Sunday, June 01, 2003

The Cold War: R.I.P.

The United States is redeploying its forces from their Cold War bases to new locations based on an appreciation of current strategic realities. Esther Schrader of the Los Angeles Times reports:

The Pentagon is planning a broad realignment of troops in Asia that may include moving Marines out of Japan and establishing a network of small bases in countries such as Australia, Singapore and Malaysia where the United States has never had a permanent military presence, senior administration officials say.

The moves in Asia, designed to include the transfer of troops away from the demilitarized zone in South Korea, represent the third phase of a sweeping plan by the Pentagon to reposition U.S. forces around the world to be closer to areas it considers unstable while cutting the U.S. presence in Cold War-era strongholds like Germany.

... some of the moves being considered for Asia were described by other defense officials. The United States is considering moving most of the 20,000 Marines on Okinawa to new bases that would be established in Australia; increasing the presence of U.S. troops in Singapore and Malaysia; and seeking agreements to base Navy ships in Vietnamese waters and ground troops in the Philippines.

In three years the Bush administration has altered the strategic posture of the United States almost beyond recognition. It has ended the regime of Mutual Assured Destruction with Russia by negotiating a treaty which reduces their respective nuclear arsenals by 75%. Why? In order to face new threats from "rogue" nations who will soon possess ballistic missiles, against which a space defense shield is being erected. Both these initiatives were undertaken before the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The War on Terror called into existence the doctrine of pre-emptive action against terrorist threats. To support this intent, America is moving its forces out of central Europe and into Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It has gone from a leased foothold in the British-owned island of Diego Garcia to practical ownership of a major Arab country -- Iraq. Keenly aware that the armistice deployments on the Korean peninsula make no military sense, with elements of the US 2nd Infantry practically quartered under the muzzles of thousands of Nokor artillery tubes in the DMZ, the US is now preparing to move its forces back, which ironically, is an offensive maneuver. Forces in land-scarce Japan are being redeployed to Australia, where a training space is virtually unlimited. In-and-out bases are being prepared in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The new American warfighting paradigm has rejected the traditional overseas base, with its vast array of dependent's housing and near permanent presence, into something akin to Camp Doha in Kuwait: a jumping off point where equipment can be forward-positioned and troops mustered. The in-and-out bases in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines will be of this type: basically warehouses with American guards. Large scale presence will be shifted to Australia, where American troops will live in a society very similar to their own, with little potential for cultural friction with the local community. It will, in a sense, not be an overseas deployment, so much as to a home country.

These deployments are an obvious encirclement of the remaining bastions of Islamism. Syria is surrounded on every side, as is Iran. Sumatra will be posted to the north by US facilities in Singapore and Malaysa. Kalimantan will be observed by US forces in Vietnam, just to the east, and to the west by those in the Philippines. And directly to the south of Java is the vast bulk of Australia.

Just as the United States garrisoned Turkey, Japan, Korea and Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, so it is changing its positions on a similar global scale to reflect the reality of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and September 11. The world of Bretton Woods, the world in which the UN charter was born, is over. It has taken its place beside Waterloo and the Congress of Vienna. For good or ill, Bill Clinton will be remembered as this era's Warren G. Harding and George W. Bush as it's Harry Truman.