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Global Commentary
Thursday, 19 August 2004
US troop withdrawal
Topic: Politics
President George Bush has proposed bringing home up to 70,000 American troops from Asia and Europe.

"The world has changed a great deal and our posture must change with it," President Bush told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The US needs "a more agile and more flexible force" to fight the "wars of the 21st century".

Some observers warn that the withdrawal may leave a power vacuum and create security problems in the affected regions. Others warn of the potential economic impact to the affected communities.

However, in a post-Cold War era, American troops are less needed to deter military aggression than ever before, with the possible exception of Korea, where North Korea continues to take a belligerent stance.

As for the economic impact, the host countries will have to start taking steps to mitigate the effects. The proposed withdrawal starts only in 2006 and will be phased over ten years.

The United States has little choice but to take this step. The cost of stationing large numbers of troops around the world is one that a deficit-ridden US government is no longer able to bear on a long-term basis.

In any case, the greatest threat to US security nowadays is not so much conventional warfare but terrorism. Terrorism requires a new mode of warfare. Ground troops stationed around the world on a permanent basis are of little value.

America has to divert its financial and military resources toward handling this new terrorist threat. Inevitably, some other objectives of lesser importance will have to be sacrificed.

As Tom Plate, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, wrote in The Straits Times:

America's friends in Asia need to accept the inevitable and figure out ways to climb aboard. India and Japan have already seen that; other governments have been a bit slower on the uptake.

In the end, this military-transformation world is like globalisation itself: There is not too much you can do about it, even if you do not much like it.

Posted by lim_cs at 12:09 PM JST | post your comment (0) | link to this post

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