17. August 2004 · Comments Off on Hand Me That Tiny Violin · Categories: Military

Oh we’ve heard this before. Communities around the world are crying crocodile tears over the economic impact of US troop redeployment:

“The town would bleed to death,” said Peter Lang, mayor of the southern Germany town of Baumholder, where two-thirds of the town’s 18,000 residents are Americans posted to the nearby military base.

Lee Myeong-seok is the head of a merchants group in the district around the massive U.S. Yongsan Garrison in downtown Seoul. The proposed American redeployment would abandon the base and the estimated 6,000 Korean employees who work there.
“Business is already bad, but after the U.S. troops leave, the local economy will collapse,” Mr. Lee told the Singapore Straits Times last month.

Their fears are unfounded. History shows that American communities have, on the whole, weathered the initial economic hardship from base closings, and come out stronger than before in the long run.

Recovery from military base closures has proceeded fairly smoothly even in these exceptional cases where local impact was severe. Consider the case of Ft. Ord, in Monterey, California. In 1992, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the area’s unemployment would increase by as much as 8% due to the closure of this facility. The actual results are more modest: unemployment increases of less than 1%. Local population and housing values have remained stable, and local retail sales actually grew.

The most telling economic fact is not captured in these statistics: Monterey has created a diverse economic base to replace a potentially dangerous economic dependence on a single employer (in this case, the U.S. Army). A diverse economic base is the key to a community’s long-term economic prosperity. Public support for base closure communities has helped diversify the economy in towns and cities across the country. Indeed, the effort to support base closure communities is an unparalleled success story in economic development.

This move has been inevitable. And, in my opinion, it’s at least a decade overdue. The Cold War deployment is, of course, archaic. But beyond that, the US spends more on it’s military than the rest of the world combined. It is ludicrous for us to take responsibility for the defense of wealthy and technologically advanced nations.

Comments closed.