Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Die Wacht am Rhein

Apropos of U.S. military junketing, for all the minimal level of public discussion regarding the adventuring going on in places like Yemen and Libya, what I find even more fascinating is the utter lack of discussion regarding the fact that more than twenty years after the last mechanic stopped wrenching on the last T-80 assigned to the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany the U.S. still has something like 50,000 troops stationed in the kasernes they occupied when the Red Horde was poised to roll through the Fulda Gap.
Not advocating one way or the other - seriously; I really have no idea whether or not moving these troops or leaving them where they are would have an impact on either the defense budget or the policy of the U.S. - but IMO the complete indifference of any of the usual suspects here in the Land of the Free Because of the Brave to even mentioning the subject is an interesting non-comment on the state of the "public discussion" regarding What Should We Be Spending That Precious Tax Money On.

But perhaps the citizenry and "leadership" is deeply immersed in the important business of discussing what naughty ladies do with their lady parts to make unborn babies, and are thus distracted.

(n/t to Atrios, who brought this up)


  1. Bring 'em home!!! Same for the Pacific.

  2. Chief,
    Why don't we call it -The American Army on the Rhine??
    That has a real nice ring to it.Like BAOR.
    We should have left Germany in 1956.
    We should leave Nato today.

  3. Anyone know the breakdown of those numbers? How many are fighting units vs logistics and administration?

  4. FDChief-

    The Sovs changed the designation of GSFG to "Western Group of Forces" in the late 1980s.

    You're right, no defensive reason to still be there. It has to do with dominance, the concept I have spoken of before. With us in Germany it allows us to dominate Europe, remain the "Super Power" among Major Powers.

    1956 would have been far too early to have left. 1992 would have been perfect, but then Defense Policy Guidance came along and Dick Cheney & co pretty much reset our strategic policy with little or no debate . . .

  5. A 2008 version of the order of battle has the 1st Armored Division and some other regiments/brigades in Germany. The 3rd Air Force is also there.

    Looks to me like they are still set up to oppose the Soviet hordes (i.e. some fighting forces, but with the infrastructure to rapidly bring over more).

    This is an example of Washington Rules. Power/money/influence has organized itself into a particular configuration and changes to the world have little influence.

  6. Seydlitz: I suspect that the bulk of these numbers are CS/CSS types still involved in maintaining the fixed facilities in USAEUR. But that still kind of elides the question - why? Last time I checked the Federal Republic of Germany was a viable democratic state with a fully functional Army and Air Force. ISTM that the geopolitical purpose of these facilities and the troops that maintain them is as dead as the dodo.

    But the real point behind this post wasn't so much to question the troops' location, the strategy or lack of same behind that placement, but the ugly exposure of the pretty appalling lack of any sort of real political vitality in the 2012 U.S. that there's nobody outside of what is considered the utter nutbag fringe of U.S. politics that even wants to raise the issue.

    Is it any wonder that if we can't even work up the curiosity to ask about WTF these guys are doing that we don't even have a clue on the more difficult, contentious defense and geopolitical issues that confront us?

  7. FDChief-

    " . . . that even wants to raise the issue."

    American exceptionalism, and the Washington Rules, as Ael mentions. There is general consensus that we belong there, actually belong almost everywhere. Dominance is the policy or rather desired state, and it will not change, except for some catastrophe.

  8. Seydlitz,
    1956 would've been a perfect time to leave the Fatherland.
    The German forces were reconstituted,so to speak, and were worthy of the name defense forces, unlike RVN,IRQ and AFGH which are/were not real Armies. The RVN was the closest and they folded under pressure,but to the point.
    The US Army in Europe was ALWAYS THE SPARTANS in the narrows, and we all knew that we would die IF the Russians came across the gap. So why were we there?
    What did we achieve that the Bundeswehr could not do? We all were just a trip wire to nuclear devastation.
    My point is that if the US wanted to ramp down the Cold War we could've done it in 56 bas well as not. We proved in 56 that we really weren't interested in stopping Soviet hegemony of the satelite countries. If we were we would've moved east into East Germany and Hungary.
    We have the capability to lower the force issue IF we are ready to back down at some point.
    We fail to acknowledge legit Soviet/Rusn concerns for their borders and high speed aves of invasion,AND WE STILL DO SO by pushing Nato right up their back side.Their security concerns are as legit as ours.
    We are the problem as well as ONLY part of the solution.
    If we bring our Armies home then our prostitutes will get the profits that foreign whores rein in.
    Figuratively speaking.

