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Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:42 pm UTC
by Qaanol
BBC
CNN
Al Jazeera
U.S. Department of Defense

The new plan is to have the US military be able to fight a full scale ground war at a moment’s notice—instead of being ready to fight two such wars simultaneously at a moment’s notice. Seriously, that was the old plan up until this week: the US was supposed to be ready to fight two wars at the same time, even during peacetime. Now the US is going to switch to being ready to fight “only” one war at a time.

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

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:56 pm UTC
by IcedT
Two ground wars were actually feasible during the Cold War. It's just a shame it took us this long to downsize from that.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:59 pm UTC
by CorruptUser
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?

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:04 pm UTC
by pseudoidiot
THUNDERDOME

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:14 pm UTC
by Arrian
IcedT wrote:Two ground wars were actually feasible during the Cold War. It's just a shame it took us this long to downsize from that.


Two ground wars were happening during Iraq/Afghanistan. Just because they were "insurgents" doesn't mean they didn't require the assets to fight a war.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:33 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
We should just go back to wars being a matter of leaders selecting a warrior to represent the country. Yup... much cleaner.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:47 pm UTC
by Mighty Jalapeno
Izawwlgood wrote:We should just go back to wars being a matter of leaders selecting a warrior to represent the country. Yup... much cleaner.

I don't think America wants to be known as the country that only has a 50/50 chance of defeating Samoa.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:11 pm UTC
by Spambot5546
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:We should just go back to wars being a matter of leaders selecting a warrior to represent the country. Yup... much cleaner.

I don't think America wants to be known as the country that only has a 50/50 chance of defeating Samoa.

Liam Neeson has dual citizenship in the US and the UK, which means we win any such war unless it's with the UK.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:13 pm UTC
by big boss
Qaanol wrote:*sniff* Won’t somebody please think of the poor, poor mega-rich defense contractors’ children?


Or the children of the factory workers who can't afford to send their kids to a good school. Not that big businessmen wouldn't benefit the greatest from a surge in defense spending.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:16 pm UTC
by CorruptUser
big boss wrote:
Qaanol wrote:*sniff* Won’t somebody please think of the poor, poor mega-rich defense contractors’ children?


Or the children of the factory workers who can't afford to send their kids to a good school. Not that big businessmen wouldn't benefit the greatest from a surge in defense spending.


The factories will be butter factories instead of gun factories.

The main ingredient for said butter will be blood.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:24 pm UTC
by Heisenberg
Qaanol wrote:*sniff* Won’t somebody please think of the poor, poor mega-rich defense contractors’ children?

Really, you went with demonizing the only engineers who had recession-proof jobs?

While I think this is a step in the right direction, it certainly will be a painful transition for the middle-class workers and soldiers who will find themselves unemployed.

Honestly, it's really not a downsize, but rather a "We've decided to increase defense spending slightly less than previously forecasted."

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:20 pm UTC
by Panonadin
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.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:22 pm UTC
by sardia
It depends if you're counting inflation and expected growth. If the expected growth was 2 trillion, and it only grew 1 trillion, that's still 1 trillion less than normal. Btw, the cold war plan not only included 2 wars, it also had a peacekeeping mission on the side. Lulz. I think its safer to say that the US is just admitting it can't actually fight 2 wars at the same time rather than "downsizing" the military.

It depends on the cost/benefit analysis. We get involved in a lot more shit since our hands are in a lot of pies. Imagine if the middle east always gave us oil, but was otherwise the same. We wouldn't give a shit about anybody in there. I'm pretending Israel has no effect on US foreign policy.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:29 pm UTC
by Negated
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.

Spending less than previously planned will not turn US military weak. It is still by far the strongest force in the world and will remain unrivalled for decades to come.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:51 pm UTC
by Ghostbear
Arrian wrote:Two ground wars were happening during Iraq/Afghanistan. Just because they were "insurgents" doesn't mean they didn't require the assets to fight a war.

I haven't double checked, but my understanding of the "two ground wars" bit was meant closer to the scale of the Vietnam or Korean wars- Iraq and Afghanistan are closer to occupations. Which isn't to say that they're incredibly resource intensive, but the goal (accomplished or not), so to speak, was be capable of two simultaneous wars of much greater intensity.

I'm quite glad to see this happen- our military budget has been far too large for far too long. The re-focusing on the Asia-Pacific region will likely aggravate Europe to some degree, as they'll likely need to boost their own budgets in the coming decades to make up for our smaller presence. It's a smart refocusing though, as it seems that the fastest economic growth in the coming decades will be in that region. There aren't many details yet by the articles I read, but it appears the biggest cuts will be to ground forces in the army and the marines. I wonder if any big projects will be cut? The new carriers in development are intended to have a much cheaper operational cost, but obviously carry a rather hefty price tag.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:27 am UTC
by sardia
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.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:38 am UTC
by yurell
Panonadin wrote:I dont see the problem with having a strong military.


