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Old world order.

Twenty-five hundred years ago the Chinese military historian Sun Tsu wrote in The Art of War: "To fight and conquer

in all your battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

This is what the United States and its allies have achieved in defeating the Soviet empire. This is a time of maximum victory for the cause of freedom.

The majority of American troops in Europe now can come home. They have achieved their principal objective: deterring and, if necessary, defending against a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Already the number of American troops has fallen to 225,000 from 338,000 at the height of the Cold War. Even this lower number now can be cut by two-thirds.

It is still in the interest of the United States to station 70,000 to 80,000 troops in Europe, however. These forces would include two light Army divisions, two or three Air Force fighter wings (perhaps on a rotating basis), command facilities, and bases for servicing long-range aircraft and the fleet. A deployment of this size would be politically acceptable, militarily sensible, and affordable. It would serve three major objectives.

The first objective is to maintain the NATO alliance, although at vastly reduced force levels. With its Cold War victory, NATO has achieved its most important purpose: collective security against the Soviet threat. Its secondary purpose of keeping the peace between the great Western European democracies remains. If NATO now disintegrates, there is a danger that the countries of Western Europe will go their separate military ways, as they did for centuries leading up to World Wars I and II.

NATO simply cannot survive without some American participation, and without NATO it is only a matter of time before we see a reemergence of the nationalist tensions in Europe that so often have provoked conflict in the past. Collective security through NATO may not be perfect, but it is better than the alternative, which is an assemblage of more than 50 countries with no military cohesion.

The second reason for maintaining an American presence in Europe is to continue conducting military training with our principal friends and allies. In the Persian Gulf War, we were able to conduct military operations in concert with the British, French, Italians, and other allies. We must maintain that capability.

The third reason to maintain this deployment is that, like it or not, the one place in the world on which Western civilization depends is the Middle East. Without Middle Eastern oil -- especially Saudi Arabian oil -- the lights go out all over the world. As every recent American President has made clear, the United States is prepared to fight to assure that this vital resource is not abruptly denied us.

To maintain this policy without the base structure, logistics, and political cooperation of Western Europe would be very difficult, perhaps even impossible.

Kiddies in the Sandbox

NATO is not obsolete with the end of the Cold War. The grand alliance has achieved its principal purpose of stopping the Soviet Union from invading Western Europe. But there was a second important reason for the establishment of NATO. This was to ensure that our Western European friends, especially the larger nations of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, no longer would fight with one another.

After World War I, French and German military forces operated in an atmosphere of distrust, isolation, secrecy, and fear. Whatever the economic strains that now exist between those two countries, their borders are open, their militaries cooperate, and neither expect Napoleon or Hitler to reappear as aggressive military reincarnations. Britain and France are both nuclear powers, but even after hundreds of years of intermittent warfare, neither targets its missiles on the other and neither believes there is even the remotest chance of such a development.

One of the principal reasons for this calm is the integrated command and control structure of NATO and the harmonized defense industrial bases of its members. Is the command structure perfect? No. Do nations compete over military contracts? Yes. But the integration is sufficient to assure that no NATO member can plan or operate a military undertaking against another, or even consider it, without instant awareness throughout the NATO community.

Why should we give up this great achievement? If Western Europe could provide its own integrated defense and security without United States or North American participation, we would be delighted. Unfortunately, all of the NATO countries and most of the former Warsaw Pact members believe the participation of the United States is an essential ingredient for permanent peace. Even the French, who cooperate but do not formally integrate their military with NATO, prefer a U.S. military presence in Europe to a complete withdrawal.

This overwhelming European desire for us to keep some military presence in Europe can be explained only by the fear that without us Western Europeans will renationalize defense commands and procurements. To put it undiplomatically: the kiddies cannot be trusted to play in the sandbox without adult supervision and, in this instance, the kiddies know it.

The emergence of democratic capitalism through most of Europe has not yet suppressed thousand-year-old hostilities that could break out again and, ultimately, require our military involvement, as they did in World Wars I and II.

It is a cheap insurance policy for Western Europe as well as for the United States to keep sufficient American presence to preclude renationalization, to maintain military integration, and to avoid any prospect of war.

Stretching Our Resources

The second objective in maintaining a U.S. military presence in Europe is to conduct multinational training so we can cooperate effectively with allies in war.

With the Cold War over, we no longer face a single overriding threat. Rather we must return to a more traditional way of looking at the world, in which our forces must be flexible enough to meet an uncertain threat. For most of history, today's enemy could become tomorrow's friend and vice versa. How many Americans in 1941 could have predicted that a decade later Germany and Japan would be American allies?

That we are unable to predict specific threats does not mean that warfare is ended. By the end of this decade, at least 15 countries will be capable of hitting Europe and the United States with long-range advanced conventional missiles -- and many of those countries will be able to equip missiles with nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads.

