Smaller US military (yay!)

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Dauric » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:42 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:The Pentagon has a massive administration problem. Future weapon systems are routinely over budget and are generally not relevant to the missions the US is facing. It'd probably be better to spend money on training infantry in Arabic than developing an orbital insertion system for space marines. Cutting costs, if done cleverly, is not going to make the US less ready to fight.


Problem is that a big chunk of this administration problem comes from Congress and the congressthings that have military contractors in their districts. One of the more headline-grabbing examples from last year was speaker Boehner's attempts to keep a $450 million project for an alternate engine to the JSF in the works. The pentagon can only administer the parts of their budget that they have control over, and to say that the defense budget arrives at the pentagon with strings attached is to describe a steamer trunk filled with badly stored and tangled marionettes.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby IcedT » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:54 pm UTC

Here's the budget I came up with http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/02/us/you-cut-the-defense-budget.html?choices=znpf4jwj. It falls just short of $1bn and none of the cuts strike me as too gruesome. Having so many friends and family in the military has ironically made me a lot more secure in taking an axe to their entitlements.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby The Reaper » Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:18 pm UTC

IcedT wrote:Here's the budget I came up with http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/02/us/you-cut-the-defense-budget.html?choices=znpf4jwj. It falls just short of $1bn and none of the cuts strike me as too gruesome. Having so many friends and family in the military has ironically made me a lot more secure in taking an axe to their entitlements.

You'd leave military bands? Scale back the military size a bit faster, leave the pay and retirement alone (unless you're going to do that to all federal employees). I'd probably freeze the civilian paychecks, though. Can we stop relying so much on contractors? It's not like we don't have people trained in those areas already. I guess I'd go for this

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby IcedT » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:32 am UTC

The Reaper wrote:
IcedT wrote:Here's the budget I came up with http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/02/us/you-cut-the-defense-budget.html?choices=znpf4jwj. It falls just short of $1bn and none of the cuts strike me as too gruesome. Having so many friends and family in the military has ironically made me a lot more secure in taking an axe to their entitlements.

You'd leave military bands? Scale back the military size a bit faster, leave the pay and retirement alone (unless you're going to do that to all federal employees). I'd probably freeze the civilian paychecks, though. Can we stop relying so much on contractors? It's not like we don't have people trained in those areas already. I guess I'd go for this

The military bands were such a small expense that I didn't think it would be worth the symbolism of decline that'd come with getting rid of them. Freezing civilian paychecks probably would be a good idea, but I do think that healthy military retirees who are still working age shouldn't be collecting full pensions until they're retirement age. I do think we're asking for trouble by allowing people who work for 20 years to collect full pensions for 40 years or more.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby lutzj » Sat Jan 07, 2012 2:10 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Qaanol wrote:*sniff* Won’t somebody please think of the poor, poor mega-rich defense contractors’ children?


But, but what about all the generals/admirals who will no longer have posts available to them?


We would probably do well to retain most of our super-talented people even if we get rid of a lot of personnel overall. They could be leased out to allied countries or sent to teach officers etc.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Qaanol » Sat Jan 07, 2012 2:56 am UTC

IcedT wrote:The military bands were such a small expense that I didn't think it would be worth the symbolism of decline that'd come with getting rid of them.

I want to call attention to this. That “small expense”, showing up as $0.2 billion, the least amount on the list, amounts to $200 million. I want everyone to stop and think: how would you feel if you were given $200 million dollars? What would you do with it? You would instantly be super-wealthy.

And that amount, $200 million, is “such a small expense” in the US military budget that it barely even registers. The enormity of military spending is staggering. A dollar figure that would make someone richer than most of our wildest dreams, $200 million, scarcely affects the bottom line whatsoever.

Also, the number is $200 million per year, so it really ought to be $2 billion on the checklist, since that is allegedly summing up cuts over the next 10 years. Even at $2 billion though, that is still the smallest item on the list.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:49 am UTC

lutzj wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:
Qaanol wrote:*sniff* Won’t somebody please think of the poor, poor mega-rich defense contractors’ children?


But, but what about all the generals/admirals who will no longer have posts available to them?


We would probably do well to retain most of our super-talented people even if we get rid of a lot of personnel overall. They could be leased out to allied countries or sent to teach officers etc.


In the history of the US, there has never been an instance where a significant reduction of the officer corps was a part of military cutbacks. George Washington set the precedence with the very well reasoned argument that officers take the longest time to recruit and train of any military resource.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:00 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:
IcedT wrote:The military bands were such a small expense that I didn't think it would be worth the symbolism of decline that'd come with getting rid of them.

I want to call attention to this. That “small expense”, showing up as $0.2 billion, the least amount on the list, amounts to $200 million. I want everyone to stop and think: how would you feel if you were given $200 million dollars? What would you do with it? You would instantly be super-wealthy.

