President Bush chose the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati Monday as the optimal moment to roll out his plan to reconfigure U.S. troops overseas, and Secretary of State Colin Powell later fleshed out the strategy behind it. It acknowledges some U.S. bases, positioned to fight the Cold War, no longer match the realities of today's threats from terrorist insurgencies and rogue states.
We need "a more agile and more flexible force" to rapidly deploy around the world, and that's what Bush promised 15,000 VFW members. He pledged over the next 10 years to bring 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed troops home, along with about 100,000 family members and civilian employees from Europe and Asia. The idea is that troops can still be swiftly dispatched from the U.S. mainland, but the plan does not call for immediate reductions in troop strength in Afghanistan and Iraq, or shifts in troops to those countries.
Secretary Powell later explained to the Enquirer editorial board that he expected it to take six to seven years to carry out the plan. He said when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he brought home about 200,000 troops from Europe, and that U.S. security officials have been studying this new redeployment for years. It will be combined with base reductions already in the works. Powell and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld have been briefing U.S. allies including Germany and South Korea for about a year." They understand what we're doing," Powell said.
Bush told VFW members in Cincinnati that his plan "will strengthen our alliances around the world, while we build new partnerships to better preserve the peace."
Powell admits relations with France, Germany and Russia were strained during the Iraq war, but since the handover of power to a caretaker government, America's long-time allies have supported every U.N. resolution on Iraq - although not with the offer of any troops. He insists that just as with Iraq, U.S. leaders have "once again gone to the international community" over the nuclear threat posed by Iran and North Korea. They are using multinational coalitions, diplomacy and negotiation. The evidence against Iran is irrefutable, Powell says. "Does that mean our armies are on the march? No."
Bush officials have brought North Korea's neighbors Japan, China and Russia into the six-party negotiations, but the message remains firm: We can't help you until you completely eliminate nuclear weapons programs.
The threat of U.S. force remains part of the mix, which Secretary Powell views as not bad as an aid to bring blustery North Korea to the table.
The plan to reposition U.S. forces from Europe and Asia unfortunately does not signal a stable peace yet in Iraq, but Powell said, "Three million Afghanis left refugee camps in Pakistan to walk back home. That's quite vote of confidence."
The U.S. needs a more mobile force to defend against new threats, and if more of those troops can be based at home, all the better.
EDITORIAL PAGE HEADLINES
Shifting of troops makes sense
Serve veterans who have served us
Anti-Muslim bias has no place in America
Liberal, conservative are not epithets
Letters to the editor