Only if you can afford it. 'Strong' is a term measured relative to everyone else, and at present the US military spending is more than the rest of the top twenty countries combined, and is tenth in the world for spending per GDP (for comparison, the next Western country on the list is the UK coming in ~42nd). Source.

This means that the US could halve its military spending, and still be spending more than the next five largest countries combined.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:16 am UTC
by Vaniver
Panonadin wrote:I dont see the problem with having a strong military.
You would if you were writing the checks to pay for it.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:33 am UTC
by Iulus Cofield
This will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the American Empire and the most peaceful period of human history.

The thing that baffle me most about this decision is how the Pentagon thinks we'll have te resources to annex Canada while fighting China under this policy.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:57 am UTC
by CorruptUser
Iulus Cofield wrote:This will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the American Empire and the most peaceful period of human history.

The thing that baffle me most about this decision is how the Pentagon thinks we'll have te resources to annex Canada while fighting China under this policy.


Because the world was so much safer during the 1920s and 30s when the US didn't have a big army? Wait, can't tell if the second half means you believe it will start or end a peaceful period...

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:20 am UTC
by omgryebread
I doubt the downsizing will be enough to end American military hegemony, but it will be interesting to see if America can transition into using it's soft power to keep the peace.

The Pax Americana has been perhaps the most productive period in Human History. For the first time, the rights of people to self-govern has been at least nominally acknowledged around the world. Military subjugation of a country for their resources does not occur directly. That being said, it's not a good ultimate goal. Hopefully this is a step towards a genuine peace built on mutual respect and cooperation rather than arms.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:39 am UTC
by sourmìlk
omgryebread wrote:I doubt the downsizing will be enough to end American military hegemony

Nor should it, necessarily. If there has to be a military hegemon, maybe America isn't the best choice, but I'd rather it be a transparent democracy than something else.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:48 am UTC
by CorruptUser
Peace will only be achieved through trade. The US depends on China for various materials, foodstuffs, and cheap junk, China depends on the US for machinery and money which it uses to buy materials from other countries. There is almost no chance the US and China would go to war; aside from possible damage during war, both would lose too much valuable trade.

Europe has had the longest period of (relative) peace in its entire history, because each economy is dependent on the other. Which is a shame, really, because there are a lot of tiny countries that need to be invaded. Looking at you, Monaco. Seriously, fuck Monaco.

Take a look at history. The Mongolian empire lasted 200 years, generations after the Horde had disappeared, and it was still growing at the end. Why? Because every province was trading with each other. Merchants in China could sell their silks to markets as far away as Persia. Any war meant the trade halted, and trade was making the merchants and craftsmen (and thus the rulers) far wealthier than any war could. So even after the empire split into 4 different smaller (but still vast) empires, they all still traded with each other and avoided war. Mongolia was not destroyed by invaders, but by the bubonic plague; travelers were feared, ships were not allowed to dock at port, the trade died and any allegiance a noble in one province had to even a few hundred miles away disappeared.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:11 am UTC
by Ibid
Counter-point, Europe was very well integrated by trade during La Belle Epoque (~1900-1914) and then some dipshit shot a Duke. Rome and Carthage were both massive traders in the Mediterranean, including with each other, but much like highlanders, there could be only one. Japan invaded all it's major trading partners leading up to and during WWII (although admittedly they were not trade oriented at the time). Take a look at history, trade doesn't always prevent war.

Oh, and Iulus Cofield was referencing Fallout, probably not making a serious point.

Most of the major times in history where a region enjoyed relative stability (Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, Pax Americana) have all been two things: 1) Systems where one entity either dominated or had near complete control over the balance of power, 2) Named in dog latin. That being said, they have not always been nice for everybody involved, as Carthage, India, and Vietnam will all attest to.

This is one of the first concepts you'll learn in any basic politics class, trade does seem to help peace, but does not guarentee it, and is not always necessary. Correlation and causation and all that.

EDIT: Actually, on further thought the last two of those Pax that ended, ended very poorly, with either an epidemic, or with two gigantic wars that dwarfed everything that came before them. The end of an empire is interesting, but that old Chinese curse about interesting times is a pretty good indicator of what usually happens (i.e., bad shit).

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:36 am UTC
by Iulus Cofield
I was mostly joking. This move isn't enough to change much, but it could signal an uncertain future.

