoehr in southern Germany and Vicenza in northern Italy... The number of U.S. Army barracks and installations would drop from 236 to 88 with the reorganization."
Here's some free advice for the US military policy planners:

1) Shift East: I'm glad that after 60 years, the US has finally worked out an exit strategy from Germany. The continuing presence of the occupation forces has been clearly unpopular among the German population, and with the security situation now quite stable, it had already served its purpose.

Seriously though, the challenges facing Europe in the foreseeable future will be demographic, multicultural and economic - not military. Stationing the US forces in Western Europe serves no strategic purpose and no longer engenders good will and friendship with the locals.

But don't abandon Europe altogether - shift East instead, to countries such as Poland and Romania which for a whole range of reasons - political, military, economic - actually want to host the US installations on their territory. The benefits are many: it would solidify the new alliances, convince New Europe that the US means business, help local armies to better integrate with the 21st century fighting machine, generate plenty of good feeling on the grass-roots level, and it would put the US closer to the Middle East and the increasingly unstable Russia's "near abroad."

2) Be careful about North Asia: As troops are being withdrawn from Europe, there is a temptation to also close the door on another Cold War deployment in South Korea.

The US should tread very carefully here. With China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan all within a striking range of each other, North Asia remains the most dangerous hot spot in the world today. And the tensions are on the rise: the North Korean nuclear issue remains unresolved as is the long-term future of the Pyongyang regime; the specter of forcible reunification with the mainland looms even larger over Taiwan; and the relations between China and Japan are nosediving, ostensibly over Japan's inability to come to terms with its
war-time past, in reality over a whole range of geo-strategic issues such as Japan becoming increasingly close to Taiwan and resource exploration in contested waters.

North Asia, of course, boasts some of the world's largest and best equipped armies, not to mention two existing nuclear powers, with all others also wanting to join the club. Just as a region-wide conflagration in the Middle East would be quite disastrous, starving the world economy of oil, a similar conflict in the increasingly economically important North Asia could also have quite devastating international effects.

So perhaps now is not the time to disengage from North Asia, although pulling the US troops away from the Korean DMZ is long overdue. It never made much sense to have 37,000 American troops as a trip-wire along the border; it makes even less sense now.

3) Build on Central Asia: Situated strategically between the Middle East and China, increasing military presence in Central Asia helps to accomplish the political and military encirclement of both. As an added bonus, it's a great choke point for the oil and gas flow into China.

Not that the Pentagon needs my advice on this, having been
slowly moving into the region in the aftermath of September 11 (by the way, is Kyrgyzstan the only country in the world to have the pleasure of hosting both an American and a Russian military base?). And more is obviously still being done, as evidenced by Secretary Rumsfeld's third trip to Azerbeijan in 15 months, and the recent offer from President Karzai:

"Catching U.S. officials slightly off guard, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said yesterday he is seeking a long-term security partnership that could keep U.S. troops there indefinitely and make permanent the military relationship that began when U.S. forces invaded his country in 2001."
Off guard or not off guard, the Administration must be pretty happy that amongst the world-wide tide of anti-Americanism there are still countries out there that are asking the US not to leave.

By the way, it's outside of all the regions discussed above, but Northern Australia offers unequalled opportunities for, at the very least, storage installations.


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