Bring the boys home

Posted: Aug 20, 2004 12:00 AM

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Our so-called mainstream media just don't get it. A major, historic announcement was made this week -- and most of the potentates of the press missed it. Maybe that's because it wasn't made during the prurient trials of Scott Peterson, Kobe Bryant or Michael Jackson -- where most of our national press corps seems to have their celebrity-seeking attention focused.

 Maybe that's why they weren't paying attention on Monday this week when President George W. Bush announced that as many as 70,000 troops and their families will soon be returning home from the European and Asian theaters. Maybe he made a mistake by saying it to my comrades-in-arms at their annual VFW convention in Cincinnati, because when he gave this stunning announcement, no reporters rushed to their laptops to file a story. They didn't all immediately grab their cell phones to call their editors. None of the big, hotshot television anchors rushed to check the tape. Nope, they just let it go with a yawn. Kind of like A-Rod batting a foul ball into the stands on his first pitch.

 There is hope, though. John Kerry must have had a spy in the crowd, and as soon as he heard about the president's redeployment plan, he came out against it. Now that the Democrat presidential candidate has announced his opposition, there's hope. The masters of the media love controversy. Now they can come out against it, too.

 Kerry surrogate, Wes Clark, was also paying attention. Air Force One had barely lifted off for Washington before the little general was looking for a microphone to whine that "now is not the time to pull back our forces." Clark ought to try that line on his pal Kerry, who wants to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq where they are needed, instead of out of Europe where they are not.

 In his address to the annual VFW convention, President Bush noted that the world has changed dramatically since the post-World War II era, when we needed tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Europe and Korea. The War on Terror has replaced the Cold War. The Middle East has supplanted Europe as the global military hotspot. Meanwhile, U.S. military capabilities have grown exponentially.

 Yet Kerry now charges that bringing servicemen and women home from Europe will somehow threaten U.S. national security. Why? Doesn't he trust them? Or was he so "seared" by imaginary events in Vietnam that he didn't notice that the wall has come down, the Evil Empire has collapsed and the Middle East is now the nexus of Global Terror?

 More likely, the Kerry critique, delivered on Wednesday to a cool response before the same VFW audience, was simply the same blind, knee-jerk opposition that the Democrats have had for every Bush administration initiative. And therein lies the shame, for what the president has proposed makes imminently good sense given the realities of a New World disorder.

 Despite Kerry campaign assertions that the Bush redeployment plan is some kind of "August Surprise," it is in fact the culmination of more than three years of work by Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon planners. And -- again contrary to allegations from prominent Democrats -- it is supported by both NATO and South Korean leaders.

 They know, if Kerry & Co. do not, that there is no longer a need for 100,000 U.S. military personnel to protect the democracies of Europe. Western Europeans are no longer threatened by legions of Soviets and their satellite soldiers staring at them across the Fulda Gap. The major threat that the Europeans now face is the same enemy that places us at risk: radical Islamic Jihadism.

       The president's plan to "thin out" our forces overseas assures that our military is more capable of contending with that threat. In Germany, 30,000 troops trained and equipped to fight a European ground war will be replaced by a brigade of 5,000 equipped with Stryker armored vehicles. This more mobile force will be able to deploy quickly and fight anywhere -- rather than lying in wait in the German countryside for a communist enemy we defeated years ago.

 In a conference call coordinated by the Democratic National Committee, Wesley Clark, who should know better, claimed that "this redeployment will do nothing to ease the strain on our overstretched military forces." He's simply wrong. The president's plan is part of a major overhaul of the Army, which will add 10 new mobile combat brigades -- without increasing end strength. Those new brigades will ensure that the men and women fighting the Global War on Terror -- a war that is going to last for a long time no matter who wins this November -- won't have to deploy as often as they do today.

 If Kerry and his colleagues truly care about the welfare of the U.S. military, they should applaud President Bush's plan to bring the troops home. Instead, it seems that they are more concerned about appeasing America's most vociferous European critics.

       Shortly after the president's announcement, former U.N. ambassador and Kerry advisor Richard Holbrooke claimed that, "A withdrawal weakens the NATO alliance and will inevitably lead to less cooperation with our closest allies."

       It sounds like the Kerry camp is less concerned about U.S. national security than about the anxieties of Peter Lang, the mayor of Baumholder in southern Germany, who said that without U.S. troops contributing to the local economy, the town "would bleed to death."

 Let's hear the Democrats spin that to the people of an American town that has had a congressionally imposed base closure. It could be as interesting as one of Kerry's Vietnam war stories.