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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Needed redeployment is badly misconceived

The Pentagon has spent years trying to update its posture from an ossified Cold War array to a new 21st-century mobility, but the redeployment announced this week by President Bush isn't the answer.

The general outlines of the redeployment plan have been known for months — namely pulling troops out of Germany and South Korea, bringing most of them home, and establishing a series of forward operating posts in Central Asia.

The plan suffers from numerous shortcomings:

• Withdrawal of one-third of U.S. troops in South Korea dangerously encourages North Korean miscalculation of the Bush administration's commitment — its walk, not its talk — to defend the peninsula.

• Removal of troops from Okinawa raises similar doubts about Bush's commitment to Taiwan and elsewhere in the region.

• Conversely, the drawdown of American forces from western europe is too small. The mission of these troops — to defend against a massive armored Soviet attack — no longer exists. Bush's hope of piloting NATO forces into ventures away from Europe is not supported by Europeans.

• The temptation to assert troops into Eastern Europe and former Soviet states in Central Asia must be reconsidered. The Russians legitimately see it as unwarranted provocation, and the dreams of some planners for U.S. bases there to enable a transformation of the entire Middle East into a modern, secular democracy are dimming as the Iraqi occupation bogs down.

• Bush is misusing the redeployment plan to avoid facing honestly the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Redeployment is a poor substitute for a needed increase in the size of the Army.

The two largest drawdowns will come from countries with which the Bush administration has had serious differences — Germany and South Korea. both countries, which had been working hard to restore relations, will interpret the redeployment as payback.

The largest effect of all this redeployment will be to call into question the president's abilities as a global leader.