Smaller US military (yay!)

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Ghostbear
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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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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:09 pm UTC

And what history does the US have of sending allies into full-scale wars, rather than minor* ones? Again, the last fullscale war the US fought was WWII, maybe Korea or Vietnam but not really.

*relatively

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Heisenberg » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:40 pm UTC

Why don't you give examples of full-scale wars the US has fought without allies? I can't really come up with any in the last hundred years, except maybe Vietnam. The US has a long history of allying with others for major conflicts, and I see no reason why that trend wouldn't continue.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:47 pm UTC

American Civil War, War of 1812, Spanish American War (sort of), Mexican American War. All 19th century wars, of course. The US has only been in 2 fullscale wars in the 20th century (4 if you count Korea and Vietnam), and in those the US was dragged in rather than initiated.

Granted that 1812 and Spanish-American were not truly "ally free", as they both had natives involved (1812 had Cherokee among others, S-A had Spanish rebels and basically all of the Philipines), but they were primarily fought between the US and another country. You'd be hard-pressed to find a major war that didn't involve minor allies of some kind.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:04 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:And what history does the US have of sending allies into full-scale wars, rather than minor* ones? Again, the last fullscale war the US fought was WWII, maybe Korea or Vietnam but not really.


To my knowledge: specifically, Liberia during WW2. More practically, though less recent, the Revolutionary War- France, Spain, and the Netherlands were all involved in that on the side of the US. More recently & practically? None that I know of. Counter question- how many wars involving a full scale military mobilization has the US been involved in that were not already started or involving its allies?

(Took too long to type my reply)
CorruptUser wrote:American Civil War, War of 1812, Spanish American War (sort of), Mexican American War.

Granted that 1812 and Spanish-American were not truly "ally free", as they both had natives involved (1812 had Cherokee among others, S-A had Spanish rebels and basically all of the Philipines), but they were primarily fought between the US and another country. You'd be hard-pressed to find a major war that didn't involve minor allies of some kind.

I'm not sure I'd count the Mexican-American war as a full scale war here- the peak US troop deployment during it was 59,000 soldiers according to wikipedia, with total US casualties at less than 15,000. The War of 1812 is a bit on the complicated side for allies- arguably, you could make a case that France was our "ally" during it, as we both fought the same foe, it was really just a side conflict in the larger Napoleonic Wars. The Spanish-American war lasted for less than half a year, and again involved only about 10,000 US deaths- not sure that's a fully scale war either. The American Civil War involved two sides that were both, in fact, American- any allies would be torn between the two sides, as actually happened (the UK and France were tempted to get involved, but didn't want to diminish trade with the North or the South, or be seen to be supporting slavery). Civil wars aren't really good candidates for allies.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:19 pm UTC

Man, you're being really generous as to how much allies contribute. In terms of equipment or money, it's usually Britain, some combination of France Germany and Japan, and then whatever country is providing the nearby staging ground. Granted, their economies are smaller, so their military spending per capita should be a better comparison.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:59 pm UTC

And were they in a full-scale war, or were they merely waging war somewhere else?

Full-scale means virtually their entire economy is retooled to the war effort, young men are enslaved put into national service, basic goods are rationed. They are kind of rare nowadays; only twice in the 20th century was the US or most of Europe in that situation. In anytime prior to WWI they could happen once a generation or more (or for entire generations; see the 30 years or 100 years wars). It was the norm of society; constantly conquer weaker neighbors (or get conquered by stronger ones) until your troops are exhausted, then rebuild your food supplies and armies until you can begin again. Some places it still is the norm.

I'm not trying to say no non-Americans fought and/or died during the first Gulf War or other NATO conflicts, just that I don't think the US could push its allies into a full-scale war if need be, or at least have them share the war burden equally.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:00 am UTC

sardia wrote:Man, you're being really generous as to how much allies contribute. In terms of equipment or money, it's usually Britain, some combination of France Germany and Japan, and then whatever country is providing the nearby staging ground. Granted, their economies are smaller, so their military spending per capita should be a better comparison.

