Skip to comments.Military Bases in Germany
Posted on 06/14/2004 6:34:32 AM PDT by OESY
The Pentagon is proposing sharp cuts in U.S. forces in Germany, which for more than half a century has been America's biggest military outpost in Europe. It's a bad idea, particularly at a time when the United States is struggling to rebuild its relations with its NATO allies.
Washington is hoping to cut its military presence in Germany a little more than 70,000 soldiers roughly in half. Two heavy divisions now based there, and the soldiers' families, would return to the United States. They would be replaced by a much smaller light combat brigade, while other units would be rotated in and out, at considerable cost, for short-term exercises. The Air Force is also thinking of moving some of its F-16 fighter jets from Germany to Turkey, where they would be closer to Middle East trouble spots but subject to restrictions by the host government.
The large American military presence in Germany has long symbolized the understanding at the heart of NATO Washington's commitment to remain permanently engaged in Europe's security and to integrate its military operations with those of its major European allies. Recent history has only reinforced how important that relationship is to the United States. NATO is the only alliance capable of sharing some of the global military burdens that have now overstretched America's ground forces.
Many Germans, remembering Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's scornful "old Europe" put-downs of their country last year, will see these withdrawals, and the accompanying German job losses, as payback for Berlin's diplomatic opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Washington denies that. But the Pentagon does seem to have a growing preference for stationing troops either at home or on the territories of allies ready to embrace President Bush's notions of unilateral preventive war.
Despite its criticisms of the Iraq war, Germany imposed no restrictions on the use of American bases during that conflict. It continues to deploy thousands of German soldiers to protect those bases, freeing American troops for other uses. Berlin also contributes $1 billion a year to the bases' support. Economically, the plan to bring the soldiers home is a loser.
The German bases have other advantages as well. They are much closer to the Middle East and Central Asia than bases in the United States and are in a safe country with a stable democracy and the modern conveniences that make life easier for troops on long tours overseas. Soldiers stationed there have access to a variety of training exercises and can enjoy down time with their families. The American military hospital at Ramstein Air Base, the largest outside the United States, provides specialized care for battlefield casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan as it did for those from Bosnia, Kosovo and the U.S.S. Cole.
There is nothing sacrosanct about maintaining particular Army divisions in Germany. The role of American military forces there has evolved considerably over the decades from occupying a defeated enemy to deterring Warsaw Pact aggression to symbolizing Washington's post-cold-war commitment to remain militarily engaged in Europe. Along the way, the size of the American presence has evolved as well. In the nearly 15 years since the Berlin Wall fell, United States force levels in Germany have dropped by roughly 75 percent. Further reductions should not be ruled out. But the Pentagon's current plans are unduly drastic, unfortunately timed and suspiciously motivated.
Although there are meritorious strategic reasons for repositioning troops closer to areas of potential conflict, in my judgment as one who served three years with the US Army in Germany, such moves will have depressant effect on the morale of military families, absent soldier-family separation as a consequence of deployment. A similarity of cultures and values as well as the availability of English make Germany more hospitable than locations further east. (See Letter below, which encapsulates several of my experiences).
Moreover, if you thought the media demonized conservatives, it is not unlike the coverage Germany gets. However, conflicting images of what the press writes versus one's in-country knowledge creates a cognitive dissonance that is just as real. The stationing of troops in Germany is an effective antidote to unfair media treatment. That is, it is my observation that the antiwar sentiment and desire for friendship with France is grounded more in WWII devastation and postwar pacification/education programs than in anti-American bias. And it looks like, based on recent EU elections, their voters have lost confidence in Chancellor Schroeder, the Howard Dean of German politics.
* * *
To the Editor, New York Times, June 13, 2004:
Visiting Germany in 1963, my friends and I were eating at a restaurant in Munich when a group of Germans approached to ask if we were Americans. When we acknowledged that we were, they insisted on paying for our dinners because, they said, they had been German war prisoners in American custody and, unlike the Soviet captors, the American soldiers had treated them so well that they wanted to express their gratitude in this gesture.
It was a moving moment; the men and their wives stood around four young Americans, all weeping. And at that moment, we were proud to be American.
BARBARA A. CLEARY Dayton, Ohio, June 10, 2004
Wrong, NY Slimes. We protected that nation for 50+ years from invasion by a Soviet SuperPower. We spent billions to keep her West free. Let them pay their own bills for a while.
We at least have a right to consider cutting out on these ungrateful jackasses. Maybe some of the newly freed Eastern European nations want some cooperative alliances with America.
Leave it to the Slimes in New York to all of a sudden become concerned abou the military. Hypocrites.
Having also spent a great deal of time in Germany, I find the Germans to be an often-unpleasant mix of rabid, wild-eyed socialist/environmentalists (with the emphasis on "mental"), and unrepentant Nazi sympathisers of the "well at least the streets were clean and the trains ran on time" variety.
