A couple ideas about bases in foreign countries

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Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has some interesting ideas, and they don’t all make sense but let’s consider a recent one.

During a CBS “Face the Nation” interview, Paul said the idea that the U.S. must have 900 military bases spread over 130 countries is an old fashioned.

“It makes no sense at all,” he said. “Besides, we’re bankrupt — we can’t afford it any longer.”

Few Republicans agree with Paul.

President Obama apparently ignores his own declarations about troop reduction overseas. While our presence in Iraq will “end” by 2012, he has announced establishing a new base in Darwin, Australia. Will we close all our bases in Iraq? What about support teams around other Arab nations?

The latest reports suggest we are spending about a week in Afghanistan. Just to put things into perspective, The State of Colorado’s annual budget is about $2 billion.

Is this buying us any goodwill there? Or in Pakistan?

Since Republicans and Democrats alike are not interested in making any cuts to the military budget, and since the general public would rather increase the defense budget than welfare benefits, perhaps we should consider Paul’s suggestion.

Here is an audacious plan that will go nowhere:

The U.S. should allow a foreign military from each of the 130 countries we occupy to build a base on our soil.

This reciprocity would bring a financial bonanza with it, since those foreign bases would be paid for by the country of origin, the way we pay for our bases abroad.

OK, here’s a more reasonable idea:

How about if we retain our bases abroad but make the hosting countries pay for them?

Theoretically, Americans are on German or South Korean soil in order to protect the Germans or South Koreans, respectively. Why not pay for your own protection? These are wealthy countries that can afford to pay our bills to protect them against potential enemies. In fact, this is not an outlandish idea.

When Papa Bush declared war on Iraq, “Desert Storm,” in 1991, he gained the support of many allies around the globe. Thinking like a rich man who never likes to spend his own money when dining with others, he asked and received financial support from the 34 coalition partners, minimizing American financial exposure.

Some sources claim that the war cost more than $60 billion. About $52 billion of that amount was paid by different countries: $36 billion by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and $16 billion by Germany and Japan (which sent no combat forces due to their constitutions). Why didn’t his son do the same? Can Obama do the same in Afghanistan?

Once we get over the false dichotomy of being for or against military spending in general and become more responsible citizens, we don’t need to turn to Ron Paul for advice. His libertarian ideals make sense in a world of responsible individuals that need no government, or responsible nations that need no international forces. When these ideals are pragmatically applied, we can ask a simple question: who is the beneficiary of American defense spending?

Let the beneficiaries pay! And while we are at it, let them also pay veterans for PTSD, retrain them for integration into civilian life, and ensure that whatever physical or mental ailment they suffer can be treated well enough to maintain their dignity and honor.

Raphael Sassower is professor of philosophy at UCCS who pays for his own meals. He can be reached at rsassower@gmail.com Previous articles can be found at sassower.blogspot.com