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American Troops Abroad: Do We Have A Problem?

28th May 2020 Print

There's never a day where the US military isn't busy somewhere in the world. America has many enemies that it has to keep a close eye on, and American forces are committed to numerous peacekeeping operations all over the globe. Obviously, some regions are of more concern than others. Places where the US army has recently engaged in combat operations - with Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan at the top of that list - still retain an American military presence even after periods of conflict have officially come to an end. 

In the past, the military has regularly published figures relating to the number of soldiers and military personnel active in each of those regions. Recently they’ve stopped doing so - and nobody seems to know why. There’s probably a strategic reason for withholding the information, but predictably some left-leaning media sources have started to use the lack of data as yet another stick to beat the Trump administration with. Seemingly without a care as to whether there’s a good reason not to tell us where our troops are or what they’re doing, they’ve begun to file Freedom of Information requests in an attempt to force the Government to disclose the information. 

Chuck Hagel, the former defense secretary, is the most notable of the names calling for the immediate release of the figures, but even that wouldn't be enough for him. He doesn't just want to know why the Government stopped publishing figures at the end of December 2017 - he also wants an explanation as to why the figures are no longer available. In his eyes, the public has a right to know, and that supposed 'right to know' is more important than potentially tipping off America's enemies about the location and density of the American military presence anywhere in the world. 

The danger that comes with disclosing this information should be obvious even to those who hate Trump. The more the country’s enemies know about where troops are gathered, the easier they become to attack. The reverse is also true. If, for example, insurgents in Syria suddenly became aware that there weren’t as many American troops in the country to keep the peace as there used to be, they could step up their activities within that region without fear of reprisal. What little peace there is in the region could break down as rival forces re-commence combat operations, safe in the knowledge that the US doesn’t have a sufficient presence to stop them. 

Regardless of what the mainstream media might tell you, it hasn't always been the case that the American public has had a 'right to know' about statistics of this kind. The location of our armed forces was a closely-guarded secret - one that was kept in order to allow the men and women who serve our country to go about their duties as safely as possible, and without the enemy holding an advantage when it comes to data. America's enemies don't tell the world where they are or what they're doing. The moment one side knows something that the other doesn't, they gain an advantage. Publication of the statistics only began during George W. Bush's time in the White House - and it wasn't unanimously thought to be a wise idea to start sharing the data to begin with. 

It's thought that it was James Mattis who made the call to stop publishing figures at the end of 2017. He reasoned that the Department of Defense was undermining its own purpose by releasing information so regularly, and so he ordered a far-reaching and general order to stop talking, and only release information on a 'need to know' basis. It's entirely relevant for Government agencies to know where our armed forces are. It's hard to see a justification for that information being made available to civilians in America, let alone civilians in other parts of the world. 

It's telling that while the move to start withholding information came more than two years ago, we're only seeing publicity about it begin to appear now, in an election year. The Democrats and their allies are desperate to see Trump removed from power via any means necessary, and if they believe they have an angle that will make his administration look bad, they'll use it no matter how little sense it makes, or how counter-productive it might prove to America's interests both at home and abroad. As conservatives, we can only hope that this 'attack at all costs' strategy won't have an impact on the way people decide to vote when the country eventually heads out to vote - but the signs are beginning to look bad for the President. 

We should know by this point not to look too closely at polling data. Last time the country elected a leader, the polls told us that Clinton was guaranteed victory. Thankfully, they were embarrassingly wrong. The US is a difficult country to poll, with many demographics under-represented by polling companies. You’d have more luck trying to call the outcome of an online slots game than a US election. You might even have better odds of winning an online slots than you have of winning a bet placed on the outcome of a key swing state. Our President knows a thing or two about online slots and casinos - he’s owned enough of them in the past - and so he’ll know not to listen too closely to polling data. Nevertheless, the latest information merits a mention. 

If the latest polls are to be believed, Trump is facing a complete and total defeat. Every ‘respected’ poll currently says that Biden is on course to defeat Trump, and do so easily. They were wrong last time - and there's enough time before the election for Trump to turn the tables and make fools of the pollsters yet again - but it's clear that there's a lot of work to be done. Every time we see attacks like this nonsensical argument for revealing troop numbers in the media, they must be opposed and shouted down. We all know the argument for giving Donald Trump another four years in power - it's time to start making that argument to anyone who'll listen, and as loudly as possible.