They contribute less because their militaries are smaller... because they don't need to have a larger military, due to the size of ours. Which is the whole point- with a weaker US military, our allies would need to invest more in their military for NATO et all to accomplish its desired goals. Again: I have no interest in subsidizing the defense of our allies.

CorruptUser wrote:And were they in a full-scale war, or were they merely waging war somewhere else?

Full-scale means virtually their entire economy is retooled to the war effort, young men are enslaved put into national service, basic goods are rationed. They are kind of rare nowadays; only twice in the 20th century was the US or most of Europe in that situation. In anytime prior to WWI they could happen once a generation or more (or for entire generations; see the 30 years or 100 years wars). It was the norm of society; constantly conquer weaker neighbors (or get conquered by stronger ones) until your troops are exhausted, then rebuild your food supplies and armies until you can begin again. Some places it still is the norm.

I'm not trying to say no non-Americans fought and/or died during the first Gulf War or other NATO conflicts, just that I don't think the US could push its allies into a full-scale war if need be, or at least have them share the war burden equally.

Maybe I've missed something, but why are you making such a huge distinction for full scale wars here? We haven't had to do a full war mobilization of society and the economy for over half a century, and have arguably only had to do such three times (WW1, WW2, Civil War- Revolutionary & 1812 would be a bit of a stretch, but plausible, so no more than five times) in the history of the US. The US has been able to bring allies into several conflicts, including conflicts that were deeply unpopular outside of the US, I see no reason to believe that if a conflict was important enough (to both the US & its allies- separately or together), that such could not be accomplished again, with a smaller military.

If the US dropped its military commitment to NATO in half, and the rest of NATO picked up that slack, the Gulf War still wouldn't amount to a full scale war for anyone involved. Which is what I'm trying to get at- any significant reduction in US military capacity is going to involve military build up in our allies. They'd have to- perhaps not right away, but in the years to follow, it'd be inevitable, as they would still want to accomplish their geopolitical goals and maintain their safety. Maybe Japan & Germany would develop nukes too, and hell, I don't think I'd even be opposed to that (but I suppose many people would be).

Since I feel it's a comment I've been making that's been ignored, and I feel it's a rather important part of my stance here, I'm going to repeat this for the second time in this post: I have no interest in subsidizing the defense of our allies.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:14 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Since I feel it's a comment I've been making that's been ignored, and I feel it's a rather important part of my stance here, I'm going to repeat this for the second time in this post: I have no interest in subsidizing the defense of our allies.


You and I are in complete agreement on that point

Ghostbear wrote:Maybe I've missed something, but why are you making such a huge distinction for full scale wars here? We haven't had to do a full war mobilization of society and the economy for over half a century, and have arguably only had to do such three times (WW1, WW2, Civil War- Revolutionary & 1812 would be a bit of a stretch, but plausible, so no more than five times) in the history of the US.


Because it's relatively easy to wage war somewhere else. The US hasn't fought a war on US soil since the Civil War (unless you count some islands in Alaska in WWII), which is probably why Americans are slightly less averse to war than the French. But when the war means there is a real chance that the foe can not just hold back an invasion, but can launch one of its own? When going to war means its own cities will be hit by bombs? Will those allies send their own troops in, or only as necessary to prevent the war from spreading into their own countries?

Supposedly, there is a quote from a Chinese general regarding the US and Taiwan; 'The US is not willing to trade San Francisco for Taiwan'. So I'll ask you, if defending Taiwan, a US ally, meant losing San Francisco, do you think the US would make that trade? Would Germany trade the city of Bremen or Bielefeld* for the US?

Also, 1812 and Revolutionary were not a stretch. Those were bloody wars where the survival of the country was at stake. Maybe not to the British, but definitely for the fledgling Americans. Washington burned to the ground, and the Brits found out why you shouldn't burn cities while you are still in them.

