Bringing the Troops Home is Always Easier Said Than Done

“Armed forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” explained President Barack Obama while announcing that he was sending up to 300 military “advisers” back to the country from which the United States officially withdrew its armed forces in December 2011. (The New York Times reports that the U.S. embassy and consulates in Iraq employ about 5,500 Americans, a mix of military personnel, contractors, and diplomats).

If it seems difficult for American soldiers to leave Iraq once and for all, it may be because the United States has always liked to keep military personnel stationed in vanquished countries long after the battles ended.

Indeed, the U.S. armed forces currently station tens of thousands of soldiers in dozens of countries including Italy (which surrendered to the Allies in World War II in September 1943), Germany (May 1945), Japan (August 1945), and South Korea (where fighting ended in July 1953). 

In the latest accounting from the Defense Manpower Data Center, the United States has about 1.35 million total active military, including about 160,000 troops stationed overseas. 

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  • Brian D||

    If it seems difficult for American soldiers to leave Iraq once and for all, it may be because the United States has always liked to keep military personnel stationed in vanquished countries long after the battles ended.

    Anything less would make us isolationists!

    sin,
    Dick Cheney

  • John||

    Has it ever occurred to you that maybe there were good reasons to leave those troops in Europe after World War II? Clearly we can debate those reasons. And indeed, there is a long tradition in the paleo conservative community of lamenting America ever fighting the fascists much less the communists. But, there were reasons beyond "we just like to leave troops there." So I am not really sure what your point is Jesse. Your whole post seems to be written on the assumption that those troops were left there for run or by some kind of clerical error.

  • Ivan Pike||

    Has it ever occurred to you that maybe there were good reasons to leave those troops in Europe after World War II?

    Do those reasons still exist seven decades after the end of the war? At some point during the last 70 years, Europe and Japan should have been stable enough to manage on its own. I guess you can argue the US had to stay because of the cold war, but it does seem that once the US gets troops into a region, it is loath to bring them back home again.

  • John||

    That is an interesting question and one of the things Jesse doesn't address. And the counter argument to yours is that if we defend them, they don't build armies and get into wars like they did in the past. Sure, letting Japan defend itself sounds great right up until Japan and China destroy most of Asia settling their differences. Now of course you can say "what do we care if they destroy Asia?" We care because doing that is bad for business and bad for the economy. Think of all of the money we have made trading with South Korea. None of that would have ever happened had we let the commies overrun it.

    You can say we shouldn't have done it out of principle. But I don't think you can say it turned out to be a bad investment.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Doesn't Japan have a clause in its constitution forever renouncing war?

  • Justin Smith||

    Yes there is a reason the US still has tens of thousands of troops in Italy. We are still in search for the world best pizza...

  • Robert||

    How about the Philippines? They out yet?

    Russia used to do this a lot too, though.

  • Larry Fine||

    The reason.com/troops link from the image is not currently working.

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