And that amount, $200 million, is “such a small expense” in the US military budget that it barely even registers. The enormity of military spending is staggering. A dollar figure that would make someone richer than most of our wildest dreams, $200 million, scarcely affects the bottom line whatsoever.

Also, the number is $200 million per year, so it really ought to be $2 billion on the checklist, since that is allegedly summing up cuts over the next 10 years. Even at $2 billion though, that is still the smallest item on the list.

No, you got it backwards, all dollar amounts are for a ten year period. So 200 million is across 10 years is 20 million a year. Also, why are you calling raising troop morale a waste of money? You go spend 3 years out in the desert, tell me if you feel entertainment is a waste of money. I hate people who get lost when they compare seemingly large amounts of money and talk about spending it with regards to a single person.
Edit: I tried looking deeper into the budget of the military bands and got nowhere. The math doesn't make sense, I don't know how they calculated it. Cutting 300,000,000 by 2/3 does not yield 200,000,000 dollars in savings. It should yield about 1 or 2 billion. =\ Anyone figure out how exactly they made the proposed cuts? I'm confused; though it still doesn't amount to very much.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:18 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:There is a kind of "local optima" hypothesis that might be true. Even if it isn't true, some thoughts like it might guide US high-level decisions making anyway.

In this hypothesis, the US has two bang-for-the-buck choices, but the area in between them is worse (seen from the US).The current one where most of the world tries to stay friends, or the US could alternatively spend very little on defense and still be essentially safe for its own citizens and its main territory. Even at extremely reduced military capacity, the US would dominate North and Middle America, the seas and oceans around it and probably be capable of heavy influence in South America. The US is very big and very unified, so as long as it keeps ticking no one is going to boss it around.

I am not sure there's much to gain from a position in between these two. At the moment, the US can deal on non-military terms with most of the world, because countries don't even consider a course of action that might put them in a direct war (however small) with the US. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait was an exception, and that seemed based on the honest miscalculation that the US liked him more than the religious nutters in Kuwait and Saudi-Arabia. A weaker US military might well find themselves with more challengers.

It's just a theory, but there is an argument that the current US is relatively cheap off because it doesn't have to fight wars, and a minimalist US could just avoid wars. But a US in between might have to face a constant barrage of Falkland wars or first gulf wars if it wants to keep its prominent position in world affairs. But of course, that calculus only works if they don't go and start pointless wars anyway.

That could very well be true, but even with a heavily reduced military (to make it simple, if unrealistic,- cut in half, evenly across all branches, equipment and troop totals) we would still have:
* 6 aircraft carriers- new world total would be 17, so slightly more than a third of all world aircraft carriers. And double that of any one nation. To add to this number, all 11 US carriers are "super" carriers, and are more than twice of the tonnage of all but one other aircraft carrier in service (the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov). The French Charles De Gaulle is the only other one in the world that is nuclear powered, as well. Each US carrier would still carry a larger aircraft complement than any two carriers in the world. Most foreign aircraft carriers are closer to the US' amphibious assault ships in actual capability.
* 35 nuclear submarines- more than anyone else, and excluding Russia, more than triple anyone else.
* 1,600 fighter aircraft- more than anyone except Russia.
* 3,200 combat helicopters- more than five times the nearest rival.
* 700,000 active duty soldiers, more than anyone besides China (already larger than us), India, Russia and North Korea.

Now, that's a rather lazy bit of number grabbing there on my behalf, and I won't deny that- the wikipedia page I used for equipment totals has a note at the top questioning it's full accuracy- but for simple illustrative purposes, I think it's sufficient. It would seem to me, based on that, that even with such a drastic military reduction (It should be about 2-3 times more of a reduction than even the $1 trillion cut would entail) we would still have a military capable of being completely dominant in the types of conflicts we have been fighting. In that case, we wouldn't be able to bring a war directly to Russia, China or India without an interim buildup, draft, alliance involvement or similar, but we would still be capable of actions such as the 1st Persian Gulf War. US force projection capabilities would still be completely unmatched.

I don't believe Persian Gulf or Falkland style wars would be much of a threat even with such a drastic cutback. The US would likely lose some capacity to bully countries about, and NATO would likely be less of an extension of the US, but I honestly doubt we have to worry about such a local maxima situation. Going forward, we might have to, if only due to (the potential result of) rising Chinese ambitions, but as things stand now, and in the immediate future, it doesn't seem like much of an issue to me.

I'm not saying there isn't some truth to what you're saying- we do gain various "perks" that are hard to quantify (at least, hard to do so as far as I know) by having a military as large as we do, and we might be in a min/max situation for military size, but I doubt we would lose any significant amount of our ability to influence global affairs along our primary concerns by going down a middle ground path. Especially since any reduction on this scale would likely induce some level of military build up in many of the US' traditional allies- Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan, etc., in order to compensate.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Vaniver » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:02 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:I want to call attention to this. That “small expense”, showing up as $0.2 billion, the least amount on the list, amounts to $200 million. I want everyone to stop and think: how would you feel if you were given $200 million dollars? What would you do with it? You would instantly be super-wealthy.
Note that there are 154 bands, so each band gets (on average) $2 million. Band members are probably technical sergeants, earning ~$60k a year. That means the average band has ~33 worker-equivalents.* That's... really not all that much.

