August 24, 2004

Time To Clear the Board
U.S. troop realignment: a good start


Charles V. Peña, director of defense policy studies at Cato, argues that reducing U.S. troop deployments in Europe and Asia is a good start:

The Cold War is over and Europe no longer faces the threat of Soviet tanks rolling across the Fulda Gap. And the combined economies of the European countries are healthy and strong enough for Europeans to pay for their own security requirements. In 2003, the EU's GDP was $11.6 trillion and U.S. GDP was $10.9 trillion, but America spent 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense compared to only 1.5 percent for the Europeans.

The North Korean threat to South Korea remains real but, like the Europeans, the South Koreans can afford to pay for their own defense. According to the CIA, "North Korea, one of the world's most centrally planned and isolated economies, faces desperate economic conditions." North Korea's GDP in 2003 was $22.9 billion with defense spending of $5.2 billion (22.7 percent of GDP). By comparison, South Korea's GDP was $855.3 billion (more that 37 times that of the North) with $14.5 billion for defense (almost three times the North and only 1.7 percent of GDP). So South Korea has both the economic advantage and capacity to to defend itself.

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It's worth remembering that the globally deployed U.S. military was not an effective defense or deterrent against 19 suicide hijackers on September 11. The hard truth is that most of the war on terrorism - fought in 60 or more countries around the globe, many of them friends and allies of the United States - will be waged through unprecedented international intelligence and law enforcement cooperation.