U.S. rhetoric is not enoughU.S. President Barack Obama unveiled a new national defense strategy on Thursday, calling for a “leaner” and more agile military after a decade of war while shifting its overseas focus from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region. Due to dire fiscal restraints, the Obama administration’s Defense Strategic Review will incorporate at least $487 million in defense spending cuts over the next decade.
While specifics weren’t released, the secretary of defense did say ground troops will be reduced to 490,000 from 570,000.
The new U.S. defense strategy has long been anticipated. The United States is winding down military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost Americans trillions over the last decade.
U.S. troops have almost entirely pulled out of Iraq and plan to complete their draw-down from Afghanistan by 2014. The realignment in defense strategy has been inevitable. What matters to us is the effect on our national security.
The surrender of the two-war strategy means America cannot be engaged in a war on the Korean Peninsula while fighting in another region.
If tensions with Iran trigger war, and military conflict erupts between the North and the South, Washington would be limited in its ability to engage in both. The change in the U.S. defense strategy may send the wrong message to North Korea, which is currently in the midst of a turbulent transition following the death of Kim Jong-il.
The downsizing of ground troops could also lead to a reduction in U.S. contingency deterrent forces. Once the war command authority is handed over from the U.S. to South Korea in 2015, Washington would be politically incapable of increasing contingency forces in Korea.
Under its current operation plan, the U.S. has pledged to bolster forces by 690,000 within 90 days if a war breaks out. But such a strategy has long been criticized as being unrealistic.
The U.S. reiterated that its “leaner” and more agile military would have no impact on its commitment to South Korean security and deterrence against North Korean attacks. South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense also echoed these reassurances. But we cannot shake off our anxious feelings. We are uncertain whether the United States can maintain its current force of 28,500 in Korea. We cannot be assured by mere rhetoric.
The U.S. and South Korean governments must present more concrete and specific details on emergency defense plans and security outlines to ease public anxiety.