Small expenses multiplied by large numbers of people are large expenses. The US is big; we spend about a dollar a person a year on military bands, and that's a lot of money on the scale of one person.

*What I mean by this is that if they spend $60k a year on, say, instruments and instrument repair, that's a worker equivalent; if the conductor is paid twice as much, that's two worker equivalents, etc. Typical estimates are that the total cost of employing someone is at least double what they're being paid, but that obviously varies heavily by industry.

[edit]
Ghostbear wrote:we would still have a military capable of being completely dominant in the types of conflicts we have been fighting.
Note that the point of having overwhelming force is that you don't have to use it. When you drop back to just being strong, well, then people might test you.

That said, I think we're better off concentrating on the cheap kinds of overwhelming force (woo nuclear deterrence!) than the expensive kinds, and focusing on shipping lanes rather than mountainous backwaters.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby firechicago » Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:02 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:That said, I think we're better off concentrating on the cheap kinds of overwhelming force (woo nuclear deterrence!) than the expensive kinds, and focusing on shipping lanes rather than mountainous backwaters.


There are a couple of problems with this.

Firstly, nuclear deterrence is a very limited tool, especially against other nuclear states. To use China and Taiwan as an example: With 10-12 carriers, China knows that there will always be two or three on station in the Western Pacific. If China wanted to invade Taiwan, it knows that the U.S could respond immediately with hundreds of planes even before forces from land bases in Japan, South Korea etc arrive on the scene. Sure, China will certainly knock down some planes, and might even get lucky and take out a U.S. carrier and kill tens of thousands of sailors, but the casualties on the Chinese side are almost guaranteed to be much higher.That makes the U.S. commitment to defend Taiwan a credible one. If you want to replace that deterrent with a nuclear one, you run up against credibility problem. What president would be willing to risk Chinese nukes hitting American cities in order to keep Taiwan free of Communist rule? You end up having to adopt the "Mad Bomber" stance that both Nixon and Eisenhower flirted with: "Don't mess with Uncle Sam, 'cause he's a crazy motherf**ker who'll nuke the hell out of you over the tiniest slight, even if it means millions of his citizens die in retaliation." Not exactly the best strategy if you want to be respected on the world stage.

And it would be great to not worry about mountainous backwaters, but unfortunately some of those mountainous backwaters seem determined to worry us. If someone like OBL is hiding out in a mountainous backwater like Afghanistan then I damn well want to be able to credibly threaten invasion if the Afghan government won't give him up. And that's all before you consider that some of those mountainous backwaters (i.e. Pakistan) have nukes and groups crazy enough to try to use them.

I'm all for the current round of cuts, and I think they could even be a little deeper, but we shouldn't pretend that we can cut our military budget in half without reducing our ability to use our military to affect events around the world.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Vaniver » Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:34 pm UTC

firechicago wrote:You end up having to adopt the "Mad Bomber" stance that both Nixon and Eisenhower flirted with: "Don't mess with Uncle Sam, 'cause he's a crazy motherf**ker who'll nuke the hell out of you over the tiniest slight, even if it means millions of his citizens die in retaliation." Not exactly the best strategy if you want to be respected on the world stage.
What definition of "respect" are you using here?

firechicago wrote:And it would be great to not worry about mountainous backwaters, but unfortunately some of those mountainous backwaters seem determined to worry us.
It is not clear to me that invading Afghanistan / Iraq / Pakistan is better than just coping with the damage / engaging in a war of assassins.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ibid » Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:49 pm UTC

I feel perhaps many of you have missed much of the point of the enormous U.S. expenditure. If it were purely about being able to beat people's faces in, then yes it is wildly outgrown. But it isn't. Much of the use comes not from the fact that the U.S. can punch whoever it likes in the face, but that the U.S. can punch whoever it's ALLIES want in the face. And that has a lot of use.

Take for example my own country, Canada. Canada is fully capable of having a well equipped, strong military. We've done it before (multiple times actually). But right now we know that we don't need to, we can just use the good old U.S. umbrella. It's why we never developed nukes, being the only country heavily involved in the Manhattan project (U.K., U.S., Canada) that simply didn't bother. And it's not that we concede things to the U.S. out of fear of invasion, because...well, like that's gonna happen. Again. (damn you 1812!) But there are concessions to the U.S. made in the understanding that Canada benefits in negotiations with other countries because they know they cannot threaten Canada with any credibility. In essence, we owe you one, so we pay our dues. Now, if the U.S. cuts back to a level where they can reliably beat the crap out of anyone in the world they like, but would be overextended in sharing that level of security with allies, then other countries no longer obliged to back you on non-military matters.

