How important is military strength today?

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,417
Florania
#1
Previously in history, military might determined national survivals or fates.
Currently, with more or less defined borders, countries usually do not fight for territories.
Then, many people would still insist that military might means power.
Is military might significantly less important today?
Why is interstate peace the norm today?
 
May 2018
675
Michigan
#2
All power, no matter how benign, is always held at the barrel of a gun, or the edge of a sword...unfortunately. Along the same lines of the famous quote, "Power without justice is tyranny, justice without power is stupidity."

I would allege that the current state of relative peace in the world (compared to the numerous previous centuries of unmitigated bloodshed) is due to the following factors:

-The Royal Navy once pursued a policy of being more powerful than the next two navies after them. Currently, the U.S. Navy is more powerful than the next ten navies after it. This level of superiority is unprecedented in world history, and this naval example extends to the Army and Air Force, to varying degrees and for various reasons. The American military is so overwhelmingly powerful that no nation really thinks of seriously challenging it globally; the most they may plan for is local/territorial superiority. Even then, the strategy is basically the same the U.S. used in the American Revolution: make the price of victory so high that the U.S. will simply decide it isn't worth it. As opposed to any serious discussion about defeating the U.S. military globally, or locally if the American population has the will to do so. Make war on a U.S. Ally, and you are toast. Make war on a non-US ally and risk the U.S. intervening, particularly if you attack that nation first and piss off NATO. In any case, given how globally the U.S. is committed, nations have to be very careful about whom they make war upon: whoever the U.S. sides with (and likely brings the combined strength of NATO), is going to win. Its a risky proposition, especially if the world will view you as the aggressor.

-General distaste for war. During WWII, some guys who were "4F'ed" and prevented from military service actually committed suicide over the fact they wouldn't be able to serve their country in war. Saw the exact opposite in 2003 and the liberation of Iraq.

-In many areas of the world, military might DOES mean power. Particularly in some war-torn areas of Africa, or the less stable areas of the Middle East. Having more firepower than the rival "freedom fighter" group (Contras and Sandinstas, anyone?) is a serious advantage. If a "Great Power" (US, UK, China, Russia, Germany and probably now India as well) isn't directly intervening in your war, they are probably providing weapons and equipment. They wouldn't be doing so if superior military force wasn't relevant.

In short, we are in a relative period of unprecedented peace due to overwhelmingly superior military power being held by a relatively good-aligned nation which generally has a distaste for war. As much as I would like to attribute the current relative peace to some existential evolution of mankind, peace through strength is reality.
 
Last edited:
Nov 2013
705
Texas
#3
Previously in history, military might determined national survivals or fates.
Currently, with more or less defined borders, countries usually do not fight for territories.
Then, many people would still insist that military might means power.
Is military might significantly less important today?
Why is interstate peace the norm today?
Basically because

A: Nukes make it less practical to start wars casually

B: To committ a huge and possibly false simplification, with several exeptions, stable republics (especially since the industrial revolution) don't like to war with each other (.

C: Soft power (or at least, economic power) makes it less necessary to intervene in other countries politics via conquest. This was a trend staring by the 1890s I believe, and gained a lot of of steam by the 1970s.

D: In my opinion, the american distaste for war, imperialism and militarism (insofar as such a distaste even exists) go way back to the United States not wanting to over-militarise itself the way European powers did. (The United States was still something of a trade empire though; just with more emphasis on settler colonialism instead of militarism until WW2.)
 
Apr 2018
589
India
#4
All power, no matter how benign, is always held at the barrel of a gun, or the edge of a sword...unfortunately. Along the same lines of the famous quote, "Power without justice is tyranny, justice without power is stupidity."

I would allege that the current state of relative peace in the world (compared to the numerous previous centuries of unmitigated bloodshed) is due to the following factors:

-The Royal Navy once pursued a policy of being more powerful than the next two navies after them. Currently, the U.S. Navy is more powerful than the next ten navies after it. This level of superiority is unprecedented in world history, and this naval example extends to the Army and Air Force, to varying degrees and for various reasons. The American military is so overwhelmingly powerful that no nation really thinks of seriously challenging it globally; the most they may plan for is local/territorial superiority. Even then, the strategy is basically the same the U.S. used in the American Revolution: make the price of victory so high that the U.S. will simply decide it isn't worth it. As opposed to any serious discussion about defeating the U.S. military globally, or locally if the American population has the will to do so. Make war on a U.S. Ally, and you are toast. Make war on a non-US ally and risk the U.S. intervening, particularly if you attack that nation first and piss off NATO. In any case, given how globally the U.S. is committed, nations have to be very careful about whom they make war upon: whoever the U.S. sides with (and likely brings the combined strength of NATO), is going to win. Its a risky proposition, especially if the world will view you as the aggressor.

-General distaste for war. During WWII, some guys who were "4F'ed" and prevented from military service actually committed suicide over the fact they wouldn't be able to serve their country in war. Saw the exact opposite in 2003 and the liberation of Iraq.

-In many areas of the world, military might DOES mean power. Particularly in some war-torn areas of Africa, or the less stable areas of the Middle East. Having more firepower than the rival "freedom fighter" group (Contras and Sandinstas, anyone?) is a serious advantage. If a "Great Power" (US, UK, China, Russia, Germany and probably now India as well) isn't directly intervening in your war, they are probably providing weapons and equipment. They wouldn't be doing so if superior military force wasn't relevant.

