… well, our troops in Europe, anyway; regrettably, Defense Secretary Gates has stopped plans to further reduce the size of our forces based there. The larger question is why do we have any troops still based in Europe? (Or South Korea, for that matter.) Other than the practical issue of delaying their relocation because permanent housing hasn’t yet been completed, the rationales offered are unconvincing, to say the least. The Pentagon’s press secretary put it this way:
Mr. Morrell acknowledged that delaying the return of American ground forces from Europe “also fits with what the secretary feels we should be doing in projecting strength around the world.”
Holding the American troop level steady in Europe would be “a reminder to the rest of the world that, though we have our hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are still very much engaged globally, and our commitment to our allies is not at all diminished,” Mr. Morrell said.
In other words, even if we stay the course in the Middle East, wrapping up our now-irrelevant military presence in Europe would make people think we were cutting and running. I’m afraid that’s absurd — what we have instead is the Spanish-American War telephone tax in a military context — once bureaucracies get a foothold somewhere, they’re loath to give it up.
Oh, and Max Boot adds an especially frivolous reason for keeping troops in Europe:
Finally, there is a cultural cost involved: generations of American soldiers and their families generally have enjoyed living for a few years in Europe, and this has fostered closer trans-Atlantic cultural links. It is hard to see why it is good either for Europeans or Americans to have more troops consolidated on giant, dusty bases in the middle of Texas or other uncongenial spots back home.
Eeek! Texas! NOOOOOO!