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Get those US troops out of Europe, said the colonel

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In May 1980 at a symposium conducted by the University of Southern California in West Germany, I proposed withdrawal of the five American divisions now stationed in Europe.

I had expected opposition, and it came -- but only from elederly veterans of the effort to establish NATO and to keep it afloat through its early years. There was strong support from many young American military officers serving in Europe and, more surprising, from non-American NATO civilian and military attendees.

The support expressed was related to a proposal that the withdrawal from Europe be balanced by a deliberate but far less expensive buildup of United States forces in the North and Western PAcific. More about that proposal later, but it is important to emphasize the linkage.

I had qualms about presenting the European withdrawl proposal until I spent two most pleasant days touring Munich. The contrast between that glittering city and our own troubled cities convinced me that the time has come for Europe to take on the full burden of its own defense. And, again from young US officers, I find that this is a widely shared view up to and including someAmerican generals serving in West Germany and, though even more softly expressed, among some GErman officers. The latter, it seems, think they could do a better job with the fcilities now used by the US divisions than we can, given the tribulations of the volunteer Army.

We now have two more powerful incentives for reducing our forces in Europe than we had last May. First, Mr. Stockman's attempt to rebuild a worldwide defense system out of the US domestic budget is not politically feasible. Whatever the improvements needed in management of the domestic budget, the Us public is giving ample evidence that it is not going to sacrifice its own domestic vital interests to defend those of people who already enjoy a higher standard of living. Second, there is no way to man the 600-ship Navy Mr. Reagan is building except by large transfers from the personnel accounts of the Army. Transfers from the Air Force are ruled out by the parallel emphasis on modernization of that service.


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