Mike Colera

This conversation is closed.

Keeping US forces in Foreign Countries

The USA is negotiating with Afghanistan to retain military presence in the country for some indefinite period. The USA has retained military forces in Europe since WW2 and in Korea since the Korean War. As I understand the idea behind this policy, if there is a new attack against US allies, the US military will be there for support.
OK, a century ago when wars were fought with massive land armies crossed borders, this might have made sense. But, the new wars of today are fought by computer or small groups of fanatics. A huge land army of tanks and artillery have little effect in these battles.
But, this is not about military strategy, because I don't fully understand it, doesn't make it wrong. The problem I have is the enormous expense of sustaining these forces in foriegn countries. I have heard that the cost of these forces could amount to $100 billion a year. I have to think that the amount could be close.
So, the questions beg....
Is the American Taxpayer getting a bang out of their buck to support overseas forces?
And...
What about the people in countries where they are located? There are reports about local discomfort in Okinawa Japan for example...
Or... am I becoming an isolationist?

Closing Statement from Mike Colera

There seems to be two almost opposite points of view. On one hand the benefits to countries having US forces present to engage in or deter hostile actions is well noted. Removal of US forces would cause great hardships.
On the other side, the hardships noted would be real, but the American taxpayer is supporting these foriegn based
forces in the maybe hundreds of billions of dollars. Funds that would be better used within the US.
I believe the answer is somewhere in the middle. Each situation needs to be addressed. However, some of these foreign stations in peaceful countries almost sound like vacation tours.

  • Dec 1 2013: Until we get our constitution, bill of rights, congress, justice system, supreme court and whitehouse back what ever else we do is of little consequence.
    Until the people who do damage are held resposible for fixing it, we have about the same chance of survival as a snowflake in Hell.
    Every organization in America operates under the same principle which is "I can break anything and someone else will pay for it", even a kid in kindergarten will tell you that is not fair.
  • Nov 30 2013: There's a case to be made here, distinguishing US forces that actually do something (Afghanistan, for instance), to ones just sitting there, participating in the occasional joint exercise and mostly twiddling their thumbs (say, in Germany).

    Maintaining a military presence in a stable, friendly country seems like a waste of good money--best to abolish the practice entirely, or at least reduce forces to skeleton crew levels (if it hadn't been done already during the US involvement in Afghanistan). Keeping forces in trouble spots on the other hand, can serve the US strategic interest well, assuming its handled intelligently.
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    Nov 29 2013: If I'm not mistaken, US drones on missions in Pakistan are based in Afghanistan. This could be one of many reasons why the military would want to maintain a presence there, and lobby for more money to do so. From a higher, more orderly perspective, we might discuss the country's budget, overall ambitions, and public opinion, but from the perspective of a military complex, it's in their best interest to receive as much money as possible to carry out their plans.

    Also to throw this in perspective, during the 80's the US armed and funded insurgents against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, which were fighting the insurgency on behalf of the Afghani government. The Najibullah regime in Afghanistan fell in 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, leaving a power vacuum. This allowed the Taliban to eventually take control in 1996. It's hard to imagine that the US lost interest in the region during that time.

    Currently, the government in Afghanistan is dependent on US aid, and Afghani forces are supposedly less than competent. Though this is a common theme in global affairs, when powerful nation states establish governments that could've never been established on their own.

    Removal of US forces and US aid in many parts of the world could be catastrophic. Though I'm certainly not against it.
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      Nov 30 2013: It could be catastrophic, or without the US to play policeman, other countries will play nice? One could only hope. However, I am not proposing complete isolation.... We can have quick response forces on standby that could be stationed in the US... We have bases in foriegn countries complete with family housing, schools and childcare services, stores, movie theaters... all noble support activities for our soldiers but are those expenses a good return on investment. Is it cost effective to create small town USA in Germany or Japan or Korea or or or....
      I have to believe we can spend tax dollars better.
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        Nov 30 2013: I totally agree. Our foreign policy is insane and out of control.
  • Nov 29 2013: Mike,
    You ask a question I have asked myself many times. Why do we have massive concentration of troops in Europe and Asia? I think you are low at the 100 billion dollars, logistic support needs to be included in the cost also. I guess the question is can trade take the place of military force? I do not know.
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    Nov 28 2013: Well, as far as I see the future of Afghanistan, let me share that the presence of US forces is necessary in Afghanistan after 2014 since Afghan army isn't fully developed and equipped with modern weapons, jets, etc. If foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, soon you will see civil clashes in Afghanistan and taliban dethroning the government at that time. Therefore, I recommend stay of USA in Afghanistan after its withdrawal deadline
  • Nov 26 2013: Groin but I see why we do this.
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    Nov 26 2013: Isolationist? Seen as opposed to what, modern colonialism? ;o)

