The Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey explains one important lesson Americans should draw from this week’s hostage crisis in Algeria:

This crisis in Algeria once again demonstrates why having forward-deployed military bases in Europe is vital to promoting America’s interest in the region.

During September’s Benghazi attacks, an anti-terrorism team was sent to enhance security at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. Instead of deploying a team all the way from the U.S.,  the government was able to deploy Marines from a U.S. Navy base in Rota, Spain—a mere two-hour flight away.

Heritage Foundation report on U.S. military bases in Europe explains more:

One of the most obvious benefits of having U.S. troops in Europe is its geographical proximity to some of the most dangerous and contested regions of the world. This proximity of U.S. forces gives policymakers the ability to respond quickly to a crisis.

To the south of Europe, from the eastern Atlantic Ocean to the Middle East and up to the Caucasus, is an arc of instability. This region is experiencing increasing instability from demographic pressures, increased commodity prices, interstate and intrastate conflict, tribal politics, competition over water and other natural resources, religious tension, revolutionary tendencies, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and frozen conflicts. This region also has some of the world’s most vital shipping lanes, energy resources, and trade choke points. This is a recipe for instability.

The Obama administration’s defense cuts heavily affect the U.S. military presence in Europe. Ultimately, these cuts will reduce our military’s ability and flexibility to react to any future situation that may arise.

Do you think we should maintain military bases in Europe?

Comments (51)

Barron Schlameus - January 18, 2013

Yes, maintain the bases. If they are closed and trouble comes, will be very expensive to reestablish; and, the instability is not going away!

Richard - January 18, 2013

Maintaining troops in Europe for the sole purpose of acting as forward support for conflicts in other areas is acceptable – as long as the Europeans allow it. Seems there is always debate on the European side whether our forces there should be “allowed” to perform such support activities. As soon as we are refused in a European country we should start to leave. If we can’t use these bases what are we wasting money for?

John Meehan - January 18, 2013

Obama is terrified of putting any military footwear on the ground lest his liberal colleagues bellow: Quagmire! The Islamists know what our media doesn’t. Why quarter troops at such expense if we won’t use them when our citizens are threatened.

ken struttmann - January 18, 2013

Leave a small number of “special” combat forces in Europe. Station the rest on the U. S. border with Mexico. They would spend $’s in the U. S. economy and would seal the border.

Jaime L. Manzano - January 18, 2013

I wish we could.

But we have filled the world need for security and freedom of the seas for so long, we would leave a void if we pulled out. Allies, and our own institutions, have learned to depend on. Our reach on matters of freedom and trade go way back, e.g., Jefferson and Tripoli, opening up Japan, the China Open Door, etc. Freedom of the Seas largely depends on our presence, e.g., in the Gulf, in the coast of Somalia, the strait between Singapore and Indonesia, Panama. Crudely speaking, “our tit is caught in the wringer.” If we have backed into becoming the essential nation in world affairs. JLM

PaulE - January 18, 2013

On the Benghazi issue, while we had military support a mere two hours away, the administration chose to sit on its hands for 7 or 8 hours after receiving multiple calls for help from our people on the ground. So what good are having forward bases, if our leaders are unwilling to use them to protect American lives abroad?

To the larger issue of keeping all our military bases in Europe, I think it’s about time we demand that our European allies start contributing to the operational costs of those bases. After all, those bases are in place to provide a credible military presence and protection to most of the countries in Europe that have chosen to abandon their own credible military infrastructure in favor of providing their citizens with cradle to grave social welfare. Having each country in Europe where and American military base exists pay 40 to 50 percent of the annual operating costs would not be unrealistic given the value and safety provided to Europe as a whole.

We can no longer afford to be the world’s unpaid police officer when we have an administration at home that is in the process of both trashing our domestic economy and planning to reduce our military capability to respond to global threats. Having our allies in Europe contribute to the operational budgets of United States’ military bases in the region, as I have suggested, would at least ensure we can maintain a credible threat response capability in the area.

Robert Augeri - January 18, 2013

I will comment on this. A wise person once said say out of European Affairs. Most of these countries hate Americans. We should not be the policemen of the world. Look at what happened in Kuwait we got Sadam out and what did we get in return nothing and got our American warriors killed in action. KICF

MaryAnn - January 18, 2013

Your article said, “During September’s Benghazi attacks, an anti-terrorism team was sent to enhance security at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. Instead of deploying a team all the way from the U.S., the government was able to deploy Marines from a U.S. Navy base in Rota, Spain—a mere two-hour flight away”
So tell me, how did that help the Ambassador and the other guys that were killed?

