The United States’ military is pretty frickin’ awesome. Consider this: Europe has gone 65 years without a major war, perhaps for the first time ever. It’s easy for us to take for granted now, but sixty-five years without a war between European powers is unheard of. Our boys on the ground over there have been a factor, for sure. NATO, which the United States anchors, not only answered pressure from the east but made war between Norway and England impossible.
Part of our success is that we have committed to making every infantryman* worth twice what any other country can field, through technology and training. This means fewer of our guys get killed to achieve a given political objective. That’s a good thing.
Our military is really, really, expensive. Let’s go back to Europe for a moment. It’s easy to argue that without American commitment Europe would not have achieved the solidarity and economic integration it has today. Hooray! But now it’s time to say, “mission accomplished.” We just don’t have tens of billions of dollars to spend on the defense of Europe every year while they become an economic partner/rival to us.
In the price of every Cadillac (and every beer) is the cost of defending Germany from attack. The Germans put their taxes to use building infrastructure.
And then there’s Japan. At the end of WWII we required that they look to us to defend them. At the time it made sense, more or less. We wanted to ensure that they would not become an aggressor nation again. Well, they didn’t. Instead they worked their asses off and went from ruin to one of the world’s great economic powers. Rather than resent their rise, America should be proud of it. It wouldn’t have happened without us. What’s best is that they tied their economy entirely to ours. Sure we have our differences, but we have no ally whose interests are more tightly intertwined with our own. The United States and Japan are the world’s economic odd couple, but it works.
And still, the US bears almost the full cost of defending Japan. Ironically, over there, a lot of folks would like to see us go. There have been problems. Yet we stay.
In the price of every Ford (and every ice cream cone) is the cost of defending Japan from attack. The Japanese spend their taxes building their industries.
Meanwhile, we’re fighting two ground wars and trying to maintain a peacetime economy. Somehow people are still surprised at the difficulty of reining in ridiculous government borrowing. Sure there’s plenty of other waste in the government, but we’ve dumped a trillion dollars (a TRILLION! A fucking trillion!) into a war with no good possible outcome.
And still we dump, and good Americans die, the best soldiers the planet has ever known, the ones who can accomplish a political goal more efficiently than any other force in history, and they’re being dicked over at tremendous expense to all of us, for a political goal that has long since passed into irrelevance.
It is not with disrespect to the guys out there who have accomplished so much that I call for an enormous reduction in military spending. It is because they did so well that our allies are now able to stand on their own. The best thing our armed forces have accomplished is a dramatic reduction in war. Pax America, baby. It’s real.
But now it’s time to let the world take care of itself for a while. Europe’s good, and it won’t take long for Japan to feel secure. Taiwan, not so simple. Iraq, it doesn’t matter if we pull out tomorrow or twenty years from now; violence will ensue. May as well get it over with. Afghanistan, I think we stick there. Recognize that had we not gone off and invaded Iraq, we could have done right by those guys.
We can probably still afford one ground war, if it’s small.
* In the end, it’s all about the infantry. Sure the airplanes the the cruise missiles kick ass, but sooner or later someone has to walk where someone else does’t want him to. All the stealth bombers and MOABs are just fireworks. You win when your guys are standing on the street corers.**
** Except, I have to add, that that’s when we lost Iraq. The victors were entirely unprepared to be police, and in twenty-four hours the US Army’s disregard for civil law and order was felt. America’s biggest supporters were looted into bankruptcy overnight, and the rest is history. Stop the looting right then and there, and you send a message: this is still a nation of law. Stay inside for a few days, let us know if you need anything, and we really hope your own police come back to patrol. If they don’t, we’re here. The law is here.
Even a passing mention to the advancing army that they were responsible for civil order might have averted a decade of futile battle. It’s even in the Geneva convention. “In war, plan for peace,” Sun Tsu advised. EPIC FAIL in Iraq. Trillion-dollar epic fail. Possibly the biggest blunder in US military history. I can’t think of a worse one.