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Editorials

Saturday, August 21, 2004



[ OUR OPINION ]


Don’t let enemies misread
the transfer of American
troops


THE ISSUE

President Bush has announced plans to transfer as many as 70,000 troops from Europe and Asia to domestic bases in the next decade.


PRESIDENT Bush's plan to withdraw large numbers of troops from abroad extends from his father's recognition that the Cold War has ended, but it could send wrong signals to North Korea, a threat that still remains dangerous. American negotiators should not let redeployment of troops be interpreted by Pyongyang as a sign that the United States is turning its back on its long alliance with the South.

In a speech to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the president said the Pentagon would withdraw up to 70,000 troops, along with 100,000 civilian staff support and families, from Europe and Asia during the next decade. Some troops would be reassigned to domestic bases, he said, while others would be rotated to areas closer to the terrorist threat, mainly the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia.

This is not a belated realization that the Cold War is over. President George H.W. Bush reduced U.S. troops in Europe from 320,000 to 187,00 in the three years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. President Clinton reduced the troop level in Europe to as low as 85,000, increasing it to 103,000 to address tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. The United States now has 116,400 military personnel in Europe.

Bush did not give specific numbers, but the Pentagon has indicated it wants to reduce by half the 70,000 troops stationed in Germany. That would reduce the troop level in Europe to somewhat less than the low number Clinton had achieved before the hostilities in the Balkans.

The Pentagon disclosed plans two months ago to withdraw one-third of the 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea, a more significant drop than that planned in Europe. However, that effect would be softened by the stationing of long-range bombers and submarines in Guam and the possible relocation of an aircraft carrier from the mainland to Pearl Harbor.

A State Department official said the reductions in Asia would be "not very dramatic," which may mean the troops removed from Korea could be offset by deployments elsewhere in Asia. Most of the American troops in Korea have been stationed along the DMZ, but many are being moved south of Seoul and beyond the artillery range of the North by 2006, but none of this movement should diminish the U.S. ability to respond to a nuclear threat from Pyongyang.


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Ignorance isn’t bliss when
it comes to ocean water


THE ISSUE

A national report questions Hawaii's spotless record on beach closings.


IN A perfect world, a state as economically dependent as Hawaii on the quality of its ocean water would have extensive tests at all its beaches to assure the health and safety of residents and visitors.

The reality is that neither the state nor county governments can afford to check the water at intervals close enough to safeguard completely against pollutants or contaminants. However, it is of vital importance that authorities look for ways to step up monitoring, perhaps by involving credible volunteers and environmental groups to help out. The tourism industry also should pitch in since it has a high stake in having clean beaches.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a respected national environmental organization, raised concerns when its annual survey of the quality of water at the nation's beaches found that none in the islands had been closed last year, when in 2002 there had been 52 closures and 11 in 2001.

The state Department of Health confirmed that no beaches were closed even though sewage spills did prompt warnings and advisories for short periods, but it appears that infrequent checks and the split of authority among counties to declare unsafe conditions are at the root of the discrepancies.

The NRDC report showed that most beaches are monitored once a week, particularly those popular with residents and tourists and those near sewage treatment facilities. However, several along Oahu's Waianae Coast, such as Pokai Bay and Nanakuli Beach Park, and two favored surfing areas, Diamond Head and Sunset beaches, aren't tested at all.

Daily testing would be enormously expensive, but all waters where people swim, fish and surf ought to be monitored with some frequency. The Health Department explained that fund limits forbid more expansive tests. Instead, the state checks 33 "core beaches" on a rotational basis every year for five years.

The NRDC speculates that Hawaii's seemingly clean bill may be due to under-testing, pointing to Florida where closings shot up after that state increased monitoring.

The group acknowledges that money for tests and cleaning up beaches is a problem across the country and faults the Bush administration for cutting more than $500 million from a program that helps cities with clean-up and pollution controls. But for now states and counties should not expect the federal government to help; Hawaii needs to seek solutions on its own.

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Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
directors

Dennis Francis, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
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