U.S. Troop Withdrawals What Do They Mean

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U.S. Troop Withdrawals What Do They Mean

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I first heard the news of U.S. troop withdrawals on Lufthansa, the German national airline. The plane was en route from Accra, Ghana, to Frankfurt, Germany, the country most affected by the announcement. After the plane had taken off, the airline showed the latest BBC world news, which I had not been able to watch while in Ghana.

I cannot say that I was surprised by the news. The United States has been showing all the signs of classic imperial overreach for some time. Prior to 9/11 the United States had massive troop commitments around the world, all maintained without a draft. Following the events of Sept. 11, two wars have only added to the burden—there are simply not enough troops to handle all the commitments and not enough money either.

A day after leaving Ghana, I visited Buckingham Palace, official home of Queen Elizabeth II in the heart of London. I had taken seven American young adults to Ghana with me to help with our annual United Church of God teen summer camp. All had requested a few days in London on the way home.

Amidst the splendor of the palace I reflected on Britain's past glory and, more specifically, on the country's rapid decline from imperial power. I was born shortly before the queen's reign began. At the time of her accession to the throne, Britain's military was more than four times what it is today. In 1952, the British Empire was largely intact. Britain had bases all over the globe—among the largest were Singapore and Malta, neither of which has a single British soldier on its soil today.

Throughout the 1960s British imperial power was in retreat. Britain was withdrawing its troops from different parts of the world and British power and influence was diminishing as the troops withdrew. Finally, towards the end of the '60s, Britain announced its withdrawal from "east of Suez"—all troops east of the Suez Canal were to be brought home.

What was remarkable about these withdrawals was that they were, in the main, voluntary. Many of the countries in which Britain had troops wanted the British to continue their military presence. But the British had serious financial problems and needed to cut back on their military spending. This was the age of expensive social programs and there just wasn't the money for massive defense outlay and support for single mothers or destitute asylum seekers from Third World countries.

Added to the financial burden, London had abolished conscription in 1959, meaning there were fewer men to send overseas. Besides, the 1956 Suez crisis had shown that the United Kingdom could do nothing without U.S. support and America seemed content to take over the British role of international policeman.

Now America finds itself in a similar situation—too many commitments and not enough troops or money.

Reaction to the U.S. announcement

The American-owned, Paris-based International Herald Tribune had this to say in its editorial column under the headline "Troop Plan Makes Little Sense":

"The U.S. troop redeployment plan announced Monday by President George W. Bush makes little long-term strategic sense. It is certain to strain crucial alliances, increase overall costs and dangerously weaken deterrence on the Korean Peninsula at the worst possible moment. Meanwhile, it will do nothing to address the military's most pressing current need: relieving the chronic strain on ground forces that has resulted from failing to anticipate the long, and largely unilateral, American occupation of Iraq... Overall, this plan marches in the wrong direction. Instead of reflecting and reinforcing America's core alliances, the new plan dilutes them" (Aug. 18, 2004).

The same day, USA Today's headline was "A Pullback of U.S. Forces Could Alter Ties With Allies." The article said: "Gary Smith, executive director of the American Academy in Berlin, warns that troop reductions would mean fewer contacts between the United States and Germany, which, despite recent tensions over the war in Iraq, have been close allies for five decades. Since World War II, millions of U.S. troops and family members have rotated through Germany, fostering people-to-people relations that have helped underpin the two nations' alliance. 'Germany and America will drift apart unless there are great efforts to collaborate,' Smith says."

The International Herald Tribune editorial also pointed out the importance of Germany to the United States. "Although it is certainly true that American troops no longer have to sit in Germany to protect Western Europe from the Red Army, many of today's battlefields, like Iraq and Afghanistan, are in fact closer to Germany than they are to the United States."

The paper also reminds readers that Germany pays a large part of the cost of keeping U.S. troops in its country and that Americans derive indirect benefits from being stationed there: "Germany pays a hefty share of the costs for the American military bases located there... Furthermore, the military will also lose the advantage that comes with giving large numbers of its men and women the experience of living in other cultures."

Interestingly, not one of the newspapers or magazines I read reminded its readers of why American troops were there in the first place. Although many mentioned the Soviet threat during the Cold War era, none looked back further in time to when the United States, the United Kingdom and their allies liberated Western Europe from Hitler's Third Reich. Having caused two world wars in one lifetime, the allies wanted to make sure that Germany would never rise again.

The same is true of Japan, which will also be impacted by troop withdrawals. The third country affected is South Korea. It has been pointed out that Washington has had some major disagreements with all three governments in the last two years and these withdrawals are seen by some as a punishment for this. If that is the case, Washington fails to realize that troop withdrawals will mean America will have diminishing influence over these countries.

