The miseducation of the US public: the military

You have got to be kidding me.

A slim majority of Americans (54%) say the United States is the No. 1 military power in the world, down from 64% in 2010, with an average of 59% since 1993. The lowest reading, 51%, was recorded in 1999 as the U.S. was involved in a NATO-led multinational air campaign against Kosovo.

Amusingly that opinion is concentrated with Republicans. I so wish they’d asked the followup of who’s number one.

The polling question is "do you think the US is

A: No. 1 in the world militarily


B: One of several leading powers

which leaves a fair amount of room for misunderstanding on the part of people trying to say something about a multipolar vs. unipolar world, or that they’re concerned the US is slipping, or yada yada. If it was a straight “number 1 or not number 1” question I’d be more inclined to treat it like the hilarious headline it appears to be.

But there’s no such thing as another leading power, really. I guess if you want to be generous you can give Russia points for nukes and China for sheer warm bodies, but we spend more than the rest of the world combined.

Spending isn’t the only way to measure military power, though. It really depends on what you mean by number 1. Number one in power projection? Size of the navy? Actual soldiers? Number of tanks? And so on. It also depends on the type of conflict the military is asked to be involved in.

Thing is, we’re number one on every one of those lists save sheer # of soldiers, where only China beats us.

I assume you are going by the wiki entry then? And only counting “Active” and not paramilitary, reserve and the like?

Maybe it’s due to the popularity of the CoD: Modern Warfare games, where the Russians were able to knock out NORAD’s early warning systems, land entire divisions on the American mainland and launch a full invasion of Western Europe.

The Russians have fewer modern AFVs than the US, but a significant advantage if equipment in storage (older, not necessarily all obsolete) is factored in. They also have a slight lead in nuclear arms (not that 12,000 vs. 9,000 makes a difference when it comes to power to unilaterally destroy the world).

It is a pretty silly result to the poll, though; if the goal was straight-up military victory rather than long-term occupation, I’d take the US over any two countries you could name.

Surface fleets are approaching obsolescence. Asymmetrical warfare should increase the value of 5th columnists. Russian oil reserves better positions them to project power from a sturdier industrial base.

I see that the fantasy of Russia as a credible conventional threat is rearing it’s head again. Interesting. Republicans still pining for the cold war I suppose.

Well Putin did recently make a bunch of promises to revitalise the Russian conventional forces and buy a bunch of new tanks, warships and aircraft.

UK and France both spend slightly more than Russia on defence (according to Wikipedia at least). Therefore, I demand that the next COD game involves a new Entente Cordiale taking the fight back to the pesky colonials, led by Captain Price and zombie Napoleon.

In all seriousness, if you’re worried about Russian conventional military might, shouldn’t you be worried about France too. I guess the thing that gives Russia strength is the weakness of its non-Chinese, non-NATO neighbours.

In any remotely geopolitically-plausible way? No, Russia’s not a threat. In a theoretical land war between just them and the US? They’d lose it in the long run, but it wouldn’t be so obviously won in the short term to make it an uninteresting thought exercise.

And remember, you can see Russia from Alaska. They are coming for you. Well, at least for Sarah Palin anyway.

I think Jason Townsend hit it on the head.

For example, it’s not unreasonable to say that “Apple, Google, and Microsoft are the leading tech companies today” or even “Apple is one of several leading tech companies in America”. Yet, Apple has a greater market cap (today) than the other two combined.

#1 at what? Not ‘Cyber’ warfare - that would be Israel or China; Not cost-effectiveness that would be Taliban.

Yes, US military is dominating in a lot of metrics, but not all of them and “one of the leading” is not such unreasonable answer.

See… there we go with the fantasy again. The Russians are utterly outclassed in every branch of arms. It would be a VERY lop-sided contest.

Until they launched their nukes and reduced all our cites to radioactive dust. They still have more than enough to kill us all many times over.

And they’re welcome to have her.

Russia doesn’t need tanks and guns. They have Putin, without a shirt. On a horse.
Game. Set. Match.