Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mass confusion: Do we stay or do we go?

Are we staying or are we going? In a statement Thursday, President Bush pooh-poohed comments by the Pentagon that we would begin pulling troops out of Iraq in the spring as “speculation.” Damn, the generals say one thing and the “Commander In Chief” contradicts them. Is anybody in charge? Does anybody know what the hell is going on? Plainly, there are generals who think that we have overstayed our welcome just as there are those who foresee an indefinite occupation. Certainly, the Iraqis themselves would like us to leave ASAP and have said as much. As reported in this journal some time ago, the Peerez promised that when the Iraqis asked us, we would politely leave.

Whatever you think about our plans for withdrawal, and whatever way that happens, I think it might serve us well to recall two prior occupations, those of Japan and Germany. In both cases, we maintained a military presence that lasted several decades. In fact, we still maintain bases in Germany, including Ramstein, which houses the hospitals that are presently treated those wounded in the Mid East prior to their being shipped Stateside. Admittedly, in the case of Germany, these bases are ostensively there as part of our NATO commitment, but bear in mind that we still haven't technically ended WW II. Their surrender in 1945 was only the end of the shooting, not the end of the state of war. The latter is a legal term defining our right to occupy their defeated country after hostilities ceased. During our extended occupation, we instituted the Marshall Plan and rescued beleaguered Berlin with the Berlin Airlift, both famously generous acts on the part of an occupying military power. Germany re-civilized itself and America can be proud of the generosity of spirit of which Germany is an example. However, our troops are still there and it has been 60 years since the end of hostilities.

In the case of Japan, while there was no Marshall Plan, per se, General Douglas MacArthur, as military commander of that defeated nation, wrote and imposed a constitution on Japan and we maintain a military presence in the islands until the present day. Negotations between the US and Japan for the departure of American troops were opened in 2004 (!), but as of this writing, US troops are still on Japanese soil.

The surrender of Japan to the United States did not end the war, because Japan and the Soviet Union never signed a peace agreement. In the last days of the armed conflict, the Soviet Union occupied the Southern Kurile Islands, an area previously held by Japan and claimed by the Soviets. Multiple efforts to bring to a peace agreement, and officially end the War, have failed since 1945. Therefore, World War II has technically never ended.

Now, the neocons want us to keep our fat asses planted in the Middle East indefinitely, which basically means forever, as a hedge against the Chinese while leaning on Iran, not to mention India. This strategic thinking is outlined in the National Security Strategy, which reflects the present thinking of the NSC. Basically a rehash of the Project For The New American Century’s (sic) white paper mentioned below, this policy calls for a hegemonic establishment of permanent bases all around the globe, and the continuing occupation of Iraq, forever.

Now for the punch line: there are a number of prominent Democrats who have bought into this Neocon plan to dominate the world, including Senators Biden, Clinton and Joe Leiberman, just to name a few. Their statements concerning commitment to a continuing occupation can be found here, here, and here It has been suggested that this position is a reflection of their concerns that they not be perceived as “soft on defense” in their personal runups to a Presidential bid. Personally, I think it takes a bigger person to reject the Neocon philosophy of American military domination of the planet and screw perceptions of “softness.” (In a side note, I wouldn’t vote for any of these people if they were the only people running, as I have no respect for any of them). The “war on terror,” despite the misnomer, is a gigantic Tar Baby, and is in no way related to national defense. It is a police matter, and needs to be handled as such, just as the British are doing at this moment.

Howard Dean is committed to the proposition that we withdraw from Iraq now. What’s yours?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

US Military Bases Are All Over the Place

Bases worldwide (Photo: Department of Defense)

