I’m a little late on this, but I wanted to add a couple thoughts on the troop realignment Bush announced last week. Tracy wrote that it’s not just the change, but also “an issue of what these exact changes are and the manner in which they are made.”

Well, I want to briefly discuss the “how”–namely, I want to discuss how the Bush administration’s claims about the benefits of the troop realignment are, like so many other national security claims the administration has made, highly sketchy. Bush’s main justifications for the move are that:

(1) It will complete the shift of the U.S. military’s posture away from a Cold War alignment and to one suited to fighting terrorism.

(2) It will make living conditions easier for the troops, who will be brought home to their families.

(3) It will save money.

None of these claims are firmly grounded, and all of them may be outright deceptive–even with respect to the removal of troops from Germany alone, which was hailed by many newspaper editors who don’t know much about national security as sensible:

(1) The notion that the forces stationed in Europe and especially Germany are there as an artifact of the bulwark defending Europe from the Soviets is highly deceptive. A series of major realignments and drawdowns of U.S. forces from Europe already occured in the ’90s, as the U.S. removed 200,000 of its 300,000 troops from Europe. The remaining forces were left to enable power projection to the Middle East and Central Asia–two theatres that are important to a little struggle that the President likes to call the War on Terror. Indeed, there has been a constant rotation between units stationed in Iraq and Germany. Given that Kansas and Oklahoma are a lot further from Afghanistan and Iraq than Germany is, it’s hard to see how bringing the troops stateside makes them at all better positioned for fighting terrorism. Bush has described the new configuration as more “flexible.” The only way that moving troops out of Germany renders things more flexible is in the political sense–our troop movements are more flexible because they are less firmly tied to commitments with longstanding allies.

(2) The Pentagon has been very fuzzy with specifics, but if we can draw inferences from Rumsfeld’s Quadrennial Defense Review and the President’s National Security Strategy, then it appears that a big part of making the future force configuration more flexible is to rely on temporary bases and short 6-month deployments abroad, rather than longer-term bases with trusted allies. Such arrangements may be a bit convenient for political planners and force commanders, but they do not at all make life easier for the troops, who much prefer longer-term deployments, in which they and their families can settle in a single place for a decent stretch. The implication that the troops in Germany are isolated from their families is dead wrong, by the way. In general, the troops at bases in Europe bring their immediate families with them and have access to high quality schools, hospitals, and other amenities, which are partially subsidized by the German government. In contrast, a series of short-term deployments abroad would be highly disruptive to raising families and to allowing spouses to plan their careers.

(3) There is no way that the plan will save the U.S. money. It will in fact cost the U.S. a lot of money. If the U.S. withdraws troops from established bases in Germany that are subsidized by German tax dollars without scaling down the overall force (a move that’s unthinkable given the current scope of American commitments), then it will need to secure and finance entirely new facilities and infrastructure for these troops and their families. This will not be cheap: Germany currently subsidizes U.S. bases to the tune of $1 billion per year, and while old Soviet facilities in Eastern Europe may appear to be an inexpensive alternative, the necessity of ameliorating their abject environmental problems will steeply increase the cost of using them.

I haven’t even addressed the cost to alliances that this planned troop movement raises–that’s another topic. But for now, it’s enough to note the (now unsurprising) deceptiveness of the claims made on behalf of this policy proposal.

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