That being said, the understanding is perhaps not as perfect, particularly in these last few years, as it could be. In particular the U.S. feels considerably more threatened by he "War-on-Terror" than many of it's allies do, so calls for allies to pay for the service rendered have been problematic. Simply put, the U.S. thinks it's doing everyone a tremendous service, and much of the world thinks the U.S. is hunting windmills. Because of this the rest of the world doesn't lend the level of support the U.S. feels it has earned, and more than they feel they should given the low threat they perceive. This causes resentment on both sides, and leads to a sense (again, on both sides) of "well why the hell should I keep paying for this then?". So if you wonder why the U.S. lost foreign influence in the last decade, this is it. And if you wonder why, strategically, this isn't a terrible move for the states, this is it. It isn't a change in your enemies behaviour, it's a change in your allies behaviour, and a change in your behaviour.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:33 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Note that the point of having overwhelming force is that you don't have to use it. When you drop back to just being strong, well, then people might test you.

I agree, but the point of that analysis was that for most cases- especially naval, aerial, and force projection- we would retain overwhelming force. We wouldn't have it against the other large militaries of the world (Russia, India, China), but we don't have it against them now either. That was for a HUGE reduction, over three times what would be needed in the current "worst case" DoD budget cut, and it was a clumsy reduction too- applied equally and without thought or consideration for what military equipment or branch gives us the best results. A smarter reduction on that scale could even more easily retain the concept of overwhelming force.

Ibid wrote:I feel perhaps many of you have missed much of the point of the enormous U.S. expenditure. If it were purely about being able to beat people's faces in, then yes it is wildly outgrown. But it isn't. Much of the use comes not from the fact that the U.S. can punch whoever it likes in the face, but that the U.S. can punch whoever it's ALLIES want in the face. And that has a lot of use.

This is specifically one of the reasons I think the US should downsize, maybe the power players of the US benefit more from this arrangement, but our allies who rely on the US military to provide full weight have taken their savings and used them for improved social services, which I would argue benefit the average citizen far more. As a US citizen, I would much rather have those types of services available to me than be able to boast about having 11 carrier battle groups.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Arisu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:22 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Note that the point of having overwhelming force is that you don't have to use it. When you drop back to just being strong, well, then people might test you.


But wouldn't it ruin the economy of the country if it started to show extremely aggressive behaviour versus the USA?
I am not sure if that would be enough of a deterrence, but I cannot phantom China 'testing' the USA if only because their economies are so entangled.
And surely even with a smaller force the USA could still easily take out smaller countries with relative ease.

Though I am not sure how well the economy arguments holds when talking about the USA defending its allies.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Zamfir » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:18 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:* 6 aircraft carriers- new world total would be 17, so slightly more than a third of all world aircraft carriers. And double that of any one nation. To add to this number, all 11 US carriers are "super" carriers, and are more than twice of the tonnage of all but one other aircraft carrier in service (the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov). The French Charles De Gaulle is the only other one in the world that is nuclear powered, as well. Each US carrier would still carry a larger aircraft complement than any two carriers in the world. Most foreign aircraft carriers are closer to the US' amphibious assault ships in actual capability.
* 35 nuclear submarines- more than anyone else, and excluding Russia, more than triple anyone else.
* 1,600 fighter aircraft- more than anyone except Russia.
* 3,200 combat helicopters- more than five times the nearest rival.
* 700,000 active duty soldiers, more than anyone besides China (already larger than us), India, Russia and North Korea.

This brings to mind a kind of empty battlefield, where both sides bring their carriers and helicopters for a pitched battle. But a big part of US strategy is to be able to fight wars on the home turf of others. The carriers make that clear: they aren't sized to fight other carrier groups, but to fight land-based forces with their airfields, radars, SAM sites. In the same way, those numbers of soldiers are needed to be able to constantly rotate troops to foreign bases.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby lutzj » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:45 pm UTC

Arisu wrote:
Vaniver wrote:Note that the point of having overwhelming force is that you don't have to use it. When you drop back to just being strong, well, then people might test you.


But wouldn't it ruin the economy of the country if it started to show extremely aggressive behaviour versus the USA?
I am not sure if that would be enough of a deterrence, but I cannot phantom China 'testing' the USA if only because their economies are so entangled.
And surely even with a smaller force the USA could still easily take out smaller countries with relative ease.

Though I am not sure how well the economy arguments holds when talking about the USA defending its allies.


