The US Military Catch-All Thread


#243

It’s your extraordinary claim. Support it.


#244

I’d be happy if our own police force stopped killing our own civilians but that doesn’t seem to a priority these days. I’m not sure how we can be the world’s police when we can’t even adequately police our own country.


#245

Could you tell me what kind of support you would like to see?


#246

That’s a great question, because I’m mystified how you could make the claim in the first place. Presumably you’ve got some basis for it other than your gut, so try that.


#247

I’m glad i asked that first.


#248

We don’t even imagine the world without US intervention, we have the genocides in South Sudan, the Rohingya, and Syria to remind us the world without the US leadership. Even in a Europe how long did the Europeans, show deep concern, and issue strong memo of condemnation of Milosevic before the US got involved (and flew 90%+ of the dangerous missions.)

Also for all you who complain about the US killing civilian in our intervention, just look at the Saudi’s in Yemen, and Soviets in Syria, they don’t even try to avoid civilians. Even the French and British in Libya had their share of screw ups.

While I agree with a lot of your comment, one of these things is not like the others. The Saudi’s in Yemen are conducting air strikes using planes and bombs bought from the US. With pilots trained by the US. Using US supplied targeting data. And supported by US provided mid-air refueling on their way to drop the bombs. The entire Yemen situation is a black stain on our country.


#249

The entire Yemen situation is a failure of epic proportions on our cowardly political class who should be standing up before the public and making the case - any case - as to what should be done.

But Republicans don’t care, and Democrats post-Iraq 2 / post-Obama are terrified of getting involved anywhere else in the Middle East. Hurray for leadership.


#250

Impressive travel list, but I don’t think changes what I said. I find it impossible to believe at your age and experience that you don’t understand that only way to stop some bad people is with violence. But somehow violence done by America is a bad thing even if leads to positive results in the future.

It is too bad. MO governor Eric Greitens turned out to be such an ambitious slimeball because his first book, the Heart and the Fist is compelling. In the book he describes his transformation from a bleeding heart liberal (I mean this is a non-pejorative fashion.) out there doing good humanitarian work all over the world to a Navy SEAL. The trigger point, is when he was in the Balkans (maybe Kosvo) and he is working for WorldVision and they are handing out food and supplies to civilians. And this 60 something guy ask if he is American. He says yes, and the old guy says "look we really appreciate the food and everything, but we really need is for you American to kill, Milosevic and his thugs. We can food from lots of good people, but we can’t get is soldiers and planes from anybody but Americans. Shortly after that Eric joined the Navy to become a SEAL.

As many mistakes as America makes we are actually pretty good as world cops.


#251

I don’t disagree. But in proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there are no good guys only bad guys and worse guy. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the situation in Yemen despite listening to hours of PBS Newshour from the county.

My other comment is that it is mistake for American to assume that we any control over Saudi Arabia, we simply don’t. The Saudi are master manipulators and great diplomats. AFAIK, every American president, and probably most Sec. of States has been victim. First,they explain why things aren’t a simple as they look, we aren’t killing babies but future terrorist. Then the shift the topic to how what the Saudi are doing is in America interest, stopping communism, terrorism, Iraq, Iran,or Russia. Next, they make sure that an important America (Oil or Defense exec, banker, charitable foundation CEO) reaches out to explain how much money/jobs/campaign contribution your request will cost. Finally, they agree to a face saving measure so you can go home to your constituents and claim you get results from the Saudi’s .

We make good soliders, cops, media stars, and inventors etc. they make such great diplomats,that Americans don’t even know they’ve be had.


#252

I mean, facts don’t matter, as we’ve established earlier wrt China, so why bother?


#253

I’d be curious to know the answer to this as well. If you’d asked me which military power in the modern era was most judicious about avoiding collateral damage, I would easily say the US. If that’s mistaken, Scott, I’m certainly open to being corrected. Who you think is more judicious, or even as judicious?

-Tom


#254

I’d probably say that, currently, the Brits have the same regard for civilian life as the US does, but they are effectively just a smaller component of the US military in all recent conflicts, engaging in joint allied operations, so it may not be meaningful as a comparison.

