Q&A Friday #104: Should We Still Have Troops In Germany And Japan?

Question: Why don’t we bring the troops home from Germany and Japan etc? Is it really worth the hundreds of millions of dollars we have spent over the last 20 years? — Gayunemployedmexican

Answer: It’s hard to say exactly how many overseas bases the United States has. According to Nicholas Kristof, who’s the closest thing to a reliable source I found on the issue, we have “ 560 bases and other sites abroad.”

Should we have all of those bases? Do we need all of these bases? Can we afford all of those bases? Is it even good for the world for us to have that many bases?

Not just no, but, “Hell no.”

Having those bases nearby is convenient when we have to project force to different parts of the planet. Moreover, it also helps promote global stability. Having a U.S. presence in a country is definitely a military deterrent. Not only can American soldiers fight, but if you kill them, more may come — many, many, more.

The flip side of that argument is that there’s no military purpose served by having so many bases — and it’s also very expensive. Moreover, in some cases, like in Western Europe or South Korea, we’ve ended up spending our blood and treasure to protect nations that should be able to protect themselves.

So again, should we have a lot less military bases overseas? Absolutely.

Should we pull out of Germany and Japan? That’s much more iffy.

We definitely shouldn’t leave Japan. Not only is it a very important base of operations for us in the Pacific, it’s keeping Japan from building a much more powerful military. Japan probably isn’t a threat to us, but a much more muscular Japan would dramatically increase tensions in the region and it could lead to some very dangerous conflicts.

As to Germany, they don’t need our protection and they’re also unlikely to be a threat to us. But, Germany is centrally located and we have some very useful bases there. We’ve also already cut away some of the dead wood.

So, long story short: Should we dramatically cut back on the number of bases we have worldwide? Yes, definitely. Should we get out of Germany and Japan? Probably not.

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