China wouldn't challenge the US or Russia directly but a weaker American military could enable them to be pushier in Asia. We don't want a war between China and India over their many border disputes, or China attempting to regain its 19th-century territories because the US can't plausibly tell them to cut that shit out.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Panonadin » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:16 pm UTC

I agree with cutting some spending on some things that may be considered out of hand. I do not agree with cutting back on our forces in any way what so ever.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby yurell » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:49 pm UTC

Panonadin wrote:I agree with cutting some spending one some things that may be considered out of hand. I do not agree with cutting back on our forces in any way what so ever.


Why not? And how do you intend to cut some spending, considering how ludicrously expensive your military machine has grown?
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:34 pm UTC

Since he provided no specifics, he could be talking about cutting benefits(most likely), reducing R&D, or weapons programs, or raising taxes.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Panonadin » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:42 pm UTC

yurell wrote:
Panonadin wrote:I agree with cutting some spending one some things that may be considered out of hand. I do not agree with cutting back on our forces in any way what so ever.


Why not? And how do you intend to cut some spending, considering how ludicrously expensive your military machine has grown?


I'm just a civllian so I don't want to pretend I have any idea what is absolutely needed and what isn't in order to run such a "machine". I do know that spending can get out of hand for any company though. We had a problem last year with spending too much on paper. Considering our company is already green, we only print what we need to. So instead of saying "We are going to buy 20% less paper over the next 10 years" we found someone to sell the same quality paper for cheaper.

Now I know thats a bad analgy and you cant just go find someone to build you a cheaper F-35 but I'm sure you get my point. Some spending gets out of hand even if it's still a needed item. Also the post above covers a bit of what I'm ok with as well. Salary, taxes and benifits would all be departments I would aim for before I cut R&D or the number of carriers/jets/subs/troops.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby yurell » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:50 pm UTC

Panonadin wrote:I'm just a civllian so I don't want to pretend I have any idea what is absolutely needed and what isn't in order to run such a "machine".


And yet you "do not agree with cutting back on our forces in any way what so ever"? I read that as disagreeing, but I take it then I was mistaken, and you're just ambivalent because you don't know enough to form an opinion? If so, I think that's a very sensible stance to take (wish I did that more often).

If not ... how do you reconcile those two statements? You've no idea what is necessary to keep your military running, yet you'd oppose changes made by those who (supposedly) do know what is necessary? What do you believe the point or goal of the US military is & what do you believe it should be? For example, the Australian Defence Force is pretty much border defence / peace-keeping, and there's no way we could wage a full-scale war by ourselves.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:51 am UTC

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012 ... tml?ref=us
I can understand being uninformed about a far away military machine, but at least have the courtesy to read the first page of a 2 page thread. If you don't know what the major expenses are, go read that interactive link. I just posted it two days ago, did you skip over it?
It'll give you a good idea as to what can be cut, and how much it'll cost/save over 10 years.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby yurell » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:03 am UTC

Was that addressed at me?
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Panonadin » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:27 am UTC

sardia wrote:http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/02/us/you-cut-the-defense-budget.html?ref=us
I can understand being uninformed about a far away military machine, but at least have the courtesy to read the first page of a 2 page thread. If you don't know what the major expenses are, go read that interactive link. I just posted it two days ago, did you skip over it?
It'll give you a good idea as to what can be cut, and how much it'll cost/save over 10 years.


Yurell I'm sure it was addressed at me.

As was the assumption I didn't read the whole thread as well as the assumption I didn't go to that website and try out about 40 different combinations before I realized I cannot to my own satisfaction create a list of cuts with such limited knowledge. Even if they are multiple choice button clicks wrapped up with pretty paragraphs.

Don't know why the gentleman took such offense. Reading a few articles an informed opinion does not make. Which could also be part of the problem. Too many people thinking that it is "that simple".
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Arancaytar » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:43 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
firechicago wrote:You end up having to adopt the "Mad Bomber" stance that both Nixon and Eisenhower flirted with: "Don't mess with Uncle Sam, 'cause he's a crazy motherf**ker who'll nuke the hell out of you over the tiniest slight, even if it means millions of his citizens die in retaliation." Not exactly the best strategy if you want to be respected on the world stage.
What definition of "respect" are you using here?


Regardless of that, don't forget that those millions of citizens would have something to say about that. In the Cold War, people tolerated crazy doctrines because the Soviets acted the same way, and everyone figured it was safer to be crazy than meek (also, propaganda). Nowadays, an administration seriously considering sacrificing its civilian population for a distant war would be lucky to last long enough to be voted out. Thoroughly infeasible.

That aside, I agree that the US defense budget needs to shrink by an order of magnitude. Whether they take that money out of their fighting capacity or out of the pork is up to them.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Panonadin » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:45 am UTC

yurell wrote:
Panonadin wrote:I'm just a civllian so I don't want to pretend I have any idea what is absolutely needed and what isn't in order to run such a "machine".


And yet you "do not agree with cutting back on our forces in any way what so ever"? I read that as disagreeing, but I take it then I was mistaken, and you're just ambivalent because you don't know enough to form an opinion? If so, I think that's a very sensible stance to take (wish I did that more often).

