Posts Tagged ‘American military’

U.S. is unprepared to wage war or make peace

September 13, 2019

It’s been a long time since the United States has won a war.  Fred Reed, a Vietnam veteran and former military correspondent, wrote a good article earlier this week on why this is so.

There are a lot of reasons, but the basic one is that the U.S. government is not serious about war because American survival has not been at stake in any recent conflict.  This may not always be true.

President George W. Bush, listening to the advice of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, launched invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under the illusion that victory would be quick and relatively easy.  By the end of his administration, he learned his lesson.  He fired Rumsfeld, stopped listening to Cheney and began troop withdrawal from Iraq.

President Barack Obama did not quite have the nerve to completely wind down Bush’s interventions and be the one to have to admit defeat.  He did try to improve relations with Iran and Cuba.  But mostly he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looked to other ways of waging war—drone strikes, targeted assassinations, Special Forces operations and arming foreign fighters to serve as U.S. proxies.  Of course the foreign fighters had their own goals, which weren’t necessarily U.S. goals.

President Donald Trump so far has not shown the nerve to completely wind down Bush’s and Obama’s interventions and thereby be the one to admit defeat.  He has at least talked about improving relations with Russia and North Korea, although with Trump, it is hard to know what he will do next.

Mostly he and his advisers have looked to yet another way of waging war—economic sanctions, a seemingly cruel but safe war tactic that can do much harm as bombings and arming proxy fighters.  But economic warfare is a two-edged sword.

The power of the U.S. to impose sanctions rests on the fact that the world does business in dollars.  Targeted U.S. enemies are looking for alternatives to the dollar and, once they succeed, the U.S. will be as vulnerable to sanctions as any other country—maybe more so, if we Americans are as dependent on global supply chains as we are now.

We Americans need a government that can make peace with the rest of the world.  We have gotten so used to war that this is hard to imagine.

LINKS

Unused Militaries by Fred Reed for The Unz Review.  Why the world’s most expensive military is unprepared for serious war, in specific detail.

Trump’s Afghanistan ‘Peace” Will Be Vietnam All Over Again: A Mess American Leaves Behind by Col. Andrew Bacevich for Common Dreams.  Not primarily an anti-Trump article, but a reflection by a Vietnam veteran and retired career military officer on the human suffering caused by U.S. interventions.

The U.S. Massively Underestimates the Trade War Blowback by Robert Berke for OilPrice.  A financial analyst reflects on the economic costs and unexpected consequences of waging trade wars.

Who will fight America’s wars?

October 24, 2015

When I was growing up, most American men had served or expected to serve in the armed forces.

In my home county, Washington County, Maryland, nobody was drafted because voluntary enlistments filled the draft quota.  But I enlisted anyway because I would have felt ashamed not to.

My enlistment was during the peacetime years of 1956 through 1958.   Probably if there had been a war going on at the time, I would have waited to see if the Army wanted me.

The armed forces were regarded as the employer of last resort.   Virtually any healthy young American man could enlist.

draft20151024_USM988I read an on-line article in The Economist that shows how much things have changed.  During the Korean Conflict, 70 percent of draft-age American men served in the armed forces.  During the Vietnam Conflict, the figure was 43 percent.   But now, according to The Economist, only 30 percent of draft-age American men are eligible to serve.

Among the 21 million draft-age American men, 9.5 million would be disqualified because they lack high-school diplomas or could not pass an elementary intelligence test.  Another 7 million would be disqualified for such reasons as being too fat, or criminal records, or tattoos on their faces and hands.

That leaves 4.5 million, of whom only 390,000 are interested in enlisting.

This fact makes a lot of things fall into place.  It explains why the armed forces no longer resist enlisting women, or gay men.  It explains why President Obama bases U.S. military strategy on drones and missiles, and elite Special Ops teams, and arming foreign fighters.

The whole basis of small-r republican government, going back to Rome, is that the men who fight for a society have the right to voice in how it is governed.   When the responsibility to fight is delegated to a small minority, how secure is our republic?  Then again, as Roman history showed, men who are willing to die to defend a republic are not necessarily willing to die to create an empire.

LINK

Who will fight the next war? from The Economist (via naked capitalism)

The USA isn’t invincible, and never was

June 5, 2015

 I’ve written several posts pondering why the United States of America, which has the world’s most extensive and expensive armed force, no longer wins wars.

As I think about it, it seems to me that we Americans have an exaggerated idea of our invincibility in the past.

In the War of Independence, we prevailed against the much larger and more powerful British Empire, in which, however, we needed the help of our French allies.  In the Civil War, we fought with each other, and were fairly evenly matched.

An F-16 jet fighter takes off from Nato airbase in Aviano, northern ItalyOur casualties in both the War of Independence and the Civil War were a proportion of our population equivalent to millions today.   Europeans suffered proportionate casualties in the 20th century world wars.  We Americans did not.

In the First World War and in the European Theater of the Second World War, it was our allies, the British, French and Russians, who bore the brunt of the fighting.  We Americans joined the fight in the middle and, while our intervention may have provided the margin of victory, I sincerely doubt that we could have won all by ourselves.

I do not of course question the valor of Americans who fought in these wars.  They went through things I am glad I have never had to do.   But the British, French and Russians, and the Germans and other nations also were brave.

The idea of American military exceptionalism is an illusion, and a dangerous illusion, because it prevents us from understanding reality and learning from mistakes.   It leads American military officers and politicians to think we can successfully confront the Russians and Chinese in their own neighborhoods.

I think we Americans would fight as bravely as our ancestors did if our homeland were attacked.  But I don’t think many of us are interested in shedding blood to support a claim that the USA is the world’s sole superpower.

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The passing scene: January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015

The Tragedy of the American Military by James Fallows for The Atlantic.

Gun Trouble by Robert H. Scales for The Atlantic.

HighAirfare35e18The U.S. armed forces have greater prestige than at any time in American history, and the nation spends almost as much on its armed forces as the whole rest of the world put together.  Yet the USA doesn’t seem to be able to win wars, or even provide troops with a gun that doesn’t jam.

James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic that the United States has become a “chickenhawk nation.”  The majority of Americans do not wish to serve in the military and have no real desire to understand the military, so we take the easy way out which is to say, “thank you for your service,” and go about our business.

Military procurement has become a business subsidy and job creation program.  If the USA reduced its military force and weapons spending to what is needed to defend the nation, and nothing else was done, a recession would result.

Infrastructure advances in the rest-of-the-world will blow your mind by james321 for Daily Kos.

We Americans used to pride ourselves on our mega-engineering projects, but now the rest of the world is leaving us behind.

China has opened direct rail service from the China Sea to Madrid.  Switzerland is about to open its 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps.  Italy is soon to start high-speed rail service between Milan and Rome, capable of speeds up to 250 miles per hour.

We Americans don’t even perform maintenance on what we’ve got, and that’s a sign of a society with a fatal loss of concern for its future, just as our military strategy is a sign of a society with a fatal loss of a sense of reality.

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