The Advantage of US Troops Around the World
Most conservatives can agree that the size and image of our military are very important to the safety of the nation. However, some of the details, like where exactly the troops should be stationed, bring an entirely new debate to the table.
Should we allow our troops to be stationed at bases overseas? Should we allow other nations to place their officers here? The questions seem specific, but also difficult to find well-developed answers for. In a political environment where the president claims fake news with every other breath, I decided to talk with a military friend who has traveled all over the world through his job. My conclusion was that the United States should disperse troops evenly but safely, which could include in our allies’ land.
At the very end of a recent article on the cost of Trump’s border wall, my fellow writer Mitchell Stern mentions that our troops stationed in foreign nations should be moved to the Mexico-USA border, where the military may better act as a deterrent against illegal immigrants. While troops near the border may be a decent solution to some immigration issues, pulling troops from our neighbors and allies to fulfill this need is not the best choice, either fiscally or in terms of safety.
Fiscally speaking, with bases in places like the UK, Italy, and Germany, the US spends less money when it needs to bomb Libya, as it did in 2011 under a UN operation. On the other hand, while the US can bomb Libya from places like Whitman Base in Missouri without landing once, the cost of the mission exceeded $11 million, and still used air tankers from bases in European nations to refill the tanks 15 times. A similar operation from a nearby ally base would cost much less.
In terms of safety, the amount of time to respond to threats is significantly decreased through bases in countries around the world. According to my friend, it would take over a day to mobilize a response to a conflict, which would also tip off the enemy to our plans. Under our current system of bases, the US has the ability to strike any place in the world within 24 hours, which forces our adversaries to be ready at all times, and not act out of line.
According to my contact, in the case of the 2011 Libya attacks, “the air war that took place would have taken weeks to prep to get the fighter planes and tankers necessary to conduct the war [in] the European/African theater; instead everything was ready, and the day after the UN voted to authorize force UN forces were able to strike.” Depending on how quickly a strike would be necessary and how stealthily we would need to conduct it, troops and bases in other nations are a necessity when it comes to our safety.
Some may argue that the developed, first world countries could easily adopt the system in the United States. We, as a nation, do not have foreign bases on our land, although we do allow foreign nations to perform joint operations with our military. However, our presence in foreign nations is “providing those nations with an added level of security,” according to my friend. The US military, even though potentially in decline, is still one of the largest and most capable militaries in the world.
For a country like Iceland, with a population of under 400,000 people, an ally with a significant military is recommended for their safety. Iceland handles military issues through their coast guard and would be unable to defend itself against an invasion by larger nations like Russia or China. However, under the Security Cooperation Agreement, the US is able to participate in the defense of Iceland, but also keeps a base on the island. This base will be influential in collecting information for the US, and will house P-8 spy planes. At a time when many in our nation doubt Russia’s intention towards the US, and their involvement in our politics, a reliable source to spy on Russia and other nations will be invaluable to our safety.
Even so, the US is not responsible for protecting the entire world. Our military, and our commander-in-chief should only establish security cooperation agreements and bases in other nations as is necessary for the protection of our nation. There is relatively no need for a US base in Canada, with the US as a direct neighbor, and as such all former bases have been reverted to Canadian ones.
Countries with the ability to re-establish and maintain military power should do so, lest they become overly dependent on our military and our defense. Some nations like Germany and Japan had restrictions on their military forces’ expansion due to peace accords, and as such the US keeps significant military presence in them. In these cases, the sovereign nation should hold some responsibility of protecting their nation, with the US acting as an ally, rather than their military commander. The US, while happy to provide military support, should not be the sole source of protection in nations that they do not govern.
With troops both inside and outside our borders, the United States is best prepared to protect against foreign attack, and strike as needed. Without our military in both developed and developing nations, the US risks unnecessary isolationism. Our nation should establish good relations with our allies and work together to protect each other from foreign attack, as well as geographically assisting ourselves in potential conflicts.
An anonymous source from within the US military contributed to this article.
Follow the author in Twitter at @UCDavisEngineer