We cannot rely on the United Nations to deal with such threats. It would be foolish to count on support from the Chinese and Russians at the Security Council, even though we received such support in the Persian Gulf. China and Russia may not be our enemies, but each may differ with us in important regional conflicts.

At the plenary level, the vast majority of the 181 U.N. members are dictatorships of one variety or another whose way of looking at the world is vastly different from our own.

It is therefore to our friends and allies, meaning the great industrial democracies of the world, that we must look for cooperation. These are principally the members of NATO plus Japan and a few other countries, mostly in Asia.

Cooperation in any meaningful military sense requires training. The success of the air war in the Gulf in large measure can be traced to the composite exercises of NATO air forces in Western Europe.

The term composite exercises refers to the operation of six types of airplanes, from eight bases, using pilots from five nations, and conducting real military missions under comprehensive and understandable air-tasking orders. In the Persian Gulf War, such air tasking orders frequently totalled 1,000 pages a day and involved sea- and land-based craft from different services of different countries. Such an operation could never have been carried out had it not been for the ongoing, year-in year-out training of NATO's integrated air forces.

The same was true for naval forces that sailed under NATO signals, including the French, and that also had a long history of integrated technical, tactical, and practical operational experience.

It is easier to integrate the operation of planes and ships because each is a separate platform with a single commander. No military man believes that integration of ground troops below the division level is very practical. American commanders, quite rightly, favor a corps headquarters command structure incorporating divisions from different countries. Squad leaders who speak different languages and come from different cultures cannot operate easily together. But divisions, operating under integrated command, can -- as was shown in the Persian Gulf.

In the new world disorder, with many potential threats, the United States can multiply its military resources by acting in concert with other great democracies. Sometimes we will have to act alone, but wherever possible, we will want to work with forces from British, French, German, Italian, and other European allies. Thus we need enough troops in Europe to train regularly, reasonably, and at militarily effective levels so we are prepared to cooperate with our allies anywhere our assistance is needed in the world.

Oil for the Lamps of Kansas

The third great reason for maintaining a permanent deployment in Europe is the oil in the Middle East.

Americans do not like to think we fight for oil. During the Persian Gulf War, we said we were fighting Saddam Hussein, a cartoonish villain with his combination of naked aggression, brutality, and potential nuclear or chemical capacity. What really frightened us and drove us to war, however, was that such a tyrant was about to effectively control the world's oil supply.

Every president over the past 50 years has made it clear that the availability of Middle Eastern oil is a vital interest to the United States and the West. During the Cold War it was necessary to make that point to the Soviets. Following the Cold War, we have to make it to Iran and Iraq, among others -- and we have to be prepared to stop any conflict in the Middle East that would interfere with a regular flow of the oil supply from Saudi Arabia and the neighboring Gulf states.

Fortunately for us, the nations of Western Europe have the same interest. Not only is direct European help very important for our efforts to protect the Middle Eastern oil supply, but to send our forces to the Middle East we also need European infrastructure, logistics, bases, and transit rights.

During the war against Iraq, American warplanes flying from the United States to the Persian Gulf averaged 7 to 15 mid-air refuelings. We could never have undertaken that operation without the huge basing and refueling facilities of Torrejon in Spain and Rhein-Main in Germany. Diego Garcia, the island in the Indian Ocean where we maintain pre-positioned ships and equipment, is 3,500 miles from the head of the Persian Gulf -- further than Dublin.

Intelligence and Logistics

We still need to maintain certain intelligence facilities in Europe, especially to keep track of the various parts of the Soviet military machine, now engaged in a giant garage sale. We need to keep track of where Russian scientific and nuclear engineering talent may be going and we need the cooperation of our allies in this effort.

We also need to maintain an infrastructure and logistics capacity. That means we need enough forces to refuel and equip the fleet when it calls at Naples, to maintain the pre-positioned equipment already in place in Europe, to operate, service, load, and refuel various kind of airplanes, and to provide the support for American troops who may be in transit. In sum, we need intelligence, infrastructure support, logistics, maintenance of existing service facilities, and capacity to deal with reinforcements.

The Army quite rightly maintains that the minimum fighting force that can operate on its own is a corps headquarters with at least two divisions. Otherwise, it is not a fighting force, and cannot train effectively in either unit terms or integrated command exercises.

A regular U.S. Army division has 18,000 to 20,000 men, a light division about 14,000 to 18,000. Heavy divisions are what we have deployed in Europe. Their purpose, with heavy armor and artillery, was to defend against heavy Soviet assault troops.

But if we wish more flexible use of our troops, light divisions -- basically meaning those with lighter and more mobile equipment -- are more desirable. This does not mean the Army needs no heavy divisions. It only means that Europe may not be the best place to deploy them.

The United States no longer can afford to maintain two armies, one for Europe and one for the rest of the world. The divisions we keep in Europe should be relatively light divisions capable of being used outside of Europe.

