Thursday, October 20, 2011

Our Overseas Military Presence

To give you a quick update on the 2012 election, Perry now claims he wants a flat tax at some unknown rate. Perry's supporters seem really blind to how poorly he’s coming across. Cain says he will go on the attack in the next debate because the other candidates “are getting on my last nerve.” Palin thinks Newt won the other night. And Politico wants to convince us that the race is between Perry and Romney. But the guy I want to talk about today is Paul.

In the last two debates, Paul has said the US has 900 military bases overseas in 130 countries. This struck me as likely true, but also highly misleading, as I will explain.

Looking this up, I found the US actually has military personnel in 148 different countries. That doesn’t surprise me. We also have 662 installations outside the country. That doesn’t surprise me either. And I’m not going to quibble about 900 versus 662: either number is huge and within the same order of magnitude.

So Paul is correct, right? Sort of. He is technically correct about the numbers. But I think he is implying something much bigger than the reality. When Paul says the military has bases in these countries, it sounds a lot like we have an active military presence sitting on self-contained “bases” in almost every country. In effect, it sounds like we have occupied every country in the world.

But that’s not really what is going on. The truth is that only 13 countries host more than 1,000 troops: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Japan, Bahrain, Djibouti, South Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Most of the rest have only a handful of troops, typically in single digits.

So what are they doing? That’s impossible to determine for sure, but most likely they are guarding embassies. There are about 30 Marines at the embassy in Moscow, plus some other officers from the other services. So let’s exclude any country with fewer than 40 military personnel from this list on the assumption they are just embassy staff.

Suddenly we are only in 19 countries, 13 of which are in Europe. . . where we are part of NATO.

The 662 bases is misleading too. All but 32 of those bases are either small sites or owned on paper only. For example, some of these sites are apparently nothing more than unmanned radio towers. One site listed in Canada is only 144 square feet -- a 12x12 room, just like our “base” in North Korea is just a room with two guards assigned.

Thus, when Paul says we have 900 military bases overseas in 130 countries, he is technically correct (give or take). But what he’s really should be saying to not be misleading is: we have 32 military bases overseas in 19 countries. That doesn’t quite have the same punch.

I don’t subscribe to isolationism at all. Isolationism is a horrible policy because it eliminates your ability to control your destiny and it turns you into a victim of circumstance. And ignoring a bully never works.

But I do agree with Paul to this extent -- I would like to see a stronger analysis on why we are in each region. I get Asia, for example. If we pulled out of Asia, China would dominate the region, Japan would re-arm and go nuclear, and war would probably break out in the Koreas, between China and Taiwan, and between China and Vietnam. That would be very bad for the US. And I understand we’re in Europe mainly to keep bases needed to transport troops. But why are we in Africa, South America or throughout the Middle East?

I think those are valid questions.

37 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

Ah the art of the politician . . . . kind of depending on the definition of "is" if you will. I suppose in addition to staging areas, Europe may be some old NATO commitments. The questions you raise are absolutely valid, of course, and I think if you emailed them to your candidate of choice (Cain?) he could use it to score points at the next debate.

CrispyRice said...

Interesting as always, Andrew! I do tend think of bases as the sorts of bases we see here and the ones I know first-hand from Germany and Japan. Lots of personnel, dependents, schools and hospitals, etc. Mini-towns.

I had no idea that we have "installations" of a tower with 1 person. Hmm.

I agree that it's a good discussion to have, and I'd be surprised if Europe (despite the rhetoric to the contrary) would be too excited to see us depart wholesale. It's easier to support a socialist society when you can spend zero on defense. >>eyeroll<<

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, the art of the politician is right. And don't mean to blast to Paul here, because I do think we do too much in the world. But I very much like to know the truth on these issues -- that's why I looked this up.

I just want to point out that

AndrewPrice said...

Folks, I need to run - I'll be back in an hour.


P.S. I see Quaddafi is dead.

Ed said...

Yeah! Gaddafi's dead!

Interesting article as always Andrew. Something struck me as odd about Paul's numbers, but I didn't know what.

DUQ said...

I don't believe in isolationism either. I think we need to be much more careful with the lives of US soldiers, but I don't believe pulling everything back will help. But we should not risk American lives unless strong American interests really are at stake. They weren't in Libya.

tryanmax said...

I imagine we have troops stationed throughout the Middle East in support of our deployments. Djibouti should really be on that list because it is right there.

Who wants to bet that all 64 servicemen in France are there to guard the embassy from rioting Frogs?

tryanmax said...

Great, Gaddafi's dead. Now how do we work Obama's name into the headline?

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I even have to wonder just how much we're spending on our installations in Europe. We are allies, but I sometimes think that we provide troops so they don't have to. We maintained a strong presence in Europe to counterbalance the Soviet Union, which ultimately collapsed. I'm not suggesting withdrawal by any means, but the European nations could spend more on their military to counterbalance the current resurgence of Russia.