Robert Augeri - January 18, 2013

Keep our people out of these countries. If they can not help themselves then shame on them. Every time we help someone we get stabed so say out of these counties and we will not have to deploy anyone. Dump the UN and all of there Dicators. Save our tax dollar.

Don DeHoff - January 18, 2013

This required presence overseas, is the main reason no Libertarian should every be in the Oval Office, i.e, Dr. and Rand Paul, among others—they just don’t “get it”.

David - January 18, 2013

Without question we should maintain bases in Europe and, for that matter, in other parts of the world. Africa would also be a location would should look to have a base as well. Most of the free world still looks to us for security against bullying regimes. However, if a host country doesn’t want us, then it would be in our best interests to move a base to another strategically located country.

Lou Affeldt - January 18, 2013

Bases should be maintained and staffed with appropriate level of special forces and equipment both land and sea for quick and rapid response. Having adequate manpower and equipment does no good if Commander-in-Chief is slow to respond in taking appropriate counter action.

Herbet Berwald - January 18, 2013

No. It is time to cut back to a minimum force structure in Europe; 54,000 are too many. It is long past time for the europeans to pick up their responsibility for their continent. As demonstated once again in Algeria Nato forces rely on the US to provide airlift capability. If the europeans are serious they should begin to spend some money on their armed forces. They have relied on the US far too long and we need to cut our expenses.

Neal Birli - January 18, 2013

I DO NOT think we should maintain bases in Europe as it is decades beyond when the European countries or the EU should have manned up and defended themselves. The cost to US Taxpayers is outrageous, unwarranted , and supports their socialist, entitlement societies. They don’t support our socialist, entitlement society or even the US on the world political stage. If they unwilling to protect their own interests, so be it.

Curt Grina - January 18, 2013

No. Here is why:
1..Most quick response needs can be met by aircraft carriers, aircraft, and other means. The advantage of bricks and mortar presence is marginal at best and a bad cost/benefit.

2. Having those bases tempts decision makes to use them “because its easy”. Through these bases, we stick our nose under tents that end up escalating and cutting our nose off.

3. They are a stimulus for corruption. They are used as bribes to foreign powers that we should not be bribing. “scratchy backy”.

4. They are a huge expense that does nothing to contribute to our economic prosperity. They are a drain from the economy like most giverment expense.

5. They make a huge bureaucracy even huger. More bureaucrats making wasteful decisions and eroding liberty.

A FEW especially strategic locations might be justified but most are not worth the expense.

Curt Grina - January 18, 2013

Heritage does a terrible job of justifying its position on this topic. We get truly stupid anecdotes like the Benghazi and Algeria stories above. C’mon do either of these outweigh my five arguments? NO, Jim and Jim; they don’t !

If Heritage is going to steadfastly stay the course on foreign bases policy – lets at least have a rational justification. Rather – I would like to see an enlightened look-again at this question, recognizing that it is 2013. What do you say, Dr. Carafano ?

Rick Caston - January 18, 2013

We should not have bases in practically every country in Europe and the Middle East. Sometimes more than one in the same country. First, we can no longer afford this massive overseas force. Second, as long as we are there, the host countries will not develop their own forces using their own money and people. At least not to the extent they probably should. I have read where we have upwards of 325 bases or more worldwide. If this is true, then we definitely need to cut that down to size by transferring some of them to the host country and get out. We cannot afford to be the worlds policeman. I am 56, an ex-military pilot, and a patriot so I am for a strong military to protect US as our founders intended. I am not for paying to protect the world in money and human treasure. My 3 cents.

Kaaren Teuber - January 18, 2013

Yes. We need these bases as staging areas for problems in the European and African theatres. It did not seem to work for Benghazi, although it should have.

Anna - January 18, 2013

The whole topic of downgrading, or eliminating the Defense Department is a bad topic to discuss. There should be NO discussion as to defense. We need new ships, we need new carriers, new planes, we need to keep the present bases and NOT close bases in the US or other places. Whereever the US can have overseas bases, we should maintain those bases, and defend them!

William - January 18, 2013

Leave one base in central europe one in asia bring the rest home place one east coast one on west coast one on southern border build up ships and tanks

Bill Abell - January 18, 2013

I agree with these comments below. The money that will be saved will go a long way toward solving some of our problems.

John Meehan – January 18, 2013

Obama is terrified of putting any military footwear on the ground lest his liberal colleagues bellow: Quagmire! The Islamists know what our media doesn’t. Why quarter troops at such expense if we won’t use them when our citizens are threatened.
ken struttmann – January 18, 2013

Leave a small number of “special” combat forces in Europe. Station the rest on the U. S. border with Mexico. They would spend $’s in the U. S. economy and would seal the border.

