Trimming the Force

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The Periodical Observer

cials’ peccadilloes secret came to seem vitally the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in important. In recent decades, with Vietnam 1998, says Summers, the era of reticence defiand Watergate, that changed, of course. And with nitely came to an end.

Federalism’s Phony Rebirth

"Does Federalism Have a Future?" by Pietro S. Nivola, in The Public Interest (Winter 2001), 1112 16th St., N.W., Ste. 530, Washington, D.C. 20036.

"WE WIN," exulted the conservative Weekly Standard after President Bill Clinton declared in 1996 that the era of big government was over.

Soon thereafter came welfare reform, and talk of further devolution of power to the states grew louder. On education reform and other major issues, states seemed to be taking the lead. And the U.S. Supreme Court, in several decisions, seemed to be trying to shore up state prerogatives.

But the supposed shift of power to the states is largely an illusion, contends Nivola, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Though devolution appeared to prevail in welfare and other areas, Nivola points out, Congress and federal regulators frequently have preempted state authority with new prescriptions and prohibitions. Congress intervened, for example, in enforcement of child support laws, eligibility of legal aliens for public assistance, and state taxation of Internet commerce. Federal grants-in-aid to the states often acquire new strings after the states undertake the programs, Nivola observes. "And typically, federal rules remain firmly in place even if congressional appropriations fall far short of authorizations. The local provision of special education for students with disabilities, for instance, is essentially governed by federal law, even though Congress has never appropriated anything near its authorized share of this $43 billion-a-year mandate."

Legislation proposed in 1999 to require Washington to assess the impact of new statutes or regulations on state and local laws came to naught, Nivola notes. The reason, he says, is that corporations "fear aggressive regulators and tax collectors in the state legislatures and bureaucracies even more" than they fear Washington. They want Congress "not just to set baselines (floors) below which state policies must not fall but to secure compulsory ceilings on the possible excesses of zealous states." Though congressional Republicans "have... paid lip service to decentralization," Nivola says, a study of roll calls from 1983 to 1990 found the GOP lawmakers "more prone than the Democrats to overrule state and local regulations."

As for the Supreme Court, its decisions on federal-state cases have been "a mixed bag," Nivola says. Along with some rulings in favor of the states, there have come plenty that went the other way (e.g., decisions overturning state policies on child visitation rights and oil-tanker safety training).

In short, concludes Nivola, the era of big government is definitely not over. "A bigger, or at least more invasive, central government has been the dominant trend for decades. And signs today . . . augur anything but a radical reversal."

Foreign Policy & Defense

Trimming the Force

"Come Partly Home, America" by Michael O’Hanlon, in Foreign Affairs (Mar.–Apr. 2001), 58 E. 68th St., New York, N.Y. 10021.

George W. Bush charged during last year’s missions around the globe. The charge was campaign that the Clinton administration had "greatly exaggerated," says O’Hanlon, a Senior deployed troops on too many peacekeeping Fellow at the Brookings Institution. But, he

84 Wilson Quarterly

Major Deployments of

U.S. Forces Abroad


Afloat: 3,800



United Kingdom:


11,200 5,700


East Asia:


Afloat: 23,400 2,000

Spain: Japan:Kuwait:




Saudi Arabia: South Korea:

7,100 36,600



Persian Gulf region:

Afloat: 14,800

Total Abroad: 257,800—Army, 103,600; Air Force, 64,400; Navy, 60,400; Marine Corps, 29,400

argues, some scaling back of U.S. forces overseas is in order.

The United States now has more than 250,000 military personnel abroad. The vast majority, notes O’Hanlon, "are not participating in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans or anywhere else. Rather, they are protecting the United States’ core interests and allies." America has some 117,000 troops in Europe, 101,000 in East Asia and the Pacific Ocean, 29,000 in North Africa, the Near East, and South Asia, and 5,400 in the Western Hemisphere.

