To reflect on this longest of American wars is to confront two questions. First, why has the world’s mightiest military achieved so little even while itself absorbing very considerable losses and inflicting even greater damage on the subjects of America’s supposed beneficence? Second, why in the face of such unsatisfactory outcomes has the United States refused to chart a different course? In short, why can’t we win? And since we haven’t won, why can’t we get out?
With regard to the first question, one explanation stands out above all others. In stark contrast to the Cold War, American purposes and U.S. military policy in the Islamic world have never aligned. Rather than keeping threats to U.S. interests at bay, a penchant for military activism, initially circumspect but becoming increasingly uninhibited over time, has helped to foster new threats. Time and again, from the 1980s to the present, U.S. military power, unleashed rather than held in abeyance, has met outright failure, produced results other than those intended, or proved to be largely irrelevant. The Greater Middle East remains defiantly resistant to shaping.
Not for want of American effort, of course … — Andrew Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East
A disenfranchised white working class vents its lust for fascism at Trump campaign rallies. Naive liberals, who think they can mount effective resistance within the embrace of the Democratic Party, rally around the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who knows that the military-industrial complex is sacrosanct. Both the working class and the liberals will be sold out. Our rights and opinions do not matter. We have surrendered to our own form of Wehrwirtschaft. We do not count within the political process. — Chris Hedges, The Illusion of Freedom
Wehrwirtschaft: “The principle or policy of directing a nation’s economic activity towards preparation for or support of a war effort, esp. (Hist.) as applied in Germany in the 1930s.”
The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas—from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations—they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States’ closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures—with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners…
Precision-guided bombs accounted for about ten percent of the ordnance used in the Gulf War. In recent conflicts, they have accounted for about 90 percent, with a dramatic impact on the course of battle. As a result, Pentagon officials now talk of a “third offset”—the hope, championed by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, among others, that it will be possible to rely on modern-day ISR and precision assets to counter, say, larger Chinese missile, aircraft, ship, and submarine forces in the waters of the western Pacific.
For all this progress, however, there are limits to what standoff warfare and advanced technology can achieve by themselves. To make precision bombing effective, for example, targets need to be located accurately—something that can be difficult if those targets are in cities, forests, or jungles, or are concealed or underground … — David Petraeus & Michael O’Hanlon — America’s Awesome Military
Those who measure security solely in terms of offensive capacity distort its meaning and mislead those who pay them heed. No modern nation has ever equaled the crushing offensive power attained by the German war machine in 1939. No modern nation was broken and smashed as was Germany six years later. — Dwight Eisenhower, 1949, in St. Louis