Jewish World Review August 19, 2004 / 2 Elul, 5764

Jack Kelly

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The prez's domestic war — over realignment of military | President Bush has announced the first major realignment of U.S. military forces since the end of the Korean war. Prominent Democrats decried it as a blow to national security.

The First Armored Division and the First Infantry Division will return to the United States from Germany. They will be replaced by a lighter brigade equipped with the new Stryker wheeled fighting vehicle. The Stryker brigade likely will based in either Poland or Romania. (A brigade is approximately 1/3rd of a division.)

The 12,500 troops — almost all of them Army soldiers — who are being withdrawn from South Korea will not return.

Nothing much has been said about this, but it is probable the Marine presence on Okinawa will be drawn down.

While about half of our bases in Europe, and some in Korea and Japan will be closed, new bases will be built in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. These will consist mostly of a big airfield and a skeleton maintenance and security crew, so American troops can be moved rapidly to a trouble spot if a crisis develops.

The foremost reason for realignment is that it will move troops away from threats which no longer exist, closer to the threats we face today.

The realignment recognizes that (13 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union) the Cold War is over, and that (50 years after the Korean War) South Korea no longer needs as much help from us to deter an invasion from North Korea.

The realignment — which won't begin for two years and will take 10 to complete — also will be good for the troops and their families, reduce military personnel costs, give a shot in the arm to local economies, and make life easier for congressmen facing the prospect of having military bases in their districts shut down.

The realignment will be good for troops because they will be able to spend more time with their families, and will have to make fewer moves. Military families also will be spared the high cost of living in Germany.

Military personnel costs will go down because the services will no longer have to pay so much to move troops and their families to and from bases overseas.

The billions of dollars the military and military families currently pour into places like Baumholder, Germany, and Okinawa will go instead to places like Junction City, Kansas (home of Fort Riley) and Killeen, Texas (home of Fort Hood).

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The realignment coincides with the next iteration of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). The BRAC is expected to declare that bases in the U.S. have 20-25 percent more capacity than is required to support the current force structure. Moving 70,000 troops back to the United States will reduce that overcapacity, and thus reduce the number of lawmakers who will have to explain to constituents why the base in their district is being closed.

Given the benefits likely to accrue from realignment, it is puzzling that Democrats like retired Gen. Wesley Clark say it would "significantly undermine national security."

U.S. troops are no longer needed to protect Western Europe from the Soviet hordes, because these no longer exist. But withdrawing those troops would "offend our allies," say Clark and Richard Holbrooke. Apparently to Democrats, subsidizing the German economy is more important than the well being of our troops, or of American taxpayers, and is more important than putting our troops in places where they can best defend the United States.

The Democratic case for Korea is stronger, but not much. In 1950, South Korea was too weak to defend itself without our help. But South Korea today has more than twice the population, more than 37 times the economic strength, and a military that is equivalent in size and much more modern than North Korea's. South Korea can defend herself without our help, and our deterrent strength is in our air and naval forces, which will not be diminished by drawing down the token ground force "tripwire."

In addition to a compulsion to politicize everything, Democrats seem stuck in the 1960s. They can't seem to understand that the world has changed, the threat has changed, technology has changed, and U.S. troop deployments must change to reflect new realities.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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