Why Do We Have The Most Powerful Military In The World? (No, Seriously. Why?) (pt 1)

Before I get started with this, I’ll point out the obvious: I am NOT an expert on military matters!

I am however, an avid student of history and events and I’m blessed with an active, inquisitive, rational mind. (I’ll admit there’s some debate about that last part, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) Also, I’ve been around long enough to be able to separate the chicken shit from the bullshit. (And, believe me, I’ve stepped in plenty of both.)

One more quick thing before I begin: This is a loooooong post. So long that it’s two posts. But then again, this is a biiiiiiiig subject. Plus, there’s lots of links to my sources. (I don’t pull this stuff out of my ass you know. I leave that sort of thing to politicians. It’s the one thing they’re good at!) And, as most of you know, if you’ve slogged through my posts before, I’m a “stream of consciousness” kind of writer. (I writes ’em as I thinks ’em.) So, we’ll be exploring a few side paths along the way.

Also, (OK, that’s two things.) Please hold off all the “damned – liberal – Nazi – commie – intellectual – simple-minded – socialist – soft on defense” comments until you read both posts. I think you will find I’m not all that soft on defense. As for the rest of it? Knock yourself out! I’ve been called a lot worse. I only ask that you actually know what the terms mean before you use them. (Which eliminates teabaggers aka “dumbfucks”.)

OK. That’s out-of-the-way, let’s commence.

Generals always want to fight the last war. It’s the one they know best.

Prime examples: France in World War II prepared to fight World War I again. You know how that turned out. In Viet Nam, we were trying to fight the Korean War (excuse me, Korean Police Action). That didn’t work out so well either.

Despite the fact that the American military is really set up to meet and defeat the Russians on the plains of Germany, the odds are that’s probably not going to happen.

You can replace Russia with China or any other country with a large military, and plains of Germany with another location, but you get the idea.

The Cold War is over and it’s a whole new world out there.

Now, the military will tell you they’ve modernized to meet the times. Other than the high-tech toys aspect, that’s mostly bullshit. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the way the American military is organized. We’re still set up to beat those “Damn Ruskies” or “Chinese Commies” with their huge standing armies.

What blows me away is that Sun Tzu is required reading for War College students. You’d think they might absorb some of what they’re reading. (OK, to be totally honest, they do absorb some of it, but that’s mostly the parts that celebrate their preconceived notions.)

Big massive land, sea or even air battles are most likely pretty much a thing of the past. There are a lot of reasons for this. For starters, it’s just too damned expensive, too damn dangerous and doesn’t make sense anymore, plus it’s unnecessary.

And, speaking of bullshit, (see 3 paragraphs up) I’m reminded of Army recruitment slogans. (Always good for a giggle.)

During the 70’s it was “Today’s army wants to join you”. I was in the army and for the life of me, I can not remember one instance in which the army ever expressed a desire to join me in what I wanted to do.

For the next two decades, it was “Be all you can be”. I guess that one works if all you can be is a professional hit man. But, other than the mob and the military, there’s not much call for that nowadays.

My personal favorite (2001-2006) was “An army of one”. Ask any professional military person what would happen if the military consisted of individuals and you’d probably get one of two reactions: A look of sheer terror or they wouldn’t be able to stop laughing for at least ten minutes.

Now the slogan is “Army strong”. I’m still trying to figure out what the fuck that means.

Got that out off my system, let’s get back on target:

Too Damned Expensive:

In 2010, the U.S. was responsible for 42.8% of the total world military spending. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook 2011

That’s way out of line by any rational standard!

In 2010, the U.S. military budget (the part they let you know about) was $693,000,000,000. That’s about $2,215.83 for every man, woman and mother-lovin’ child in the country. Keep in mind, that doesn’t include Military & Government Intelligence (somewhere around $50,000,000,000) and other “Black Box” fun stuff.

That’s more than six times the amount spent by the next country on the list (China). In fact, we spend more than the next 15 nations on the list combined. (China, France, The United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Australia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Canada, Iraq & Israel)

But wait, there’s even more: If you include total defense-related expenditures (DOD, FBI counter-terrorism, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Intelligence satellites, veterans pensions, other mandatory defense spending and debt interest incurred in past wars) it comes to over $1,000,000,000,000 ($3,200+ per m, w, & m-lc). And that’s just for one year.

And that still doesn’t include paying private contractors to do stuff the military used to do.

Out of that $693 billion, over $140 billion was for procurement. Some of that was for new toys, but most of it was to  replace no-longer-serviceable equipment plus bombs, bullets and other disposables.

My point is that there are not too many countries (if any) that could afford to field a competitive force. Hell, it broke the USSR trying to keep up, and they were a major economy.