Eric - January 18, 2013

America still has a huge number of military bases overseas in Europe. It is insane for United States to keep paying for all of these military bases while getting absolutely no financial support to run them from our so called “allies”. There should be a radical BRAC for all of these remaining overseas installations. 75%+ of these installations could be closed with no significant impact on our national security.

Robert McWain - January 18, 2013

Yes,we may need them sooner we might expect.

Edward Watkins, LTC, USA, Ret. - January 18, 2013

Yes, we should maintain troops in Europe. In fact, I think we need to strengthen troop deployments world wide. Defense should not be cut in the face of developments in the Middle East and the Far East.

Swayn Ericson - January 18, 2013

Based on my knowledge and perception, U.S. military support has proven to be of significant value to many European nations in the past and in the present, when Algeria, an ally is threatened or any other European country by terrorists it is important as history has shown, to block unwelcome intruders who threaten lives. Without support from the U.S. this can be detrimental to the individuals residing in Algeria and Europe and can send the wrong messages to those European allies who have relied on the U.S. for years, decades and for over a century. It has been seen in the past, without U.S. military support atrocities have occured harming those who are innocent.

Bill Siefken - January 19, 2013

Maintaining some U.S. bases in Europe is critical to sustaining our training and operational relationships with our allies. However the function of the bases, equipment and personnel should reflect current threats and maintaining needed capabilities. Forward deployment of specialized equipment and rotational deployment of specialized forces are and will continue to be necessary. Our in ability to save the men who fought for 7 hours in Benghazi, is indicative of both our continuing needs and the current misallocation of resources. If we are unable or unwilling to support those military and civilians whom we delpoy into risky environments, in spite of our massive resources, rhen we need a very thorough review of our resource allocation or our policies.

Mike Hertel - January 19, 2013

Did we not save the European’s bacon twice in WW1 and WW2 at great cost in lives and treasure? Is it perhaps time for the Europeans to step up and act on our behalf in these sudden emergencies? Do they not have capable militaries of their own? Why do we have to do everything? It’s about time they start helping us when we need it! God knows we have certainly done enough for them!

Harvey Taylor - January 19, 2013

It is long past time to sign a peace treaty with Germany and pull our occupation troops out.of Europe. It is also time to discontinue the WWII hate propaganda. It is also time to examine why we are hated in the Muslim world.

Cheryl - January 19, 2013

Makes more sense to me to have a small special forces unit in “Hot Spots” rather than a large force in any one place. It would be easier to fortify a small group if needed than to waste the money over a long period of time. John M is right…the Islamist know more about our timidness to commit troops than our own people. Quagmire is right.

Cheryl - January 19, 2013

I also agree that more money should be spent defending our own borders.

Dave Erchull - January 19, 2013

The U.S. should maintain bases in Europe only in so far as they provide the facilities necessary to house personnel, store equipment and afford adequate training facilities for contingency forces to be able to respond quickly to crises world-wide; however, spending U.S. tax Dollars to defend Europe is no longer necessary.

Frank Schwartz - January 19, 2013

Bring our troops home. Leaving reduced forces in any area only endangers our troops. We did the job in World War II. Restricting our troops is a waste of time. Our world expenses boggles the mind. We do not run world governments, but we sure do support them financially. That money could be better spent here in the good old U.S.A.

Raymond F. Arvish - January 19, 2013

Why is it that we are the perpetual policemen of the world.
Are there not other nations that can step up to the plate where their interests are as important as that of America?
It’s time to let other nations share the burden and the expense.

Wes Evans - January 19, 2013

Yes we need European based military assets or a vastly expanded Navy and Marine Corps. At least 3 additional carrier / amphib task forces for every major base. Think Germany, Spain and Italy. We do have interest to protect in Africa,The Eastern Mediterranean etc.

Charles - January 19, 2013

We are friends to the Europeans and have for 100 years so demonstrated. It is now time to “cut the cord” and let them defend themselves. Maintaining a limited number of adequately manned facilities in strategic positions will be in out interests, but boots on the ground should be specialized and numbered to hundreds and not thousands.

Claudia LeFevre-Lowry - January 19, 2013

It is far past time that the European Union, et al, defend itself. Maintaining either privileges or rapid action forces probably would be a good idea and that is the least the Europeans should do considering the 60+ we have shouldered the cold war load. What is the point when Obama will not be allowing even a diplomatic rescue like the murder of ambassadors and staff in Benghazi? And NO foreign aid for Muslims. The state dept is on their own.

