Monday, February 1, 2010

American Military Bases Worldwide: Necessary or Arcane?

Over the weekend thousands of protestors gathered in Tokyo demanding the end to U.S. troop presence in Japan. United States has about 47,000 troops stationed in Japan. In 2006, Japan and the United States signed a pact that started the ball rolling on realignment of American troops in the Japan to bases in less populated area. Having a troop presence, some may argue, is required to keep tabs on developments in North Korea and China. Through globalization and more sophisticated technology, keeping a troop's presence in Japan, or anywhere else, may be a relic of a Cold War military strategy.

Prior to World War II the deployment of American forces to permanent bases around the world was virtually no existent. It was not until after World War II and the threat of Communist expansion that military leaders looked to regionalized military presence as a necessity. The question now is with predator drones and satellite coverage, is the use of based military establishments a necessity or is it an arcane military philosophy? President Obama just unveiled his $1.2T budget to which he contends that the military will be spared from a budget freeze.

Regardless of if you feel Afghanistan and Iraq are just wars, the reality is that it is costly America billions of dollars a day to fight. At the same time we have established bases around the world that need to be funded for as well. Can American use her money more wisely when it comes to troop bases around the world? A footnote to some in the debate is that role the National Guard is playing to subsidize the career military. The National Guard dates back to Colonial times in America as citizens rallied together to defend their state from whatever foe that present themselves. In recent decades we have seen the National Guard's role expand to fight battles not in America but on foreign soil. While these brave men and women give up a lot for their country that ought not be the intent for them going forward.

We have issues inside our own borders that require the use of the National Guard. The battles that are to be fought on foreign soil ought to be done with career soldiers and military not our volunteer militia. I do not think we need to slash the military budget nor do I think we need to grow it. I do think we need to alter it to fight battles in the 21st Century with 21st Century means. Do we really need 47,000 troops in Japan to monitor the region? Do we still need our bases in Europe? Or other places around the world? Hugo Chavez rallies his base on the notion of American Imperialism. The forces that wish our destruction in the Middle East see our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as occupation rather than liberation. Is it time for America to rethink the role being played on the World stage in regards to military presence?

I contend that we can afford to scale back our presence around the world and concentrate our troops here at home. In recent decades we have seen the misuse of our National Guard to fight various "wars" in distant lands. The role of the National Guard is not to fight wars but to defend American soil. At least not fight wars in the sense that career military members of society are to. Americans have sat by and allowed the Federal Government to call up our State National Guard units for the sake of national security. I am not advocating slashing the military budget; rather I merely suggest that we need to more effective and efficient with our deployment and base presence around the world.