What we get out of such a relatively small deployment is political-military support, cooperation in training, and logistics and infrastructure. What the Europeans get is the maintenance of the trans-Atlantic link, a collective say in when and where and who we fight, an arbiter and peacemaker inside Western Europe, cooperation in staying abreast of and getting operational experience in new military technologies, and most important of all, the sense of shared safety and security that comes with being part of a successful collective defense.

Willkommen But Not Bienvenu

Our purpose in staying in Europe is to maintain the victory we just have won, and to insure against future conflict. But we should stay only as long as the Europeans want us. At the moment both Eastern and Western Europeans want us to remain fervently.

Some Europeans want a common defense and foreign policy of their own. This is a development we should encourage. But a defense or foreign policy is the outward manifestation of a shared domestic consensus. Europe as a whole has no such consensus at this time. Should one develop over the years, and should Europeans indicate a desire for U.S. withdrawal, we should be ready, willing, and eager to leave.

For now, U.S. troops are welcome in Britain, Germany, and Italy, but not in France. Over time, perhaps several years, we will have to work out some form of accommodation with France, because eventually Germans will tire of having exercises on their territory but not in France. But this is a problem for the Europeans to work out among themselves.

One only can hope that France will come to see that it is one of several middling powers whose true security lies in collective defense with its neighbors, together with the United States. France's current view of itself as a totally independent sovereign pretending to be a superpower confuses perception with reality. But the U.S. position should not vary from being willing to stay where we are wanted, and unwilling to stay where we are not.

Keep Out of the Balkans

The American troops in Europe would not be expected to intervene in ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe. Neither the United States nor any other country in Western Europe has the political capability to intervene decisively in, say, Bosnia, or in any other Eastern European conflict that looks as if it can be contained.

The war in the former Yugoslavia is horrifying, but it does not threaten either the United States or Western Europe in the way that conflict in the Balkans did before World War I. Then the great powers of Europe were deeply involved in the Balkans, each on different sides. But there is no danger today that Russia and Germany will go to war with each other over Bosnia. Nor do the Serbs, Croatians, or Bosnians threaten in any way to invade the rest of Western Europe as did Hitler or Napoleon. To the contrary, this conflict has been contained within its own rough borders.

Maintaining the collective security apparatus of NATO makes it less likely, in fact, that ethnic conflicts will spill over into continental wars. If NATO is maintained, no nation in Western or Central Europe will be tempted to act singlehandedly, even in pursuit of the best of motives.

Russia No Longer a Major Enemy

Nor would the American troops be stationed in Europe as protection against a possible resurgence of militarism in Russia. Russia is no longer a major enemy of America and the West. It is not projecting power into the Third World. It is no longer trying to interfere with the West's oil supply; on the contrary, the West now has an interest in expanding Russian oil production, which would diversify world oil supplies and lower prices. No longer do 115 Warsaw Pact tank battalions parade up and down the inner German border practicing offensive maneuvers within a day's drive of Frankfurt and Munich.

Russia still may pose some serious problems for the United States and its European allies. There is a danger of arms sales to hostile countries. There is the risk of possible intimidation or invasion of the Baltic states. There is the possibility of a conflict with Ukraine that could spill over into a larger East European war. There is the threat of such environmental catastrophes as Chernobyl. Above all, there remains a danger from the thousands of nuclear warheads on Russian soil, many of them still aimed at the United States.

But the danger of a blitzkrieg Soviet invasion of Western Europe is over. The Russian armed forces are riddled with discipline problems and thoroughly demoralized, and it has been unable to keep up with the revolution in Western military technology demonstrated in the Persian Gulf. Deprived of its Warsaw Pact allies, an aggressive Russia would now have to change railroad gauges and pass through a hostile Poland and Belarus or Ukraine to get to Germany. It would take Russia 15 years to reconstitute a serious threat to Europe.

Still Need NATO

NATO, the greatest and most successful alliance in history, is dealing with the consequences of its own success. We are in a dynamic transition process to a new security order in a world that is still blurred and ill-defined, but that carries with it a greater likelihood of multilateral military operations.

The new problems we may confront, however intricate or difficult, as in Somalia, Iraq, or the former Yugoslavia, are preferable by far to those of the Cold War.

Keeping a couple of divisions in Western Europe is no more expensive than keeping them in Alaska, Hawaii, or Texas. It keeps the alliance alive, and gives us time to sort out the coming linguistic, racial, and ethnic feuds that are sure to erupt in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It also provides opportunity for the Europeans to come to grips with the growing fundamentalism in the oil-rich Middle East.

We have reason to take pride in our victory and no reason to withdraw completely from Europe, and thereby risk an inability to meet lesser future challenges.
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Title Annotation:US troops in Europe
Author:Merrill, Philip
Publication:Policy Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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