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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Why Are They In Strange Lands A Long Way From Home?

The warriors of the US Armed Forces, people who have volunteered to defend the US, often find themselves a long way from home, in places such as South Korea, Germany, Kosovo and many others where they are neither fighting in a war, nor directly contributing to the security of the US. As Charles V. Peña says in his Reason article,

The Cold War is over and Europe no longer faces the threat of Soviet tanks rolling across the Fulda Gap. And the combined economies of the European countries are healthy and strong enough for Europeans to pay for their own security requirements. In 2003, the EU's GDP was $11.6 trillion and U.S. GDP was $10.9 trillion, but America spent 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense compared to only 1.5 percent for the Europeans.

The North Korean threat to South Korea remains real but, like the Europeans, the South Koreans can afford to pay for their own defense. According to the CIA, "North Korea, one of the world's most centrally planned and isolated economies, faces desperate economic conditions." North Korea's GDP in 2003 was $22.9 billion with defense spending of $5.2 billion (22.7 percent of GDP). By comparison, South Korea's GDP was $855.3 billion (more that 37 times that of the North) with $14.5 billion for defense (almost three times the North and only 1.7 percent of GDP). So South Korea has both the economic advantage and capacity to to defend itself.

From this it appears that the US is effectively lending their soldiers to serve as other nations' surrogate armies, even though the said nations are well capable of furnishing first-rate armies of their own. That may be magnanimous, but certainly is outside of the scope of what the Department of Defense is tasked with doing, namely, providing military defense for the US.

Some view US troops' presence is some places where they have been deployed for a long time a tradition that for diplomatic reasons can not be rejected. Pena very ably counters this argument stating,

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the Clinton administration, Richard Holbrooke, said: "I know the Germans are very unhappy about these withdrawals. The Koreans are going to be equally unhappy." But U.S. military forces do not exist to make friends and allies happy. They exist to defend the United States against external military threats. If those threats no longer exist, then the requirement to deploy those forces is also non-existent.

The leading figures of the current administration are also major participants in The Project for the New American Century, an organization advocating for the unchallenged global American domination of the world in the 21st century. I believe their desire is none other than to turn America into a global empire. They are certainly entitled to their ideas; however, they may not, as US government officials, put those ideas into practice when the said ideas are constitutionally illegal. Says Pena,
President Bush's announcement about reducing U.S. troop deployments in Europe and South Korea by as many as 70,000 soldiers is a long overdue decision. As Bush said: "The world has changed a great deal, and our posture must change with it." But the Pentagon has emphasized that "this is not a troop cut or a force structure reduction in the armed forces. It is a realignment globally of U.S. forces and capabilities." In other words, it's simply rearranging pieces on the chessboard.
And there are many indications that this realignment is set in motion only the better to realize ideas of The Project. But instead we need to go back to basics and make sure that what our government is doing is what it is obligated to be doing,- nothing more, nothing less. And empire building is not part of what the US government is tasked with,- thus it should not be allowed to proceed down that path.

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