  9. jim: The cynical take on NATO was that it was to "keep the Germans down, the Yankees in, and the Russians out". The Europeans (well, except the French...) WANTED the USAREUR where it was; it was their guarantee that if the Sovs got bored and romped across the inter-German border that the Amis wouldn't just nuke 'em from space. That's one of the big reasons there was such a shitfit about the U.S. tactical nukes back in the Eighties - as you point out, the whole nuclear issue was a hot-button item for the people who were living in what would have been the target...

    Frankly, I don't see these U.S. troops as doing anything now but providing lilypads for U.S. operations in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Eurasian/African AO; I don't think the Russians see them as either a threat or a provication. If anything, our fiddle-fucking around in Georgia and the former Soviet-o-stans is more irritating to them.

    As far as the "why are we still there" I suspect that farkling about in A-stan, Yemen, and Somalia would be considerably more difficult if we couldn't go through Rhein-Main on the way to Uzbekistan or Diego Garcia. So in a sense discussing these relict posts would be discussing our geopolitics in the southwest Asia/north Africa region.

    But even as objects, without considering the bigger picture, you gotta wonder - why aren't any of these fanatic Republican deficit cutters, these fanatic small-government Randroids, the get-out-of-the-UN-black-helicopter teatards leaping about demanding we shut these useless out-of-date, tax-dollars-wasted-on-fat-fraus'-housekeeping posts?

  10. jim-

    "We proved in 56 that we really weren't interested in stopping Soviet hegemony of the satelite countries. If we were we would've moved east into East Germany and Hungary."

    The Sovs were already in Hungary and East Germany. Intervention, conventionally contesting Soviet dominance, would have been a very controversial policy, and 11 years after WWII hardly sustainable. Eisenhower was too smart for that.

    As to leaving in 1956, you assume that the Bundeswehr would have carried on alone, but with our absence and obvious disinterest, the Sovs would have pressured the West Germans to disarm and be neutral in the "interests of peace". It was our presence in support of them that actually made the Bundeswehr a potent force . . . the heart of an army isn't about bean counting as you know . . .

    If you wish to know something about post 1945 German attitudes towards the Russians consider this . . .

  11. A bit belated, thanks to ISP problems, but here's a bit of a German perspective. If you know that among the US installations in Germany are some of the larges military hospitals outside the US, it is quite evident that they provide more than a hopping point to Iraq, Yemen or elsewhere: It cuts in half the transport distance for a wounded soldier until he reaches a state of the art facility.

    Other than that, especially in areas with quite a lot of barracks, the facilities are an economic factor in the region, and it's not actually easy for the localities to come up with a decent use for the areas if and when they are abandoned.

    I myself used to study right next to what used to be the HQ of the Big Red One. Since that has moved back to the states, part of the area was expanded into by the university. But while in this case, the move imposed itself, with a large university campus right next door, that's not always the case. Turning the areas into housing often requires quite some investments if you want to make it attractive - and if you don't, turning them into subsidized housing for the poor and/or barracks for refugees, you risk turning the area into a ghetto. KEEPING the troops there leaves one less issue to worry about, and the cash-strapped city are happy for every problem they do not have to solve...

    As for a historical perspective, it should be noted that a lot of the early upper ranks in the Bundeswehr were not-quite-as tarnished members of the Wehrmacht, as they were the ones with military experience, and as such there was probably ample reason to keep a very close eye on them. So the argument that come the Bundeswehr, the allies could just as well have packed and left is questionable.