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Global US Military Redeployment


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Redeployment and the Strategic Miscalculation
August 18, 2004

By George Friedman

On Aug. 16, U.S. President George W. Bush announced a global
redeployment of U.S. military forces. Bush said: "More of our
troops will be stationed and deployed from here at home. We'll
move some of our troops and capabilities to new locations, so
they can surge quickly to deal with unexpected threats. We'll
take advantage of 21st-century military technologies to rapidly
deploy increased combat power. The new plan will help us fight
and win these wars of the 21st century." On the surface, the
redeployment is important. There is a global war under way and
any redeployment of forces at this time matters. However, there
are other reasons why the redeployment is significant.

There are 1,425,687 men and women on active duty in the U.S.
armed forces. The redeployment of roughly 70,000 troops over a
period of 10 years -- or even in one year -- really doesn't
matter, even if most of them came from the U.S. Army, which
currently consists of almost 500,000 troops. The shift affects
roughly 10 percent of the standing Army, which is not trivial.
Neither is it decisive.

There are some important geopolitical implications that go beyond
the numbers. Germany is clearly being downgraded as a reliable
ally. The possible shift of U.S. naval headquarters from the
United Kingdom to Italy tightens relations with Italy -- and
focuses the Navy on the Mediterranean and away from the Atlantic.
Deploying U.S. troops to Romania and Bulgaria increases the U.S.
presence in southeastern Europe and improves access to the Middle
East. The reduction of forces on the Korean Peninsula is a
reminder to South Koreans to be careful what they wish for --
they might get it. Moving forces into Australia clearly signifies
the growing importance of the U.S.-Australian relationship for
the Pacific. Permanent bases in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and
Uzbekistan confirm an already existing relationship and emphasize
a further decline of the Russian sphere of influence in the
former Soviet Union.

But all of these things are relative and incremental. There
simply aren't that many forces moving around to tilt geopolitical
relationships in any fundamental way. Nor do the shifts
necessarily make as much sense as it might seem. Certainly there
is no longer a reason to base troops in Germany, but troops need
to be based somewhere. The idea that the strategic reserve should
reside in the continental United States is a defensible notion,
but not an obvious one. The major theaters of operation for the
United States are currently between the Mediterranean and the
Hindu Kush. Germany is a lot closer than the United States.

Post-Cold War Notions

In order to understand the thinking going on here, it is
important to understand a discussion that has been going on in
the defense community since the end of the Cold War. As U.S.
forces were reduced, the number of individual commitments of
troops did not decline. During the Clinton years, operations
ranged from Haiti to Kosovo to Iraq. The United States had to
find a way for a smaller force to compensate for its size by
increasing its tempo of operations and effectiveness.

Les Aspin, Bill Clinton's first defense secretary, conducted
something called the "Bottom-Up Review" that focused on this
question: How could the United States intervene in the Eastern
Hemisphere, in unpredictable theaters of operation, in a timely
fashion, with an effective force? During Desert Storm, it took
six months to deploy a force large enough to invade Kuwait. That
was too long -- and it took too long because the Army needed too
many tanks, troops and supplies to wage war. The question became
how to reduce the amount of forces needed to achieve the same

The answer for Aspin was to reduce the forces needed by
increasing lethality through technology. Increased dependence on
air power and increased lethality for Army equipment were
supposed to reduce the size of the force. That meant the force
could get there faster. Aviation, special operations and light
infantry became the darlings of the Defense Department. Armor and
artillery became the problem.

Aspin focused speed and lethality, on how fast the force could
get there and on how quickly it could destroy the enemy force.
The question of the occupation of the target country was
addressed only in terms of a concept called "Operations Other
Than War." Some operations were to be primarily humanitarian in
nature. Other operations would become humanitarian as soon as the
projection of decisive force was achieved. After that, forces
would shift to another task: nation-building. Haiti was a case of
nation-building from the get-go. Kosovo was a case of nation-
building after military victory.

Neither of them is a poster child for the idea of using the
military in operations other than war, and Bush sharply
criticized the Clinton people for squandering military resources
on non-military goals. Bush's argument was that nation-building
was difficult at best, that the military was not well-suited for
the task and that nation-building, while nice, was not a
fundamental American national interest in most cases.

It was an interesting debate that in retrospect missed the key
point -- by ignoring the fact that the occupation of a hostile
nation was in fact a military problem. Clinton assumed that once
troops were deployed and the enemy defeated, the occupation would
cease to be a combat problem. Bush argued that wasting troops on
non-combat problems was a mistake. Both missed the point that
after power projection and high-intensity conflict, you did not
necessarily enter a non-military phase. You could be entering a
third phase of the war: the occupation of a hostile country.

Afghanistan and Iraq were both cases in which the United States
occupied hostile territory. It does not take an entire country to
make that country hostile; a relatively small force can create a
hostile combat environment. Arguing about how big the opposition
might be is irrelevant. It is big enough in both countries that
U.S. forces are at war. And this brings us to the central

Rumsfeld and Aspin agreed on the fundamental premise: a smaller,
more agile force is better. They were both right, so long as the
focus is on power projection and the destruction of conventional
enemy forces. But when you shift to the occupation of a hostile
country, smaller size works against you and agility diminishes
radically in importance. The occupation of a country can be
enhanced only marginally by technology. Occupation requires a
force large enough to gain control of the country while waging
counterinsurgency operations. That represents a lot of boots on
the ground -- and a lot of tank treads.

