May 7, 2007:
To the victor goes, the responsibility for
endless occupation. Here we are, 62
years after the end of World War II, and there are still 69,000 American troops
in Germany, 12,000 in Italy and 47,000 in Japan. Fifty-four years after the end
of the Korean war, we still have 38,000 troops in South Korea. The United
States went to war against Germany,
Japan and Italy in 1941. Four years later the war was over, and the United
States supplied occupation troops. By the 1950s, final peace deals had been
made with the former enemies, but the occupation troops remained. OK, now they
were there to help defend against possible communist aggression. The Soviet
Union still talked about "liberating" Western Europe, and Communist China was
not (and still is not) favorably disposed towards Japan.
But that's not all. In 1990,
several hundred thousand American troops went to Saudi Arabia, to liberate
Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Not all the troops came home. Even before the 2003
invasion of Iraq, there were thousands of American troops stationed in the
region. In 1995, 20,000 American troops were sent to the Balkans. At the time,
everyone was assured that they would only be there for a year. Twelve years
later, there are still 2,000 U.S. troops in the Balkans.
The big reason is that the locals
like having the American troops around. As foreign soldiers go, they are pretty
good with the locals, and keep ancient enemies at bay. The presence of U.S.
troops is pretty tangible evidence of
American determination to help defend the "occupied" nation. Plus, the U.S.
troops are well paid and are good for local businesses. The foreigners are so
eager to keep the American troops around that, each year, they contribute over
six billion dollars towards the cost of
stationing these troops overseas, instead of back in the United States. This is
where the real cost of stationing troops overseas comes in. U.S. troops are
paid, on average over $100,000 a year (including benefits). When the troops are
stationed in the U.S., much of that money is spent in the United States. But
when the troops are stationed overseas, well, you get the idea. So do the host
The American troops don't mind.
They get to see the world and learn about other cultures. In most places, they
can bring their families along. Sort of an extended, albeit working, vacation.
Some overseas assignments are particularly sought after.