Money plays a role

The British Financial Times, on the same day as the above articles, carried an article by Martin Wolf, a regular columnist whose feature bore the headline: "America Is Now on the Comfortable Path to Ruin."

Mr. Wolf wrote: "It takes two to tango. But there can be only one leader in the dance. In the dance of global macroeconomics, the U.S. is not leader, but led." Macroeconomics deals with the larger units and economic forces at work in the world's economies.

Mr. Wolf then writes about America's increasing financial problems and their international impact. "Let us be blunt about it. The U.S. is now on the comfortable path to ruin. It is being driven along a road of ever rising deficits and debt that risk destroying the country's credit and the global role of its currency."

He adds: "The longer the process continues, the bigger the ultimate shock to the dollar and levels of domestic real spending will have to be. Unless trends change, 10 years from now the U.S. will have fiscal debt and external liabilities that are both over 100% of GDP. It will have lost control over its economic fate."

One illustration of this change in the status of the dollar and its effect on domestic spending is the rising price of oil. Although there are a number of reasons for the dramatic price increase of recent weeks, one reason "may be the weak dollar, the currency in which oil is priced. OPEC complains that the recent fall in the dollar robs it of purchasing power (since its members buy things in yen and euros we sell)" ("Unstoppable?", The Economist, Aug. 21, 2004).

As with England in the 25 years after World War II, the United States will inevitably have to continue reducing its military commitments in the light of worsening financial realities. Other superpowers have experienced similar declines in the past—before Britain, both France and Spain traveled the same road as they declined from imperial powers to normal nations with limited influence over other countries.

Without realizing it, Mr. Wolf even touches on who might best be in a position to pick up the military slack. "Japan and Germany, the world's second and third largest economies, are also generating very large surpluses: this year, according to the latest Consensus Forecasts, they will run an aggregate current account (or savings) surplus of $256bn." So, while the U.S. trade deficit remains at $600 billion per year, the next two largest economies run a surplus of almost half that figure!

A few days after the United States announced the withdrawal of 70,000 troops based overseas, the British Sunday Express contained a quote from the (London) Foreign Policy Centre's Mark Leonard:  "There are now 70,000 European troops deployed on every continent." The Aug. 22 Sunday Express article was not about U.S. troop reductions. Titled "Blair Is Demanding Too Much From Our Shrinking Forces," the paper focused on announced reductions in British armed strength.

The article appeared just two days after a Financial Times poll showed that "foreign policy is now the issue of greatest concern to the [British] public, ranked far ahead of the economy" ("Iraq War Shifts Voters' Priorities," (Aug. 20, 2004). In the wake of 9/11, "Immigration and race relations have risen high up people's list of priorities, while unemployment has receded as a concern... The poll also suggests that the Iraq conflict and war on terror have catapulted foreign policy to the forefront of the public consciousness."

We live in frightening times, on the verge of the final cataclysmic events that immediately precede the second coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

A prophetic warning to the American and British peoples

It's difficult to remember it now, but less than 60 years ago, at the end of World War II, the United States and the British Empire seemed invincible. They had triumphed over the greatest threat to world peace and freedom that the world had ever seen.

Six decades later we can see that the theme of the last 60 years has been the gradual decline of these nations. God has withdrawn His blessings from them as they have progressively turned away from Him and His laws.

This is exactly as God said it would be when He promised financial and military supremacy as a reward for obedience but the opposite as a consequence of sin. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28, highlights this very well.

"Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God... Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you... And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 10, 13).

The consequences of disobedience are also listed: "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statues which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you... The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies... The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you... He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail" (Deuteronomy 28:15, 25, 43-44).

The head and the tail refer to economics. When America was a creditor country, it was the undisputed head. Now it is the biggest debtor nation in the world. Up to this point, the world has been content to lend the United States money, though this has partly been done through the purchase by foreign companies of U.S. assets (factories, businesses, etc). At some point, these other nations will assert their control—they will be the head and the United States will be the tail.

Perhaps that time has arrived. As Mr. Wolf put it in the Financial Times, "In the dance of global macroeconomics, the U.S. is not leader, but led." How ironic that the two greatest creditor nations mentioned in the Financial Times article are Japan and Germany, the two nations the United States and Britain defeated in World War II. What a turnaround!

Unless our English-speaking nations repent and turn back to God, you can continue to watch the financial and military decline of the two great English-speaking nations. At the same time, you will see the rise of others who will fill the gap, fulfilling biblical prophecies written thousands of years ago. WNP

Recommended Reading

What is ahead of us now? What does the Bible say about the future for nations like the United States and Britain? We offer a well-researched booklet that can help. Request The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. It is free of charge.

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