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The Trouble With Troop Realignment

Yesterday, at the tail end of a political campaign speech, President Bush announced plans to recall between 60,000 and 70,000 troops from Europe, South Korea and Japan. Bush said the realignment would allow the military to "be more effective at projecting our strength and spreading freedom and peace" and save taxpayers money. In reality, the ill-conceived plan – which further strains already damaged relationships with America's traditional allies – runs counter to our strategic, economic and military interests.

Yesterday, at the tail end of a political campaign speech, President Bush announced plans to recall between 60,000 and 70,000 troops from Europe, South Korea and Japan. Bush said the realignment would allow the military to “be more effective at projecting our strength and spreading freedom and peace” and save taxpayers money. In reality, the ill-conceived plan – which further strains already damaged relationships with America’s traditional allies – runs counter to our strategic, economic and military interests.

  • The plan does not address our current problems. Right now the military does not have enough troops to fulfill our obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military has been forced to extend deployments, involuntarily recalled retired reservists and relied on private military. Shifting troops from Europe to the United States does nothing to address this problem, as troops stationed in Germany – including the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division – are already being deployed to Iraq.
  • The announcement was a preemptive concession to North Korea. Pulling out more than one-third of our forces from the Korean Peninsula could have been a major bargaining chip with North Korea – which has been asking for U.S. troop withdrawals for years. Removing troops from South Korea while the North is openly and aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons, without obtaining concessions from Pyongyang, is a major strategic blunder.

     

  • The plan would be expensive and unnecessary. The realignment would not save taxpayers any money. Our facilities abroad are subsidized by foreign government – $1 billion from Germany alone. Moving troops and their families from overseas facilities would require a significant expansion of U.S. bases. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated a similar plan would cost $7 billion to implement. Troops are not stationed in Germany as a relic of the Cold War. They are there because they can be quickly deployed from Germany to places where they are most needed, such as the Middle East. In the 1990s, over 200,000 troops were removed from Europe to account for post-Cold War realities.

Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action Fund.