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How good is the US military?

Posted March 18th, 2018 at 11:58 AM by Guaporense
Updated March 19th, 2018 at 11:07 AM by Guaporense

How good? To measure how good an armed forces is is to measure how effective it is in utilizing the resources at it's disposal. By that metric the US armed forces are among the worst military forces in history.

Why? Let's look at the evidence of US performance in conflicts over the past 70 years. Since 1950 the US military was involved mainly in the wars of Vietnam, Korea and Iraq. In all these wars the US military fought enemies that were vastly inferior in both numbers, logistical support and technology, yet they suffered defeat in the first case, stalemate in the second case and the third case was a pyrrhic victory that cost 3 trillion dollars, against forces operating with less than 0.1% of US's resources which consisted mainly of unorganized terrorists.

Vietnam was specially ludicrous case: it's the only case of the US fighting against a truly determined enemy in the last century or so. The US military spend 6.1 million ton of bombs (more than the British ammunition consumption in Western Front in WW1, which was ca. 5.2 million tons) and enormous amounts of ammunition in a war against a small and extremely poor third world country of 17 million people and yet they were defeated. The amount of physical destruction they unleashed on Vietnam was tremendous and yet they were defeated: in relation to the resources employed it is perhaps the most pathetic defeat in military history.

How is something like Vietnam possible? The US is traditionally a peaceful democratic country that had little interest in military affairs. It's role as the world's foremost military power (since 1991 up to now) is an interesting historical accident: traditionally the US was a pacifist country that didn't want to get involved in wars between the great powers. For instance, in WW1, despite already being the world's largest economy, the US didn't participate in it as a major player and only sent substantial troops to aid the Entente in the last months of the war. That changed with WW2 and the decisive defeat of Britain and France in 1940: to fill the international geopolitical roles of Britain and France as the major Western geopolitical powers the US shifted it's international policies from being a giant Switzerland into an active player in world's geopolitics. Although the US's role in WW2 was mainly supportive of the Soviet Union, which they provided with logistical support and in addition reinforced the Red Army opening a small front with some troops in Western Europe during the last 11 months of the war.

Since then the US has been one of the world's foremost powers and indisputably the world's most powerful country after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and up to the recent rise of China. Yet, they are filling roles that do not suit the US pacifist culture.

The US culture is not martial and so the most competent people in US society are not encouraged to have military careers. Hence, the US military is essentially a welfare program for people who are not competent enough to work in the private sector. It's incompetence is a natural consequence of this fact. Basically, we end up in a situation where the world's foremost military consists of idiots operating equipment worth billions of dollars hence the asymmetry between the enormous resources the US spends on the military and it's relative ineffectiveness.
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