The US Military Catch-All Thread


Also, too, my avatar? It’s a promotional poster from Shenandoah Games. They gave it to me for something, I think it was play testing work I did on Desert Fox.


The thing is, this argument on its own could easily be sufficient to justify a high level of US military expenditure.

It’s really hard to measure how much the US military deters just by existing and being generally down on aggressive expansionism though.

I’m not sure about this. If the Yemeni rebels win the Saudis are faced with a possibly openly hostile terrorist state on their border. They may well feel they are committed to this fight, whatever the US say. From the situation they are in today, what are they supposed to do?

I really want to agree with you and say the US and UK should absolutely stop selling the Saudis arms unless they pull out of Yemen, but I do wonder what the Saudis next move is supposed to be.


Alexander the Great murdered civilians, intentionally, by the thousand. It’s documented in great detail in a number of his campaigns. He killed all of the men of the Sibean tribe, and then enslaved all of their women and children. His seige tactics killed tons of civilians. This was widely known at the time, to the extent that by the final stages of the Mallian campaign most of the cities were already abandoned before he even reached them. He sacked and then burned Persepolis, killing mountains of civilians. He destroyed the city of Thebes in order to make an example to other cities. The idea that he is even remotely comparable to the modern US military is silly on its face.

Alexander lived in an absolutely brutal time. No military of that period cared about avoiding civilian casualties to any real extent.



My turn to ask if you read my post.

Edit: As best I can parse it, you’re arguing that 1) standards are different today, and 2) the US is the exemplar of these standards. But (2) is debatable - which NATO countries are not at least as good on this as is the US? And (1) isn’t to the credit of the US, which if anything is eroding those standards. Again, which NATO countries do you think would carry out the drone campaign we’re carrying out, in exactly the same fashion we’re carrying it out?


We already covered this, explicitly.

Look, at this point I don’t think I’m that interested in discussing things with you. Feel free to consider yourself the victor.


Vietnam… well I suppose. Of course it turned out to be a mistake, but… Kuwait was done with reluctant UN complaisance, but of course it wasn’t in support of a democracy or to fulfil a treaty obligation; it was a US initiative to secure their oil.


I’d disagree with this a bit, or at least, inject some complexity. One, the prima facie case for intervention was strong, as it was a clear act of aggression on the part of Iraq, which wanted to resolve a long-standing territorial dispute by force. In this case, you don’t need any other justification. Doesn’t answer the question of good or bad decision, but it does I think make the coalition’s intervention pretty clear-cut in terms of what passes for international convention, if not law.

Two, “securing the oil” is sort of a misconception I would argue, because, um, the Iraqis would have had to sell that oil to someone anyhow, and it’s unlikely that we would have ended up worse off in terms of oil shipments whether the Iraqis or the Kuwaitis were manning the pumps. If you want to say we were “securing” the oil from being in the hands of a very bad guy with a track record of violence and aggression in the region, I’d buy that, but that, too, is pretty much the sort of thing that one could justifiably argue was in our legitimate national interests. I’m not saying that the case is a slam-dunk, but it’s certainly not a simple matter of greed.

Three, Bush was clearly acting from a position influenced by multiple streams of thought. One was the genuine belief in a “new world order” that, post-Cold War, shouldn’t be governed by thuggery. Even if you argue that the US use of force was just a more genteel form of coercion, it’s still a lot less destabilizing than a world where every tin-horn dictator can invade their neighbors. Another stream of thought was, yes, the sort of neo-liberal ideology that would grow ever more strong under Bush II. Even that, though, and it’s an ideology that I find in many ways odious, was partially based in a sincere, if misguided, belief that what was good for modern American capitalists was good for everyone. Making the world safe for multinational oil companies, in this context, was partly simple aggrandizement but also partly honest belief in the rectitude of the action. And finally, another stream of thought that influenced Bush, in my view, was the perhaps unconscious but very real pressure from the US military, particularly the Air Force, to let them actually do the things they spent the entire Cold War training and preparing to do. You see this in Horner’s air campaign, which IMO went above and beyond anything needed for the mission and went straight into “let’s see how our Central Front warplans would have worked, only with the Iraqis as live test dummies” territory.

So, you may well be right that our motives in going into Kuwait were not terribly noble. I actually think that operation was probably one of the few post-war things we’ve done that was pretty much above board all the way, but opinions can differ. What I don’t think is accurate is the assertion that it was just for oil, which I find too simplistic and which I think misses the nuances involved.


Oh, I agree rescuing Kuwait was above-board. But with no oil there we would have ignored them.


I wasn’t just about Kuwait’s oil. Saddam’s invasion was perceived as an existential threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So some reaction was almost inevitable.


Is that a bad thing, though? I ask that without pushing one answer or another as better. It’s an interesting question. Enlightened self-interest vs. altruism, sort of. On the one hand, it would be good in many ways if we judged evil acts for their own sake, not based on how much we like or dislike the victim. The law, for instance, does not give you a pass for murdering the local loudmouth no one liked (at least, not officially, though we all know how local justice often plays out). On the other hand, nations don’t have unlimited resources, and have to pick and choose. Isn’t it good to make sure that when you do act in your own self-interest, you also do so on the side of the angels?


It isn’t great for the cop theory of America’s role.


This is the point. The US is not and never has been the world’s policeman.

