Monday, December 19, 2005

Baseless accusations

The United States currently has a large number of troops stationed in Okinawa, whose primary purpose is to annoy the Japanese. We also have a large number of troops in western Europe, and South Korea, who serve much the same purpose. We placed those troops there to block a future invasion from the enemy we had at the time.

However, in a world of modern transportation, in which you can get someone anywhere in the world in a matter or hours, why do you need to have someone sitting somewhere waiting for a war to start? The only reason (besides a show of solidarity with your allies--since you will be involved if they're invaded), is that, though we can get people there, we cannot get all of their accessories and heavy equipment to the places it is needed in time.... unless we preposition it.

The United States rules the waves. Few nations even bother to build blue water navies anymore. All we need to do is add a few ships stocked with all the equipment needed for a land force, essentially floating warehouses, to every carrier battle group. Problem somewhere? Fly the troops to the carrier, load them up, and land them where they're needed--between helicopters and hovercraft, we can land on 90% of the world's beaches. Such supply basing on ships would have the following advantages:

1. Mobility. We wouldn't have troops stuck where they're not needed in an emergency (or with political changes). In case a crisis strikes, we can move our floating warehouses to where they are needed.

2. Deals. We wouldn't have to make deals with less-than-savory characters for basing rights, just because they happen to be close to the action.

3. Diplomacy. Our troops would not be in a position to annoy our allies.

4. Expense. Supporting people overseas is expensive. Supporting things overseas requires shipping them overseas, which we would need to do anyway.

5. Defense. Troops which are stationed in a country are automatically taken into consideration by a potential invader. Such an invader will have a plan to neutralize them, thereby increasing our casualties. By keeping the number of troops available in flux, we add more risk to our enemies' plans, and thereby throw off his planning.

6. Security. Naval forces are not very susceptible to asymetric threats. A few guerillas can tie down an army. A few canoes cannot tie up a blue water navy. Furthermore, by staying off shore, we also reduce the ability of our opponents to observe our routines, and plan around them.

In short, the idea of creating military bases overseas is a relic from previous technology. Prior to the advent of nuclear- and oil-powered ships, land bases were needed by naval powers for coaling stations. Prepositioning supplies takes the doctrine of tactical mobility and updates it for modern naval technology and the modern political situation.

2 Comments:

Blogger Noumenon said...

If local politics weren't such a big factor in base closings, the perfect place to start with this would be the National Guard. Well, no, because those bases recruit.

Can troops just drop in and pick up their arsenal? In other words is war a game like croquet where you just pick up a mallet and go or is it like baseball where every bat has its own swing and sweet spot?

The only reason (besides a show of solidarity with your allies--since you will be involved if they're invaded)

You did think of this. I didn't till I'd had your post open and read it a couple times. Keeping troops in South Korea is expensive and dangerous for us -- and thus makes a credible signal that we're committed to defend it.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Can troops just drop in and pick up their arsenal? In other words is war a game like croquet where you just pick up a mallet and go or is it like baseball where every bat has its own swing and sweet spot?

It does add to the expense, as they would need to keep training equipment and enough regular equipment in the United States to deal with domestic situations, but why not? Particularly if those ships had machine shops in which the equipment could be pulled out every year, cleaned, tested, and returned to storage.

11:05 PM  

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