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January 23, 2009

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Economic crisis hurt others' countries more than U.S. U.S. military are still the strongest. U.S. should no ask others' counrtries to take more burden because that means they grow there military's stronger and then there more chance of war. Not war like Iraq insurgency but traditional war that kill more people.

And what, deficits don't matter?

U.S. can borrow money cheaper than anyone else. U.S. economy is 15 trillion. For economy that big an few hundred billions not mean so much. Plus military's spending subsidy manufacuring and research and develop like MITI in Japan did. It give U.S. prestige to expand to countries fear of it's power and U.S. exports much military's equipment so it is profitable.

Ricks' Nut's, I ask the following question not at all in any derisive way, or with any attempt whatever to insult or offend you, but with complete sincerity: is English your second or third language? Thanks for any clarification.

"Not war like Iraq insurgency but traditional war that kill more people."

What, we don't want Canada's help in Afghanistan because the vast Canadian military will go to war against us? Or Britain's will? Germany? France? Australia? Dennmark? What?

(I worry deeply about an Estonian attack upon us.)

English is my third language. Sorry it is not good.

Maybe not Canada. But what about last centurys' history make you trust a militaryistic Germany?

I think the problem Obama will face is that even if other friendly powers are willing, they have atrophied thier military power to the point that it would take a decade to have power projection capability.

Britian aside, I don't think there is a European power that could field and supply 100,000 soldiers halfway around the world. And Britian would struggle to do it. When it comes to projection capability, I don't think it exists except for here.

"English is my third language. Sorry it is not good."

No, that's fine; you're better than any second language I can write in. I just wanted to confirm what I guessed. Thanks! (Care to say what your first language is? No obligation!)

jrudkis: that to me just sounds like a recommendation for us to stop doing so much, then.

Basically: If the rest of the world wants us to intervene somewhere, they can begin matching their domestic/military spending to meet their requirements to pitch in, directly subsidize our efforts to shoulder the load, or live with the consequences of us not acting.

"But what about last centurys' history make you trust a militaryistic Germany?"

I think today's Germany is pretty different than that of seventy years ago.

"Britian aside, I don't think there is a European power that could field and supply 100,000 soldiers halfway around the world."

It's not clear to me that that's a bad thing. It's not clear to me that our having that capability is a wholly good thing. If you have a hammer, it's extremely easy to start seeing everything around you as a nail.

But what about last centurys' history make you trust a militaryistic Germany?

I'm not overly concerned. The existence of nuclear weapons, and the emergence of an interrelated liberal order, mostly moot these concerns.

What would the purpose be? Would the benefits come close to matching the costs?

The Germans, above all, should be aware of the futility.

"Remarkably, though, "America alone" was not an accident for some policymakers. Certain ideological factions have taken the view that America acting unilaterally (or close to it) is a positive in its own right."
I do want to point out, that sometimes, "going it alone" can be a positive (tho I am hard pressed at the moment to think of such a possible situation on the world stage)
Wait a minute, thought of one: Rwanda.

I am doing something wrong. I posted a comment, it was confirmed, went to post a 2nd comment, now the first is gone. I have had other problems here since the "change" but not that.

If you have a hammer, it's extremely easy to start seeing everything around you as a nail.

Thats' why you not want force others' countries to make big hammers.

Wait a minute, thought of one: Rwanda.

Wait, are you saying that it would have been better for the US to have acted unilaterally to stop the genocide in Rwanda rather than act in concert with other nations to stop the genocide in Rwanda?

Why?

Because my point is not that neocons are saying: Sometimes it's better to act alone, than to not act at all.

They've been saying: Sometimes it's better to act alone so that you have wider range of motion, get to dictate all the terms, and don't have to worry about reaching consensus on various issues.

Further, by acting alone, we can show the world that we are capable of it, and further reduce the prominence of multilateral institutions that are, by nature, a drag on our power.

The Europe's countries you mention is more docile now than 20th century. But that is because they not military powers longer. Gary and Eric haves causes and affects backwards; it not that the countries no longer have big military's because they more docile: they more docile because they no longer have big military's. You want to undo the causes of the changes that you point to.