Ibid put it very well. Trade is never enough. Because no matter how valuable trade is (especially when there are no or limited tariffs) it is always more profitable to simply seize the sources of manufacture and tax them directly, unless of course they have a big enough army to shift the cost/benefit analysis. Or perhaps an international body to enforce sanctions against aggressive nations, but such a union of nations also needs a lot of guns to back those sanctions up.

And, for the record, the 20's and 30's were a very violent time, so violent that I thought you were joking until your second post. Just off the top of my head there was the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese-Korean War, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and the Nazi's various warmups to WWII. I'm sure there was a lot more going on that I haven't heard of.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:48 am UTC
by CorruptUser
And I can't tell if you think that I think the 1930s were a utopia or hellhole. Stupid Poe's law.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:53 am UTC
by sourmìlk
Iulus is usually pretty sane. It's not like with me: you can assume that Iulus isn't serious when he says something incredibly stupid.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:34 am UTC
by Whimsical Eloquence
What world is to replace that of the Pax Americana? Given the alternatives, a poor one. Certianly, the U.S. has rarely been fervently liberal but it has never been decidedly illiberal, it's hegemony although greatly imperfect has always proved better than the alternative (Nazis, Soviets, what-have-you). Now we face a rising Chinese power that bodes poorly for the world, in parts of Africa there are already patterns of commodity based colonialism slightly reminiscent of early British ones in India.

Clinging to assertions that Trade averts Wars is a folly - people don't act in their own best interest all the time. Or, rather, their view of their best interest is one that often includes nationalist glory, military chauvinism or petty revanchism and no calculus of trade benefit will sway them. Furthermore, War isn't simply the worry - or rather a simple war isn't the worry; the U.S. and China may never go to War. But will the lack of U.S. interventionism or its threat, the West no longer in command of a majority of military or economic power serve to help the growth of liberalism in places where it is not present? It seems unlikely. If tyrannical nations no longer face a choice between isolation or a western dominated world, if sparks of conflict flare not under the gaze of an active, liberal superpower but a more reserved, repressive one with starkly different interests, then that cannot be helpful to achieving any lasting world peace.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:41 am UTC
by Soralin
Well considering they're talking about $450 billion/10 years, with possibly an additional $500 billion/10 years from the failure to agree on a budget reduction thing, that would bring the US military budget down from about $707 billion/year, all the way down to $612 billion/year. So it's not like you're going to see much of a change. I mean, From around 1996-2001, our military budget was at a low point between $296b/year, and $311b/year from what I can find. less than half of what it is now. Heck, still less than half of what it would be after these cuts.

Although the wars also add a lot into that amount, so those closing down could cut things even more. But even without those, just base DoD budget would drop from somewhere around $500b/year, to $400b/year, still significantly more than what we were spending in most of the 90s for example.

We could still cut significantly more out, even without having to make any major changes, which I think would be a good idea.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:44 am UTC
by Ghostbear
I agree with your point(s) Soralin, (the military budget has grown unsustainably) though are those inflation adjusted dollars? It could make a decent difference in the values one way or the other.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:22 am UTC
by Zamfir
Image

That's inflation adjusted. So in real dollars, spending is at an all-time high, and the proposal is to bring it back to the levels of the peak years of the cold war. Of course, the US is now richer and larger than in those days, so it can afford more. But whether it needs more is another question.

Another issue is that general inflation is not necessairly the same as defense-related inflation. Perhaps planes and soldiers and logistics managers are getting expensive faster than the general price level. Or perhaps technology is developing especially fast in defense, so money is actually buying better planes and soldiers and management than it used to.

You can even wonder how useful inflation is at all as a concept for military spending. The assumption of inflation is that you can say, 100 billion now buys you something similar as 60 billion than. But what is "similar"? The same number of tank divisions? Different weapons systems that have the same battle strength as those tank divisions used to have? The ability to invade Iraq, or to invade a generic standard opponent, or to keep China out of Taiwan, or to protect abstract strategic interests?

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:33 am UTC
by sardia
Remember the deficit reduction game the New York Times gave us? Time for military budget cut game:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012 ... tml?ref=us

This was way harder than the deficit reduction one. I wanted to avoid R&D cuts, intelligence or benefits cuts. I was saddened that nobody proposed shutting down the land part of our nuclear triad. (they proposed scrapping the bomber part, keeping nuke silos and submarines.) I could only manage 450 in cuts, barely, couldn't even come close to 1 trillion. =\
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012 ... s=00n44jy0
That's my plan, lots of cuts to Europe, and some fewer Navy ships, but otherwise not bad. The biggest savings came from reducing the military and civilian personnel of the defense department by 15-20%. I was pretty happy with this. I also tried getting to 1 trillion in cuts, couldn't do it without a lot of pain. I hope they get the deficit reduction in check so that doesn't happen. The cuts they'll need will mostly come from benefits like healthcare and GI bill.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:38 am UTC
by Ghostbear
Zamfir wrote:
Spoiler:
Image


That's inflation adjusted. So in real dollars, spending is at an all-time high, and the proposal is to bring it back to the levels of the peak years of the cold war. Of course, the US is now richer and larger than in those days, so it can afford more. But whether it needs more is another question.

