While I think that Eric is absolutely correct in his (fairly condemning) analysis of President Bush’s troop redeployment plan, I’m not sure that I would criticize the plan for being too ‘unilateralist‘. At least not the part about removing troops from Germany (South Korea, given the very real threat posed by its neighbor to the north, seems to be a different case). I say this for two reasons.

First. In his speech, President Bush is very clear about the reasoning behind the proposal: he wants America’s troops to be better prepared to “fight and win these wars of the 21st century.” Ignore, for the moment, any reservations that you may have about whether this plan will work (it probably won’t). The point is that this troop redeployment, if it worked, would not be an abandonment of our European allies, and it would not mean that we were reneging on our commitment to NATO. President Bush isn’t suggesting that we bring troops home because he’s lost interest in going abroad, searching for monsters to destroy (as John Quincy Adams so eloquently put it when making a case for isolationism). He is not suggesting that we leave Europe to fend for itself. (After all, is a huge US troop presence in Germany really necessary for Germany’s security? I can’t imagine that Western Europe faces any immediate threat of invasion.) The proposal was not made in a spirit of dangerous unilateralism: an American military better able to combat terrorism abroad would be a boon to our allies. Of course, if the troop movement really did dangerously weaken our military, our allies would have good reason to be concerned.

Second. Press coverage from Europe suggests that reactions abroad have been mixed, even within Germany. Assuming that with the charge of unilateralism comes an implied, ‘you are annoying our allies’, perhaps we should read the foreign papers before criticizing Bush’s plan on that account.

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