If not ... how do you reconcile those two statements? You've no idea what is necessary to keep your military running, yet you'd oppose changes made by those who (supposedly) do know what is necessary? What do you believe the point or goal of the US military is & what do you believe it should be? For example, the Australian Defence Force is pretty much border defence / peace-keeping, and there's no way we could wage a full-scale war by ourselves.


I don't mean to double post but I hate making 7 paragraph comments with all of those nested reply things.

To this I choose your first. I don't peronally feel as though I have enough info to be certain one way or the other. On one hand it's my opinion that we should stick with our current ability to project force and defend ourselves without scaling back what so ever on that ability alone. However I don't know how much making benifit cuts will affect that ability, or raising taxes, or how much R&D goes to cockamammy things like fighting on the moon that should be put on a burner that doesn't cost money.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:17 am UTC

Oh, I didn't think someone who professed such ignorance of military budgeting would so easily dismiss knowledge offered by others. Would you prefer a difference knowledge source? Maybe the arcane reports from the Congressional Budget Office? How about a Senator's letter detailing how he would save money in the defense department?
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:00 am UTC

Arancaytar wrote:Regardless of that, don't forget that those millions of citizens would have something to say about that. In the Cold War, people tolerated crazy doctrines because the Soviets acted the same way, and everyone figured it was safer to be crazy than meek (also, propaganda). Nowadays, an administration seriously considering sacrificing its civilian population for a distant war would be lucky to last long enough to be voted out. Thoroughly infeasible.
Er, this doesn't quite follow. If American voters now don't tolerate crazy doctrines towards North Korea, I don't think you can argue that's because North Korea is saner / safer than the Soviets were.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:08 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Er, this doesn't quite follow. If American voters now don't tolerate crazy doctrines towards North Korea, I don't think you can argue that's because North Korea is saner / safer than the Soviets were.
I think a lot of that has to do with how America identified itself during the 60s up through the 80s; in a lot of respects, we allowed ourselves to be defined by our antagonism toward Russia and the nuclear proliferation that followed--our opposition to them was integral to who we were. Nowadays, North Korea is a dim echo of that--I don't think many Americans are worried or even care about what they're up to. That isn't necessarily contradicting what you're saying, but I think it's an interesting wrinkle; part of the policy of disarmament can probably be blamed on us (Americans) failing to perceive any serious military rival.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:49 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:This brings to mind a kind of empty battlefield, where both sides bring their carriers and helicopters for a pitched battle. But a big part of US strategy is to be able to fight wars on the home turf of others. The carriers make that clear: they aren't sized to fight other carrier groups, but to fight land-based forces with their airfields, radars, SAM sites. In the same way, those numbers of soldiers are needed to be able to constantly rotate troops to foreign bases.

Right I know that, and maybe I'm just being dense (always a possibility!) but I'm not sure how that refutes my fudged math arguing that the US could probably retain our force projection capacities even with a hugely downsized military*? The US would lose the ability to be a constant threat to anyone, anywhere in the world even while performing actions such as Iraq & Afghanistan, but they'd still be able to deliver overwhelming aerial force to effectively anyone of their choice within short order so long as they weren't already involved in a conflict. The US wouldn't be able to bomb Iran from carriers at the same time as keeping China out of Taiwan, perhaps, but to me that just means we'd actually have to have a little discretion when we choose who to go to war with- Bush didn't get as much shit about Iraq being such a fumble as he would have if it would have required us to no longer be able to police the Pacific.

To add to that, any downsizing of that magnitude would likely be much friendlier to the navy and airforce than it would to the army and marines. Force projection seems to be the most important part of the game- as you said, overwhelm and destroy the air defenses of a target nation, then use dominance of the skies to win the resulting ground war. The US can afford to have less troops at foreign bases- what is truly gained from having 150,000 soldiers in Europe, that strengthened European allies couldn't accomplish just as well, at their own cost? I have no interest in subsidizing the defense of Germany or Italy or France or Canada (and so on).

I'm also going to repeat my feeling that the US' allies' citizens seem to have gotten the better half of this "deal"; better government funding of social services (e.g. the UK's NHS or Canada's healthcare system) seems far more useful to the majority of the citizens than the various geopolitical gains that an oversized military grants.

* This is meant as an actual question on my end, not as snark- maybe I just had trouble parsing it, or something.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Mon Jan 09, 2012 7:47 am UTC

Your proposal prompts a few questions. If the US limits itself to 1 engagement at a time, what happens if two conflicts occur in the same time frame? In addition, would you avoid smaller conflicts in order to conserve resources for a bigger conflict that's brewing?
There's also the security umbrella that the US provides, and what it means to the US. Nuclear proliferation prevention is one of the implicit conditions of the security umbrella. Japan and Saudi Arabia are non-nuclear because they believe the US will be there should anything happen. I'm not saying that the proliferation of nukes is equal to $450 billion in cuts, but it's merely one of many things that crop up should the status quo change.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:24 am UTC

Going to break this up into quotes around each individual question, if you don't mind:
sardia wrote:Your proposal prompts a few questions. If the US limits itself to 1 engagement at a time, what happens if two conflicts occur in the same time frame?