We have more than 3,000,000 military personal – active and reserve. Except that the “reserve” has been awfully “active” the past few years.

The only country that has a larger active duty force is China, but they’re proponents of the “human wave” aka “cannon fodder” style of battle. During the Korean “Police Action” (don’t you just love military euphemisms) that worked (sort of). Nowadays, it’s just a death warrant. I’ll explain why later in the “Too Damn Dangerous” section of this post.

And yes, some countries like Viet Nam or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (talk about Orwellian double-speak) have huge reserves. Viet Nam has 5,000,000 and the fake Democratic Republic has 8,200,000. But neither of these are much of a threat outside their base of operations.

In both cases, these numbers include vast numbers of police, paramilitary and “home guard” citizens. They would all require a lot of additional training before they’d be a credible fighting force. In other words, they’re basically cannon fodder.

We have military personnel stationed (that we’ll admit to) in Afghanistan, Antigua, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, British Indian Ocean Territory, Brazil, Bulgaria, Columbia, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Guam, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saint Helena, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey & the UK. (Bet you’ve never even heard of some of those countries, but we’re there.)

And btw, isn’t our military supposed to be primarily defensive? (You know, in case the bad guys feel like invading us.) What the hell does that mission have to do with Kyrgyzstan?

Also in the “overkill department”: China has about 240 nuclear warheads, France has less than 300. The U.K. has about 150 or so and Israel somewhere between 75 & 200 (they don’t like to talk about it). India and Pakistan have around 90 or so each. North Korea has the material for up to 12. Russia has about 2400 left over from the Cold War……and……

Wait for it…………

The U.S. has over 5,000!

That’s enough to make the demise of the dinosaurs seem like Sunday at a church picnic. (Without all the “grab & grope” behind the bushes.)

In that same “BIG MILITARY, BIG BATTLE” mindset is our Ground-Based mid-course Defense anti-missile system.

Do we need an anti-missile system? Yes! We do need some sort of missile defense. Who knows, Kim Jong-Un might just be crazy enough to try to take out Seattle. The missile would probably stray off course and hit Coos Bay, Oregon, (Coosbania to you muppet fans) but those people need protection too.

The question is, how massive a missile defense does it really need to be? In the near future, I don’t see a major threat.

What about China?

Not in their self-interest! Their self-interest is power, specifically staying in power. With their huge population, hungry for what they see on TV, they are an emerging economic power. Keeping the public focused on consumerism instead of corruption, they are a little more secure for a while longer. (Hey, it works on us.)

A little something like a major, self fought war would disrupt supply channels among many other not-so-nice side effects.

Plus, and much more importantly, Chinese leaders were around during the Cold War. They watched the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. face off for over 40 years. Probably the main thing that kept the fuse from being lit was the M.A.D. (Mutual Assured Destruction) policy. Both countries knew that whoever threw the first punch, their own countries were “toast”! (Very, very burnt toast.)

It was MAD!!! But, it worked!

China knows the same thing would happen to them. However, the thing is that it doesn’t take 5,000 warheads to accomplish that.

If a city is hit with a nuclear bomb (and unfortunately, I think one will be eventually) it probably won’t be in the form of a missile or air attack anyway. More likely, it’ll be in a backpack carried by a suicide bomber. That’s a lot cheaper and a lot harder to stop.

The main threat isn’t opposing world powers, it’s smaller, unstable nations like North Korea or Pakistan.

North Korea’s delivery system is incapable of hitting anything farther than the NW (and not too accurately at that distance).

Pakistan is focused on India, so we wouldn’t be their first target. And, even if they had the delivery capability, (which they don’t) they wouldn’t be around to launch another round. (Remember those 90 warheads that India has.)

And if Iran goes nuclear? “Cause you know they’re damn well trying to.

Well, then they go nuclear. There’s really no way we could stop them unless we pull an incursion on them. And let’s face it, our Middle East incursions haven’t worked out too well so far.

I am sure that Iran will use the bomb to try to increase its power and influence in the area. But, would they actually use it? I don’t think so.

Iran’s leaders are extreme religious zealots and proof positive that humanity is not that far removed from cave man days, but I don’t think they are stupid enough or insane enough to do it. Martyrdom is for underlings, not for them.

Suppose they do try to take out Tel Aviv.

They launch an IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile). By the time the missile reached apogee, Israel would have launched a good portion of those 75 – 200 warheads on every major city, religious and military target in Iran.

Tel Aviv might be gone, but Iran would be uninhabitable for the next several hundred years at the least.

The other major threat is terrorist groups.

What terrorist groups? Take your pick: from the extreme right, or the extreme left; from religious terrorists or ethnic terrorists; or even from “just a cut above” run-of-the-mill extortionists. There are enough of each that would jump at the chance to make a statement or a hell of a lot of money.

