Rumsfeld Shuffle

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The Pentagon is finally getting around to shifting troops from Germany and Korea to places where they might actually be of some use. It always galls me when people insist we need to bring back the draft (for military, rather than egalitarian, reasons), while ignoring all the soldiers we've got "defending" countries perfectly capable of defending themselves.

"For Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld," The New York Times explains, "the reasons for the reshuffling seem clear and compelling: that the purpose of military units is to fight and win the nation's wars, and they should be stationed in locations that enable the United States to use them most efficiently and with minimal political restrictions." But critics worry that the plan could "inadvertently lend support to the French contention that Europe must rely on itself for its security." Just to be clear: That's the downside.

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  1. We've still got troops in Europe? The occupation's been a failure.

    In all seriousness, I think this is great. Why don't the French and the Germans spend their own money defending themselves? Heck, they're rich enough and as former colonial powers, they should be more than up to the task.

  2. > ...Europe must rely on itself for its security.

    Hasn't always worked out.

  3. There was an article in Time Magazine recently ("Is the Army Stretched Too Thin?", September 1, 2003), claiming that the Army alone has 368,000 troops in 120 different countries. From the way Time broke down Army troop deployments, it looks like, excluding Bosnia, there are over a hundred thousand troops in Europe. Having advance bases to deter a foreign attack is great, but do we really need 100,000 troops in Europe?

    Also, I'm a bit dubious of the whole shortage of troops thing anyway. Most of the alarm seems to be driven by a desire to cover the "rule of threes"; for every unit in the field, the Army likes to have one unit recuperating and another in training. At the time of the Time article, half of our Army troops were overseas. I'm no military historian, but it seems to me that the "rule of threes" should be a little more flexible in times of war.

    P.S. An interesting piece in the latest New York Review... cites the Time article as evidence that the United States has turned the corner and become an imperialist power in the classical sense. It's hard to argue with a statistic like 368,000 troops in 120 countries. Did anyone else out there read the article in NYRB?

  4. Isn't German military weakness a key provision of the constitution the US imposed on that country during the post-WWII occupation? US administrations wanted a Germany that couldn't defend itself because they didn't want a Germany that could start invading and annexing its neighbors again.

    US dominance of NATO and the strong US military presence in Western Europe are designed to keep even the most pro-American of those countries from being militarily self-sufficient domestically.

    If the Bush administration has decided that a militarily strong and militarily autonomous Europe is all right, good for them. But it is a significant change in policy, and an interesting one in light of the currently intensifying scramble for control of North African and Middle Eastern oil, for instance.

  5. Most of the alarm seems to be driven by a desire to cover the "rule of threes"; for every unit in the field, the Army likes to have one unit recuperating and another in training. At the time of the Time article, half of our Army troops were overseas. I'm no military historian, but it seems to me that the "rule of threes" should be a little more flexible in times of war.

    Call me old-fashioned, but in times of peace, why should there be anybody in the field at all?

  6. And Cavanaugh demonstrates why you can't trust libertarians with national defense.

  7. Maybe I have a little to much faith in the US as a benevolent nation, but do we really want other nations that we aren't sure can be trusted building up strong militaries?

  8. US dominance of NATO and the strong US military presence in Western Europe are designed to keep even the most pro-American of those countries from being militarily self-sufficient domestically.

    The situation has changed since NATO was formed. It's time to let Europe learn to take care of itself, I think.

  9. That sounds like something Rhodes would say.

  10. But think of all the poor German Feather Merchants who will now have to get real jobs.

  11. From whom are we defending the Europeans?

  12. We are no longer defending Europeans, as they face no military threats. The US is, however, maintaining bases, staging areas, and refueling points thousands of miles nearer to areas of conflict. Should the Europeans invite us to remove garrisons and close bases, it becomes more difficult to pursue our "Imperialist Cowboy" foreign policy.

  13. I think Josh puts it best. Regarding from whom we're defending the Europeans from these 58 years, well, there was that whole Cold War thing. While the end of the Cold War may have argued for smaller involvement since then, (a) we have in fact withdrawn some forces (just as we have shrunk the military in general), and (b) as pointed out above, it might be useful to keep troops from building up their militaries. As for South Korea, umm, I think we're defending them from a North Korea with one of the largest armies in the world.

    Finally, as to Jacob Sullum's worry about people arguing for a draft on military grounds, I'm not sure who he's arguing with. Most of the people arguing for a draft are making the argument on egalitarian grounds -- grounds, I might add, that seem completely divorced from any sort of sense until you realized the party calling for a draft is opposed to the military and is simply trying to rally public support against it. That the military was twice its current size fifteen years ago -- and that the Pentagon is completely opposed to the draft -- should make clear that there will be no draft.