*No, that city doesn't exist. You've never heard of it, let alone been there or met anyone from there. Anyone claiming to be from there is lying.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:06 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:Since I feel it's a comment I've been making that's been ignored, and I feel it's a rather important part of my stance here, I'm going to repeat this for the second time in this post: I have no interest in subsidizing the defense of our allies.


You and I are in complete agreement on that point

Good to hear! But, the way our current alliance structure works, we are indirectly subsidizing the defense of, more or less, every other member of NATO, plus countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Which is something I would be fine seeing the end of- they can afford to pay for a larger portion of their defense, and if they won't, then that's their decision to make. I would love to see what $300 billion from the DoD budget could do when applied to other services in the US- more research funding, better welfare services, lower national debt, lower taxes, perhaps something else entirely, or any combination of those things.

CorruptUser wrote:Because it's relatively easy to wage war somewhere else. The US hasn't fought a war on US soil since the Civil War (unless you count some islands in Alaska in WWII), which is probably why Americans are slightly less averse to war than the French. But when the war means there is a real chance that the foe can not just hold back an invasion, but can launch one of its own? When going to war means its own cities will be hit by bombs? Will those allies send their own troops in, or only as necessary to prevent the war from spreading into their own countries?

Supposedly, there is a quote from a Chinese general regarding the US and Taiwan; 'The US is not willing to trade San Francisco for Taiwan'. So I'll ask you, if defending Taiwan, a US ally, meant losing San Francisco, do you think the US would make that trade? Would Germany trade the city of Bremen or Bielefeld* for the US?

This returns to the other option I had created though: the US (and its allies) are then forced to ask themselves if the conflict is worth taking part in. If we decide to leave Taiwan on its own, then so be it- that is decision that would have to be made. If allies can not be convinced to join, then it is still a decision that needs to be made. I am OK with not getting involved in some conflicts because of that. Going with my point above, it'd be entirely possible that with a US military scale back, Taiwan would develop its own nuclear capability- then China would be even more reluctant to start shit with them, and we wouldn't need to spend a dime on ensuring such. There would be more nukes in the world, but there are trade offs to many decisions.

CorruptUser wrote:Also, 1812 and Revolutionary were not a stretch. Those were bloody wars where the survival of the country was at stake. Maybe not to the British, but definitely for the fledgling Americans. Washington burned to the ground, and the Brits found out why you shouldn't burn cities while you are still in them.

I didn't go into detail there, but I meant they'd be a bit of a stretch because I feel it's difficult have a nation at full war mobilization when it isn't yet a nation, in the instance of the Revolutionary War. For the War of 1812, it was because I did not know enough history on it to be able to speak confidently on whether it would be fair to call it a full scale war. I still don't, but it takes more than a bloody war to become full scale. I guess I phrased myself poorly initially- my apologies.

CorruptUser wrote:No, that city doesn't exist. You've never heard of it, let alone been there or met anyone from there. Anyone claiming to be from there is lying.

Did I miss a joke here?

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Malice » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:11 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:No, that city doesn't exist. You've never heard of it, let alone been there or met anyone from there. Anyone claiming to be from there is lying.

Did I miss a joke here?


Yes.
Image

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:51 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:

This returns to the other option I had created though: the US (and its allies) are then forced to ask themselves if the conflict is worth taking part in. If we decide to leave Taiwan on its own, then so be it- that is decision that would have to be made. If allies can not be convinced to join, then it is still a decision that needs to be made. I am OK with not getting involved in some conflicts because of that. Going with my point above, it'd be entirely possible that with a US military scale back, Taiwan would develop its own nuclear capability- then China would be even more reluctant to start shit with them, and we wouldn't need to spend a dime on ensuring such. There would be more nukes in the world, but there are trade offs to many decisions.