Another issue is that general inflation is not necessairly the same as defense-related inflation. Perhaps planes and soldiers and logistics managers are getting expensive faster than the general price level. Or perhaps technology is developing especially fast in defense, so money is actually buying better planes and soldiers and management than it used to.

You can even wonder how useful inflation is at all as a concept for military spending. The assumption of inflation is that you can say, 100 billion now buys you something similar as 60 billion than. But what is "similar"? The same number of tank divisions? Different weapons systems that have the same battle strength as those tank divisions used to have? The ability to invade Iraq, or to invade a generic standard opponent, or to keep China out of Taiwan, or to protect abstract strategic interests?

Ah, thanks for the chart! I do agree that the result of military spending can't really be compared with inflation, but I would say it's better to use inflation adjusted values than not. Especially since military spending doesn't exist in a vacuum- the DoD budget comes from some combination of higher taxes, larger debt, and cut budgets to other parts of the government.

Military equipment has probably* gotten more expensive at a rate faster than inflation. That will affect other nations as well though- during WW2 the UK operated 26 escort carriers of Ruler class, 3 Nairana class, 8 Attacker class, 3 Avenger class, 4 Illustrious class, 2 Implacable class, and many more that I could list, but people get the point, I assume. Now they operate 1 carrier and 1 amphibious assault ship. Certainly, the British Empire has ended in the mean time, but they're still a top economy on their own, and all else being equal would be able to maintain a larger fleet.

In essence, the dollars have to come from somewhere, so I feel it's useful to have the numbers inflation adjusted- you might be able to accomplish less militarily with that amount of money, but other potential recipients of that money will have had a different growth rate compared to inflation and comparing them all against each other individually is complicated.

*I haven't done thorough checking for this, but one example: the F-4 Phantom II cost $2.4 million per unit in 1965, which is equivalent to $16.4 million in 2010 dollars, while the F-16 C/D cost $18.8 million in 1998 ($25 million in 2010 dollars), and the F-22 had a unit cost of $150 million in 2009 ($150.2 million in 2010 dollars). So, at least with a single lazy sample of airplanes, there is somewhat of a trend. Most military equipment has gotten much more complicated, so this is not particularly unexpected- I assume this trend follows across most military hardware, but as I said, I haven't checked.

sardia wrote:Remember the deficit reduction game the New York Times gave us? Time for military budget cut game:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012 ... tml?ref=us

This was way harder than the deficit reduction one. I wanted to avoid R&D cuts, intelligence or benefits cuts. I was saddened that nobody proposed shutting down the land part of our nuclear triad. (they proposed scrapping the bomber part, keeping nuke silos and submarines.) I could only manage 450 in cuts, barely, couldn't even come close to 1 trillion. =\
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012 ... s=00n44jy0
That's my plan, lots of cuts to Europe, and some fewer Navy ships, but otherwise not bad. The biggest savings came from reducing the military and civilian personnel of the defense department by 15-20%. I was pretty happy with this. I also tried getting to 1 trillion in cuts, couldn't do it without a lot of pain. I hope they get the deficit reduction in check so that doesn't happen. The cuts they'll need will mostly come from benefits like healthcare and GI bill.

Using this tool, my basic plan, and my $1 trillion plan. I'd have gone for something to reduce other unit totals besides just shrinking the marines, army, and 1 carrier battle group had it been an option. I tried to avoid cancelling anything intended for future replacements, as doing such tends to bite you in the ass in the long run. My basic goal would be a smaller but still technologically advanced military.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:33 am UTC
by Zamfir
Ghostbear wrote:Especially since military spending doesn't exist in a vacuum- the DoD budget comes from some combination of higher taxes, larger debt, and cut budgets to other parts of the government.

Yes, exactly. The (general inflation-adjusted) cost is relevant to know what you lose by having a certain military. The hard part is knowing what you gain, which is fundamentally difficult to quantify.