  14. ryan,
    South Korea has over twice the population and about a zillion times the wealth of North Korea. A country that can't even feed itself probably wouldn't fare very well in an invasion. We heard a lot about the size of Iraq's army in 1990 and what became of that? Maybe South Korea is capable of taking care of itself without a few thousand U.S. troops acting as a tripwire to ensure we will get involved.

    Western Europe has roughly the same population as the former Warsaw pact countries and has long had multiples of the wealth. In addition, the capabilities of the Soviet military were blown out of proportion. Remember all those charts showing how many more tanks, ships, missiles, etc. had than us? It would have been a completely different story if the chart had been adjusted to account for unusable crap. In the 1980s, the USSR had twice as many SSBNs as the US (not to mention how much easier it was to keep tabs on Soviet subs), but averaged having half as many at sea. Have you ever read the book "MiG Pilot"? It was written by the guy who flew his MiG-25 to Japan many years ago and presents an interesting picture of the USSR in general and the AF in particular during the Cold War.

    Finally, it takes a much smaller military to defend a country than to invade that same country. I know that there are arguments to be made for keeping troops staged in strategic locations, but that is an entirely different issue than having our troops in countries as tripwires to ensure we get involved in any trouble in those places.

  15. Regardless of the merits of moving the divisions out of Europe, it is wildly unrealistic to think that it is going to be accomplished any time soon. First, the Army has put off BRAC for two years now. Its coming this year or next. How can the Army move two divisions back to the US while still closing bases? Second, the existing posts' training areas are stretched to the max right now. The two largest posts, Fort Hood and Fort Brag, are both over used now. They only posts which have excess training area are Fort Reilly and Fort Bliss, neither of which have the physical infrastructure to take another division. Four years ago Reilly was down to two brigades and considered a prime candidate to be BRACed and now they plan to put a whole division plus there in addition to the two brigades already there? Third, you don't just roll a division out of one place and into another. The NEPA requirements alone take months if not years. Lastly, the current Army plan is to expand from 33 to 48 combat brigades. Where are these new units going to go if we are not in Europe? The whole thing makes no sense to me. There isn't space in the US for those divisions and even if there were, its going to take years to move them perminantly.

  16. The US is, however, maintaining bases, staging areas, and refueling points thousands of miles nearer to areas of conflict.

    Yes, but not in Europe. There are no areas of conflict in or around Europe that require our continued presence there.

    Should the Europeans invite us to remove garrisons and close bases, it becomes more difficult to pursue our "Imperialist Cowboy" foreign policy

    Which would be a problem if we'd ever had an "Imperialist Cowboy" foreign policy or ever planned to pursue one. As that is not the case, I see little reason to worry. The major effects of withdrawl from Europe will be (a) less American money flowing to other countries and (b) better American military capabilities in areas where it matters.

  17. There's a legitimate argument to be made for having an advance base in Europe from which to launch counter offensives in order to defend ourselves, but, as demonstrated by our advance bases around Afghanistan, it doesn't take a hundred thousand Army personnel to keep an advance base up and running. We're defending South Korea from, "one of the largest armies in the world" with only thirty-six thousand troops. Why do we need a hundred thousand troops in Europe?

    In Rhodes day, the British, amongst others, justified their imperialism with the argument that they were bringing civilization to people who never would have had it otherwise. But I don't think even Rhodes would have suggested that other democratic countries should be disqualified from providing for their own defense because they can't be trusted to be both armed and responsible.

    The overwhelming majority of our European troops are in Germany. Are you suggesting that Germans specifically should be permanently disqualified from providing for their own defense because they're genetically bent on world domination? Because if you are, I'll denounce your argument on the same basis that I would denounce any other that would have us deprive a people of their rights on the basis of race.

  18. Are you suggesting that Germans specifically should be permanently disqualified from providing for their own defense because they're genetically bent on world domination? Because if you are, I'll denounce your argument on the same basis that I would denounce any other that would have us deprive a people of their rights on the basis of race.

    I'm not sure if anyone's arguing that or not. But a few points:

    First, Germans aren't a race, they're a culture. There is no doubt whatsoever that some cultures can be dramatically more violent, militaristic, or imperialistic than others. It would be perfectly fair to argue that Germans are culturally predisposed towards conquering their neighbors, given that they've tried to do it whenever they could.

    Secondly -- despite the fact that it would be fair to argue that Germans are predisposed to be invaders, I think that the past two or three generations of foreign occupation have eliminated that trait from German culture.

    Thirdly, this is all a moot point, because France and Russia have (a) nuclear weapons and (b) no sense of humor about the German Army.