Then the US either determines which conflict is more important to it, or leverages its allies in order to operate in both at the same time. A weaker US military would almost certainly prompt a stronger military in Canada, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, etc. There is a fairly large and capable alliance network for the US- such as NATO- and were a conflict to be deemed important to the US and they could not handle it on our own, then the US could attempt to convince those allies to help. This was already done with Iraq & Afghanistan to some extent, though those definitely did not involve a well distributed involvement load.

sardia wrote:In addition, would you avoid smaller conflicts in order to conserve resources for a bigger conflict that's brewing?

That would depend on the conflicts, smaller and larger, at hand, and the goals and desires of the US. If the end result is to make the US need to stop and think a bit longer to determine if a conflict is worth before engaging in those conflicts, then I would consider the downsizing worth it for that fact alone. The US has been far too quick to involve and engage itself in armed conflicts as of late (see: Iraq).

There have been five heavily involved conflicts (by my reckoning- along with many other lesser conflicts) that the US has dedicated itself to since WW2: Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf I, Persian Gulf II, and Afghanistan. The first resulted in a stalemate that has yet to be resolved to this day, the second was probably the most pointless waste of life we've been involved in yet, the third accomplished its goals (so that's something), the fourth required a nearly decade long occupation and has cost, by most estimates, a minimum of 100,000 civilian lives, and the fifth is an occupation that appears to be nowhere near accomplishing its goals for the long term. If, before involving itself in any of them, the US government had actually been forced by the realities of their military's size to ask "Can we afford to get involved in this? How long is this likely to up our military for?" instead of just jamming it through congress as fast as possible, maybe a lot less lives would have been pointlessly thrown away- and that's forgetting the encroachments on civil liberty and the huge monetary costs, among other things.

sardia wrote:There's also the security umbrella that the US provides, and what it means to the US. Nuclear proliferation prevention is one of the implicit conditions of the security umbrella. Japan and Saudi Arabia are non-nuclear because they believe the US will be there should anything happen. I'm not saying that the proliferation of nukes is equal to $450 billion in cuts, but it's merely one of many things that crop up should the status quo change.

I have no interest in the US footing the bill for other nation's security, as I already stated. If nuclear non-proliferation is important enough to our allies, then they can band together [edit: with us] to create a combined military force sufficiently capable to maintain such. If not, then we'll see what happens. I don't want the US to be the world's police, and if the cessation of a world police force is so horrible to the world, then maybe everyone else should put some effort into it too. If no one else is willing to do so, then maybe we should consider that it isn't worth doing at the costs involved? In the end, a government's first duty is to its own citizens.

Edits: Fixed minor grammatical mistakes, sentence clarification.
Last edited by Ghostbear on Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Hemmers » Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:32 am UTC

Panonadin wrote:I dont see the problem with having a strong military.

Yeah I'm sure there are a lot of things that need attention but it doesn't always have to be at the cost of something you just don't agree with.


No but think what worthwhile endeavours the US could promote if they tossed, lets say 10% of their military air-con budget at SpaceX... (granted SpaceX are riding on the back of decades of NASA development and infrastructure, so doing what they have on less than $1bn is impressive, but it's not like they've had to build and maintain a spaceport or anything. That said, NASA have dicked around for a decade and still haven't figured out what they're going to replace the shuttle with, much less built anything, whilst spending substantially more than $1bn in the process).
Likewise Reaction Engines in the UK have had their design signed off by the ESA. Assuming they really have furtled the icing problem on the hybrid engines, ESA say there's nothing about their design that money won't make happen. No exotic materials that haven't been invented yet or anything silly like that. I want my SSTO spaceplane damnit. I'm fairly sure Skylon would bring more good to the world than a spare stealth bomber.

sardia wrote:You're ignoring the fact that the US spends more than anybody else to cover the entire globe, while the other countries merely have to deny or defend their home country, a much cheaper endeavor.

Indeed. Often at the cost of their own people.Wouldn't kill them to divert a little of the military budget to rebuilding New Orleans (parts of which are still a state), or dealing with internal poverty. As one of the world's largest economies, naturally America has somewhat of a responsibility to help those less fortunate than itself.
Equally however, it has plenty of problems at home that it could (should?) be dealing with in preference to some new protracted military action. The question is why does the US cover the whole globe? Why can't it just defend it's home country? Empire building? They've spread themselves so far, perhaps they should take a look back at themselves for a bit.