"Although the number of U.S. troops overseas has been cut in half since 1990," says O’Hanlon, "most of the reductions have come from bases abroad (notably Germany)," where U.S. personnel can enjoy many of the comforts of home and family. By contrast, the number of personnel deployed on moraledraining missions away from home bases— more than 100,000—has declined little. Thanks to changed strategic circumstances and new technology, that number can be reduced, he says. Here’s how:

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

  • The Balkans. The current U.S. force of about 12,000 troops is half of what it was in 1996 and less than 20 percent of the international force in the region. Bosnia, unlike Kosovo, has regained "a degree of stability," O’Hanlon says, and the 5,700 U.S. troops there could be pared to about half that number.

  • Okinawa. Nearly 20,000 U.S. marines are on this Japanese island, in "a deployment," O’Hanlon says, "that is not militarily or strategically essential.... Okinawa itself is not at risk, and Japanese forces [could] defend it even if it were." Moreover, the U.S. presence is "a major strain on U.S.-Japan relations." The 2,000 marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit patrol the region on amphibious ships, but the rest of the Okinawa garrison is not very mobile. Washington should cut the Okinawa force to about 5,000 (including "enough forces to maintain storage and staging facilities for use in a crisis").

  • Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. Navy not only maintains "a nearly continuous aircraft carrier presence in both the western Pacific

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    The Periodical Observer

    Ocean and the Persian Gulf," notes O’Hanlon, but also keeps an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean for six to eight months a year. With the Soviet Union no longer a threat, says O’Hanlon, this regular naval presence in the Mediterranean is unnecessary.

    • Persian Gulf. Maintaining no-fly zones over Iraq since 1991 has been demanding, and the costs of constant airborne patrols now outweigh the benefits, O’Hanlon says. U.S. fighter aircraft should remain in the region to deter Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from attacks against Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, or against the Kurds or Shi’ites within his own borders. But de-emphasizing airborne patrols would allow the withdrawal of perhaps half of the

    U.S. aircraft. This would cut the 25,000 U.S. military personnel in the region to fewer than 20,000.

    All in all, O’Hanlon calculates, his cuts would involve some 25,000 service members. Though this would be only 10 percent of the existing overseas force, it would be about 25 percent of the personnel "routinely deployed away from home bases and families." The result, he says, would be a significant boost in troop morale and military readiness.

    The Missile Defense Divide

    "Europe’s Aversion to NMD" by Justin Bernier and Daniel Keohane, in Strategic Review (Winter 2001), United States Strategic Institute, 67 Bay State Rd., Boston, Mass. 02215.

    Why have America’s European allies been so reluctant to go along with the U.S. effort to develop a defense against a potential "rogue state" missile attack? In part, they’ve deemed continued reliance on arms control and nuclear deterrence less risky; they’ve also worried about Russia’s opposition (which has softened recently). And then there’s the multibillion-dollar cost. But, say the authors, there’s another, oft-ignored reason: "European governments do not believe that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq harbor intentions of using long-range missiles against Europe, even if they will be capable of doing so."

    Europe does not object to ballistic missile defense per se. "The Netherlands and Germany, for example, have decided to buy...a newer version of the Patriot theater missile defense system," note Bernier,


    Star Trek’s Wilsonian Mission

    This paradox of democracy—that it cannot tolerate intolerance—is at the heart of Star Trek. Reflecting from the beginning the political ideology of the United States, Star Trek has always been democratic in spirit. The mission of the Enterprise—"to seek out new life and new civilizations"—appears to capture the spirit of democratic diversity and what is now called multiculturalism. But I would like to reformulate the mission of the Enterprise: More accurately, it is "to seek out new civilizations and destroy them" if they contradict the principles of liberal democracy. Above all, [Captain] Kirk and his crew set out to eliminate any vestiges of aristocracy or theocracy in the universe. In short, their mission was to make the galaxy safe for democracy.... If anyone claims a natural or divine right to rule over anyone else in the galaxy, Kirk automatically reaches for his phaser.

    —Paul A. Cantor, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, in Perspectives on Political Science (Summer 2000)

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