More Troops—or Less Empire
By Patrick J. Buchanan
-- -- “[W]e are stretched too thin and need
a larger military,” argued The Weekly Standard in a recent
editorial entitled “More Troops.”
“Researchers at conservative think tanks like the American
Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation call for larger
ground forces, as do thinkers at centrist and liberal
organizations like Brookings, CSIS, and even the Center for
And why do we need more troops?
Because the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are going badly for
lack of U.S. troops, and because, says the Standard, President
Bush needs to have the strategic option to put ground forces
into “Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Lebanon, or wherever the next
crisis erupts.” The Standard wants the U.S. Army increased by
Post-election, this issue will be debated in Congress and should
provide the occasion for a larger debate on the issue: do we
truly need more troops, or do we rather need fewer U.S.
commitments to fight in places where no vital interests are
imperiled? Is it not time, 15 years after the Cold War’s end, to
begin dissolving old alliances and shedding commitments dating
to a time when a Soviet Empire bestrode Europe and Asia like a
Case in point: South Korea. Why are 30,000 U.S. troops tied down
on that peninsula half a century after the Chinese left North
Korea and 15 years after the Soviet Union expired? If the 60
million Koreans, North and South, were raptured up to heaven,
how would America be imperiled?
In the Korean War of 1950-53, the United States sent an army of
a third of a million men. One thousand U.S. soldiers died every
month in Korea, compared to the 1,000 who die each year in
Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are not going to send another
army to fight for South Korea. Nor should we.
The Cold War is over and South Korea, with an economy 40 times
the size of the North’s, with twice the population and the
latest in U.S. weapons, should undertake its own ground defense.
Before plunging into Vietnam, LBJ said, “American boys ought not
to be doing the fighting that Asian boys ought to be doing for
themselves.” That was a valid argument then. Why not now?
If the United States gave Seoul notice that all U.S. troops
would be off the peninsula in a year and we were exercising our
right to withdraw from the 1950s mutual security treaty, those
U.S. troops could be returned home, and we would find Seoul
suddenly far more receptive to Bush’s diplomacy than it has
Case in point: NATO, Ukraine, and Georgia. Until the Orange
Revolution went sour, these two ex-republics of the USSR were
advancing toward membership in NATO. Once in, any conflict
between either nation and Russia would bring us in militarily.
For the NATO charter reads that an attack against one is an
attack against all. Is there a more insane idea floating about
Kiev and Moscow have clashed over the pro-Western orientation of
the new government and the Crimean peninsula that is home to the
Russian Black Sea Fleet. Khrushchev ceded the peninsula to
Ukraine. But eastern Ukraine is Russified in language, culture,
and ethnicity, and different from the Orthodox center and
How is the United States strengthened by a commitment to go to
war with the world’s second nuclear power, should a
Russian-Ukrainian collision deteriorate into a shooting war?
Alliances are the transmission belts of war. While alliances can
strengthen nations, they carry the risk of dragging their
members into unnecessary wars. How would an alliance with
Georgia, now in a nasty brawl with Moscow over Russian spies and
the breakaway Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
strengthen America? Fifty years ago, Ike refused to risk war
with Russia to save the Hungarian Revolution. Now we are going
to fight Russia over Georgia?
When the debate over expanding the U.S. Army begins in 2007,
there need to be voices raised calling for withdrawal of U.S.
ground forces from Korea and Central Asia, where they do not
belong, and a bottom-up review of all U.S. war guarantees.
This will be denounced as isolationism. But was it isolationism
for the Russians to go home from Cuba? Just as we wanted the
French, British, Spanish, and, finally, Russians out of our
hemisphere, other nations bristle at U.S. troops stationed just
over their border.
We have more than enough soldiers to defend the United States
and our vital interests and allies. If we will pull up the old
trip wires we put down in the Cold War and bring home the troops
manning those trip wires, we will also find that, suddenly, we
have fewer quarrels and fewer enemies than the administration
has managed to make for us.
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