After the treacherous murder in Libya of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens earlier this week, it was announced that a U.S. Marine Corp Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), consisting of approximately 50 specially trained Marines, would be deployed to Tripoli to enhance security at the U.S. embassy there.
From where did these U.S. Marines deploy? Not from a USMC base on the east coast of the United Sates, but from the U.S. Naval Station in Rota, Spain—as the crow flies, only a couple of hours away from Tripoli by plane. This once again proves the importance of having robust U.S. military capability prepositioned and forward located in Europe.
As this case demonstrates, 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—is an arc of instability. As demonstrated by events over the past 18 months, and accentuated by the events of the last week, this region is experiencing increasing instability that can have deadly consequences.
As Heritage analysis has previously pointed out:
Some believe that basing U.S. troops in Europe is a Cold War anachronism, but forward basing U.S. troops in Europe is just as important today as it was during the Cold War, albeit for different reasons. U.S. military bases in Europe provide American leaders with increased flexibility, resilience, and options in a dangerous world. The garrisons of American service personnel in Europe are no longer the fortresses of the Cold War, but the forward operating bases of the 21st century.
The U.S. military presence in Europe deters American adversaries, strengthens allies, and protects U.S. interests—the U.S. reduces the number of these troops at its peril. U.S. can project power and react to the unexpected because of its forward-based military capabilities in Europe. Reducing these capabilities will only weaken America on the world stage.