The US is getting kicked out of Uzbekistan, the ignominy! Here we are, rendering all the suspected terrorists to them that they can boil, and President Kazimov tells us to take a hike. What a nerve. Well, I guess he didn't like our State Department criticizing their anti-government demonstration enforcement techniques, like we are so high and mighty and all so tender in our appreciation of prisoners' rights. So we're going to be closing down the air base that we built at the cost of who-knows-how-many greenbacks and breaking another link in the chain of military bases that we have built encircling the former Soviet Union, guarding against the once mighty Commie threat.
In all seriousness, it did make some sense for a while to have a base in Uzbekistan, making it mighty handy for zipping Delta Force personnel over the Hindu Kush and airdropping them into Afghanistan, not to mention keeping the War on Drugs humming along. But that venue is going. If you're thinking that that's a good thing, helping to cut down on the costs of keeping the War on Terrir going, think again.
We are building, have built, and are building more bases likiddysplit all over. As one base closes down, another is added elsewhere. The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that we're in the process of establishing another fortress about three miles from the Syrian border in Iraq and it looks to be permanent, or at least, "long-term." Halliburton and its subsidiaries couldn't be happier.
For some time now, despite what you might have heard or read about base closings, the US has been building new or refurbishing older military bases around the world. At present, there are some 702 (!) overseas outposts of our military all around the globe, ranging from tiny ten-man posts like a radar facility in the Netherlands to the mighty Ramstein airbase in Germany.
Down in the Southern Hemisphere, stranded in the middle of nowhere, US forces occupy the leased British territory of the Diego Garcia islands, where we maintain a huge naval and air base, employing some 3,000 enlisted folk and civilians (the specific number is a military secret). Stealth bombers and stealthier submarines are launched from this tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, over a thousand miles from the nearest land. We have two-man missile silos in Iowa and Missouri cornfields, fifty thousand troops are still stationed in South Korea, waiting patiently in the near-Artic cold for the massed hordes of Chicoms to come bursting through the Demilitarized Zone; in a frigid cove in Scotland sits a lone submarine tender, fast attack and missile submarines huddled in its shadow. American soldiers and marines sunbathe on the beaches of Guam while others freeze their asses off in Greenland.
The names of these foreign parts read like a travel junkie's wildest dream of an itinerary: Guam, Dunoon, Pearl, Rawah, Rota, Naples, Guantanamo, Andros Island, Fujairah, United Arab Emirates; Jebel Ali, UAE; Hurghada, Egypt; Port Liaison Element, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Patrol Squadron VP, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Logistics Support Station Doha; Qatar Navy Regional Contracting Center (NRCC), Dubai, UAE. And that’s not even the beginning. Remember: 702 overseas posts, over 100,000 armed forces personnel in Europe with another 100,000 in the Far East (Japan, South Korea and Singapore), and that’s not counting the 150,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, plus Turkey.
It seems that once the US establishes a military base somewhere, we just never leave. In fact, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz (NeoC.) is quoted in a 2002 NY Times interview as to US plans in the Mid East to the effect that we may withdraw from our bases, but leave them still operational to “send a message to everybody, including important countries like Uzbekistan, that [U.S. forces] have the capacity to come back in and will come back in (emphasis mine).
“Send a message to everybody”? That would include China and India, but especially China, as it is her backdoor that we are parking our bombers at. Hmm.
So what’s the point of these bases all over hell, anyway? The cute phrase that the military likes to use is “force projection,” the fancy military-speak that plain-speaking men used to call gunboat diplomacy. As we’ve seen, men like Wolfowitz are pretty frank in their promises that the US is going to stick its nose in wherever the hell it feels like for the foreseeable future, but he’s basing his statements on the present neo-conservative policy of unilateral American intervention, which is looking more and more like a discredited concept. Sure, it worked in Bosnia and Kosovo, but it seems to be a disaster in Iraq. How much more of this American unilateralism will the rest of the world put up with, not to mention the American public?
China and Russia, along with India, have thought of the South East as well as Central Asia as being within their sphere of influence for a long time, and the Japanese before them. World War II was in part an economic battle between Japan and the US over control of Southeast Asia and its natural resources, principally oil in the case of Japan, so this is no small matter.
The real eye-opener here is the National Security Strategy, a document released by the White House on September 21, 2002. This is the document that lays out this Administration’s thinking on defense policy and provides guidelines (for the discerning) for projecting military spending for the foreseeable future. In this paper, the US military is encouraged to encircle the globe, particularly China, with a series of bases while increasing defense spending from 3% of GDP to 4% (this last has already happened). The intent: deny China any room to expand, while establishing “global hegemony.” This NSS is practically a verbatim rehash of the Project for the New American Century’s controversial white paper originally presented to President Clinton, but rejected by him.
We’re not talking about a simple series of fuel stops, gas stations for our fleet placed hither and yon around the world, but a series of strategic bases, fully capable of hosting a major strike force, and reasonably close to threat centers like China and India, to give those nations pause. But based on what thinking? Is China presently an enemy? Hell, she’s a member of the WTO and a Most Favored (Trading) Nation. She holds about a zillion and a half of our dollars in the form of T-bills, so she better not be. No, the only point in having so many bases is to continue a policy designed to club down any upstart nation that dares imagine it can have a co-equal military with the United States. This is incredibly dumb thinking and is no longer a reasonable response to the present world political climate. In fact, it’s reads as if the US is looking for fights.
What will future Democratic leadership formulate as a workable foreign policy for America when their turn to hold the reins of government comes around again? We need to start thinking about this now. Most of the problems that got us into this war on terror are a direct result of old, Cold War planning and so-called Realpolitik. If we are ever going to break out of this cycle of unilateralism and prevent the entire world from becoming anti-American terrorists, we need to formulate a coherent and viable foreign policy, never a Democratic administration’s strong suit.
Kerry may not have been caught as flat-footed as he was on the Iraq situation and people like Lieberman would not be perceived as being in the mainstream of Democratic thought if the Democratic Party had a viable, thought-out and well-articulated foreign policy.
Let’s start the discussion.
Department of Redundancy?Just a thought here folks: if the Department of Homeland Security (sic) is supposed to defend us against terrorists, just what does the Department of Defense defend us against?