HONOLULU — As a tsunami of anti-Americanism circles the globe from Seoul to Jakarta and on to Paris and Berlin, a focal point of protest is the visible presence of U.S. military forces.
An American backlash against that vehemence has begun. The Bush administration is reviewing the deployment of U.S. forces abroad and more than one newspaper columnist, evidently reflecting the neoisolationist streak in America, has declared that the United States should not be where it is not wanted.
U.S. Secretary of the Army Thomas White recently said the Pentagon was seeking to determine what would be “the most appropriate posture” that would “better fit the situation as it currently exists.”
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said: “Eleven years after the end of the Cold War, there is a school of thought to rethink the numbers and types of forces we have in different locations.” He continued: “We are seeking a posture that is U.S. presence suitable to each region.”
Influential New York Times columnist William Safire wrote recently: “Because the U.S. is not an imperialist power, it does not belong where a democratic nation decides America is unwanted.”
In the post-Cold War world, an American looking out at the world would see five nations of greatest importance to U.S. security: Canada and Mexico on the northern and southern borders, Britain across the Atlantic, and Japan and Australia in the western reaches of the Pacific. In addition, the U.S. has a strong commitment to the security of Israel.
Here are suggestions for future U.S. deployments from South Korea to Saudi Arabia once the current disputes with Iraq and North Korea have been settled by diplomacy or military force. The U.S. cannot back away from those confrontations without losing the confidence of allies or credibility with adversaries.
The U.S. should begin by getting reaffirmations of treaties with South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Australia.
South Korea, site of vociferous anti-Americanism, should be asked whether it wants to keep its security treaty or abrogate it. South Korea’s new president, Roh Moo Hyun, has called for a “rebalance” in relations with the U.S.
Whatever South Korea decides, the U.S. Second Infantry Division there should be relocated to the U.S. where it would be available, as it is not now, for duty anywhere. The U.S. Eighth Army headquarters in Seoul should be dissolved and absorbed into the U.S. Army Pacific Command in Hawaii. A small contingent could be left behind as a symbolic United Nations Command.
Osan Air Base should be closed and warplanes transferred to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, where anti-American demonstrations are mostly directed against U.S. Marine ground forces. Those troops could be relocated to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific, or to the northern coast of Australia where they would be within easy reach of Southeast Asia.
Australia has been a close ally since World War II, and became reliant on the U.S. after Britain’s decision in 1968 to withdraw most of its military forces from east of Suez. Australians, official and otherwise, are quick to point out that dependence on the U.S. does not make Canberra follow Washington blindly. There is also a fair amount of anti-Americanism in their nation. Nonetheless, the Australians and the U.S. have begun exploratory discussions about basing U.S. Marines there.
The U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, whose home port is Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, could stay there, as only Japanese leftists appear to be unhappy with the alliance with America.
Thailand, which has no U.S. military bases, maintains what appear to be balanced security relations with the U.S. The Cobra Gold joint ground maneuvers for a month each year arouse little anti-Americanism. Singapore is host to a small naval support base that draws little objection. Thailand and Singapore may be models for other U.S. deployments in Asia.
In contrast, the Philippines threw out its U.S. bases more than a decade ago and has since been reluctant to have U.S. forces return even to fight terrorists.
In the Persian Gulf, the U.S. should withdraw after dealing with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The U.S. gets only 4.6 percent of its oil from Iraq and could import more from Latin America or Africa. Europeans should devise ways to protect their oil suppliers around the Persian Gulf.
The same should apply to Saudi Arabia, which is a more difficult issue because it is the second largest supplier of oil to the U.S., after Canada. Even so, Saudi Arabia has a dictatorial, corrupt government and the U.S. should withdraw from that nation since it is the source of explosive anti-Americanism.
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