In short, we are in a relative period of unprecedented peace due to overwhelmingly superior military power being held by a relatively good-aligned nation which generally has a distaste for war. As much as I would like to attribute the current relative peace to some existential evolution of mankind, peace through strength is reality.
I'll just add a few things to your otherwise good assessment,

Firstly UK and Germany are not "Great Military" powers as of now. What Germany maintains is barely enough to defend the country and fulfill NATO committments. The British military is in the most pathetic state in probably last 300 years. After their last cost cutting spree some idiot even proposed retiring four Royal Navy destroyers IIRC. Although they are still major economic powers but they can not, at all, project any power at any corner of the globe without the US doing it for them.

China is a candidate, but they are more bluster than substance. Their doctrines and equipment are not battle tested. A whole lot of them are still outdated also. However they certainly have the industrial and economic might to replenish losses in case of a war. That's even way better than Soviet Union during the Cold War if we think in terms of power projection assets and not just cannon fodder. Plus they have superb adaptability.

India is still like US in '41. Our Navy is good enough for our own backyard but prolonged blue water deployment without any foreign assistance is still a challenge. Permanent global presence is next to nil. The Air Force is a mix of state of the art and horribly outdated equipment. The Army is enormous and has huge domestic committments, i.e. two fronts. Availability of hi-tech gear to individual soldiers is a big question mark but the situation is grinding towards improvement.

Russia has just begun to stand up after two decades of lying bedridden. But still, they have their nukes, their subs and their tanks. They can pose an existential level threat even to the US but their power projection ability globally is pathetic. Syria is just beyond their backyard.

That leaves the US. But its ability and willingness to absorb punishment from any of the above three is doubtful, at least in this globalized world. Which means there are three types of nations in the world - those who can tell the US to f*** off and not much bother about it, those who can't even imagine it in their worst nightmares and Russia.

There is fourth category which includes Iran, North Korea etc. But I didn't actually consider those.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,507
Sydney
#5
As important as the raw number is having a domestic weapon industry
strong weapon export subsidize one's army
the US has been very keen to eliminate competitors

the weapon trade is deep geopolitics
 
Jan 2009
8,487
In the Past
#6
I dare say it is still important. Soft power is ultimately always backed by hard power. No matter how much soft power you have over another nation, it can always be nullified by the threat of force, either internally or by an opposing nation. There is a reason hard force (covert or otherwise) was a major element of the Cold War. A nation held under your sphere by force outranks any economic or soft attachment to the other nations. That isn't to say that we hold everyone under through force (though it isn't entirely an inaccurate assessment), but rather that we must be prepared to act, or at least threaten to act, if another nation thinks about using force.

While it isn't preferable, I would hardly say the world is stable enough to rule out opposing forces playing their hand if they get the chance. We must remember when visualizing the situation in our world that we do have military forces and there are multiple areas of active or proactive deployment, so it makes visualizing the situation without nations like the US and Europe having power-projection.
 
Jan 2009
8,487
In the Past
#7
I should perhaps add some clarity. I am not saying a nation should use force to make other nations listen to it. It should use soft power as the primary means to secure interests. But it must not be so quick to give up the means to protect its soft power. All it takes is one "ambitious" nation or an increase in tensions with another major power, and our soft power risks being overwritten by them. An opposing army will always beat soft power alone.

Soft power secured against foreign aggressors by hard power is the way to go. Make friends, and beat the hell out of the people who threaten those friends.

A nation will continue to support nations it benefits from, even against another nation when push comes to shove. It will take the first chance it gets to break from a nation it is tied to by threat of force. Naturally, soft power should be dominant. But it's foolish to think money alone can replace a military when things escalate too far. And history has taught us that things can always proceed to escalate too far.

Now, of course, this is about whether one or a handful of nations need military. If the alternate situation discussed is one where the entire world is disarmed, I would say... no. Because 1: All it takes is one nation rearming to cause problems, and 2: Preferably we will enter space more permanently, and it would be unwise to move forward with nothing but hopes and a handful of dollars. I know it seems stupid to consider alien aggression, but you can't both say "aliens probably exist" and "why would you be prepared for aliens if you plan to eventually venture past the solar system" in one sentence. That would be stupid.
 
#8
Its not that important because nukes make conventional forces obsolete. In addition, war is no longer profitable because of inter-connected economies. True national power then should be measured by gross domestic product, strength of national currencies, and collective security agreements for deterrence. These guarantee the survival of the state far better than standing armies do.
 
Apr 2018
589
India
#9
Its not that important because nukes make conventional forces obsolete. In addition, war is no longer profitable because of inter-connected economies. True national power then should be measured by gross domestic product, strength of national currencies, and collective security agreements for deterrence. These guarantee the survival of the state far better than standing armies do.
Collective security arrangements are often not seen as an acceptable solution to the security question by developing countries with large, complex economies like China and India who prefer be in charge of their foreign policies. Also nukes do not make conventional forces obsolete. It merely reduces greatly the chances of conventional wars but gives rise to subconventional and proxy conflicts which, these days, tend to become quite big. There is no other way to fight these without overwhelming superiority of conventional forces. Imagine if neither Russia nor the West had interfered in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil wars.
 
Likes: sparky

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,507
Sydney
#10
" Imagine if neither Russia nor the West had interfered in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil wars. "

probably for the best , and certainly a lot cheaper
 

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