Shuffling the Deck

Where the global realigning of U.S. troops is leading
From the July 2003 Trumpet Print Edition

Our world is changing more rapidly than ever.

The forceful diversion off-course of four jetliners under the crazed hands of a band of terrorists on the morning of September 11, 2001, changed our view of the world. The consequent warping of the New York City skyline heralded a new geopolitical reality.

The U.S. led the way in dealing with the world’s newest insecurities and dangers when it declared war on terror. The face of the Middle East was altered as the U.S. toppled tyrannical regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Old relationships among Western powers were tested; new relationships formed. Asia was rocked as its nations dealt with their own pockets of radicals, from Southeast Asia to the Korean Peninsula.

Now, in less than two years, the world is markedly different than it was before 9/11, and the pace at which it continues to change makes it almost exhausting—and downright unnerving—to watch.

Still, the face of the world will continue to transform. The United States is continually adjusting to the threats of the post-9/11 world. Recently, it has begun to rethink the structure of its overseas military presence.

Since World War ii, America’s overseas bases have been key to its foreign policy, protecting national and—in Washington’s mind—global security. To alter this presence is another monumental shift to our rapidly changing world.

Global Realignment

In late April, U.S. troops began a significant pullout from American bases in Saudi Arabia—where the U.S. has had a presence for over 12 years. Ten thousand troops were stationed there at the height of the Iraq campaign; by the end of the summer, these troops will have moved to neighboring Qatar.

This is just the beginning. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith said, “Everything is going to move everywhere …. There is not going to be a place in the world where it’s going to be the same as it used to be” (Los Angeles Times, May 29).

According to the Associated Press, May 1, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said it would take several months to reconsider the military’s global basing requirements, but he indicated that “big changes are likely in Europe and Asia” (emphasis mine throughout).

The Pentagon’s sweeping plans have called for moving U.S. troops in South Korea further south within that country. Also, the U.S. is considering a drawdown of its Marines stationed on Okinawa, Japan, while increasing its security presence in Australia and Southeast Asia.

There is talk of closing the majority of bases in Germany and Italy, or at least significantly downsizing the number of troops there. For example, the Army’s 17,000-strong 1st Armored Division, deployed to Iraq mostly from bases in Germany, will not return to Germany. The Los Angeles Times, May 1, reported of the latter move,_”The plans represent the most significant reshuffling of U.S. forces in Europe since the end of World War ii, when American troops tore the swastikas off hundreds of German army facilities and moved in to protect the emerging West Germany against Soviet ambitions.”

The Pentagon wants to close many bases in Western Europe and move into Eastern European countries that supported the recent operation in Iraq—countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. U.S. strategists believe that moving into these Eastern European countries, as well as into Central Asia, will aid in the fight against radical Islam by placing its troops at staging points closer to hotspots—and will also allow the U.S. to keep a watchful eye on unpredictable powers such as China and Russia.

The post-9/11 realignment of U.S. troops will considerably change our world, perhaps even on the level of the terrorist attacks of two years ago. It will accelerate an ominous chain of events awaiting America. Though the U.S. is merely trying to protect itself from serious threats, these military shifts will actually contribute to a greater threat—one that will lead to the downfall of the United States of America!

Cold War vs. Post-9/11 Threats

To understand the meaning behind the current military realignment, we need to understand why the U.S. established such an extensive overseas presence in the first place.

After World War ii, American bases were set up in Europe and Asia as part of the Allied clean-up after the devastation and, ultimately, to deter Soviet and Chinese Communist expansion. The strategic geography of America’s military presence was a major factor in the near-half-century-long Cold War.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Pentagon has cut the number of U.S. troops stationed overseas by nearly half, and military bases worldwide have been reduced 26 percent. The most significant drawdowns came in Europe—mainly Germany, which hosted 80 percent of U.S. troops stationed in Europe during the Cold War. America’s presence in Germany dropped from 285,000 troops at 800 sites to 94,000 troops at 260 sites. Of the 47 major bases in Germany during the Cold War, 21 were reduced in size and personnel by more than 80 percent after 1990.

