We Don’t Want You!

America’s military is in retreat
From the March-April 1999 Trumpet Print Edition

When the dust settled after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the United States emerged as the world’s last remaining superpower. So they say. A look back at the last ten years, however, suggests that America’s power and influence abroad has crumbled along with the infamous Wall.

I got a firsthand glimpse of this phenomenon while visiting Berlin in 1993, less than four years after the Wall came down. We saw all the sights many tourists had probably visited before Communism loosened its death-grip on Eastern Europe: the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie. But what left the biggest impression on me was visiting the abandoned American military base in what used to be West Berlin. Row after row of huge military housing complexes now provided low-income Germans with nice accommodations. “With Communism gone,” our guide told us, “the plan is for U.S. troops to pull back to Frankfurt before substantially downsizing.” And downsize they did! Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, United States forces in Europe have been slashed by 67 percent.

Simultaneous with the U.S. drawdown on German soil has been Germany’s expansion on U.S. soil. In 1990, Germany and the United States agreed to “deepen military cooperation”—meaning German expansion. In 1992, then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney agreed to add 12 German Tornados to the seven F-4 Phantom Jet fighters already stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. In 1995, Germany added 300 aircrew, along with families and support personnel, to their training facility at Holloman. This year, plans call for another 600 Germans and 30 Tornado aircraft. Meanwhile, just last year, eleven U.S. bases in Germany returned to German control: Sheridan, Kaserne, Deuringen and Lechfeld, just to name a few.

In the Pacific theater, the storyline is the same: cut budgets, draw down, mobilize, consolidate. I got a firsthand glimpse of this also while recently on assignment in the Philippines. After taping two programs for The Key of David in December, our crew was airlifted out of Bataan by helicopter en route to Manila. On the way our pilot detoured over Subic Bay. Strategically situated as an inlet off the South China Sea, Subic used to be homeport for the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. It closed in 1992. Looking at it from the air, it’s still impressive—the long airstrip bordering one side of the ocean inlet, training facilities, military housing units, still surrounded by cyclone fences topped with barbed wire. But down below, with the 7th Fleet gone, Subic is little more than a popular tropical resort.

News of another U.S. drawdown in the Pacific splashed across headlines a few years back when America agreed to reduce its presence in Okinawa after three GIs raped a local schoolgirl in 1995. Nearly half of the 47,000 U.S. servicemen stationed in Japan reside on this small island 400 miles off the Japanese coast. More than 12,000 Americans died capturing this island stronghold, cracking Japan’s last line of defense at the end of World War II. With Japan devastated after the war, and Russia only a few years away from successfully testing nuclear bombs, the U.S. quickly raised dozens of military bases in the Far East. Bases like Okinawa enabled United States participation in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and to prevent the spread of Communism. But with the collapse of Communism in the late 1980s, as in the West, America has reevaluated its position in the Eastern hemisphere.

In all, America’s presence in the Western Pacific is comparable to its forces in Europe. There are approximately 100,000 servicemen in each hemisphere—about two-thirds smaller than at the end of the Cold War. More than a few analysts have noted America’s flagging ability to respond to international challenges as we head into the next millennium.

The situation abroad is but a microcosm of the drawdown of America’s forces in general. Consider these facts: Since 1985, the Pentagon’s budget has been slashed by 38 percent and 97 bases have been closed—just in the United States! The numerical strength (or lack thereof) of the armed forces stands at a little less than 1.4 million—a 35 percent drop from Cold War levels. Since 1991, the Army’s active-duty divisions have dwindled from 18 to 10; the Air Force’s fighter wings from 22 to 13. And since 1992, the Navy’s Battle Force ships have shrunk from 467 to 327, the lowest level since 1938.

These cuts have forced Washington to all but abandon its so-called “two wars” policy—America’s ability to mount a Desert Storm-like operation on two fronts. At current levels, a sizable war on one front will absorb most of our resources. In fact, according to the Pentagon’s last quadrennial review, released in 1997, U.S. officials foresee “the possible emergence, after 2010-2015, of a regional power or global peer competitor.”

If government officials are aware of these global threats, and their concerns along with these telling statistics are posted on most military websites, be assured that enemy nations have taken note! “Unless something is done,” James Anderson wrote in the Macon Telegraph last year, “the butcher’s bill for military unpreparedness will be paid in blood the next time we go to war.”