The Asian side of the map is another story. You are absolutely on-target with the need to maintain a strong presence there. Power abhors a vacuum, and China is more than willing to fill that vacuum if we leave.

Now my only question is, with Qaddafi allegedly dead, will Obama send in Team America to help maintain order?

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, That's what I think of too when people say "bases" -- lots of people, lots of equipment. But most of these are just rented office space or unmanned towers. So it really is dishonest to suggest those are sprawling military facilities.

Odds are Europe doesn't want us to leave because of the business they get from having bases located there -- and Europe does have some of the biggest bases.

But again, I'm not saying we should leave -- I'm saying we should re-evaluate our commitments to makes sure that we are doing things in our interest. For example, what are we doing in Ghana now?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, That's the problem with politicians and numbers. Some lie outright, others use them to say things that aren't true.

I don't know that Paul falls into either of those categories. He is absolutely correct in terms of the numbers and he's right about the huge scale of overseas commitments. It's just that people will hear that number and think it's much bigger than it really is.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I agree. American lives should never be risked unless there is a strong American interest at stake. Our military is not a toy for our presidents, they are fellow Americans who have agreed to risk their lives for this country -- to go messing around in things where America doesn't have a reason to be there. Unfortunately, that's something the Democrats haven't understood in decades, as Obama is proving.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's exactly what they are doing right now, but they were there even before this. We have permanent bases in several countries over there which have been over there for as long as I can remember -- well into the 1980s at least and probably earlier.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, To give you some sense of how much the Euros are dumping this on us.... NATO requires them to spend 2% of their GDP on their militaries. For the past decade, they have been spending less than half of that, while we spend around 5%.

Afghanistan has been a real eye opener in this regard because most of these countries were unable to find, equip and send even a couple hundred troops. The Germans have gone broke sending about 1,800 soldiers and claim to be maxed out in terms of men and equipment. It sounds like the Colorado Springs Police Department could conquer Germany.

Britain just scrapped their only aircraft carrier, their entire naval air wing, and is cutting its almost non-existent military by huge percentages. They rely entirely on us for helicopters and transport. Some of the other countries effectively don't have militaries.

So yes, they are piggybacking on the US -- at the same time they keep attacking us for our military decisions.

On China, we've already seen it. Obama's decision not to send F-15 fighters to Taiwan freaked everyone out because they took that as us bowing to China. So Japan stepped up its recent order of fighters, Korea and Vietnam are also talking about arming up. It's a mess. And our presence actually is keeping them all from fighting.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Now that Gaddafi is dead, Obama will just need to pick another easy dictator to knock off. Who's running Guam these days? ;)

tryanmax said...

LOL! I just said something similar on my blog!

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: That sounds just right. What few forces there are in Europe and England are pathetic. A couple of the European military forces are unionized. "Oops, sorry Colonel, I can't go to war tomorrow, it's my day off. And by the way, you forgot to pay my overtime last week when I worked more than 35 hours." Yet Obama is perfectly happy to put American troops and resources under the control of these NATO commanders.

This is all another reason for firing our Commander in Chief, and installing a President who actually has America's interests at heart and understands that America's military power is keeping the world from falling apart. Your Asian citations are a perfect example of just how little it takes to upset the balance of power and regional stability.

AndrewPrice said...

Great minds, right?! I guess the word is out -- when Obama needs a boost, insignificant, defenseless dictators everywhere should take care!

tryanmax said...

And the winner is...

The Financial Times, with THIS headline:

Gaddafi death boosts Obama reputation

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree. NATO is little more than a gimmick at this point which lets the Europeans feel they have some control over the US military. The UN is worse. American troops should never be under the command of a foreign general. Pershing made sure of that in WWI and it's been true ever since... until this last decade or so.

I'm not saying we need to be hostile with Europe, we need to respect our own troops more than that.

And you're right about the problem with a guy like Obama. He doesn't get the connection to US interests, so his foreign policy is basically feel-goodism. "I want to help them, but not them." That not only gets us into unneeded wars, but it creates power vacuums, which we will regret later.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, You knew it was coming. The MSM and the Democrats have been pimping Obama as the greatest warlord since who knows who. They will push this idea. But frankly, no one in America cares.

It's great bin Laden is dead, but everyone credits the military -- not Obama. So Obama got no bump in the polls.

Libya -- no bump.

Death of Gaddafi -- will be no bump... no matter how much they tell us we should care.

rlaWTX said...

deciding what "American interests" are seems to be one of the sticking points. post WWII, our interests became [1] keeping the world from blowing itself back to the stone age and [2] keeping the USSR from taking over the world. Since the fall of the USSR, it seemed like it was all unicorns and rainbows (yeah, right). With Islamic fascism waging a war on us, we redefined again. But what everyone forgot was that all that time we were still the only one making sure that the world didn't get blown back to the stone age. So, now Pakistan, India, etc have nuclear weapons. Russia is selling tech to anyone with money (Iran, NK). Vacuums keep threatening. We keep being the boy with his finger in the dam. Each of these "little" upsets (Egypt, Libya, etc) get messier with both the terrorism and nuclear links... It's hard to have a firm-fast rule on what is in US interests.

