Most politicians, when they talk about reducing spending, chatter on about cutting waste and fraud. That’s OK, but it’s a mere nick on the federal budget. If you really want to reduce spending, you must dismantle the overseas empire.
Excluding Iraq, Afghanistan and the other facilities in the Gulf states that have been built since the Republican war, the Pentagon lists 702 overseas bases in 130 foreign countries on which are stationed more than 250,000 uniformed troops. There are also dependents and civilian employees on many of those bases.
One of the oldest military clichés is that the generals always want to fight the last war over again. Well, there’s some truth to that. In fact, though, we will never again fight World War II, so why in the heck do we have bases still in Germany, Italy, Japan, Guam and South Korea?
Just whom do we expect to fight from these bases? How do they contribute to the defense of the U.S.? They don’t. They are, frankly, a residue of World War II and a reminder that the military is, after all, a bureaucracy and hates the very idea of "losing" any facilities and billets. We don’t need to have troops permanently stationed in any of these countries. Nor do we need to maintain our membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is a residue from the Cold War.
I don’t wish to disillusion anyone, but Asia and Europe are not our responsibilities. If there is any need for defense, it is the responsibility of the countries on those continents. We know from personal experience that Japan and Germany can field large and competent armies if they should decide they need them. They do not need our protection.
At the present, there are only two countries in the world that have the capability of waging war against us. Those are China and Russia. In both cases, the war would be fought with intercontinental ballistic missiles. We are never going to see a land war with either of those countries. It should be the No. 1 priority of our foreign-policy establishment to see that we never have a war at all with either of these countries.
Wars start when empires wish to expand. That was the cause of the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. The Korean and Vietnam wars were civil wars in which our politicians involved us. The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq are again wars of an empire trying to expand. In these cases, we are the empire, and you might as well face the ugly truth that our invasions of both countries were no different from the Nazi invasions that led to World War II. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had attacked us or were even capable of attacking us.
In Afghanistan, we could have gone after al-Qaeda without overthrowing the Taliban government. In the case of Iraq, like Adolf Hitler did with Poland, we simply published a pack of lies to justify our invasion.
Americans need to realize that we are not the police force of the world. It is not our responsibility to overthrow dictators or effect regime change in other people’s countries. It is not our responsibility to stop slaughters such as seem to be a permanent feature of Africa.
If we could only learn to mind our own business and see to the needs of our own people, we could lead a peaceful, prosperous and happy existence. As for the terrorists, they are mainly a problem for intelligence and police. If any military force is necessary, one company of Rangers or Marines would be enough.
You can’t have a free republic and an empire. It is time to choose.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.