The View From 1776
Thursday, August 19, 2004
The Dilemma of Redeploying American Military Forces
The Bush administrations’ recently announced military redeployment plans put the liberal-socialist candidacy of Senator John Kerry in a bind between socialist dogma and geo-political realities.
Senator Kerry was quick to criticize President Bush’s recent announcement of plans to redeploy American troops over the next ten years. Kerry described the announcement as a hastily conceived ploy for short-range political effect.
Yet, only a few weeks ago, on more than one occasion, Senator Kerry called for much the same sort of redeployment, including cutbacks of troops in South Korea.
What’s going on here?
On the one hand, judging from his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Senator Kerry has decided to present himself as a decisive and bold warrior who will defend America (after first exhausting all diplomatic options and displaying appropriate sensitivity toward our “allies”). On the other hand, he must make gestures in the direction of liberal-socialist orthodoxy, which posits that the whole world can be one big happy family, if intellectuals can appropriately redistribute American wealth to poorer nations. Historians call this appeasement; liberals call it social justice. North Korea will be watching with considerable interest.
The bold-warrior image comports with denouncing proposed troop reductions overseas. But the orthodoxy of international socialism comports with Kerry’s statement only last week that he would persuade our allies to take our place in Iraq and bring American troops back within six months.
One has to guess, of course, about what motive governs the Senator from moment to moment, because he repeatedly makes contradictory proclamations. But the socialist, “community of nations” orthodoxy would be consistent with resuming policies started under the Clinton administration for massive reductions in American military forces. Clinton’s reductions in our defense expenditures, not the so-called reinvention of government under Al Gore, paid for much of the temporary and illusory Federal budget balance attained at the end of the Clinton administration.
There was political pressure at the start of Clinton’s first term in 1993 to cut military spending. Liberals thought that, with the Cold War over, we could use the “peace dividend” from lower military expenses to pay for new welfare-state initiatives, like Hillary Clinton’s proposed socialistic, national health system.
Kerry, at the moment, echos this by declaring that he will keep us militarily strong, but not at the expense of more pressing matters like free prescription benefits for seniors and national health care.
As George Friedman notes (“Redeployment and the Strategic Miscalculation,” August 18, 2004), http://www.stratfor.com/coms2/page_home Clint,on’s first Defense Secretary Les Aspin was compelled early in Clinton’s first term to begin a reassessment of where to deploy the reduced numbers of American troops overseas and how to arm them for the new military situation. Without the constant threat of Soviet tank invasions across the North German plains, every aspect of our defense forces and strategy necessarily became subject to review.
Defense Secretary Aspin concluded that emphasis on heavy armored divisions should be replaced by emphasis on more mobile and more lightly armed troops that would rely on new technology, like cruise missiles and satellite-guided weapons, to strike enemies wherever they appeared. One lesson from Desert Storm, the war that ousted Sadam Hussein from Kuwait, was that fighting wars far from existing bases with Cold War era methods was difficult and slow to mount. For Desert Storm, we needed roughly six months to ship armored divisions and several hundred thousand conventional troops to bases that could strike Iraqui forces in Kuwait.
Looking at this historical background demonstrates that it is inaccurate to call the Bush long-term redeployment plans a hastily conceived political ploy. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has, for the past three years, simply continued the reassessment process started by his predecessor, Les Aspin, more than a decade ago.
We are left to wonder how large new reductions in defense spending would be under a Kerry socialist administration, not to mention how effectively the United States will be defended by renewed reliance on our socialist friends in the UN.