  19. Please consider yourself denounced.

  20. Please consider yourself denounced.

    Duly noted.

  21. Ken,

    The difference between American troop and imperial troops - when asked nicely the Americans will leave.

    The imperial troops must be defeated.

  22. WWII has only been over 58 years! Give them a little time to recover. I've long wondered who exactly we are defending the Western European countries from - each other? The only invasions likely in Western Europe are the millions going to Spain every year for their never-ending holidays. Soon there won't be enough young Europeans to field an army anyhow.

  23. "It would be perfectly fair to argue that Germans are culturally predisposed towards conquering their neighbors, given that they've tried to do it whenever they could."

    It would be just as accurate to argue that of the French or the Italians. In fact, up until their defeat by the Prussians in 1871 the french were viewed as the "Imperialist Cowboys" of Europe, more or less - a point made in the following book and many others.

    The Culture of Defeat : On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery
    by Wolfgang Schivelbusch

    In fact, the idea of Germans as a militaristic people is relatively new.

    "I think that the past two or three generations of foreign occupation have eliminated that trait from German culture."

    Keep dreaming.

  24. BTW - whatever happened to Jean Bart ?

  25. We need to not only redeploy many of our European troops but also those on the Korean peninsula and Okinawa.

  26. Some more of my old outfit, the 2nd Infantry Division, will be coming home from Korea. We started landing there in late July 1950. That's long enough.

  27. John Kluge,

    Perhaps there are some countries who under the right circumstances might provide the US Army with bases.

    Iran perhaps if under new management?

  28. It would be just as accurate to argue that of the French or the Italians.

    Not really. France could have conquered Germany during the years after WW1; it didn't.

    In fact, the idea of Germans as a militaristic people is relatively new.

    You're not using a very useful value of "relatively new". When the oldest man currently living was born, Germany had a militaristic culture. If Germany's militarism is "relatively new", then American women's sufferage must qualify as a "totally cutting-edge".

    Indeed, so far as current German culture is concerned, militarism isn't "new" at all. It's "old and outdated".

  29. From where I sit in South Korea it seems that the US military presence may be doing far more harm then good. The Koreans are absent of any thoughts that the North has hostile intentions. It is a rare day that the wacky media here reports even a slightly damning story regarding the North. The Koreans believe, at least those under 60, that the US is the greatest threat to the glory of ?reunification?.
    My students learn little of substance regarding the Korean War, the continuing famine in the North or exactly why the Yanks are here. What they do know is that a while back a Hummer ran over 2 schoolgirls and that a few weeks ago a GI stabbed a Korean in the neck. The continued US presence allows the Korean population to remain in a state of denial about the world that they live in and the risk that their ?brothers? to the North present.
    I do believe that a population ought to get what it wants, and get it hard. The Koreans seem to want the US out, and have little fear of the North. If that is the case, give them what they want. I only hope the total troop withdrawal happens after August, when I leave.

  30. My guess is that there will be another Korean War within 5 years after American troops leave.

    The other thing to consider is that within a year or two of American departure from the Western Pacific region Japan and Taiwan will go nuclear.

    It will be easy (technically) for Japan. A few years back we sent them in several ship loads, about 40 TONS, of plutonium. If we figure about 20 lbs per nuke (generous) that would mean 2,000 nukes for Japan.

    I'm not so sure leaving the region is a good idea.

    I think it is important to stay in Okinawa if possible at least until the next Korean War is over.

    The upside to such a war is that we may get a lot of their chip business back. OTOH there will be a huge disruption in the world economy.

    Ah. Well.

    This Century looks to be very unpleasant as we clear the wreckage left from the Wars of the 20th Century. esp. the Cold War.

  31. Kent in DC,

    Obviously, I'm misreading you. It seems to me that you're suggesting that Western Europe was more than capable of handling a Soviet invasion and we should have gotten out of there 58 years ago. Such an argument being prime facie absurd, please elaborate.

    You are right that it's very unlikely that the North Korean military could conquer South Korea. But that's not the important point. North Korea has nuclear weapons and threatens several major though non-nuclear nations in the region. This being the case, and the North Korean regime being generally considered militaristic and unpredictable, can you be certain that North Korea won't invade? Can you be certain they won't threaten a strike, possibly nuclear or chemical, on Seoul or Tokyo in order to blackmail aid? Or simply use increasing militarism to prevent their regime from collapsing? You don't know that, and you can be sure that Tokyo can't be sure of it. The American position in South Korea makes clear to everyone that America'd be involved in a Korean conflict, thus preventing war (I think M. Simon is right about war following the American withdrawal). Among other things, this keeps Japan from acquiring nuclear arms.

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