If we can't spend our money on people who share our values, let's at least spend it where it'll do some good.
"It's a bad idea, particularly at a time when the United States is struggling to rebuild its relations with its NATO allies."
Aren't the proposed new host nations for American military installations in Eastern Europe also members of NATO?
It isn't even that I disagree with the Slimes position on most things, it has become that they are so bad at promoting their agenda - they could at least leave out the obviously erroneous or illogical.
I do think we need more welfare reform in Europe. There are places in this world that are in far greater need of our military services. Europe must find ways to shoulder the cost of their own defense. Like spoiled teenagers, they bite the hand that feeds them and resent their own lack of independence. I think that "old Europe" remembers the cost of appeasement. I think it is a lesson that adolescent Europe needs to learn anew.
But the Pentagon does seem to have a growing preference for stationing troops either at home or on the territories of allies ready to embrace President Bush's notions of unilateral preventive war.
If allies are embracing it, then how can it be unilateral?
Hummm, pretty smart play to have troops there in the middle of this viper's nest.
And exactly how many troops have the Germans committed to NATO operations outside the borders of NATO? As far as I can tell, the Polish contribute far more, and so it would appear to be more important to keep better relations with them than with the Germans.
That's a long time ago. Unfortunately, Germany has changed quite a bit since that those days.
The plan, to move all families, and half
of US Army forces, out of Germany, is a start.
You have to start somewhere.
Extraordinary how they manage to paint this as "more costly". We will be closing extremely expensive bases in Germany and units will now be stationed for shorter periods of time in cheaper locations like Eastern Europe where there will be no need for costly family support systems.
This plan has been in the works for quite some time actually. In fact it was already being talked about in the mid-90's when we acquired so much Eastern European real estate (in the Clinton days).
Mark for later reading...
I share some of your perspective on Germany, but our military, despite what the Slimes thinks, is not an organization to use for social causes (furthering the feminist and gay agendas) nor a way of paying tribute to socialists. Our military is to fight and win our nations wars, not to appease our so called "allies"
When the Soviet Union on the other side of the Iron Curtain was the threat, it was appropraite (in our interest) to have bases in West Germany. That is no longer the threat, and there is no reason to have heavy forces based there. End of discussion. I don't even see the need to rotate troops through for exercises, at least not in Germany, maybe further east. (BTW, Clinton's 12 months in Bosnia are long since over, we need to leave the Balkans as well.) America's military is for American security. That is not being advanced by having 20% of our Army divisions in Germany.
This article mixes half-truths, untruths, a mushy sentimentality and a stark refusal to face reality. In other words, the Times is living up to current expectations.
The Pentagon has said repeatedly that Ramstein is NOT going to be closed! Nobody with any knowledge of European deployments expects that it would be closed in the foreseeable future.
The military capabilities of NATO outside of the USA and Britain are suspect anyway. We really don't need their help, although it would be useful. If the Germans and French continue to think they can veto our national security needs and global responsibilities to stroke the egos of their leaders, though, they aren't worth the trouble.
The Times admits that moving two divisions is not a big deal. So what's their real beef? They don't like Dubya or Rummy, so they publish this piece of garbage.
I do business in Germany and France and there are many Germans and Frenchmen who appreciate D-Day and the Marshall Plan. Unfortunately, they are in the minority and many of them are passing on. The governments of these countries have far greater control over the media than in Britain or the USA, so naturally their populations are inundated with anti-American crap.
Rummy is right. Old Europe just isn't that important anymore. Ramstein is a perfect logistical base, but we don't need active troops in Germany.
If we can have base closures here at home, we can damned sure close them overseas. Due to the socialist politics of the lefty, california, congressional delegation many military bases were closed here that were relied upon by retired military families. I say close all of the bases overseas, except for the most strategic of them.
Hehe.. This move could be sweet revenge on France as well.
There is nothing left to protect in Europe. Our bases were there as a strictly defensive measure. Same reason we are stationed in South Korea.
Why there are families there in the first place is beyond me. These areas are combat areas and should have always been treated as such. Having families there only put people in harms way.
Now that the Soviet Union collapsed and Communism is no longer a threat, moving these units to a more forward position for easier access to hot spots makes much more sense.
It seems that the only people complaining are the ones who put us there in the first place.
But in my rather extensive travels as a financial controller for TWA locations overseas, I found that if you are friendly, the people you meet are friendly. If you exhibit an "often-unpleasant mix of rabid, wild-eyed socialist/environmentalists (with the emphasis on "mental"), and unrepentant Nazi sympathisers," they will reciprocate in kind. You spew hate, they find you hateful. Isn't it interesting how attitudes reflect?