Asia saw cutbacks during the 1990s as well. By 1992, the U.S. had withdrawn from its bases in the Philippines. In post-World War ii Japan, the U.S. had nearly 3,000 military facilities populated by 260,000 military personnel. Today less than 100 facilities house fewer than 50,000 personnel.

Downsizing and closing bases was all the U.S. cared to do under the anti-military Clinton administration—no thought was given to relocating the bases. Officials considered it too expensive to abandon one facility and build another elsewhere.

Such was the state of the U.S. military in its decade of relative quiet, after the Cold War era. It was a decade of drawdowns and base closings—but without any major restructuring.

Then came the terror attacks of September 11, thrusting the U.S. into a world where the threat was entirely different from that of the mid-20th century. The dictum of the past era’s military had been to protect or contain specific geographic regions and to always be prepared to fight any threats on two fronts, given that America has to protect both an Atlantic and a Pacific front. The drawdown resulted in diminished capacity under a philosophy that called for preparedness on one front—the Pacific only. The new strategy, however, would demand that the U.S. contain an elusive, radical faction deployed globally.

Not long after 9/11, the Pentagon began to rethink the structure of its overseas forces. Now, the dozens of U.S. bases in Germany, several throughout Western Europe and one in Iceland don’t seem justified. Instead, along with the recent withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia, the U.S. is planning to relocate troops to keep watch on what it terms the “arc of instability”—stretching from the Caucasus to the Middle East and into North Africa.

Ample Reasons to Regroup

In addition to the post-Cold War, post-9/11 mentality, there are other factors fueling the base shifts.

For one, many of the countries where U.S. military bases are located have expressed increasingly anti-American sentiment. Of the 112,000 U.S. troops stationed in Europe, 76,000 of them are in Germany—the host country that was most vocal about its opposition to the Iraq war. In general, Germany has been supportive of the bases themselves, if not the Iraq war, because of the financial boost these bases give local economies. But when Austria closed its airspace to American planes during the campaign, this action forced the U.S. to consider moving bases out of Germany and further south. When one U.S. brigade left its base in Italy to parachute into northern Iraq, the Pentagon had to delay the deployment several days while obtaining the Italian government’s permission. Senior U.S. military officials were somewhat disgruntled over the delay—particularly the need to make sure it didn’t ruffle any feathers in the host country.

In Asia, where the U.S. keeps 100,000 of its troops, anti-American sentiment in the countries that host them has risen dramatically of late. Angry protests in South Korea and Japan well demonstrate the general feeling about U.S. presence in the East. In both countries, the U.S. has now drastically reconsidered its military presence. In addition to a near-pullout in Okinawa, the U.S. is also considering a major realignment of forces in Seoul, South Korea—where it feels the bases are too close to the tense border with North Korea, and that an attack from North Korea would mean a large number of American casualties and the need to flee south to regroup anyway. Also, the abuse and discrimination American troops receive from locals in Seoul makes moving out an attractive option.

Other reasons for the realignments are financial. Military officials argue that the overseas basing situation needs serious revamping because the Pentagon has more bases than necessary to support the current size of the military—since, during the 1990s, the number of troops was cut proportionately more than the number of bases was. Once the U.S. recoups the cost of shifting its troops either to consolidate a base or to close one altogether, the U.S. will end up saving billions of dollars a year.

Filling the Vacuum

So here we stand on the brink of more globe-altering events. A redefinition of the U.S. presence in Europe and Asia will redefine the entire balance of power in these areas.

In Asia, a decreased presence in Japan sends a clear signal that the U.S. wants that country—currently perceived as restricted by its pacifist constitution, written by Americans after World War ii—to play a greater role in East Asian security. The U.S. will move south while it encourages Japan to keep a vigilant eye on the shaky Korean Peninsula, as well as on China, the growing economic giant.

A similar pullout in Western Europe and redeployment of U.S. troops east and south will have consequences on the balance of power in the burgeoning German-dominated union of European nations.