Thats' why you not want force others' countries to make big hammers.

We would not be forcing other countries to do that. Actually, I think you'd find little would change in other nations' spending on defense.

Most, if not all, of Europe has pretty much tired of armed imperialism. They maintain defensive forces, which would suit them fine.

Eric,

With regard to the presumptive passing of the “unipolar moment” (either RIP or good riddance, depending on your point of view), I think this is classic case of “be careful what you wish for, because you may get it”.

The unipolar character of geopolitical power since the fall of the Soviet Union is not due solely to US dominance and our willingness to spend and spend and spend some more (and since the 1980s to borrow much of that money) on our military. It is also due to a lack of corresponding spending on the military by other nations, in sufficient amount to act as a counter and check on US ambitions. There seems to be a common assumption that the rest of the world was not able to match our military spending, but IMHO it is much more accurate to say that it has collectively chosen not to try, and to ask why? Because if that choice is reversed, we might not like what that kind of world looks like. We should be inquiring as to what combination of motivations and calculations have led to a world where no formal anti-US system of collective security has arisen since the early 1990s, and if it seems auspicious (for everybody concerned) to continue that state of affairs then figure out how to reinforce it.

First with regard to the myth that the rest of the world couldn’t keep up with us - for only a very brief span during the post-1945 era have we represented more than 50 percent of global net product – and more recently the US has bounced around in an envelope of roughly 20-26 percent.

This means that our spending could be matched by less than 1/3 of the rest of the world, if they were willing to devote as much of their output to military power as we have. That seems entirely feasible to me, in comparison with the sort of balance of power military and diplomatic shifts which have dominated much of the last 500 years of European history.

So why hasn’t that happened? It seems to me that Walt’s point about the geographic isolation of the US vs. other traditional powers is an important one, but many other factors have also played a role, including the way that the US has tended to use soft power in preference to hard power in enforcing our imperium, a tradition which the Obama administration is tacking back to after a notable departure under Bush.

It seems to me that we should be thinking long and hard about how to decrease US military spending while preserving the regime of very limited military competition between other major powers which we’ve enjoyed recently, and which (IMHO) has played a significant role in the late 20th Cen. recovery and expansion of the South Asian and East Asian economies.

I think a key part of finding our way towards a low-spending global military equilibrium is to head off possible 21st Century resource wars (over oil and water in particular) by intensively researching alternative energy and by aggressively looking for solutions to localized drought crisis and agricultural failures which seem likely to result from global warming.

Gary and Eric haves causes and affects backwards; it not that the countries no longer have big military's because they more docile: they more docile because they no longer have big military's.

So why don't they have big militaries? Are you suggesting that they want big militaries but don't have them because...well, why?

I say they don't want big militaries because they see no value in having them. They're expensive and they can distort policymaking.

I'm also suggesting that us taking a more realistic, modest approach will not force them to build bigger militaries.

What would actually make sense would be a European Military that could take advantage of some economy of scale, and get more bang for the buck.

While I don't have a cite, I recall from a BBC article that Europe gets about 10% of the military value for the money they spend compared with the US: so not only are they spending much less, but getting much less for the money they do spend.

A united military could have the scale needed to have power projection, yet the political holds of multiple state vetos for use, that could then be an actual military partner for the US.

Interesting.


A united military could have the scale needed to have power projection, yet the political holds of multiple state vetos for use, that could then be an actual military partner for the US.

That seems like a pretty good description of NATO.

Except that NATO doesn't benefit from the economy of scale very much, and has significant redundant beauracracies in every nation member (accounting for much of the loss of dollar value). And excludes France.

"Gary and Eric haves causes and affects backwards; it not that the countries no longer have big military's because they more docile: they more docile because they no longer have big military's."

I seriously don't believe this to be the case with Germany. Pacifist sentiment is strong.


Gary and Eric haves causes and affects backwards; it not that the countries no longer have big military's because they more docile: they more docile because they no longer have big military's.

Rick,

Thank you for commenting. Your English is very good for a third language - much better than my ability to write in any language other than English.

I respectfully think that your comment quoted above is putting it backwards. European nations probably have small militaries because their memory of the wars of the 20th Century is still very strong. In some respects this state of affairs is similar to what happened in the 19th Century after the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period.


Also, in some of these countries their traditional core ethnic populations have low birth rates and are growing older, and because their sense of citizenship tends to be more ethnocentric than in the US, immigration does not help as much as it might to fix this demographic problem. Having a rapidly growing population with a large cohort of younger members is not necessary for building up a military force, but it helps.

The Soviet Union died of imperial overreach. The neoconservatives assumed the US is immune to that disease. We are at a very early and still relatively harmless stage of proving them wrong.

As a German I can only say that any party in power looking for military adventures would be out of power at the next possible opportunity. Even the action in Afghanistan put a severe strain on the political consent and threatened the ruling coalition. Schröder won re-election against Stoiber only because of his open opposition to the Iraq war*. If the population were asked whether the armed forces should be used outside our borders at all, the result would likely be "No" and the draft is mainly kept to have conscientious objectors to fill gaps in the social services. The only real prestige that the armed forces have with most of the population is their heroic help when some rivers go on a rampage again (and maybe the anti-piracy patrols at the Horn of Africa)**.
The first answer most people here tend to give when there are gaps in the federal budget is "Can't we cut the military budget a bit more?". The operation "Cure those damned Germans of their militarism" was 99.9999% successful and a reverse is not in sight (thank whatever higher being there might be!).

*and his personal caring about the Oder floods. That was also about the only event that catapulted a military officer into a political office (prime minister of Brandenburg) for the effective help he and his troops brought to the area***
**In my experience "soldier" is seen as just a job that has to be done by someone. It does not carry any special prestige.
***actually sparking a minor constitutional crisis because the constitution forbids the use of military forces in-country absent war.

If the rest of the world wants us to intervene somewhere, they can begin matching their domestic/military spending to meet their requirements to pitch in, directly subsidize our efforts to shoulder the load, or live with the consequences of us not acting.

Ahem, this is nothing new, anybody remember the Gulf War and who paid for it?

American relative power is declining to the point where even subsets of major powers acting in concert could produce sufficient military power to stand a reasonable chance of successfully opposing American military policies.

I haven't really thought through how this affects either Walt or Pape's analysis, but for what it's worth I'd just like to point out that America's military policies are currently successfully opposed by some thousands of guys wearing black turbans and eyeliner. They're natives of one of the poorest and least developed parts of the world, their arms are primarily AK47s and RPGs, and their heavy armor is Toyota pickup trucks with machine guns mounted in their beds.

Just saying.

I'd note that there's a difference, Russell, between being able to avoid being wiped out, and causing the opposing power to be significantly unable to carry out their military will. The folks you refer to can do the former, but little of the latter. Said folks can survive, but they can't make the U.S. withdraw from somewhere the U.S. is determined to stay.

"Said folks can survive, but they can't make the U.S. withdraw from somewhere the U.S. is determined to stay."

Curioustiming for a statement like that, to say the least.

I'd just like to point out that America's military policies are currently successfully opposed by some thousands of guys wearing black turbans and eyeliner. They're natives of one of the poorest and least developed parts of the world, their arms are primarily AK47s and RPGs

You say that last part like it's a bad thing. A lot of people have been set free by AK47s and RPGs.

You've got a tank, well then you need people trained to use it, you've got to maintain it, it's hard to hide.

An AK47, you bury it out next to the barn during a decade of peace and when things go to hell, you dig it up, knock the dirt off and you're ready to rock and roll. You don't need a standing army.

Its easy to have this assumption that technology is always going to benefit the rich and powerful the most, but that's not what has happened. This is the best time in recorded history to be an insurgent.

Two RPGs with an AK47 to cover them. Cheap and effective, make a bold statement and then disappear until the next fight you choose.

When you think about it Europe has made out like bandits since the fall of the soviets. All the benefits of an empire with less military spending. But Russia got left out and is displeased. Uh oh is that Putin I see rearing his head?

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