The US Military Catch-All Thread


That’s…an exaggeration, as I am sure you know :). A pretty gross exaggeration, really. The Pacific Fleet does indeed face challenges, but it’s still an effective, professional force overall. The question of over-extension is a valid one, though. Of course, there are always two solutions to over-extension: more stuff, or less mission.


During the Cold War, we fell into a way of thinking determined by the combination of a global strategic situation that severely limited open action by the two main players, and the extreme bipolar (perhaps, in all senses of the world) structure of that global situation. Today, though, the world is more multi-polar, all actors have a lot more freedom to operate, and power is no longer being measured, globally, strictly in destructive capacity. The US really hasn’t figured this out at the policy level, I would argue. Yes, there are times when there is no substitute for physical power and the ability to use it effectively. But most of the time, the power that is effective is much more diverse, diffuse, and complex. Even when backed up by the implicit threat of force, these types of power are still far more useful and flexible, and widespread, than what has become our “traditional” way of flexing muscles via ships. planes, and cruise missiles.

The questions start with what are the goals of the USA, and from there, move on to how do we want to obtain those goals. I have a hard time coming up with a chain of answers that leads to the current force structure and infrastructure, really. I can see logical paths to paying more for defense, or paying less, but each of those would be paying for somewhat different things, at least in terms of ratios and force mixes.


The goal seems to be US national hegemony, an absence of rivals, and immunity from the consequences of any deliberate or inadvertent bad behavior on our part. To be clear, that’s not my goal, that’s the goal I glean from the behavior of the political, military and industrial establishment.


Yeah, you may have hit upon a problem with my process! If we’ve already decided on the most illogical, stupid, and costly definition of national interest, it’s hard to go forward.


It really is hard, and sadly why I don’t see our military budget taking much of a hit in the near future. Right now, based on the apparent current goals (again, not our goals, but the goals of politicians and “interested parties”), the expenditures are fairly rational. Of course, that isolated rationality doesn’t make the entire collective effort of military global dominance any less an unbearable strain on society.

And to be fair, there are plenty of benefits being the predominant world power provides. But on the flipside, there are plenty of benefits not spending all that capital on military would provide, and I think comparing and contrasting is where any argument needs to be made in order to change the nation’s mindset.


Absolutely. TANSTAAFL. It’s rather odd that a segment of our political society that castigates the needy for being leeches and wanting a “free ride” whenever there is talk of social safety nets becomes amazingly entitled and defensive when you start talking about cutting the military-industrial complex’s version of welfare.


There are issues, but that isn’t a matter of money spent so much as leadership and command.


I dunno, seems like everything on the Fitzgerald was broken and had been broken for a long time, and they were short of crew, and the crew they had was undertrained and overworked. Sounds like some of that is money.


It may well be, but it’s more likely IMO a matter of poorly allocated funds than lack of funds per se. Like many organizations, the US military sometimes has a tendency to prioritize acquisitions of new stuff over routine maintenance and support of the stuff it has. People, often with some pecuniary interest in the matter, can and do hand-wave ongoing support costs away (“we can find the budget for it, and people can always improvise!”) in order to have the money to buy the latest shiny object.


Well, it’s a chicken and egg problem. They’re clearly trying to do more than they have the money for. And by ‘do more’ I mean / include ‘buy shiny new things’. I’m not suggesting that the answer is give them more money; I think the answer is quite clearly do less.

The systems on the Fitz didn’t work, and had not worked for a very long time. And the people trying to operate them did not know how to operate them. And there weren’t enough of those people, so that stations were unmanned and the people who were on duty could not properly support one another. They were surrounded by commercial ships they didn’t even know were there, even though those ships were broadcasting their presence rather than trying to hide. Imagine if they’d actually been hostile ships!

The whole operation was a classic case of operating beyond one’s means and refusing to acknowledge that. They don’t need more money; they need a dose of realism about what their mission actually is.


ProPublica had two must-read long reads on this last week


A lot of this is a culture problem. The way I see it, it’s one of the legacies of the Cold War too, in that decades of not having to actually think about real policy or goals and having a fixed, constant enemy to focus on created a culture of stagnation at the top levels (tactically and down at the pointy end, there has been a lot of interesting and innovative thought, which unfortunately doesn’t translate upstream to the same things at the upper levels of the military establishment). It’s also a culture of bureaucracy and corporatism, exacerbated by the way the USA has not really replaced the Cold War framework with any solid, well-considered, well-thought out strategic framework sense then nor has it clarified or even discovered what the core goals of the USA should be in a way that translates into something that can sustain a professional, intelligent, and truly service-oriented culture among people constantly tasked to do dangerous, difficult things. When you send men and women into harm’s way, for years and years, without any real overarching mission or purpose, it’s going to take a toll. The people doing those jobs are going to find their own motivations, and often, they will not be the one’s we as a nation might want.

Add to that the overall erosion of trust in the government, and the growing sense among many Americans that the military and the government are actually two separate things, with the military seen positively and the government seen negatively, and we have for the first time in our history perhaps the seeds of what could conceivably grow into a threat to civilian rule. That’s on the extreme end of things, and we’re nowhere near there yet, but back in the sixties Seven Days in May was pretty far fetched. Today? Not so much. Except that it wouldn’t be out of a misplaced sense of patriotism or fear of the civilians “selling out” to the bad guys. It’d be more likely to center on ideas far, far more pernicious.


I found this to be a pretty positive sign a Conservative and Progressive Veteran group are joining together to lobby Congress to review the Authorization for the use of force from 2001.


Totally agree, though someone will surely ask them why they hate the troops.


Smedley Butler, a Maj. Gen. in the USMC back in the day, and a well-decorated combat vet, became an outspoken critic of US military and foreign policy. There is a tradition, a long, honorable tradition, of military people staying true to the ideals of their service and country rather than simply kowtowing to the militarism and jingoism du jour. Sadly, this tradition is nowhere near as widespread as it should be.



Said it before, I’ll say it again: the rot starts at the top. A culture that has for years tolerated and even encouraged self-aggrandizing, jingoistic, and mendacious behavior among senior military and political leaders, and which has gleefully inculcated an unreflective militaristic celebration of force will inevitably trickle down to the lowest levels of the military. And now we have a commander in chief who pretty much parrots the worst part of Tom Clancy novels as official policy; it can only get worse.


I’ll add to it, perhaps again but I’m not sure if my comments were here or elsewhere. 100% truth. Add to that, the rot is thickest where the game is liveliest, aka special forces. When the majority of forces sit on the sideline and one group goes out consistently in a nearly roguelike fashion at times it breeds … conflict seekers.


What exactly are the perks of military service? A lot of people join, so there must be perks. I mean, it can’t all be the money.


Well you get to power trip, and some even get to kill innocent civilians then have members of Congress fight for their release from prison. So that’s a bonus I guess.