Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Paradox of US Military Might

I recently came across a very interesting article entitled “The Paradox of Military Technology” by Max Boot. I still haven’t read it completely through, but Mr. Boot makes some very interesting observations, and it brought back a number of memories from my younger years (I would say from my childhood, but that makes me sound too old!).

Mr. Boot starts out by observing that “we live in the age of American supremacy,” and that the “American military is now the strongest the world has ever known.” This is true in large part because U.S. forces “are undisputed masters of the ‘commons’ (sea, air, and space), which allows them to project power anywhere in the world at short notice.”

The author then goes on to describe in detail the resources, intelligence, equipment, spending, personnel, etc., that contribute to U.S. supremacy. Just a few interesting facts: the United States has twelve air-craft carriers, including nine (with one more in the works) supercarriers capable of carrying 70 aircraft. No one else in the world has even one. A few nations have one smaller carrier, and several have a few helicopter and jump-jet carriers – which are roughly equivalent to the U.S. amphibious assault ships, of which the U.S. also has twelve.

One of the things that gives the U.S. military such an advantage over the rest of the world is its funding: “The U.S. spends around $500 billion a year on its military, almost as much as the rest of the world combined. In fact, the U.S. spends more simply on the research, development, testing, and evaluation of new weapons—$71 billion in 2006—than any other country spends on its entire armed forces.” In addition, Mr. Boot argues, the American all-volunteer force, realistic training, and coordination between the forces set it apart from the rest of the world.

And yet despite this supremacy, there is still a real sense in which Americans feel vulnerable. Hence, the paradox of his title. Technology, Mr. Boot recognizes, “is both the great separator and the great equalizer in military affairs.” September 11 taught Americans that having the largest military in the world can’t protect us from all who would seek to do us ill. He alludes to but doesn’t really develop, as far as I saw, the fact that those who have nothing to lose and who care nothing for their own lives – and who play by no set of rules other than their own – will always be a threat to their enemies.

Mr. Boot has an interesting way of looking at one of the more frightening weapons potentially threatening the United States: “The atomic bomb is more than sixty years old. It belongs to an age of rotary-dial telephones and fin-winged cars. It is a miracle that it has not been used by maniac dictators or political radicals since 1945, but that streak won’t last forever.”

The picture of an atomic bomb going off, and the accompanying mushroom cloud, brings back memories from the early- to mid-80s. I can remember being genuinely afraid of the Soviets and a possible nuclear war. A military chaplain spoke at a gathering and talked about the advantages the Soviets had in Europe, and it left a vivid impression on me – and I was afraid.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of those fears subsided. I think I also grew in my trust and confidence in the protection of our Lord, the Good Shepherd. But the object of our trust to keep us safe from those who would do us harm must be our God, not our military. I am reminded of the Psalms speaking of the vanity of trusting in war horses, in the strength of our arm or the length of our bow, and that no king is saved by gathered armies. Our trust today must be in the Lord, Who is our Protector and, even in times of trouble, the One who is with us in our distress. This is not to say our military is useless or unimportant; God has established those governing over us, and given them a sword – the military – for our protection.

So read the article, or at least the intro and conclusion, scanning the parts in between. Recognize the danger and be thankful for one of the means of protection God has given us. But ultimately, we must place our trust in Him.

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