Larry Anderson - January 19, 2013

I think we should locate our troops where we have allies
that support us and want us there. We should also cut off
aid to countries that hate us and are doing us harm. We
should secure our border with our military where needed.

Patrick Lucovich - January 19, 2013

There have been good results when we have service members at bases in places such as Europe as we have seen over the years. These bases serve as strategic locations to help our deployed forces –whether in logistical, medical, or tactical reasons. I certainly have watched over the years how they benefit us and the host nation as well.
Of course, if the host nation no longer desires our presence, then it’s best to exit there.

Dennis Stine - January 19, 2013

No, not unless Europe funds our troops being station there The Europeans let us bear the burden of defending them long after they had recovered from WWII. Europe’s inability to deal with the Balkan crisis is an example of their utter disregard for their own defense.
I am tired of it, better to continue to drill for more hydro carbons and continue to focus on energy Independence. Israel and Great Britain are the only ones worth defending,in the West.

Lou Herzog - January 19, 2013

Yes Not massive bases but forward operating bases for troop and a/cthat could rapidly deploy todefeb]nd U.S. facilities in areas where problems are perdicited to occurr.

Robert - January 20, 2013

Sure. Coun tries that want us there should pay us to be there.

One of “We the People” - January 20, 2013

Absolutely. History has given us the answer to this and many other questions relating to the security of our Nation and that of our allies. But, then again, what good are bases if our leaders are afraid to, or wont, utilize them. God bless us all…

Mark Foley - January 20, 2013

Remembering the past is always good planning for the future. Keep the bases.

Guy Fish - January 21, 2013

If we could find a European that really supported & backed us then I would be willing to have some troops stationed their. I would rather send the money on navy ships That can be where they are needed when they are needed.

Dwight Steele - January 21, 2013

I could get into a lengthy explanation about why I do not think the US should maintain bases abroad. In my view there are numerous arguments both practical and psychological against such a foreign policy. To begin with in the seventy odd years I’ve been around to observe, it hasn’t gained us any real friends. In George Washington’s farewell address to the nation, did he not worn against permanent alliances. I could also sight a host of ways in which the money could be better spent. Furthermore it’s become clear to me that this nation today lacks the intestinal fortitude to wage and win a war; probably because those in charge are unwilling or unable to face the harsh reality of all out war. I’ve watched for most of my life, the squandering of the wealth of this nation on foreign policy. Now we find ourselves again embroiled in a single all out war on half a dozen fronts in an effort to impose civilization on a society that does not want it and is hell bent to destroy us. Let’s follow the constitution to the letter. Neither this President (or what passes for a President) nor any President; has the constitutional authority to carry on a war. That is reserved to congress. If and only if congress declares war, should we have combat troops on foreign soil.

David Wylie - January 22, 2013

Bring all the troops home. Use them to secure our borders. We are not the World Police. It is time for the rest of the world to pay for their own defense. We can not afford it any longer. In regards to our interest, we should conduct commerce as we please. If anyone tries to interfere, we must be willing to fully protect our interest.

mark - January 22, 2013

Spent a tour in Germany in the late 60-tys and early 70-ts. It is my opinion that Germany should pick up more of the expense of the cost of their own deterent. We can and do leave many troups on aircraft carriers in the gulf that can deploy quickly in the event they are needed. I for one would like to see some of the savings used to guard that Southern border. Maybe some on the Northern Border as well. It is National Suicide not to control your own borders.

Richard - January 25, 2013

No. Aircraft carriers can do the job.

Holly Chapo - January 26, 2013

Yes, we should maintain military bases in Europe as they serve very practical American interests. They can help to maintain partnerships with European allies, most of whom do not have military capability that approaches ours. These bases send a message of American strength despite what the present administration is attempting to do to diminish us around the world. By all means, let us keep them.

Prosper Goering - August 14, 2013

Yes, the U.S. should maintain European bases, but a discussion over the appropriate amount ‘needed’ has not occured. The reduction of four Brigade Combat Teams to two is still not enough. What is the role of our forward deployed military? What is needed to meet our strategic goals (uh-hum, what is our strategic goal)? What is needed to meet our NATO commitment? For whom and what reason are we to spend our blood and treasure?

Alan Priven - December 16, 2015

Why not rent part of the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt? We could put a strong force right near Russia & Syria. It would make them take notice and perhaps modify their behavior without the need of confrontation.
We could pay for the base by improving the peninsula, perhaps building a port there, and securing it from ISIS and
others, as well as with $$$.
It would also make Iran take notice and perhaps assure their compliance with the new “agreement” with us. It would help Egypt economically and strengthen Israel just by its presence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *