Thursday 5 January 2012

Pentagon defence cuts.

80,000 US military personnel currently defend Europe as part of Nato.
That's a tiny proportion of their total numbers. About 5% of their manpower. So the announced large scale military cuts may come from some of the reserves in the USA itself. But some are bound to come from Europe.
American politicians have long complained of the cost of defending Europe. Why station those troops in Europe , at their own expense, so they can spend their cash propping up foreign economics that are to cheap to defend themselves?

Those troops were supposed to be home by 1948 at the latest. Except that the USSR just wouldn't let up and the western democracies were about to collapse from war debt and war damage. The 1990 end of communism should have allowed the US to get out but then the Balkans kicked off into civil war. It wasn't until 2004 that George Bush announced 70,000 personnel from Europe would go.

The USA {according to the BBC} had almost three times the Europe number in Iran/Iraq and just 50,000 in the far east. It makes a lot more sense for the US to deploy where the threat is.

The announcement of US troop reductions was a bit of a surprise. But it shouldn't be. Since the 1960's America has been telling its Euro allies to stump up some cash and defend themselves. UK and France do. The rest don't like to go much above 1-1.5% GDP. As recently as June during the Libyan involvement US defence secretary Robert Gates noted the allies are running short on bombs.

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defence,” Mr. Gates said. Some NATO nations are “apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defence budgets.”

Europeans economies have long decided that American president's can't and won't cut military spending.
It's such a large part of the economy. And how weak would a President look to his opponent if he advocated military cuts? Those key industrial-military complex states would wipe him out. The only President to try was Carter. And look what happened to him.

But this IS the time to do it. And Obama is the President to do it. He has to make budget cuts. And there is plenty of fat in the defence budget to trim. It may look weak but his opponents are weak. US citizens are sick of war. Nearly two decades of military adventure haven't bought much glory. And even less stability. He can sell it as a time to stop intervention for no cause, for no gain. It actually puts the Republicans on the back foot. Obama can claim to have ended the wars they started and couldn't finish. And he can turn it to his own advantage even more if he cuts European defence spending.

Time magazine had a piece in April. How to save a trillion dollars. It suggested..
"While the U.S.’s military spending has jumped from $1,500 per capita in 1998 to $2,700 in 2008, its NATO allies have been spending $500 per person over the same span. As long as the U.S. is overspending on its defence, it lets its allies skimp on theirs and instead pour the savings into infrastructure, education and health care. So even as U.S. taxpayers fret about their health care costs, their tax dollars are paying for a military that is subsidizing the health care of their European allies."

Mr Gates again. "Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?" And Time asks ..Do the Air Force, Navy and Marines really need $400 billion in new jet fighters when their fleets of F-15s, F-16s and F-18s will give them vast air superiority for years to come? Does the Navy need 50 attack submarines when America's main enemy hides in caves? Does the Army still need 80,000 troops in Europe 66 years after the defeat of Adolf Hitler?
If I was Obama I'd say yes to the submarines, maybe to the fighters, but definitely withdraw the troops from Europe.


Dick the Prick said...

It's just smoke and mirrors; the amount of orgs that don't do what they do on the tin is getting silly. Standards are dropping. Hmmm...should be QT night... Happy new year and bored immediately. Euro watching is a specialist sport and Cameron does have a serious Lib Dem shadow. I appreciate it's tough for the lad but Europe has a way of happening; use it or lose it, snooze you lose etc etc. Consumer purchasing power can often seem negative but that's where direction occurs - it may be a problem that Labour continue to be useless; not good.

alan said...

Its mainly a reduction in their operational budget;war is expensive.

It has been wrapped up in the current memes of today (cost cutting), it is election year after all, but is spin of the high order.

And this could just as easily be consolidating the troops for a full force invasion of Iran. Iran is a hornets nest of nastiness because of the ramification to oil prices. Nothing short of a uber-blitzkrieg would work.

James Higham said...

America has been telling its Euro allies to stump up some cash and defend themselves. UK and France do.

UK does in a manner of speaking.

rogerh said...

Do you think the USA would take a nuclear strike to protect Europe? No. If China decided to sail up the Thames do you think they could be stopped? No. The 'Special Relationship' ceased to be worth a rat's arse after the fall of Communism - the Balkans merely a self justification for being in Europe.

Having been poor for thousands of years the people of the Far East want the good life, bully for them. Just as America sought to 'ensure' oil supplies so China/India will seek to do the same. The presence of large American forces in the Far East will merely improve the economies of the hosts and increase the prevalence of STDs but do little to ensure oil security. Still, building battleships makes jobs - for both sides.

rwendland said...

Still, building battleships makes jobs - for both sides.

But makes jobs more expensively than other public spending, especially typical council spending which is not capital-intensive with fairly low paid staff.

Even a Minister for Defence Equipment and Support conceded this to the Defence Select Committee, saying:

Quentin Davies: The second thing is that ideally to use your money for maximum impact you need to spend it on goods and services which are labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive in their manufacture so that the benefits flow through into pay packets rather than into rewards for providers of capital—banks and shareholders and so forth who would inevitably have a very high propensity to save and a low propensity to consume. Ideally you need those wages to flow through to people who are relatively low-paid. That is not the case with defence; defence is capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive.

rogerh said...


But how much Council spending leads to significant party funding? Politics has three main agenda - keeping in power, keeping powerful supporters sweet and lastly keeping the populace sufficiently diverted they do not revolt. Quentin Davies may have a publicly-stated fondness for money-into-pay-packets but above his pay-grade the first two agenda items take precedence. Not pretty but thats' the way it is.

rwendland said...

rogerh: and defence procurement spending does not "lead to significant party funding"? Or post-retirement jobs?

NB I forgot to paste in above another illuminating Quentin Davies comment on UK jobs intensity of defence procurement spending: "There is quite a high leakage into imports in defence, inevitably, and that is not the case, for example, if you are repainting schools or putting new roofs on schools."

Electro-Kevin said...

Was there much point in keeping the Commies out of western Europe ???

rwendland said...

rogerh: sorry, I misunderstood your comment. you were there before me!

Laban said...

"Having been poor for thousands of years the people of the Far East want the good life"

Not so - or at least no more so than for Europeans. Up until around the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries China and India were something like two thirds of the world economy. More than a thousand years ago, at the time of the Battle of Hastings, China had an iron industry as big as the UK's was in 1850 !

(and most people were poor for the last x-thousand years - wherever they lived)

Laban said...

OK, NEARLY a thousand years ...