People react too often to that difficulty by using the cost as a proxy for the gains (a problem that pops up with government programs in general). So people say, we're getting weak because spending is only 3% of GDP while it used to be 4%. Or they say, the military is ridiculously overpowered because we spend more than in at the peaks of the cold war. There are so many problems with such comparsions that the comparison might sow more confusion than it takes away.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:21 pm UTC
by Ghostbear
Zamfir wrote:The (general inflation-adjusted) cost is relevant to know what you lose by having a certain military. The hard part is knowing what you gain, which is fundamentally difficult to quantify.

People react too often to that difficulty by using the cost as a proxy for the gains (a problem that pops up with government programs in general). So people say, we're getting weak because spending is only 3% of GDP while it used to be 4%. Or they say, the military is ridiculously overpowered because we spend more than in at the peaks of the cold war. There are so many problems with such comparsions that the comparison might sow more confusion than it takes away.

Ah, I think I see what you're saying- we can't really state outright "our military has more money than it needs for its purposes, because it has more money than it did during [period of time]". I'd definitely agree with that. Threats change, equipment changes, required force sizes change- there's a lot of things that make such comparisons, taken in isolation, difficult to make.

To me, perhaps the easiest argument against the size of our military budget is images such as this one:
Image
It's entirely possible to argue that the rest of the world is spending less on their military than they need to- and some countries, such as China, can buy "more" military per dollar due to local economic factors (for now)- but I think it'd be really difficult to argue that we truly need to represent almost half of the world's military budget by ourselves.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:44 pm UTC
by Zamfir
Is that really so crazy? As far as I can tell, the US overall strategy is roughly to be the dominant military force in every part of the globe where it can. And in the parts where the home advantage is too big for that, they still expect to be an important force in the region only after the territory's home state itself.

It makes sense if that costs somewhere in the order of all other budgets combined. On the one hand, the US gets returns to scale because their forces act as potential presence in multiple regions at the same time. On the other hand, they have to plan for a presence far from home and maintain the infrastructure for that, which costs far more than a domestic force. Apparently those two roughly cancel each other out at the moment.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:00 pm UTC
by Ghostbear
Zamfir wrote:Is that really so crazy? As far as I can tell, the US overall strategy is roughly to be the dominant military force in every part of the globe where it can.

If you accept that as a sustainable and desirable goal, then no, it's not crazy at all. I'd probably consider it lucky that it doesn't cost an even larger portion in that case. But, I don't consider that to be a goal that the US should have, nor do I feel it is one that can be sustained. There's many global political benefits to being in such a position, but I doubt we're really getting our money's worth. I remember reading that after WW2, the UK wanted to keep government funding levels about where they had been before (to prevent a dive in employment I believe) so they created the NHS.

I dislike making direct comparisons (I doubt it'd be too hard to find flaws with the NHS), but I feel that US citizens would benefit more from such a course of action than maintaining our military budget levels. Much of our allies would likely be forced to boost their defense spending some without us as a reliable bulwark, and while that could be bad for them, as a US citizen, I don't feel particularly obliged to force the rest of NATO to heavily rely on us for military purposes (and deal with the consequences, good and bad, of such).

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:53 pm UTC
by KnightExemplar
I think its a matter of changing times as well.

The military of the future faces terrorist cells as the major enemy (I mean, we have a rivalry with China, but we're nowhere near "hostile" yet). There's little reason for stealth aircraft when a normal bomber will do against these sorts of guys. The other countries of the world have stepped up to "CyberWarfare", which seems to be a cheaper, more effective form of attacks. (Proof by Stuxnet). If the Iranian capture the drone fiasco truly was a cyber-attack, then that means "cyber" beat stealth in some form. Experts believe that Iranians don't have the capability to even detect the stealth drone. So if they really did capture it... then their cyber attack allowed them to know the drone was coming (beating its stealth) and then was able to gain some form of limited control over the craft.

We might be able to cut back on classic military spending, while still growing in power against future threats. The F35 program cost the US $323 Billion. For a fighter that looks like a beach-ball to advanced radar systems... sure... it might be useful against other countries that have advanced radar detection systems. But if we are to fight against terrorists, the F35 is not much better than cheaper drones: the Predator Project cost only $2 Billion.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:02 pm UTC
by Zamfir
I dislike making direct comparisons (I doubt it'd be too hard to find flaws with the NHS), but I feel that US citizens would benefit more from such a course of action than maintaining our military budget levels.

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.

Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:32 pm UTC
by Vaniver
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.

*This is a real thing. It's actually also the most relevant of the crazy projects I've seen to the US's current foreign policy, as it allows for targeted strikes on terrorists, though it still might be superior (and is almost definitely cheaper) to use unmanned drones. Things like better jet fighters are mostly a waste of money.