  1. International law hasn’t evolved to the point that countries can be policed at all.
  2. The US is a flouter of treaties and breaker of such international laws that do exist.
  3. The US will never subject itself to international arbitration anyway.

Historically the US has virtually never intervened except for its own self-aggrandizement. Which is what most countries with power do. Just don’t pretend there is any policing going on.


I agree with you we could do a lot to stop the Saudi but choose not to do. I think where we disagree is it malicious on our part of our politician, Or just that Saudi diplomat to US and their foreign minister are always A team players and our folks get snookered. For my entire life every Saudi diplomat, has been American educated, speaks perfect English and is very eloquent. Most importantly, he is very aware of American policy and culture. My guess is that it is rare American diplomat that speak Arabic and has spent 5 or 10 years living in Saudi Arabia before getting the Ambassador job.

I remember in my frat, we had one lady’s man in the house. While the rest of us struggled with a getting a date, this guy was always dating at least 3 girls, generally beautiful. He was cute, charming, had a nice car, and allegedly his mom owned the classiest brothel in Marin county and spent time around young woman growing up. I sure the guy had a rep as “player” on campus so you could put some blame on the girls who’s hearts he crushed on a regular basis. But on the other hand, his appeal was obvious and most 18 or 19 year old girl didn’t really stand chance. The US is the most important diplomatic position for Saudi Arabia and we get their top diplomats.

The Kuwait invasion is a classic example. Saddam owed the Saudi a boatload of money, his tanks are on the border, and Kuwait was the great example of how Saddam repaid his debts… Yet the Saudi made Powell and Cheney, spend weeks negotiating for the privilege of putting US troop in the Kingdom to protect their country, from Saddam. At the end, it appeared that Bush 41 administration won a big unprecedented diplomatic victory, by allowing infidel troops into the Kingdom. It was pretty brilliant diplomacy on their part.


Wow. Just…wow.


There’s merit in what you say, for sure. I don’t necessarily think our policy, or lack thereof, is malicious all the time, or even most of the time. I think a lot of our problem is failure to actually have a policy beyond a mix of exceptionalism and the inability to conceive of a world where the USA isn’t number one in everything.


This is…insane.


Time until someone born after 9/11 is already fighting in Afghanistan: Negative Years.




"A staggering 71 percent of young Americans are ineligible to join the armed forces, when you subtract out the too-dumb, the too-fat, and the too-criminal.
The problem, it seems, isn’t that young people don’t want to join the Army—or any of the services—it’s that they can’t. And therein lies a paradox: for while the U.S. military represents the best in America (as its most senior officers claim), it doesn’t actually represent America. For that to be true, two thirds of our military would have to consist of obese, under-educated former drug users and convicted criminals.”


I attended a funeral for a man, I thought I knew fairly well but turned out I didn’t. George was retired navy, he started off in the merchant marines and worked his way from enlisted man to a full Navy captain, and commanding everything from a gunboat in Vietnam to a cruiser.

The funeral had a VIP who had flown in from Annapolis just for the day. Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff under Bush and Obama(I thought I’d do some shameless name dropping to make up for my lack of being a Navy SEAL.) The Admiral explained how serving under George had taught him everything from how to con a ship, to lessons in leadership. Most of all George how had saved his Navy career, and helped him when he had a screwed up. Then a 3-star admiral told similar stories. An enlisted man related how George had trusted them to con the ship even when docking with a tanker in the middle of the ocean. He also related how George wasn’t a saint and could dress you down fiercely when you screwed up, but he didn’t hold a grudge. That prompted Adm. Mullen to say that no matter what his position in the Navy, George had an opinion about what he was doing to help or harm the navy and shared forcefully.

Several who knew George as volunteer and philanthropist explain how he served as role-model as chair of the Oahu Veterans center, my colleagues explain how George as chairmen of the Arizona Memorial Museum Association had raised over $20 million dollars for the new Arizona Memorial visitor center.

The family related how George, stopwatch, and sextant in hand navigated the 32’ sailboat from Massachusetts to Bermuda, during a fierce storm. The 20-year old granddaughter who had written a lovely letter about her grandfather shared how she had gone from being terrified of him to be inspired to travel and to do great things.

Truly a rich life well lived, we should all be so lucky. But that is the George I thought I knew. The story of the man I didn’t know was told by about 10 tiny Vietnamese women in their 40-60s, dressed in all black. In accented English, voices choked with emotion, they related how they came to meet George. Their parents for helping the American during the Vietnam war were sent to re-education camps repeatedly, so they escaped on rickety boats.

After a few days the food and water ran out, several planes and boat saw us but none helped. Finally, after more than a week with no food or water, we saw a plane, and then a few hours a later a huge ship. “If it wasn’t for Captain George and his crew, I’d be dead and so would the other 153 people on board. They feed us and treated us like human beings”, she said. Another lady said she the other 18 folks were rescued the next year. But because of the previous rescue the crew and collected clothing and blankets and had them on hand. George helped the navigate the refugee camp bureaucracy and so they only spent a month there before resettling in America. Many years later in the late 1990, she used Alta Vista to track the name of the ship and her rescuers. She found there was going to be a reunion of the crew, and attended the reunion. Then she told other Vietnamese about these reunions and soon many Vietnamese and their rescuer were reunited.
Evidently, George and his wife kept in touch with many of them.

It is certain tragic how we treat refugees now, but I’d argue that military has lot of Captain Georges in it. I’m glad I knew him.