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March 31, 2016


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I think it is highly unlikely that a retrenching US would maintain the same force structure. As budget pressures grow the force structure to keep overseas forces credible and maintain readiness will probably be chipped away.

The US footprint in Europe has been consistently reduced the last 6 years. I expect that trend to continue no matter who is President.

>>Only you don’t! Consider the cost of transferring 7,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam: $19.3 billion. (Page 49.) Scale that up by the other 43,000 American forces in Japan and you get $119 billion to withdraw without demobilization. Add in the 29,000 forces in South Korea and you get $197 billion. Throw in the 36,000 troops planned to still be in Germany in 2017 and you get $296 billion.

Yeah but wouldn't that many people sink Guam into the ocean?

Also this is an incredible post, raising a lot of issues I was unaware of, and really undercuts some of the knee-jerk American First isolationism that is convinced that our "Empire" must be draining our resources.

I would expect that in addition to the withdrawal from Allies (unless they cough up some dough) there would be a downsizing of the US military's size at least in terms of active forces. Some would get redeployed for sure but others would likely be phased out.

Plus I imagine that the cost savings Trump imagines are also tied in with US military involvement in actual conflicts around the world. No or fewer overseas bases = less capacity to become quickly involved = less involvement in foreign conflicts.

Trump is already on record as saying he wouldn't be into toppling dictators, so as a hypothetical, let's say that the Trump of 2016 was somehow President from 2003-2012 (let's say he was Bush's VP and Bush kicked the bucket in 2003 before Iraq and Trump became President for a year enabling him to run for President for two terms after that) - he may have decided against going into Iraq and instead decided to pressure the Saudis for money into staying in the Middle East. He would also likely have left Gaddaffi alone. What would have been the costs saved in doing those two things.

As for Syria he would probably never have contemplated regime change but instead considered lobbing cruise missiles and bombs from B-2s and F/A-18s (which is what would have to happen if he withdrew from bases in Europe and the Middle East - so he would be great news for Northrup and Boeing) at ISIS when it arose (if it arose).

Well, staying out of Syria and Libya would save relatively risible amounts relative to the U.S. defense budget. Syria, for example, has cost about $6.5 billion to date, although it should be noted that said cost is not measured relative to a baseline. Rather, it is the marginal cost of all supplies consumed during the operation. Libya was even cheaper, around $3 billion.

(Side note: a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3725ih/html/BILLS-112hr3725ih.htm">this bill is very Trumpian, no? It demands that the President seize frozen Libyan assets in compensation! You'll be amused to see that one of the sponsors is Brad Sherman, a Democrat from Los Angeles and possibly the farthest thing imaginable from a Trump supporter.)

Moreover, an American president who really wanted to intervene would be not stopped by a lack of permanent bases. Consider Afghanistan. We had no permanent bases in the area in September 2001. So we persuaded Kyrgyzstan to give us one (a very depressing one; I have photos) and then built one of our own at Bagram.

A President Trump could downsize the American armed forces, but closing overseas bases is an inefficient way to save money, in addition to the damage it would do to our reputation, the security of the places we protect, and the likelihood that our allies will cooperate with us on other matters.

If you want to cut the defense budget, then cut the defense budget, no?

I agree. It is an inefficient way to go about it. If one wants to cut the defence budget then simply do so.

With $3 billion saved on Libya (and anywhere between $0 to $6.5 billion saved on Syria), plus the $2.9 billion from the Rand study and the however many billions or trillions saved on Iraq, Trump though might very well think in retrospect that had the policy of not toppling dictators been done then the US would have saved a LOT of money (at what cost though?)

The Afghanistan example is good, but Afghanistan also was the one conflict I think Trump has so far not disavowed in the race. And with Afghanistan it was much easier to establish a base because of the September 11th attacks (even Russia was playing ball then).

I think though that with a possible conflict where there wasn't widespread support in the region concerned for America's aim at intervention then establishing bases would be more difficult - Syria would be easy as Turkey would be keen to see America intervene against Assad. Libya would not strictly require land based bases. Iraq ...I'm not sure. Was Kuwait eager for the US to invade Iraq?

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