The point is, that none of these threats require a humongous missile shield or a “fight two or three simultaneous wars” military capability.

Wait a minute! Aren’t we the “world’s policemen”?

Excuse me, but when did they hire us for the job?

And, how much are they paying us?

And don’t hand me that “We’re defending FREEDOM!!!” bull crap.

A good percentage of the time, we’re defending business interests. (Don’t tell me you think the 1st Gulf War was about Kuwaiti freedom? Not unless Kuwaiti freedom is spelled O-I-L!)

Then there’s the “Banana Wars” (1934-35). (United Fruit Company had some very powerful friends in high places.)

The Spanish-American War (1897-98) (We wanted Cuban sugar and we got the Philippines as a bonus.)


The overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom (1893) (think: Dole) We formally apologized for that in 1993.


The Mexican-American War (1846-48) (Hey, Texas was just sitting there and we got California just in time for the gold rush.)

Some of the time, we slowly stumble into wars. (Viet Nam ring a bell?)

Some of the time we’re lied into them: Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” and their purchase of yellow cake uranium. (Never existed and didn’t happen.)

Some of the time it’s for political reasons such as defending our dictator against their dictator. (South vs North Korea; South vs North Viet Nam) Not that ours was much, if any, better.

With respect to the last examples, don’t bother bringing up that tired old “Domino Theory”. The damn things really didn’t fall over, did they?

Here’s a trivia question for you. Who was the last President that served their entire term without initiating some sort of military action, either foreign or domestic?

No, it wasn’t Hoover. He used the army (led by Douglas MacArthur and aided by Dwight Eisenhower) against American war veterans on July 28, 1932. (you can look it up!) And don’t forget, the aforementioned Banana Wars happened on his watch as well.

I’m pretty sure it was John Quincy Adams. (and he left office in 1829).

Military action seems to have evolved into a “right of passage” thingy for American Presidents.

 Too Damned Dangerous:

This section is going to be a lot shorter. As would any war that consisted of massive pitched battles.

Here’s the scenario: You (country: US) are setting up for a major battle with the enemy (country: THEM).

You have a fully manned (approx. 13,700 soldiers) and equipped (mechanized infantry, armor & artillery) division. You have satellite surveillance, full air support and the most modern gear that billions of dollars can provide. You h…

There’s a blinding flash and heat unexperienced this side of the sun.You…….have…….nothing!…….No armor!…….No artillery!…….No soldiers!…….No You!

You’ve just been hit by a tactical nuclear device. If you’d had the time between the flash and the heat, it might have dawned on you that it just might not be a good idea to amass this many assets in a confined area.

Tactical nukes are great for one thing – they are extremely efficient cannon fodder and gear eliminators.

Doesn’t Make Sense Anymore:

I’ve covered several of the reasons in the previous couple of sections, but for the sake of structure and organization, (and for those of you with short attention spans) I’ll reiterate:

Astronomical costs ($3,200+ per person/per year; 42.8% of total world military expenditures) in a country with serious financial and infrastructure problems. Even if we cut our spending in half, we’d be spending triple what our next war-spending rival spends.

Lack of foreseeable “Super Foes”. (Nobody’s really up to the task right now.)

Large scale emplacements easily destroyed by tactical nukes. (Never put your eggs in a small basket. Somebody might shit on it.)

A different variety of enemies than in “the good old days” of WWII and the Cold War, requires a different variety of responses. (“Oh, you can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.”)


I’ll use Afghanistan and “The War on Terror” with a bit of Iraq (not to be confused with the aforementioned “War on Terror”) for this section.

It seems that every few days,, we read that another Taliban or al Qaeda leader has been “introduced to the reaper”.

How many of these timely deaths are due to troop action in the field? Actually, not very many of them.

A large percentage are due to people in air-conditioned rooms thousands of miles away playing video games.

Of course, those “video games” really aren’t. They are remote piloting controls for Predator and Reaper drones.As of June of 2011, drones had taken out at least 16 senior members of al Qaeda along with 15 mid level leaders and a much larger number of lower level personnel. By August, the number of senior members was up to 18. In September, we took out three more. And so on and so on.

And then there are the “Special Ops” teams like the Green Berets and Navy Seal Teams.

At this point in time, almost everybody has heard of Seal Team Six. (Mr. bin Laden finally found out whether there were virgins waiting in heaven to service him and is probably damned disappointed.)

What almost everybody hasn’t heard of is the incredible job the special ops teams did at the beginning of the Afghanistan operation. A few hundred CIA and special forces personnel bought up the Northern Alliance who were already in revolt against the Taliban. They gave them money and equipment including laser target designators and coordinated their efforts with air support.

