Winning: Why World War II Never Ended


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 nations.

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.




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