Wednesday, February 21, 2007

US commitments in Europe, the East

Why we have 30,000 troops in South Korea and 47,000 stationed in Japan remains an open question.

South Korea has twice the population, four times the military spending, and an astounding 24 times the economy of North Korea, the country our troops are putatively protecting it from.

Despite the ninth article of its post-war constitution, Japan's military expenditures are the sixth highest in the world, its economy the world's third largest, it is the most affluent country in the East Asia save Hong Kong, and is a technological and cognitive powerhouse. China, given the historically visceral bad blood between itself and Japan, and bordering a nuclearly-armed India to the south, can be checked militarily without costly (both economically and reputationally) military outposts in the region. The Japanese are the third largest users of nuclear energy, behind the US and France. They were close to acquiring nuclear weapons five decades ago. Encouraging Japan and even Taiwan to acquire nuclear weapons will further provide a check against Chinese expansionism.

I also wonder why the US continues in the spirit of the Marshall Plan, providing for the military defense of European nations. In so doing, we're fraying the few remaining seams of a tolerable US-Russian relationship:

In a statement reflecting the growing distrust between Moscow and the West, a top Russian general on Monday warned that Poland and the Czech Republic risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host U.S. missile defense bases.

The stark threat, by missile forces chief Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, was one of the most bellicose comments yet by Russian officials on the issue, which 10 days ago led President Vladimir Putin to warn of a "new Cold War" in a speech in Munich that shocked Western governments.
Russia's concerns that the anti-missle defense system the US is planning to set up in Poland threatens it are risible. There will be ten interceptor missiles given to the Polish, and radar detection equipment installed in the Czech Republic. Russia could burn through those in no time and still have hundreds of missles leftover to rain down on these eastern European nations. Putin may be trying to shore up relations with Iran after squabbling over the Russian-built nuclear power plant in Bushehr, in addition to pouting over Russia's troubles in getting surrounding states to submit to Russian influence.

Still, why arm Europe with missle protection for free? Why not at least sell the defense equipment so that the European taxpayer foots the bill instead of the American taxpayer? Let European Union bureacrats pay Lockheed Martin instead. Why sustain the impression that we're militarily lording over Europe? The same regarding NATO, which does little more today than guarantee the various European members of protection provided by the US military panoply.

I don't want to drive a wedge between the US and Europe. We share a great deal ancestrally, culturally, socially, and economically. Instead, providing an unconditional guarantee of external security allows for anti-American rhetoric to flourish on the Old Continent, something the American public resents. This drives the wedge. The French government illustrates:
"Every single attempt to bomb France since 1995 has been stopped before execution," notes a former Interior Ministry senior official. "The French policy has been [to] make sure no terrorist hits at home. We know perfectly well that foreign-policy triangulation is not sufficient for that, [even if] it helps us go down a notch or two in the order of priority [jihadist] targets. So we've complemented our anti-U.S. foreign policy with ruthless domestic measures." [reporter's brackets]
France protects itself from Islamic terrorist activity by pointing at and criticizing US foreign policy (enjoying US military protection via NATO at the same time), while employing domestic tactics that should make the ACLU vomit:
Warrantless wiretaps? Not a problem under French law, as long as the Interior Ministry approves. Court-issued search warrants based on probable cause? Not needed to conduct a search. Hearsay evidence? Admissible in court. Habeas corpus? Suspects can be held and questioned by authorities for up to 96 hours without judicial supervision or the notification of third parties. Profiling? French officials commonly boast of having a "spy in every mosque." A wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies? France's domestic and foreign intelligence bureaus work hand-in-glove. Bail? Authorities can detain suspects in "investigative" detentions for up to a year. Mr. Bruguiere once held 138 suspects on terrorism-related charges. The courts eventually cleared 51 of the suspects -- some of whom had spent four years in preventive detention -- at their 1998 trial.
Spain and Italy use the same type of strategy. Astute European politicians can divert attention from the question of immigration from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia that desperately needs answering, directing it instead toward an overbearing US military presence (that, through NATO, provides them with external defense). This allows the Islamic problem in Europe to grow worse, and makes the US look bad in the process.