The purpose of the statement was more about comparing the way the US conducts itself in modern warfare to historical warfare where civilian casualties were an afterthought if they were thought about at all, or the way that nations like Russia and Syria conduct themselves.


#255

Those actions were, however, not unilateral US actions, even though we did the lion’s share of the work. In 1950 we went through the effort of getting UN support, and ultimately limited our goals in Korea to align them with what the rest of the world (and our own abilities) would sustain. That’s also leaving aside the fact that, in 1950, South Korea had only existed for a few years and no one really anticipated the peninsula being divided in perpetuity. As a nation-state, South Korea was pretty shaky. And we did so to oppose what we saw as a Soviet proxy move; certainly Rhee’s South Korea was anything but a paragon of democracy. It was the right thing to do–unprovoked aggression like Kim Il Sung’s deserved to be countered–but we also botched the whole thing because we let MacArthur’s ego run the show for too long. In Kuwait, well, the only reason that justifies our intervention (and it’s a big reason, don’t get me wrong) was the basic idea of not letting people redefine borders/settle disputes by force. Kuwait was, and is, a wretched authoritarian petrodictatorship. We also, arguably, used that conflict to inflict far more damage on Iraq than was justified, somewhat mitigating our Good Samaritan credentials. But even then, Bush went to the trouble of getting an actual coalition together.

In the case of Korea, I agree 100% that without US action things would have been worse overall. In Kuwait, the case is less certain, as the none of the parties involved really had much legitimacy, but I agree the principle was important. Those, though, are perhaps the only two times we’ve used massive force since Pearl Harbor where there was a clear and widely accepted justification. But even if you grant your point here, it doesn’t say much about our overall role in the world. It’s points on one side of the ledger, but it’s not the whole ledger. I’m just saying you have to look at the whole picture, and that picture is, overall, at the very least quite gray.


#256

I think any military in NATO is probably as judicious and some may be more so. I struggle to imagine e.g. Germany or Belgium carrying out our drone campaign in the way we do. But I don’t insist they are more judicious.

What struck me about the claim was the sheer breadth of it, encompassing all of human history. I don’t have any idea if it is a true claim, but then I don’t think you do, either.

What came to mind when you made it was the campaigns of Alexander, in which most battles were fought — largely by mutual agreement — in a chosen open space away from cities and habitations and involving only combatants. It’s certainly true that this wasn’t always the case: There are a few examples of cities that refused to fight in this manner, and were besieged, with the expected horrible results. But it’s clear that what Alexander wanted to win was intact cities with intact populations.

Was he humane? I doubt. War is not humane.


#257

Oh, the domino theory actually played out, yeah, but in the end it wasn’t significant. Communism was as equally home-grown as the pro-capitalist dictatorships in the region, or as foreign, depending on your POV. The point is that the Vietnamese got screwed either way–tin-horn military dictatorships that ravaged the peasantry and looted the coffers, or brutal Communists who did approximately the same following a different script. The millions of casualties and environmental devastation we left behind didn’t really accomplish much, though I am open to the argument that in some cases the chose between doing nothing and doing the wrong thing is very hard to navigate.


#258

The US had zero military might until somewhere in 1942, really. It’s not a matter of “staying involved.” It wold have had to be a matter of maintaining a level of military power unprecedented in US history after WWI, through the depression, and into the forties, plus an active engagement as a major strategic player, to have had a material impact on what happened in WWII. What historians generally have said is that, had the US joined the League, and stayed diplomatically engaged, we might have mitigated the rancor of the UK and France in enforcing Versailles, and might have given them backbone to stand up to Hitler in the early thirties. Might. Maybe. To me, there was zero possibility of the US keeping a real interest in or presence in Europe after WWI. The only thing we really did get involved in was supporting the Whites in the early stages of the Russian Revolution, even putting troops into Murmansk. If anything, the US was predisposed to help the proto-fascists in Europe during that period.

I also disagree that we minded our own business with Japan. We actively, if mostly diplomatically and economically, opposed them. We had no force to do otherwise; when Japan was fighting in China, what could the US army of just over 100k do about it? Until the middle of '42 we really had no way to go on the offensive anyhow, and the US people would absolutely not have supported any sort of military build up before Pearl Harbor. FDR had to finagle and maneuver a lot to lay the groundwork in the late thirties as it was.

