Islamic radicalism is dangerous. The religious components of the ideology are diametrically apposed to Christianity and its social components are diametrically opposed to freedom. I believe there is room for an honest debate on whether or not the U.S. should be in the Middle East. That may be surprising given my unwavering support for Ron Paul in his bid to become the President of the United States.
I’m sure you are aware that Dr. Paul has made the case many times for why we should not be involved in entangling alliances and policing the world. He has stated that acts of war against foreign peoples and governments serve to increase the threats against us and jeopardize our national security more than support it. He has said that fear is propagated amongst the citizens of the United States by the Military Industrial Complex so that they may profit from war and that profits rather than good intentions to topple ruthless dictators and spread democracy is often the true motivation for U.S. war. These are positions that I generally sympathize with and have from time to time defended.
Many have dismissed Paul based entirely on their opposition to these positions, declaring that he doesn’t understand the threats that we face as a nation. Because of their strong belief in the threat of Radical Islam, they are willing to, for lack of a better phrase, throw the baby out with the bathwater. They dismiss the fact that despite the disagreement over U.S. involvement in the Middle East, Dr. Paul has a lot of good points on foreign policy in general that deserve discussion.
I imagine many ardent believers in the dangers of radicalism could sympathize with the notion that the U.S. military, after more than a decade of wars, is overextended and the cost associated with those wars are part of the environment that is perpetuating our weak economy. I also believe that every warm blooded American would agree that Paul’s sympathy for all those who have lost and suffered in war is admirable and could support his desire to bring our troops home.
There may also be some common ground with regards to our ongoing military presence in other areas of the world. While it’s not certain just how many military bases there are outside of the United States, it is estimated that there could be anywhere from 500 to over 1000 in 130 – 150 countries. As of May 18, 2012, 196,248, out the total 1,414,149 (nearly 14%), active-duty military personnel serve outside the United States and its territories.
It is estimated that foreign bases cost American taxpayers $100 billion per year.
We have an estimated 124 bases in Japan alone. As of December 2009, there are 35,688 U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan and another 5,500 American civilians employed there by the United States Department of Defense. Immediately after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, 9,720 dependents of United States military and government civilian employees in Japan evacuated the country. Now we’re in the process of moving back in. The relocation move is expected to cost 8.6 billion US Dollars. In May 2010, a survey of the Okinawan people found that 71% thought that the presence of Marines on Okinawa was not necessary.
We still have 53,526 military personnel stationed in Germany and 28,500 in South Korea. The list goes on and on.
“Closing these bases should not be viewed as anti-military. Money saved can be used for more combat forces, and more ships and transport aircraft for greater strategic mobility. There is also a need to rebalance our nation’s overseas base structure to react worldwide, rather than contain communism. For example, closing outdated Cold War bases allows improvements to less developed bases in strategic locations.”
The Bush administration saw the wastefulness of our overseas basing network. In 2004, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced plans to close more than one-third of the nation’s overseas installations, moving 70,000 troops and 100,000 family members and civilians back to the United States. National Security Adviser Jim Jones, then commander of U.S. forces in Europe, called for closing 20% of our bases in Europe. According to Rumsfeld’s estimates, we could save at least $12 billion by closing 200 to 300 bases alone. While the closures were derailed by claims that closing bases could cost us in the short term, even if this is true, it’s no reason to continue our profligate ways in the longer term.
The point is, our current foreign policy of global militarism and empire building isn’t sustainable. We just can’t afford it, never mind if it’s morally right or wrong. It’s most likely that even Ron Paul’s most staunch critic would concede, if they were honest, that there is credibility to some of his concerns with our foreign policy.