Three Strikes Against US Global Presence

April 5, 2010 18:38

Three strikes in the past weeks have hit directly at the core of America’s postwar global posture.

By Michael Auslin –

Decisions by the governments of Japan and Great Britain and the passage of the bankrupting health care bill in the US spell the coming end of America’s overseas basing and ability to project power. Should these trends continue, the US military will lose its European and Asian strategic anchors, hastening America’s eventual withdrawal from its global commitments and leaving the world a far more uncertain and unstable place.

The first strike comes from Asia. For the past six months, the new government of Japan has sought to revise a 2006 agreement to relocate a Marine Corps Air Station from one part of Okinawa to a less populated area.

Though the agreement was reached only after a decade of intense negotiations and with Democratic and Republican Administrations alike, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government has instead suggested numerous alternative sites for the base, most of which were rejected during the previous negotiations and none of which would allow the same type of training and operations necessary for the Marine Corps’ air wing.

Now, American officials are privately wondering whether the ruling Democratic Party of Japan wants to allow the US the same level of access to bases in Japan, without which America would be incapable of providing regional security guarantees and serving as a force for stability in Asia amidst the growth of China’s military capacity and North Korea’s continuing nuclear developments. Indeed, the former head of the Democratic Party of Japan has publicly mused whether the US 7th Fleet is sufficient for alliance purposes, thus raising the specter of the withdrawal of US Marines and Air Force from Japan.

On the other side of the globe, a special House of Commons foreign affairs committee this week has concluded that Great Britain must learn to say no to Washington and exercise more independence, or risk further harm to the UK’s image abroad. Most worrying, the committee recommends a “comprehensive review” of current arrangements for the U.S. use of British military facilities at home and abroad, singling out such strategically crucial bases as Diego Garcia.

Reacting to reports of the CIA’s use of such bases for rendition purposes in the war on terror, the committee is calling on the government to drop the term “special relationship” to describe the US-UK bond and to more realistically recognize the “ever-evolving” nature of the relationship, which observers can safely interpret as putting greater distance between Whitehall and the White House.

The final strike in this geopolitical puzzle comes from Washington, D.C., where both Republican- and Democratic-run governments have blown up America’s budget to unsustainable levels, all but ensuring that US defense budgets will decline in coming years.

The $1 trillion health care take over by the Obama administration is but the latest assault on America’s financial integrity; combined with other multi-trillion dollar fiscal waste, such profligacy is already resulting in defense budget cuts and the cancellation of some of America’s most sophisticated weapons systems, including the F-22 fighter.

As America’s debt-to-GDP ratio reaches 90% in just ten years, now projected by the Congressional Budget Office, economic growth will slow down further and the military budget will all but certainly be further slashed in order to provide entitlements that Americans cannot live without.

The upshot of these three trends will likely be a series of decisions to slowly, but irrevocably reduce America’s overseas global military presence and limit our capacity to uphold peace and intervene around the globe. And, as we hollow out our capabilities, China will be fielding ever more accurate anti-ship ballistic missiles, advanced fighter aircraft, and stealthy submarines; Russia will continue to expand its influence over its “near abroad” while modernizing its nuclear arsenal; and Iran will develop nuclear weapons, leading to an arms race or preemptive attacks in the Middle East.


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