Seven years ago General David Petraeus and analyst Michael O’Hanlon wrote this paean to the U.S. military:
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 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. Nevertheless, 15 years of war and five years of budget cuts and Washington dysfunction have taken their toll. The military is certainly neither broken nor unready for combat, but its size and resource levels are less than is advisable given the range of contemporary threats and the missions for which it has to prepare. No radical changes or major buildups are needed. But the trend of budget cuts should stop and indeed be modestly reversed, and defense appropriations should be handled more rationally and professionally than has been the case in recent years.
One of the lessons that should be learned from the war in Ukraine on the anniversary of the start of Russia’s Special Military Operation is that the United States has the most expensive military in the world but is totally unprepared to fight a first world power. During the last year we have learned that javelins, stingers and HIMARS are not game changers for Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has exposed the weakness of the U.S. and European military industrial base. NATO has lost its ability to produce essential ammunition required to sustain Ukraine’s needs in the battle and lacks stockpiles of tanks and armored vehicles that Ukraine begs for on a daily basis. The U.S. is no longer the industrial behemoth that churned out tanks, planes, aircraft carriers, destroyers and bombs in the Second World War.
Russia, for its part, continues to steadily advance along the entire 1000 mile front (not as fast as a bunch of arm chair generals want) and is inflicting massive casualties on the Ukrainian forces. At no point since February 2022 has Ukraine been able to mount a counter attack against a numerically equal Russian force. Ukraine’s much ballyhooed offensive from last August/September was against an outnumbered group of military police and Russia managed to effect a professional tactical retreat.
The real game changer is Russia’s industrial base. Russia has the natural resources, the factories and the skilled workers to produce the weapons, vehicles, tanks and planes it needs to sustain its forces in the field. The Biden Administration, the media and the pundits in America fail to grasp this reality. Instead they continue to repeat the lie that Russia’s economy is in tatters and drowning under the weight of U.S. sanctions.
One of the commenters at this blog exemplifies the delusion embraced by most Americans about the prowess of the American military:
The US defeated Iraq decisively in 2003.
Then the US blew the peace.
The US also rolled over the Taliban and Al Qaeda very decisively in 2001 – 2002.
The US military drove the Iraqi military out of Kuwait and then crushed them in 1991, in a few days.
The US military won just about every major engagement again the Vietnamese communists.
The problem is that the US suffers from mission creep imposed by idiot politicians and greedy leach contractors; mission creep like nation building, but the US military is quite effective at destroying the enemy and seizing his territory.
This is pure clown world. It is true that U.S. forces took control in 2003 of sizeable chunks of Iraq and occupied Baghdad. But the Iraqi Army lacked air power and effective artillery. Yee haw!! America beat up the kid in a wheel chair. Let us not forget that the United States’ policies in Iraq also spawned a deadly insurgency and led to the birth of ISIS, which carried out epic terrorist attacks in Europe, the Middle East and America. Iraq displayed the impotence of U.S. military power to create a stable political order.
I really question the intelligence of a person who touts the “U.S. rolling over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2001 – 2002” and blithely ignores the U.S. ignominious defeat in Afghanistan in August 2021. The Taliban that we supposedly vanquished took back Kabul and forced the United States into a panicked withdrawal. Oh yeah. The U.S. abandoned thousands of Afghans who we had promised previously to protect.
And then there is the ghost of Vietnam. “We won every major engagement against the Vietnamese communists.” So what! Killing Viet Cong in the jungles and mountains did not prevent the North Vietnamese from sweeping down and vanquishing the South Vietnamese government. Here again, U.S. military power was impotent to create a political outcome that served U.S. national interests.
Most Americans indulge the fantasy that if we just use more military force (i.e., more cowbell). This insanity continues to posses the political class controlling Washington and they show no sign of relenting in their quest to destroy Vladimir Putin and magically transform Russia into a lackey of the West. That is what is at stake in Russia’s war in Ukraine and the majority of the Russian people, not just the political and military leaders, understand this threat.
We are witnessing the end of the era when the strength of the U.S. economy and its control of the world economy via the petro dollar enabled Washington to pursue its reckless, multiple overseas military expeditions. The following charts are warning signs that the U.S. economy faces brewing turmoil that will make it difficult for Washington to continue its extravagant funding of the Ukrainian government and military.