International developments move swiftly. Government bureaucracies don't.
That, in part, explains why the U.S. forces deployed around the world are still stationed where the wars of the mid-20th century ended.
The folly of this strategy has been apparent for some years and President George W. Bush this week announced long-range plans to shake up the status quo by recalling as many as 70,000 troops from Cold War-era bases in Europe and Asia and establishing smaller, more mobile units in the former Soviet satellites of eastern Europe.
It's an idea that increases the military's mobility and flexibility. It will reduce the enormous costs that go with operating huge bases in Germany and other locations and will lessen opportunities for terrorists to strike at the big targets those bases create. It's an idea whose time has come.
The global rearrangement of American troops will be done gradually, over the next decade. During that period about a third of the 230,000 soldiers based overseas would return home and smaller bases that could be used for rapid response to trouble spots would be established.
Critics of the plan decry the troop reduction in locations such as the Korean peninsula but indications are the U.S. could defend South Korea just as easily with fewer troops, particularly since the South Korean military has improved significantly over the years.
An added benefit to a greater number of small military bases at various locations is that it will mean more boots on the ground at varied sites. This will provide more opportunities for the nation's military intelligence to obtain a detailed and broader view of potential trouble.
Bush has identified a long-term strategic objective that deserves the backing of Congress. Our enemies are not as predictable or as easily identifiable as they were in the 1950s. The U.S. military needs to be able to increase efficiency to respond to the threats of the 21st century.
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