When Kabul fell in November 2003, there were less than 1000 Americans on the ground in Afghanistan. Gwynne Dyer, “Hardcore History” Show #25 – The Dyer Outlook.

We didn’t need a huge army to topple Afghanistan, just a few hundred well-trained specialists working with motivated locals and aided by air strikes.

Does that mean we don’t need some sort of standing army? No, Afghanistan is not a “one-size-fits-all” situation. Nothing ever is. But, it does mean that there are more efficient, less costly (in money and blood) ways to look at these things.

Wait just a damn minute! What about all the troops that are required to keep the peace? It’s taken so many in Afghanistan and Iraq that some have been back two or three times.

If they’re keeping the peace, I’d love to know where they’re keeping it. I haven’t seen a whole hell of a lot of it around lately. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)

First of all, tell you what. Next war(s) we get into, let’s have a “post hostilities strategy” that’s based on reality. I think the last time that happened was WWII.

I’m sure that you all got very acquainted with Rosie Scenario (whore that she was) back in 2 oh oh 3:“The Iraq War won’t cost a lot of money!” “We are prepared for every contingency!” “We won’t need a lot of troops!” “We will bring peace and freedom to Iraq!” “We will find WMDs!” “We will be welcomed as liberators!” “We have the best plan available for victory!” “The war will transform the Middle East!” “It will be easy!” “It won’t take long!”

So yes, it has taken a hell of a lot of troops to maintain order. Let me rephrase that: try to maintain order. But, you see, that’s the thing of it. When you are an occupying force it takes a hell of a lot of troops and a hell of a lot of casualties.

In the last decade we’ve lost over 7,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civilian deaths (some combatants, but mostly just people in the wrong place) exceed 137,000 according to the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. And, that’s a low estimate compared to a lot of others.

If you throw in the fighting in Pakistan, which we are funding, equipping and providing funding for, the number rises to over 236,000 deaths.

Btw, military-speak for people in the wrong place is “collateral damage” as in “acceptable collateral damage”.

War costs (so far) fall somewhere between $3,000,000,000,000 – $4,000,000,000,000.


At the lessor amount, that’s $12,711,864.41 per civilian casualty; at the greater, it’s $16,949,152.54 per civilian casualty. (Who says “Life is cheap”?)


Maybe the best thing in most (but not all) cases would be to go in like we originally did in Afghanistan, and then step back and let the people (whose country it actually is) work out their own future.

Give aid, with lots of oversight, when and as needed. (But NO TROOPS!).

In other words, almost everything we didn’t do in Afghanistan or Iraq. Of course, then Halliburton, Blackwater and a lot of other contractors wouldn’t have gotten nearly as rich. And, we wouldn’t have lost so many trillions of dollars, and more importantly, so many thousands of lives.

Yah, I know. If we do it that way we are going to lose some countries. (As if they were ours in the first place.) If we’re going to “lose” them (to whom, I don’t know) then we’re going to lose them.

Remember how we “lost” Viet Nam?

Now, we’re working with them in areas ranging from counter narcotics to aviation to security to human rights to trade. In fact, we’re trading partners to the tune of over $18,000,000,000 a year. (After China, we’re their largest trading partner.)

But, it’s our sacred duty to build “DEMOCRACY”! (i.e. install “American business friendly” governments.)

That’s a neo-con bullshit line if there ever was one. A lot of people in a lot of countries are in a situation where a quick transition to “DEMOCRACY” isn’t practical or even makes sense. Once again, this is not a one-size-fits-all world.

A better idea might be to work on our own democracy. Darwin knows, it could use some infrastructure maintenance.

If democracy is “what everyone in the world wants”, they’ll come around without us trying to lead them by the nose. Remember what Sun Tzu said: “A leader leads by example, not by force”.

Also, propping up a local strong man is not good karma in the long run, medium run or even short run. Do it and you’re going to eventually (or not so eventually) get kicked in the balls.

Didn’t we learn any thing from Iran – 1953-80? Or, for that matter, from the USSR in Afghanistan – 1979-89?

Here’s a fun and enjoyable project for you: If you want to understand Afghani mentality and why we lost the war as soon as the army moved in, read James Michener’s 1963 book “Caravans”. Seriously. The man did his homework as usual.

(Oh, and we have lost the war. It just hasn’t sunk in yet.)

One last thing while I’m more or less discussing Afghanistan: WHY THE HELL ARE WE STILL THERE? We went in to take out Osama and al Qaeda. Osama is fish food and al Qaeda has mostly gone to Pakistan. Even the CIA admits that.

To once again quote Sun Tzu: “There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.”

BITCH! BITCH! BITCH! Got any solutions or do you just like to gripe a lot?

Yah, but you’re going to have to check out pt 2 for that.

Go grab some more coffee. I’ll wait.


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