And there were definitely many Americans who, yes, advocated trade with both Germany and Japan up until Pearl Harbor. No, I don’t think that was a good or moral idea, but you have to remember the USA did not have allies then. We had no foreign treaties with mutual defense obligations. We had no formal alliances. We had war plans that had the British as well as the Germans and Japanese as possible adversaries. The idea that there was this Atlantic alliance prior to at the very least Lend Lease, but really not until Pearl Harbor and the German declaration on us thereafter, is spurious. Now, you can argue we should have had alliances, but that was very unlikely. Most Americans felt the Brits and French and rooked us into WWI, and even the UK and France couldn’t get a functioning alliance up and running well before the German’s took over France in 1940.


#259

Yet you argue that we have, somehow, control over all sorts of other things that go on in the world. Usually control exerted through force. No, we aren’t likely to threaten the Saudis, but we certainly have leverage. We don’t have to sell them weapons. We don’t have to train and support their logistical and operational readiness. We don’t have to ignore their support of terrorism and fundamentalist fanatics. But we do, because financially powerful groups in the USA are tied to Riyadh, and the Saudis also have a lot of investments here. In short, we have let them take the upper hand, because we’re greedy fucks who can’t stand to lose a dime in arms sales or capital investment. We definitely could use some of that weight you like to see us throw around to push the Saudis into line, but we choose not to. And I’d argue the Saudis are one of the countries least deserving of any support from us, anywhere. Hell, in the long run, the Iranians are a better investment, as horrible as they can be at times.


#260

Timex is right I think that the US military, perhaps more than any other, has institutionalized avoidance of collateral damage. How that is defined, of course, is another issue, but the general sentiment is accurate. The real argument, though, is whether the situations where you have to avoid collateral damage should have occurred in the first place. If you brag about your efforts to avoid collateral damage during operations that are, in themselves, not justified, then the point is sort of lost. The fact that we tried to limit damage to civilians during the invasion of Iraq doesn’t make up for the arguable wrongness of the invasion itself.


#261

I think that if I say to you the mindreading you’ve just engaged in is wrong, that’s not what I believe, you ought to acknowledge that you were engaging in mindreading that was probably wrong.

What I would say to that as a general response is that, in the modern American hegemony era, America doesn’t use military force to stop bad people; what America uses military force for is to react to perceived threats against America.

We’ve seen countless examples in this thread. America defends Kuwait because of Middle East oil, while America does largely nothing in Syria, which has no oil of consequence to America. America intervenes in the former Yugoslavia because of the danger the conflict will destabilize Europe, while America does nothing in Rwanda, or in the Ethiopia / Eritrea conflict, or in the Congo, or in Myanmar, or in Sri Lanka, because there is no national interest involved; or, perhaps, for even worse reasons than the absence of a national interest, perhaps because we simply don’t care about those people.

I’m objecting to the thesis that America acts as a cop. America is a serial violator of international law, and a material supporter of regimes (e.g. KSA and Israel) which are themselves serial violators of international law. When we act, we act out of our own interests, not to uphold the law, even when there can be said to be any law.

We’re not cops; we’re basically running something akin to a gang. It’s certainly true that the other gangs are worse than we are, but we don’t ever actually do anything to oppose those gangs.

In any event, I’m done with the subject, because it doesn’t seem to have come to anything but a string of abuse.


#262

It’s also a choice we could make because of the current state of weaponry. Arguing that Roosevelt was callous for firebombing Dresden while Bush was not because he had other ways to destroy infrastructure and military targets and otherwise degrade a country’s ability to fight and didn’t need to firebomb cities is a failure of imagination, e.g. what would Bush have done in Roosevelt’s place? Other than accidentally invade Spain, I mean?

I completely agree with your larger point. If you decide on a cruel, unjust war of choice — a crime under international law — you can hardly claim credit for the humane way in which you try to carry it out; and you can’t take credit for being the police, either. The same IMO applies to the drone war.