Counting On Occupation

Now, it might be argued that occupation and counterinsurgency are
bad ideas. We are prepared to entertain that notion. What cannot
be debated is that the United States is currently engaged in two
campaigns -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- in which the occupation of
hostile territory is the mission. It is also possible that in
coming years, there will be more such operations. The problem is
that U.S. forces are not configured for the mission. The
institutional hostility toward a large army that permeated the
Defense Department under both Clinton and Bush has now started to
move to a crisis level -- and the Bush administration still has
not responded to it.

The administration has pointed out that it has hit its targets in
recruiting and retaining personnel since the beginning of the
Iraq war. In 2001, the recruiting goal for the Army was 75,800;
the National Guard was 60,252; and the reserve was 34,910. In
2002, the numbers were 79,500; 54,087; and 48,461. In 2003, the
goals were 73,800; 62,000; and 26,400. In 2004, they are 71,739;
56,000; and 21,200. In other words, recruiting for the active
Army and reserve stayed basically unchanged, while goals for the
National Guard declined. The United States is in a global war in
which two countries are currently being occupied and there has
been only a 30,000-man increase authorized by Congress.

Attempting to occupy two countries without massively increasing
the size of the Army is an extraordinary decision. But it is
completely understandable in terms of the Aspin-Rumsfeld view of
the military problem. Occupation of a large territory in the face
of hostile forces was not perceived to be a fundamental military
requirement. In part, this was because it was assumed the United
States would avoid such environments. But both Afghanistan and
Iraq were precisely this kind of environment, and prudent
military planning required that careful thought be given to the
manpower-intense mission of occupation. By the end of 2003, it
should have been clear that, like it or not, the United States
was in the occupation business. But the thinking that went on
before Iraq -- that as in Japan or Germany in World War II,
resistance would halt once the capital fell -- simply did not go
away. The obvious was not absorbed as a fact.

Instead, the Defense Department has resorted to stop-loss
strategies: preventing people from leaving when their terms of
service are up, calling up the Individual Ready Reserve and
exhausting the reserve and National Guard. Most importantly, it
has resorted to the only real solution available: insufficient
forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has tried to fill the gap with
contractors, which works to some extent; but the job of
occupation -- if it is to be undertaken at all -- is a job for
the Army, and there simply are not enough soldiers available. The
1st Marine Expeditionary Force, for example, is currently the
lead occupying force in the Anbar province in Iraq -- hardly the
"tip of the spear" combat force that the Marines are supposed to

It is in this context that the order to redeploy 70,000 troops
should be read. First, it is an attempt to reshuffle the same
deck, when what is needed are more cards. Second, the pace of the
redeployments -- measured in years rather than weeks -- indicates
that the administration knows there is no real solution here --
or it indicates that the administration still doesn't appreciate
the urgency of the situation.

That the Army -- other services as well, but the Army is the key
here -- is at its limits has been obvious for months. What is
interesting to us is that the president, in his speech, continued
to focus on the first two missions (projection and destruction of
enemy forces) and still has not focused on the centrality of
combat in occupation zones. We don't have much of a force to
project at this point, so increasing the capability is not really

It is not something he wants to tackle now, but whoever becomes
president will be doing so. There are two options: The draft,
which will not produce the kind of force needed, or massive
increases in the size of the volunteer force using economic
incentives. Gen. Douglas MacArthur said we should never fight a
land war in Asia after Korea. Vietnam sort of confirmed that.
Whether anyone has noticed, we are in another land war in Asia
and in Asian wars, technology is great, but riflemen and tanks
are the foundation.

(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bruce Monkhouse

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I was mostly in agreement with the realignment except for South Korea because of the obvious threat from the north , but I read an article and I cut part out that does make a lot of sence, [still haven;t changed mind but thinking hard ???]

The situation is more complicated in the case of South Korea. Former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark sharply criticized the plan to withdraw some troops from South Korea on the grounds that the North Korean threat still persists. However, Clark's criticism is off the mark. The main threat from North Korea is its nuclear arsenal. Its conventional forces have been worn down by the country's economic failure, technological obsolescence and even starvation.

Economically vibrant South Korea, on the other hand, dwarfs North Korea in military spending and boasts increasingly high-tech weaponry. South Korea is capable of defending itself against the North's conventional forces, and the South's leaders, in fact, feel comfortable enough to deploy 3,600 troops to Iraq.

Any takers?


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How many bases do the US have in Germany? :) I would think they have room to cut there

Bruce Monkhouse

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Directing Staff
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They are cutting in Germany but I couldn't find hard numbers, just a "significant number".
If anyone stumbles across please post.


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I found a website that shows some numbers  ;D




Good article.  I think the point about needing occupying forces is a good one, although I believe technology can reduce the overall numbers required.  Given that only a portion of Iraq is troublesome, there will be a need for both combat ops and rebuilding ops for some time.  More numbers alone isn't the answer -- those troops need to be appropriately trained. 

As for Korea, I think the situation there will come to a head within the next two years and I believe we will all be appalled at the extent of the human disaster North Korea will turn out to be.


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hear are some more numbers of american forces around the world

Iraq and the Gulf - currently 211,028 troops
Germany - Currently 75,603 troops
South Korea - Currently 40,258 troops
Japan - Currently 40,045 troops
Afghanistan - Currently 17,900 troops
Italy - Currently 13,354 troops
UK - Currently 11,801 troops
Qatar - Currently 3,432
Bosnia-Hercegovina - Currently 2,931 troops
Iceland - Currently 1,754 troops