The current discussion regarding the appropriate level of US troops for Afghanistan got me wondering about the total size of our military. How many more troops do we have to send?
The most recent information I found shows that we have nearly 1.4 million active duty troops worldwide and another 1.4 million in active reserve. Those totals include 130 thousand in Iraq and 62 thousand in Afghanistan with at least 68 thousand by year end.
In addition, we have 40 thousand in South Korea, 45 thousand in Japan, plus 5-30 thousand each in Italy, Spain and Turkey and 250 thousand in Germany! The question is Why?
I understand why we have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But why do we still have troops in Japan? The war has been over for more than 60 years and, although Japan is a threat to us economically, it certainly isnt a military threat. So what possible reason can there be to maintain such a large force? If it’s to act as a counter to China, do we really think 45 thousand troops are a serious deterrent to Chinas combined forces of more than 6 million?
You also have to wonder about our troop levels in Germany. After all, Hitler and the Third Reich were defeated in 1945 and the Cold War has been over for more than 20 years.
South Korea? Okay, I understand that one. The Korean War has never been declared over – we simply signed an armistice that paused the fighting. And even though that was 56 years ago, the country to the north has nuclear weapons, missiles and a huge standing army.
Perhaps the most puzzling deployments are the thousands of troops in Italy and Spain. For what purpose? Shopping? Supplying wine to the rest of our troops? Working on their tans? Because Don Rumsfeld favored Tuscan cooking?
The real question is this: If we have 1.4 million troops, why are so few bearing the brunt of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan? If my figures are correct, fewer than 15 percent are deployed in those countries. Yet many of our soldiers are already on their 4th and 5th tours of duty in combat.
As long as President Obama and the Department of Defense are considering troop levels in Afghanistan, why not look troop levels everywhere? They could begin by declaring victory in Germany, Italy and Japan, and finally bring those troops home.