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.
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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?
"they could at least leave out the obviously erroneous or illogical."
What would that leave them?
As a young boy, on Saturday mornings toward the end of WW-II, I would go to a Virginia naval base with my dad and spend the day roaming the base -- pistol range, exhibition baseball, chow hall, officers club, etc. -- and I was able to interface with German POWs a few times (as they worked under guard trimming roses). It was a good experience for me and them, and I can vouch that those I met were treated well.
Whne the war was over, German POWs were repatriated, but many of them quickly returned to settle in the United States.
One such German couple opened a carry-out hamburger place in my home town and the place was packed every day -- hard work, good quality, good service, and good prices.
Later in life, I told those stories to a young German national, born around 1965, and she told me that she'd been taught in Germany that WW-II German POWs were mistreated in America.
Personal stories like yours and mine are what put the lie to propaganda. Thank you.
NYT again confirms Rumsfeld is doing the right thing
YEAH! There is NOTHING worth protecting in Eurotard land. It is just a sinkhole of wasted funds. Indeed, NATO is an obsolete organization that has LONG been surpassed. Let the Eurotrash police themselves.
I worked in Germany.
I worked for two different German companies for over 10 years.
I traveled extensively throughout Europe. Virtually all of my experience, including quite a few in the "Iron Curtain" countries, were great; except for anything and anyone from France!
People are people on a one to one basis but they are also the product of the propaganda they are fed.
You spew hate, they find you hateful
I assume that was directed to someone else?
. . . and the problem with this would be ?
NATO, being an obstacle to Communist expansion, is an organization that communists want to destroy.
Given that, and given Clinton's misuse of NATO forces, I'd say that putting an end to NATO might be a staged event.
A 100 billion dollar subsidy of NATO isn't "friendly" ? Why are we subsidizing a rich country so heavily? Especially since it makes more sense to be deployed differently, from a strategic point of view...
I guess you don't put much weight on the fact that our heavy subsidy allows Germany to prop up their welfare state at the expense of their own self defense, while at the same time they resent our assertiveness and presence.. but they dont want us to go! To compare them to adolescents is apt.
Youre going to have to come up with a better reason than ...But this will counter their bad media!
Basically, none at all. It could be that the move is linked to German opposition to the Iraqi operation, but even if it was, these are American troops whose deployment in decided in Washington and nowhere else.
Our troops are not there for the convenience of the Germans but for ours.
Some facts the NYT leaves out: The Clinton administration, just like Truman and Carter before them, gutted our military leaving us with far fewer forces to face just as great dangers. Therefore, we must make more judicious use of what we have.
The French, though part of NATO, provide no military assistance to NATO, troops or otherwise. They only obstruct. Let them replace our troops with theirs.
No matter what we do, other than capitulate, the NYT will criticize us.
On France and Chirac (and Schroeder), I've been tough. I came close to punching in the nose a currency exchange clerk who was abusing my father in Paris when my parents came to visit while I was stationed in Europe. In fact, on a vacation two years ago, when people asked, Why France?, I responded I was a masochist.
In my opinion, I couldn't have been more wrong. For two full weeks, my wife and I were treated royally. Many credit Jean Tiberi, the former mayor of Paris, with changing popular attitudes that helped his country's tourist industry. There is a lesson here for all of us. I also came to realize that boycotts hurt primarily those with the good working relationships with Americans; that is, those most friendly.
Meanwhile, the fact that Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia financed the First Gulf War with contributions of $7 billion each, allowing us to claim we made a profit on the war, gets scant mention in the press. Military and economic contributions in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere are almost never mentioned. Perhaps, they too have learned lessons.
How many Poles are engaged in NATO operations?
Right now, several thousand German soldiers are in Afghanistan (NATO-led ISAF) and Bosnia as well as Kosovo.
By the way, Atlantic Friend (who must stand this heavy French-bashing here *sigh*), is right when he says that our constitution forbids attacks on other countries. Our constitutional court has decided in 1994 that we may engage in humanitarian missions outside NATO area and in 1999 that we may participate in a war if accepted by NATO or the UN.
I was about to say that Germany paid over 30% of NATO budget, and was the single largest contributor in terms of money (and maybe also in terms of troops, since every German unit is NATO-slated IIRC) but I don't know if this figure is still accurate.
Poles are everywhere.
There is no need for a US Corps in Germany anymore, but boots on the ground give us a say in what goes on in Europe that we would not otherwise have.
I would like to see the 2nd Infantrycentric Stryker Brigade Combat Team (
the artist formerly known as Prince the unit formerly known as 2nd ACR) move into Graf. From there they can rail to Black Sea SPOE's or road march to Luftwaffe bases in Bavaria for air transport. They would be a Central European Task Force, much like the 173rd is the Southern European Task Force.
These things were in the works LONG before the Iraq war. It's time the europeans developed their own militaries, and it's time we stopped exposing our people to the virulant Anti-Americanism rampant in Germany.
Do you´ve numbers?
Thanks, I appreciate your words, and it´s no different from what I have heard from others on this subject. I promise to invite a group of you to a beer or two when I get the chance to meet some GI´s in autumn.
Without noting the source, I got as far as the second sentence before my conservative antennae signaled "leftist hit piece."
Why was I not surprised to find it was a NYT Editorial.
Allied are countries that stand by you even when it's not in their obvious & immediate interest. They do so to preserve and enhance the long-term relationship. Germany and France have failed the test. They are no longer allies.
We need to reward our allies and penalize those who oppose us. Other countries will understand that and think twice about comparing us to Hitler or abusing an undeserved seat on the UNSC to thwart us.
Germany needs an Ambassador that speaks only english and french, not troops especially armored troops.
We should reward Poland and the other new EU states along with other countries brave enough to stand up to the Islamofascists...
If the NYT is for something, i am immediately suspicious -- if i used to hold the same views they espouse, i'll quickly re-examine my views -- i must have missed something if i end up on the same side as the Slimes...
7,750 men and women mostly in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, but also in Georgia, at the Somali coast line, Ethiopia, Eritrea.
Good job, I´ve met Polish paratroopers two years ago, they were kind and well trained.
Not election related, but interesting.
At least you had only good things to say about them.
Some of my comments from my nearly 6 years there aren't quite as nice.
But the closer to the border you got, the nicer they were to us GI's.
NATO was created to "Keep the Russians out and the Germans down". Hence the continued occupation of Germany and the lack of a peace treaty 60 years after the end of WWII. The Bundesrepublik government is an instrument of the four occupying powers, not the actual German government in the sense of a constitutional authority with powers from the nation.
Where were you when you were in Germany?
I was at Merrill Barracks, Nuernberg, and Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart.