A Lean Military Will Benefit Our National Security
Should the U.S. initiate a full withdrawal of permanent American bases in the Middle East? A recent report from Defense Priorities considered that possibility, known as the “Zero Option.” Among the key points to take away from the report include the idea that America’s permanent presence in the Middle East has strayed far from basic national security needs. In fact, this continual presence in the Middle East, as well as other regions of the world, does more harm to our national security than good. So rather than an overstretched approach to our defense strategy, a “lean” military would prioritize national security and fiscal responsibility — and the need for it, indeed, is well overdue.
It’s a popular notion that troop withdrawal from key hotspots around the world, the Middle East in particular, will only lead to destabilization and empower our enemies. This, of course, begs the question — how is this any different from our current situation? If our military presence in these regions were so vital, would it not have prevented the humanitarian crises in Yemen and Syria? Wouldn’t the U.S. presence have prevented the rise of groups like ISIS, instead of indirectly supplying them with arms? It’s easy to claim that without the U.S. presence, these situations would be much worse than they are currently. Yet, there is little to no evidence to support this claim, other than mere speculation. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that U.S. intervention has worsened already bad situations.
The increase in the number of permanent bases in the Middle East have only made it more likely the United States will enter into unwanted entanglements, rather than prevent them. For years now, it has become routine to deploy service members to one of several permanent bases in the Middle East without a clear objective or benefit to their presence. Meanwhile, this needlessly places those individuals at a much higher risk of injury or death. As the report suggests, pursuing the “Zero Option” would go a long way in protecting the lives of our military personnel. At minimum, it would prevent further undue hardships on families that modern deployments often cause.
Creating a more lean military would also save more than lives. Taxpayers must foot the bill of these bases and the deployments occuring there. If these bases were each evaluated on their necessity to America’s national security, billions of dollars could be freed up and reallocated to better serve our defense needs. State-of-the-art missile defense systems, up-to-date equipment, increased pay or improved healthcare for personnel are all ways funds could be spent to improve our security rather than maintaining permanent bases.
Some may suggest that cutting the fat in our military budget is akin to leaving it — and therefore us — defenseless. This couldn’t be more backward. Having military bases all over the world needlessly strains our resources and personnel. If a new war arises, we have proved time and again how quickly we can establish an effective military presence. For example, as the report points out:
"Prior to 1990, the U.S. had not had a formal base in Saudi Arabia since the expiration of the lease on Dhahran in 1962. Yet once Saddam’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Saudi king quickly decided to accommodate a massive influx of forces from America and other Western nations. Fear can be a powerful motivator."
Too often, national defense is used to justify bloated pork projects and reckless spending, all without actually improving our security. A more lean approach to our military strategy, then, would better equip the United States to face the world around us without further entangling us in the affairs of other nations.