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More U.S. Troops in Asia, More Waste of U.S. Taxpayers’ Money

May 06 , 2016
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

From the United States perspective, Asia’s future and the future of the US are deeply and increasingly linked. Due to imbalance in the projection and focus of US power in Asia compared with the globe overall, the Obama administration put forward the strategy of rebalance in Asia some six years ago. The US intends to harness all elements of US power – military, political, trade and investment, development and US values so that the US could best renew its leadership in Asia, and benefit from Asia’s dynamic economic development.

But implementation of the strategy in the past five or six years has gone astray. Although the US has managed to reach agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with a dozen or so trade partners, there is still a long way to go before it takes effect. The US has not made any outstanding progress in exchanges and cooperation with Asian countries in the fields of trade, education, culture and development assistance. However, the improper and astonishing increase of US troops, armaments, and military actions in Asia has done great damage to peace and stability in the region and also to Sino-US relations. At the same time, it has burdened the US with more unnecessary military duties and expenditures at a risky and unsustainable basis/ As a result, US leadership in Asia has been impaired or seriously challenged, instead of strengthened. The increased irrational military actions in Asia resulting from the unwise assessment of the changed world situation and impatient military strategy by US military commanders will inevitably cause a lot of waste of valuable resources and taxpayers money in the long run..

More US troops in Asia has proved to be counter-productive to renewing US constructive role in Asia. The Obama administration has stated time and again that rebalancing does not mean containing China, as it has engaged with China so closely as never before in the political, economic, trade, educational and cultural areas. But the increasing US military deployment in Asia directed at China has set a totally different tone in US policy towards China. Most observers and   analysts in diplomatic and political circles agree that the US military is doing every thing possible to maintain its military hegemony in Asia, especially in maritime affairs, by gaining an upper hand over China with its superior military force. Some do not rule out the possibility that the US military is preparing for an expanded military alliance to encircle and subdue China by making constant provocations in the South China Sea as a testing ground. Under such a grand, wishful strategic plan, the US military has been trying its best to expand its military deployment in Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the Philippines, Singapore and Australia. It also tries to seek logistical military support from Vietnam, India and others.

US military commanders have repeatedly declared that they are going to manufacture and purchase more sophisticated military aircraft and naval warships in order to maintain military superiority over China in the future. What puzzles people is that the US defense secretary has shied away from meeting with senior Chinese officials in the last few months. It is widely believed that no matter what has happens in the world, dialogue and exchange are the only right course for China and the US. No one believes that this right course could be changed by the US military, as the common interests of the two countries are so huge. As China firmly pursues a policy of no confrontation, no conflict and win-win cooperation towards the US, the armament competition the US military hopes for could be only a solo performance, and China will not follow suit. As US military hegemony in Asia is not welcome, the obstinate pursuit of that goal will inevitably harm interests of both the US and Asian countries. The fundamentally flawed US military strategy in Asia could neither enhance the confidence of US allies, nor give any chance of US victory in any accidental conflicts or unfortunate wars in Asia. In the end, the US military cannot but waste more taxpayers’ money with no possible prospect of playing a constructive role in Asia.

In any cost-benefit analysis, the continued practice of dispatching more US troops in Asia is a losing game. No one can deny that China definitely has a geographical advantage. The US mainland is thousands of miles away from Asia. The US deployment of normal level troops in Asia has already cost a great deal. Additional troops and armaments in Asia will produce extra cost and trouble. Even in Japan, the so-called staunchest ally in Asia, US troop deployment is always confronted with long-lasting problems and challenges. The Futenma Base relocation controversy is just one case in point. The possible deployment of the terminal high altitude area defense system (THAAD) in the ROK will cause environmental hazards, and also defense budget problems for the ROK. In the Philippines, the constitution and popular sentiment always pose certain restrictions on free US troop movements. With these reluctant partners, it is only natural that US military deployments there are undoubtedly more costly and restricted. As the US national debt stands at about $18 trillion, it will be an uphill battle for the US military to get enough money to cover all its ambitious programs in Asia and in other part of the world.

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