Ghostbear makes the very good point that the USA would really benefit from pausing a little before involving itself in other people's conflicts. Only 2 of it's last 5 major military involvements have really achieved their goals (Iraq 1&2), and only 1 was achieved in a reasonable time scale. If, for all of this incomprehensibly vast spending, they still can't manage anything more than protracted occupations and stalemates, I think they really need to step back and take a long hard look at what they're trying to achieve.

I mean, Afghanistan was understandable - directly attacking the nation that was harbouring a terrorist group that had attacked the US. Iraq on the other hand was utterly illegal and just Dubya finishing his daddy's legacy. There were no WMDs, everyone knew that Dubya and his British lap dog Blair (an embarrassment to our nation) were lying through their teeth. I'm sure getting rid of Saddam was a very worthwhile cause, but if regime change is a reasonable excuse for conflict, then is the US now going to steam into North Korea, Zimbabwe or Belarus, because those are all pretty unpleasant regimes and the citizenship could do with a new government.
Likewise, Libya was pretty dubious. I know the argument was "protecting civilians", but yeah, we were basically doing the grunt work for the rebels, filling the capability gaps they didn't have with jet fighters and naval bombardment.
Granted there's no significant oil in North Korea, but there are plenty of tasty mineral resources in Zimbabwe and since that seems to be the driving force behind most modern American wars...

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:57 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Going to break this up into quotes around each individual question, if you don't mind:
sardia wrote:Your proposal prompts a few questions. If the US limits itself to 1 engagement at a time, what happens if two conflicts occur in the same time frame?

Then the US either determines which conflict is more important to it, or leverages its allies in order to operate in both at the same time. A weaker US military would almost certainly prompt a stronger military in Canada, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, etc. There is a fairly large and capable alliance network for the US- such as NATO- and were a conflict to be deemed important to the US and they could not handle it on our own, then the US could attempt to convince those allies to help. This was already done with Iraq & Afghanistan to some extent, though those definitely did not involve a well distributed involvement load.


Good luck getting 'allies' to go to war when needed. The world is full of examples of one country doing the brunt of the work defending a country that just sits back and does nothing. France and Britain just dug in* while allied with Poland during WWII. Kuwait did jack shit when Iraq was defending them* from the evils of fundamentalist Iran*. The Iron Curtain was little more than buffer territory* that would fight and die while Russia didn't should yet another European war break out, which is why it was relatively undeveloped and every country there hated Russia.

*from a certain point of view

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:17 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Good luck getting 'allies' to go to war when needed.

I think we've done a decent job of that as of late.

Less snarkily: if the US can't convince its allies that something is worth getting involved in, and can't handle it on it's own because it's already involved in something else, then we stick with the first part of my comment: choose which conflict is more important. Why should we have to be able to handle multiple conflicts at once if no one else gives enough of a shit about the conflict to get involved?

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:24 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Good luck getting 'allies' to go to war when needed.

I think we've done a decent job of that as of late.


Exactly how many of those were full-scale wars where the entire country had to transform to a war-economy a la WWII and every war prior, complete with mass conscription and retooling of almost every factory to churn out war materials, instead of sending in a 'few' soldiers and bombs?

Not that the US is fighting full scale wars at the moment.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:33 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Exactly how many of those were full-scale wars where the entire country had to transform to a war-economy a la WWII and every war prior, complete with mass conscription and retooling of almost every factory to churn out war materials, instead of sending in a 'few' soldiers and bombs?

Not that the US is fighting full scale wars at the moment.

Considering that the last time that happened was WW2, that doesn't strike me as a very good counter. If a conflict of that scale happens, I'd be pretty confident of the likelihood of the US' allies getting involved- such a conflict would likely exist due to some form of imminent danger to the US, which would be an indirect threat to our allies, either economically or directly. We didn't get involved in WW1 because we were in any danger, after all- and Germany didn't really represent a significant threat to the US in WW2 either (though, obviously, they could have in the longer term).

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:42 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Exactly how many of those were full-scale wars where the entire country had to transform to a war-economy a la WWII and every war prior, complete with mass conscription and retooling of almost every factory to churn out war materials, instead of sending in a 'few' soldiers and bombs?

Not that the US is fighting full scale wars at the moment.

Considering that the last time that happened was WW2


For the US. Like I said earlier, in the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait had every reason* to fear Iran. But did they do anything significant to help Iraq during that war?

*At least in Saddam's eyes. From his perspective, those assholes running Kuwait deserved to get invaded and be forced to pay some of the cost of the horrible, horrible war that most people in the US only remember as something involving Reagan and Nicauragua or something.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:57 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:For the US. Like I said earlier, in the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait had every reason* to fear Iran. But did they do anything significant to help Iraq during that war?

Right, and how does the inability of other nations to marshal their allies, indicate that the US won't be able to, when they have a rather successful history of doing such? Iraq hadn't invested significant energy into an alliance network- the US has.


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