Kathryn, I agree that criticizing Bush’s troop redeployment plan as too ‘”unilateralist” does not exactly hold water. In fact, according to the general rule that one should practice, as it were, what one preaches, it would be hyprocritical of the U.S. NOT to realign troops.

Let’s look at the arguments. Bush explained his plan as a realignment away from the Cold War priorities of defending western Europe from a Soviet invasion and towards a focus on new threats. All well and good, but nothing new: for a number of years, the U.S. has kept steady pressure on NATO allies to “transform” and “streamline” military forces, as well as to develop “niche capabilities,” in order to “meet the new challenges of the 21st century.” If you think this language is new language excerpted from the president’s recent speech in Cincinnati, think again. Talk about “Building New Capabilities for New Challenges” dates back to the NATO Summit Meeting in Prague that took place in 2002, and further—just look at what Javier Solana said back in 1999 about continuing to make “investments in our collective ability to meet the challenges of the 21st century” transforming military structures into “a set of instruments tailored to shape the security environment for many years to come.”

Bush’s plans to withdraw troops have been criticized by Kerry as potentially harmful to national security and relations with allies. However, while Kerry’s criticism that, in light of tensions with North Korea, withdrawing troops from South Korea is “clearly the wrong signal to send at the wrong time” is compelling, the charge that troop withdrawal will deteriorate relations with allies far less so.

In fact, as Kathryn noted at the close of her argument, the reaction from Germany–the country most affected by the troop redeployment plans–have been mixed. As the major German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reports, the withrawal of troops from Europe is hardly news to the government in Berlin: the Pentagon disucussed the possibility months ago. In fact, German policymakers’ main concern in relation to the withdrawal of troops is not political but economic: many of the German cities where bases are located rely heavily on the investments and consumption of U.S. troops.

So what ABOUT the political implications? Well, let’s look at what our NATO allies are saying about the president’s announcement: many have expressed support for Bush Administration’s plan to scale down the United States’ troop presence in Europe, and have stressed their understanding that these changes do not amount to a weakening of the US commitment to the alliance or to European security.

As NATO spokesman Robert Pszczel affirmed last week, the restructuring of U.S. forces is compatible with alliance’s commitment to moving towards modernizing force structures, with an emphasis on “more flexible, mobile forces” in upcoming years. As Pszczel quipped, “The approach taken by the United States is fully understood by NATO and consistent with NATO’s approach.”

These statements leave little room for doubt that the United States’ allies on the side of the pond feel relatively little hostility about the military restructuring. However, from what I can tell the AP’s report that NATO allies are behind the president’s plans to withdraw troops from Europe surfaced only in the Pakistan Daily Times, an English daily based in Lahore http; the Navy Times; the Army Times; and, of course, the Headline News section of the Great Bend Co-Op, based in Great Bend Kansas.

As usual, agreement makes far fewer headlines than discord; good news seems, unfortunately, to be no news. But those of us concered with promoting multilateralism can’t afford to ignore such promising signs of long term transatlantic cooperation and agreement on security policy.

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