I do think that we need to start deciding what is NOT in our interest - supporting the UN ($, location, $,$,$), sending $ to Mexico while the govt undermines our laws, etc. These might be easier questions and could probably free up money/personnel for those other hotspots.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Excellent points. We have been the only people keeping the world from blowing itself up and we can't lose track of that. That's why I think:

1. We need to do something about Russia/China to get them to stop causing chaos in bad places like Pakistan.

2. We can't leave Asia because we are truly the one force stopping 3-4 wars from happening tomorrow. Our presence is THE cause for stability. And nothing shows that more than Vietnam of all places offering to host a US base if we agree to patrol the region to stop them all from fighting over some oil rich islands.

3. We need to start building up regional groups that can take care of their own regions without having to rely on us.

4. We need to get tough on our friends and tougher on our enemies to get off their butts and start being good guys.

And I agree too that in many ways, this is about saying what our interests are NOT. The UN is a good example. That's a body that started well, but has become a real joke -- it's a tool for dictators and thugs to use to bully countries they otherwise couldn't even reach. Nothing it's done in decades is good.

AndrewPrice said...

As an aside, I'm going to move this link to here (LINK).

rlaWTX provided it this morning in an earlier thread and I think it's a very good read telling us why the candidates need to stop the bickering.

rlaWTX said...

(thanks - the html stuff is beyond me...)

I think that the next Republican administration really needs to add to the list of priorities dealing with the UN. GWB was trying to get multi-lateral support for the war on terror (regardless of claims to the contrary). He sent Bolton to the UN (stroke of genius!), but didn't take it any further. It can be couched in financial language if necessary (how can we afford the UN support when we are broke) instead of realistic arguments (how can we afford the UN support when they are diametrically opposed to US values) if that makes it easier to swallow. But with all of the scandals, horrors, and general uselessness, the US-UN relationship really needs a "reboot". I don't even necessarily mean pulling out or kicking them out, but why do we support them with such a high proportion of their budget????????? If the despots of the world need somewhere to shake their sabres, fine, but why does the US pay for it? Personally, any candidate (other than Paul) who articulated that would show a good start on foreign policy in my book! I mean, we are sending "military advisers" to wherever because the UN "peacekeepers" are part of the problems around the world!!!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, You're welcome!

On the UN, I honestly think something needs to change. The UN has gone off the rails. Instead of being a place where countries could come to sort out their differences and learn to work together, it's becomes a highly aggressive political organization used by third world poverty-pimps to try to extract money from the rich nations and by tyrants and bigots to band together to attack countries like the US and Israel.

It's also become home to many NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) whose goals are to export socialism and liberalism around the world in the guise of "freedoms" and "___ rights" -- when they really are the exact opposite of what they claim.

In effect, the UN is the last bastion of old-school socialism and fascism and they are working hard to undermine freedoms the world over and to turn rich countries into slaves of poor countries. That needs to stop.

BevfromNYC said...

"Now that Gaddafi is dead, Obama will just need to pick another easy dictator to knock off. Who's running Guam these days?"

Well, there 3 ready to kick the bucket - Chavez (cancer), Castro (old age), and Kim Jong Il (crazy and old). Maybe Obama will get lucky and he won't have to do anything.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I think Guam would be easier -- plus, we already have troops there!

Obama needs somewhere that can't fight back. . . like Delaware.

tryanmax said...

Stupid Delaware. Never did anything right.

BevfromNYC said...

Well, Texas is always talking "See-Cetion". Maybe Obama can convince Perry to secede and then Obama can send in the military to take Perry out...

And yeah, what has Stupid Delaware done for us lately except dupe the rest of the country into taking in Joe Biden. That alone is cause for an overthrow...

patti said...

holy smokes, my ignorance is showing! i had no idea. thanks for the post.

and cain is in this race. i pray he stays in this race.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev and tryanmax, The problem with that is that I don't think Generalismo Obama could beat Texas!

I agree, Delaware duped us. We should get a little revenge if they don't agree to take Biden back! Grrr!!

AndrewPrice said...

Interesting, isn't it Patti?!

I think it's very unlikely that Cain will trip himself up or fall out at this point. I honestly think this is a Romney v. Cain race now.

T-Rav said...

Hmm, sounds like the guy in that link is a Cain or Gingrich supporter.

I have had a very busy day and this will probably be my only post because once I get one last paper finished, I will probably pass out. So I'll just say that as difficult as things may be in Libya from here on, I am still glad Gaddafi's gone. He was a thug who supported terrorists and got what was coming to him.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Get some rest! :)

I'm glad Gaddafi is gone too, but I still don't think there were any US interests at stake that justified our getting involved.

tryanmax said...

This article totally just came in handy on another forum. Thanks for the research you do!

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome! :)

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