President Bush's announcement that the US will withdraw 70,000
troops from Europe and Asia represents a long-awaited major
adjustment of the American military following the cold war's end.
It's true that the Pentagon has shuttered dozens of big
installations in Europe over the past decade, but US world troop
deployments still basically reflect a pattern designed to contain a
communist threat that no longer exists, analysts say.
The sensitivities of allies, plus the military's traditional
resistance to organizational change, have contributed to the
persistence of the US presence overseas. The strain of the US
deployments in Iraq - plus the pressures of presidential politics,
and the simple passage of time - may have finally broken that
"I think overall it's a good idea," says Michael O'Hanlon, a
military strategy expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"It's good to think strategically about where our forces are, and
Currently the US has about 100,000 troops based in Europe, with
about 70 percent of those in Germany. Another 100,000 are scattered
throughout Asia and the Pacific, with heavy concentrations in Japan
and South Korea.
Over the next decade about 70,000 of those uniformed personnel
will be transferred to other home bases, mostly back in the United
States, Bush said Monday in a speech to veterans in the swing state
of Ohio. Another 100,000 dependents and civilian employees will be
Carried to conclusion, this restructuring would represent the
largest shift in the footprint of the US military since the Korean
War, note administration officials. It would also go some way toward
fulfilling a goal Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has long pushed:
making the US military a leaner, potentially faster-moving machine.
Under this strategy, the US would rely more heavily on flexible
units based in the US that can move quickly to bare-bones "lily pad"
bases that are closer to potential trouble spots than today's
mammoth structures in Western Europe.
The long-term changes "will help us strengthen our ability to
confront the new dangers that we face," said White House spokesman
Scott McClellan Monday.
Administration spokesmen cautioned that the changes will take
time, and that the US public shouldn't expect Fort Hood in Texas to
soon begin absorbing thousands of GIs flooding off airlifters with
all their worldly possessions.
Indeed, in that sense the Bush administration appears to be
simply associating itself with an action that might not begin in
earnest until well into the next presidential term.
And while Bush officials insisted that this effort is much
broader than the troop-shuffling related to Iraq deployments, the
strain of maintaining 150,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has
surely focused Pentagon minds on a more efficient force structure,
note analysts. …