In addition to a regional shift in the balance of power, there is another factor to consider when the U.S. presence evaporates from these nations. When U.S. troops pull out of a base, they leave behind valuable military infrastructure. Take the current pullout in Saudi Arabia, for example. Though most of the functionality of the installation will be gone, “Nothing’s going to be torn down,” said Rear Admiral Dave Nichols. “It’ll remain wired, but most of the computers and whatnot will be taken out” (International Herald Tribune, April 30). According to Nichols, the idea is to be able to restart the base in an emergency.

There’s no telling how intact the U.S. will leave its remaining bases in Germany after it closes them. In the 1990s, when the U.S. shut down certain bases in Germany, many of the bases themselves were converted into housing complexes and businesses—but others remained as military installations.

In Germany, first call on purchasing the land of a former base goes to the German military—allowing it to claim, for example, the U.S.’s 18,000-acre-plus Wildflecken Training Range after it closed in 1994. By far the largest of the closed bases, Wildflecken was initially a training area for Nazi troops prior to World War ii. It is now used to train Germany’s Bundeswehr, though nato and U.S. troops still train there—as guests.

While the European Union is charging ahead with the creation of its military force, and as the U.S. pulls out of more and more bases, German-led Europe will undoubtedly take advantage of the lack of U.S. presence, using remaining infrastructure to help the fledgling Euroforce.

The Significance of It All

But why should anyone be concerned that the U.S. will abandon its posts in Germany or Japan—or that it will move to sites it deems more strategic in light of the increased threat of terrorism and other, new instabilities?

The concern should be over the fact that the U.S. isn’t seeing the real long-term threat! However legitimate the threat that radical Islam, or North Korea, or the arc of instability, poses to America’s well-being, the U.S. is ignoring the one area that will soon cause the downfall of its domination of the world.

Bible prophecy discloses that the nations of Anglo-America will soon fall to a German-driven united Europe—a final revival of the Holy Roman Empire.

Concerning the presence of U.S. troops in Germany, one senior military official asked, “Why do we need a joint force to be in Germany, where there’s nothing happening? … You have to have troops close to ports and airfields that are closer to the action. And you also want to have them in a place where people agree with what you’re doing, so they don’t shut down ports and they don’t shut down airfields” (Los Angeles Times, May 1).

And that’s the U.S. view of Germany. They aren’t the close allies we once thought they were—but still, “there’s nothing happening” there, in America’s mind. However, this in fact is the nation—if only we would heed Bible prophecy—that we need to be watching most of all!

As editor in chief of the once-matchless Plain Truth magazine, Herbert W. Armstrong told his readers to keep their eyes on the stretched-thin U.S. military and watch for withdrawal of its troops worldwide. He forewarned how this would reshape the world, and accelerate the rise of a dangerous threat to American existence.

In a co-worker letter dated May 6, 1985, he directed his readers to watch those trends: “The U.S. now has 40,000 troops in South Korea. … We have over 300,000 troops stationed in Europe. If we get into armed intervention [elsewhere] we probably would need to withdraw troops from Europe or South Korea or both. That would immediately cause Europe to resurrect the Holy Roman Empire, as strong influences have been trying to accomplish. This would fulfill the prophecy that would result in a United Europe—stronger than even the Soviet Union—that will turn on the U.S.”

As this magazine has been proclaiming since its inception, Europe has not needed the lack of U.S. presence to unite or revive the Holy Roman Empire. They are, already—under America’s nose—doing just that. But the point to watch, as Mr. Armstrong astutely pointed out over 18 years ago, is that the absence of a U.S. presence in Europe will accelerate such a revival.

It is inevitable that a united Europe will ultimately take the lead as the world’s superpower—supplanting America. Whether the U.S. military remains in Western Europe or not will not change this fact.

The absence of America in Europe, however, will accelerate and even aid Europe’s growth as a political and military union.

America’s military withdrawal is a major sign that events are speeding up—hurtling toward the culmination of Bible prophecy!

With reporting byandrew locher