James Carafano: Reduce forces in Europe? America would suffer. Here's how

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According to media reports over the weekend, the administration plans to pull nearly 10,000 U.S. troops from Germany by September. But if its strategy for dealing with global challenges really is to “put America first,” then force reductions in Europe are not the right move.

America First has always meant making sure our national interests — the things that are really important to our security and our economic success — are protected from the worst that our nation’s enemies can throw at them as they strive to take us down.

President Trump was exactly right to adopt a policy of “peace through strength” when he entered the Oval Office. The goal then, as now, was to ensure that the U.S. had the capacity to protect our vital interests and to demonstrate that America had the willingness and ability to put boots on the ground wherever they were needed to defend our interests.


Current U.S. national security and defense strategies reflect this hard-nosed realism. America isn’t the world’s policeman. We are not its babysitter. We are not its piggybank. And we are nobody’s patsy. Our force structure in Europe has always reflected that no-nonsense security policy.

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We are over there because the peace and stability of Europe are vital to our own success and security. As a global power with global interests and responsibilities, we need to maintain a military presence in strategic locations so that, if the need arises, we can get where we need to be — quickly and efficiently — and take care of what is important to us.

This is why we’ve stationed forces in Germany since the end of the Second World War. Without our military footprint in Germany, NATO’s front line in Eastern Europe cannot be defended. And Germany is the critical logistical hub that allows us — when needed — to project power everywhere from the Middle East, to northern Africa, to South Asia. In short, our military presence in Europe is essential to our standing as a world military power.

We live in a tough world. America’s enemies want us to walk away. When we stand forward and stand strong — that is what best encourages our allies to stand with us.

Can we get by with less? Probably not. That’s the finding the annual Index of U.S. Military Strength compiled by the Heritage Foundation.

Our strength ratings have improved every year under the Trump administration — in part, because of the U.S. force structure, in part because of assistance to NATO allies, in part because of the president’s insistence on NATO members contributing more to their own defense.

Having achieved this much-needed improvement, it would be wasteful and dangerous to chip away at it now, thereby undermining the accomplishments of the last three years.


Some might argue that cutting NATO forces would allow us to beef up the forces needed to better prepare us for a confrontation from China.  It’s true that we need a stronger military presence in the Indo-Pacific, but what we need there — for example, more ships — is different from what we have in Europe. If we’re looking to shift the balance of power in the Pacific, it’s not as simple as just moving troops from one theater to another.

In addition, reductions in Europe would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. A weakened NATO would embolden Putin and Iran. The last problem the U.S. needs as we turn to confront China is to worry about being stabbed in the back by another bad power.

Over the last three years, America First has made America safer. What’s more, by building our own strength and pressing our allies to step up and do the same, we have made the whole free world stronger. We are building better partners to serve our common good.


We live in a tough world. America’s enemies want us to walk away. When we stand forward and stand strong — that is what best encourages our allies to stand with us. Look at how many countries are rethinking their association with the WHO and Huawei, because America had the courage to take a stand.

This administration can and should demand that our allies do more. We must continue to show our competitors we are no pushover. So far, this White House has handled those dual responsibilities better than most. Staying the course with America’s military footprint in Europe is a huge part of that success.