Stymied in Iraq, Hawks Still Positioning US as
their hopes for transforming Iraq into a pro-U.S. base in the heart
of the Arab world have been badly set back, neo-imperial hawks in
the Bush administration are proceeding as fast as possible to reinvent
U.S. forces worldwide as "globocop," capable of pre-empting any
possible threat to its interests at a moment's notice.
the last month, the Pentagon has confirmed plans to sharply cut
forces stationed at giant US bases in Germany, South Korea and Okinawa,
Japan, and to redeploy them to smaller, more widely dispersed facilities
sometimes called "lily pads" along an "arc
of crisis" stretching along a wide band from Southeast Asia
to West Africa, as well as to bases in Guam and back home.
planned redeployments, the most sweeping since the onset of the
Cold War more than 50 years ago, are all part of a global strategy
to build, in Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld's words, a "capability
to impose lethal power, where needed, when needed, with the greatest
flexibility and with the greatest agility."
for where the "need" is, Pentagon officials state publicly that
would be defined by threats to "stability." But a closer look
at where Washington is most interested in acquiring access to military
facilities suggests the determining factor may be proximity to oil
and gas-producing areas, pipelines and shipping routes through which
vital energy supplies pass.
most analysts, the proposed redeployments make a lot of sense. With
the collapse of the Soviet Union, the need for big US military bases
that housed conventional forces in Germany and elsewhere in Western
Europe evaporated from a strategic point of view, while the steady
buildup of well-equipped and well-trained forces in South Korea,
where Washington has stationed nearly 40,000 troops for the past
25 years, made it more than a match for North Korea.
addition, the presence and behavior of US forces in both Western
Europe and Northeast Asia, particularly in South Korea and Okinawa,
have become increasingly unpopular and a lightning rod for growing
anti-Americanism and resentment. Reducing their "footprint"
might have the opposite effect.
Washington withdrew its troops altogether from Saudi Arabia over
the past year in large part because their presence there had become
both the plans and the ways they are being developed and implemented
are provoking growing criticism at home, as well as abroad.
reasons for this are not difficult to understand, particularly in
light of the Iraq war.
the first place, the planned redeployments appear designed to ensure
that the United States could indeed enforce a "Pax Americana,"
based on its ability to exert unilateral military control over the
production and flow of energy resources from Central Asia, the Gulf
region and the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa in the
face of potential rivals.
that respect, the strategy is an update of the controversial 1992
draft Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) written under the auspices
of current Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President
Dick Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser, I Lewis
"Scooter" Libby both of whom played key roles in
driving the Bush administration to war in Iraq.
1992 paper, which was significantly watered down at the insistence
of then-Secretary of State James Baker and National Security Adviser
Brent Scowcroft, called for Washington to act as the guarantor of
global security and predicted that US military interventions would
be a "constant fixture" of the future a prospect
that, in light of the unhappy and costly experience in Iraq to date,
is not very popular at the moment, either here or abroad.
second concern is the damage that such a redeployment could do to
Cold War alliances, particularly Washington's commitment to Europe,
where the Pentagon wants to cut its military presence in Germany
currently some 70,000 troops and scores of warplanes in half.
Some of the forces would be sent home, while most would be moved
to cheaper bases in Bulgaria and Romania, closer to the Caucasus
and the Middle East.
most serious potential consequences of the contemplated shifts would
not be military but political and diplomatic," wrote Kurt Campbell,
a former senior Pentagon official now with the Center for Strategic
and International Studies (CSIS), and Celeste Johnson Ward, in a
'Foreign Affairs' article last year. The redeployments, they warned,
could be construed as the beginning of a withdrawal from what Rumsfeld
last year scornfully called "Old Europe."
that, in turn, could reinforce traditional isolationist tendencies
in the United States that, before World War II, sought to prevent
Washington from engaging in political "entanglements" with European
countries or international institutions in ways that might constrain
its freedom of action in the Americas or anywhere else.
the repudiation of permanent alliances in favor of "coalitions
of the willing" a major feature of the Bush administration's
post-9/11 policies as it was in the Wolfowitz-Libby paper
not only recalls isolationism; it is also entirely consistent with
the strategy underlying the proposed redeployments.
similar consideration worries South Korea, where Washington is proposing
the withdrawal of more than 12,000 troops, including some 3,500
who are being sent to bolster beleaguered US forces in Iraq.
Koreans worry that such a significant withdrawal now might not only
complicate a particularly tense time in intra-Korean relations,
but may also signal Washington's desire to reduce Seoul's say in
whether or not Washington attacks North Korea. "This is about psychology,"
Derek Mitchell, a former Pentagon Asia expert recently told the
'Los Angeles Times'.
related concern was voiced by Campbell and Ward when the proposed
redeployments were still on the drawing board. "Unless the changes
are paired with a sustained and effective diplomatic campaign,"
they warned, "they could well increase foreign anxiety about and
distrust of the United States."
in effect, is what has happened, as officials from both Germany
and South Korea have complained that they were not fully consulted
about the redeployments before they were leaked to the press or
officially announced a failure that only increases the impression
that Washington is proceeding unilaterally, even with its closest
is not surprising, because most of the same people including
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense
for policy who led the drive to war in Iraq remain in charge
of implementing the new global strategy.
these officials have lost virtually all influence over policy-making
in Iraq as a result of their virtually total failure to anticipate
the challenges faced by US occupation forces after the war, they
are working feverishly to reconfigure Washington's global military
forces for the coming generation.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service