The French method isn't indefinitely sustainable. Trenchant busters like Jean Louis Bruguiere may disrupt most target plots to be carried out by individual Islamist groups, but he cannot overcome the overwhelming tide of demographic change. Muslims comprise about 10% of the French population, although it is impossible to paint a precise demographic picture of France as the government does not take census on race or ethnicity. If a large chunk of those six million go on a car-torching, police-assaulting rampage, an intelligence agency is powerless to stop it. That requires assembling police forces and the army.

The mammoth European Union is capable of standing on its own two feet. Its collective economy is as large as that of the US and it has nearly half a billion people. The sooner we force it to do so, the better off it will be in the long-term. By lessening our military commitments (and the dictative foreign policy that is necessary to adequately sustain them), we allow Europe to deal with Islam holistically. And we conserve both resources and face in the process.


Anonymous said...

Having troops stationed in these countries helps prevent them from again becoming military rivals. The troop presence is part of a larger strategy of having the US at the center of a web of alliances of the advanced countries. In this arrangement each party supposedly sees itself as gaining more than from any alternate arrangement.
The world would be a much more complicated, dangerous, and impoverished place if Japan or the EU powers decided to actively militarily oppose US actions.

The bases are also war trophies and reminders to the institutions of their past glories. The military doesn't want to give up its past gains and tries to retain as much as possible.

Have you heard the expression "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer"?
Not that the other powers are enemies, but ...

kurt9 said...

Its bureaucracy, nothing more. These bases in Korea and Japan have a chain of command that is continually bucking for promotion. Removal of these troops and closing these bases will result in fewer opportunities of promotion for the personal in these chains of command.

Eventually, these troops will be withdrawn and the bases closed when the federal deficit gets so large and so many of those retiring baby boomers soak up the federal pie that they simply cannot be maintained.

crush41 said...


I agree with Kurt. Are we better off with global military dominance pitting an aging, deficit-ridden, dumbening US against an economically exploding China that is getting in bed with several American headaches like Iran, Somalia, and Russia? Or would it be more desirable for counterweights in Japan and the European Union? We are enabling the EU to dally in a morass of incrasing Islamic immigration. I don't see how this is good for us.

We're closing military bases at home but retaining them in foreign places where the US has no vital interest. This strikes me as profligate folly.

al fin said...

Pax americana--it can only take you so far. Someone has to pay for the peace. Although the US deficit has mysteriously shrunken recently, the long run economic picture--with fixed entitlement spending in exponential growth--looks discouraging.

The military upkeep with active duty personnel, weapons systems, munitions, pensions and VA benefits are simply a part of that exponential increase in fixed entitlements. It can't last.

Here's a cheery thought: apocalyptic muslims will be in democratic control of several countries already possessing large stockpiles of nuclear weapons (such as Russia) in a handful of decades.

Knowing that, what's the best approach for the US--starting right now--to maximise the chances of survival of most citizens of the US, Canada, and perhaps Australia/New Zealand? (the UK and Ireland may be too close to a dhimmified and subdued Europe to maintain a freedom-loving outlook)

crush41 said...


Ideally, separation.

But if you follow the logical path, well... Every act of Islamic aggression, every egregious violation of Western security and sense of self, brings closer the day that nuclear annihilation becomes a price the developed world may be willing (or forced) to pay.

Even oil obselescence is hardly a silver bullet. France has nuclear weapons. So does Great Britain. And of course so does Pakistan, posing the most immediate Islamic nuclear threat.

al fin said...

Russia is rapidly becoming a muslim majority country. Russia has the second largest working nuclear stockpile behind the US. Beside the russian stockpile, the Pakistani pittance is pathetically insignificant.

France and the UK could potentially become muslim majority, but not nearly as soon as Russia seems determined to do. (low ethnic russian reproduction + ultra-high muslim reproduction rates)