Time to Close U.S. Bases in Europe

In a recent piece, PolicyMic Editor Chris Miles criticizes President Obama’s plan to downsize U.S. military presence to unspecified levels in Europe, Germany in particular. Miles says in part, “The major U.S. communications, medical, and Air Force facilities located in the country are critical for the U.S. to exert influence in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and should be maintained.” He goes on to explain that America's Ramstein Air Base in Germany has been a vital staging ground for U.S. interventions in Iraq and Libya, while the medical center in Landstuhl has provided critical treatment to soldiers wounded during American exploits in the MENA region.

Notice that it is assumed that the U.S. has the right to “exert in influence in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa,” where a majority of the global population lives. Conspicuously absent from Miles’ piece is any discussion of whether the U.S. should be pursuing the kind of influence about which he is speaking. It is simply taken for granted. That the Iraq War was waged under false or erroneous pretenses (depending on how honest you think the Bush administration was) and led to the deaths of 4,800 U.S. soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and cost over $1 trillion, does not figure into Miles’ calculation.

Rather than give Miles pause about contemporary U.S. foreign policy, apparently this tragic state of affairs underscores the necessity of a continued American military presence in Europe and around the world. The implication is that the U.S. will continue to intervene in the domestic affairs of other states, including through the use of military force, and thus these facilities are vital to the projection of U.S. power and influence throughout the world. He further assures us that the Libya intervention could not have been conducted were it not for the base in Ramstein. This will be of no great comfort to the civilians killed during the U.S./NATO bombing campaign in that country, as well as believers in American constitutional law, which was blatantly violated by a president seemingly unconcerned with obtaining an authorization for the use of force, or even adhering to the already permissive War Powers resolution.

Lastly, Miles asserts that the U.S. military is facing unprecedented cuts — a dubious claim that has been making the rounds in the media. Whatever “cuts” are being touted, they are supposed to occur against projected spending increases, which is why the Pentagon’s budget will surely rise in the coming years.

U.S. primacy will end soon, if it has not already. Nonetheless, many policy makers and pundits insist on pursuing global hegemony even as we face increasingly dire domestic circumstances, and even in the absence of serious threats from major world powers. For all its influence exertion in the preceding decades, the U.S. is markedly less powerful than it was 40 years ago, which was when the last time the U.S. ran an annual trade surplus. Real wages have been stagnant for the average worker since the late 1970s, even as the cost of goods and services such as health care and higher education have exploded even when adjusted for inflation. Whatever American influence one hopes to exert in faraway lands, it will come as little consolation to the increasingly burdened American citizen, as well as whatever foreign civilians happen to be in the way during America’s next great war of choice.  

Photo Credit: Kenny Holston 21