    It may help to dig for true reasons of military presence in foreign countries, which only brings plain self-interest of a nation which has it.

    Maybe Friendship? Hmm, I once thought so, yet got real by now.
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      Nov 26 2013: OK, but how does that work. The US has an army contingent in Germany. I am sure there are joint military exercises, and other activities of a military nature. Supposedly, the US forces are part of a NATO force that has been established for the defense of Europe.
      There has to be some significant cost involved... so how does this serve the self interest of the US?
      The most I could see is some self aggrandizement of a War victory. I am sure that if Europe was attacked by some large land army, the US would come to their defense, But why do we need to be physically there?
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    Nov 25 2013: Mike, I am not the best to ask ... retired military, etc ... However I see your point. As a soldier we go to where we are told.

    Those are decisions that are made at high levels and are political not military. I have to admit that our political and diplomatic decisions are suspect if not down right stupid. We just made the worst deal ever with Iran at the cost of losing valuable friends and gained absolutely nothing from a country who has stated it wants to eliminate Israel from the Earth, hates the US, and declared war with all non-believers. All of the long poles are still in place for Iran and the US has conceded everything. No wonder we are 17 trillion in debit and laughed at worldwide. It does not help that we have been publicly spanked on the world diplomatic stage repeatedly.. Benghazi, Syria, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, NSA, etc ... which would not be so bad if we learned from any of this ... we did not.

    We have NO foreign policy and NO diplomatic abilities .... the feeling against the military in those places are against the US leadership not the military.

    The cost of maintaining the military overseas is a drop in the bucket to all of the money spent to please those in office through bribes, donations, and aide to those government leaders.

    In order for all this to occur it must be to the benefit of both parties as governments have interests ... they gain and accept our presence for big money and we get the right to send big political donors over to rape and loot the countries resources ... thus being able to donate more to the next election.

    Every so often a group of political cartoons from around the world hits the web .... they are very accurate and shows the opinion toward the US. We have fallen a long way financially, economically, politically, and diplomatically in the last few years.

    The military are just a means of venting their disgust at our policies. One is much more costly than the other.

    See ya. Bob.
  • Nov 25 2013: It's a moot argument in places like Afghanistan, but I don't really see the point in places that have so far proven that will remain peaceful in the long run. It actually causes a lot of negative effects even in countries that are not affected. Take, for example, anti-Americanism. In Argentina it has gone up and up all thanks to the USA's interventions and continued military presence all over the globe.

    People tend to associate the USA's foreign policy with their people, so I've had quite a hard time convincing friends and acquaintances that not all Americans are pro-war capitalists that feel entitled to get into whatever country they like. It's a really sad reality.

    So my answer is... I would really like to see more isolationism. Don't get me wrong, the US has done some good in countries like Haiti, but the military is intimidating (let alone the continued support of the population for it, that just scares most of us foreigners). It would also help the US in its struggle to get out of the debt and would stop the bad reputation that Americans are getting in other parts of the world as a result. Continued military presence in peaceful, sovereign countries can hurt, both the country's budget and image.
  • Nov 25 2013: Being a global superpower means having a military presence around the world. Influence requires presence--economic and social influence will only get you so far.
    Its tremendously expensive in the short term, but the power and influence can see you a profit in the long run.

    In short, pulling away can help the US economy short term, but it also means reduced global status that translates into other powers like China and Russia growing their sphere of influence to fill the niche. There are advantages to controlling how the world is run; its not something you want to hand away, even partially.
    Isolationism is honestly not a terribly smart policy in today's inter-connected global world.