With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States began bringing its 400,000 troops home from their bases overseas. Now about 200,000 are stationed outside the U.S., excluding the more than 150,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last week, President Bush proposed bringing more soldiers back to U.S. bases. Redeployment is something Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has been studying since he took office in 2001. But what should be a study in strategy and tactics, a discussion on how best to provide national security, has been overwhelmed by politics. Hence the president's announcement on troop withdrawals less than three months before an election, at an appearance before the Veterans of Foreign Wars that was paid for by Bush's reelection campaign.
If the Pentagon's plans are good -- and Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry denounced them in his equally political appearance before the VFW two days after Bush spoke -- they'll be just as good after Inauguration Day.
Kerry criticized the proposed withdrawal of 12,000 of the more than 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea at a time when Washington is trying to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. But 51 years after the end of the Korean War, South Korea should be able to defend itself, and a withdrawal of one-third of the U.S. troops would be unlikely to persuade Pyongyang that the U.S. is in retreat or unwilling to again come to Seoul's aid.
The Cold War dictated domestic and overseas deployments; the war on terror is necessitating new bases in nations such as Uzbekistan. Advanced technology in the hands of a well-equipped, highly trained military may make it easier to keep troops and their families at home rather than abroad, but the decision must be based on reasons of national security, not politics.
-- Los Angeles Times
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