Nukes are a funny thing. Once you have them, they're very stabilizing. But when you're trying to get them, then they are very destabilizing. Anyway, Nuclear proliferation is a big concern of the US, that and asymmetrical warfare are one of the biggest threats to the US armed forces.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:33 am UTC

Malice wrote:Yes.

Ah, thanks.

sardia wrote:Nukes are a funny thing. Once you have them, they're very stabilizing. But when you're trying to get them, then they are very destabilizing. Anyway, Nuclear proliferation is a big concern of the US, that and asymmetrical warfare are one of the biggest threats to the US armed forces.

Yes, but I don't see how that invalidates the point- the US would be forced to choose what conflicts to participate in. Even a dramatic reduction would still allow the US to get involved in just about conflict safely, which is all I was trying to show with the original numbers- if it forces the US to need to think longer before getting involved in conflicts, then that's good.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Deep_Thought » Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:32 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
sardia wrote:Man, you're being really generous as to how much allies contribute. In terms of equipment or money, it's usually Britain, some combination of France Germany and Japan, and then whatever country is providing the nearby staging ground. Granted, their economies are smaller, so their military spending per capita should be a better comparison.

They contribute less because their militaries are smaller... because they don't need to have a larger military, due to the size of ours. Which is the whole point- with a weaker US military, our allies would need to invest more in their military for NATO et all to accomplish its desired goals. Again: I have no interest in subsidizing the defense of our allies.

Sorry to drag the discussion back a bit, but there's several issues I think are getting mixed up here.

First, the number of active troops for the US, UK, France and Germany are comparable on a per capita basis. Japan's is significantly smaller. However, per capita military spending is way higher in the US. Once you take into account absolute size, the US spends a shocking amount of cash on military goodies. There is no doubt that US Forces are streets ahead of any other military in terms of what they can actually do. This is why there was huge political pressure from the US when the UK recently talked about downsizing it's own forces - the US wants at least one ally with a minimum of proper force projection capability (Not that we Brits have even that right now :-( ).

Second, you then have to combine this might with actual willingness to use it. Germany and Japan are bound, by politics and their constitutions, to be pacifists. Japan may have sent "troops" to Iraq, but they did nothing other than build stuff or support actual fighting troops. A similar situation has been and is happening in Afghanistan - most of the NATO nations consider any casualties at all to be politically unacceptable. However, here the US is mostly reaping the harvest of post-WW2 politics when Japan and Germany had pacifist constitutions forced on them. I don't know about Japan, but it would take a huge amount of work to convince Germany that they need to invest more in their own armed forces.

So in all, I kind of agree with Ghostbear. The post-war consensus needs to be rewritten, because it is very badly out of date. The US can no longer afford to support such a large military, and frankly its Allies should probably help pay a bit to protect those trade networks that they depend on. The same is echoed on smaller scale within Europe, where Britain and France spend far more on their militaries than Germany. Britain, until very recently, still kept tanks in Germany as a ward against the USSR. That country doesn't even exist anymore! Things have changed, and it's time for all countries to move on.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:43 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:Since I feel it's a comment I've been making that's been ignored, and I feel it's a rather important part of my stance here, I'm going to repeat this for the second time in this post: I have no interest in subsidizing the defense of our allies.


You and I are in complete agreement on that point

Good to hear! But, the way our current alliance structure works, we are indirectly subsidizing the defense of, more or less, every other member of NATO, plus countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Which is something I would be fine seeing the end of- they can afford to pay for a larger portion of their defense, and if they won't, then that's their decision to make. I would love to see what $300 billion from the DoD budget could do when applied to other services in the US- more research funding, better welfare services, lower national debt, lower taxes, perhaps something else entirely, or any combination of those things.

Perhaps I am misreading you, but you seem to imply that the US spends that money as a gift to allies, as something altruistic. But many countries are US allies because the US spends so much money

Most US alliances are not about mutual military support. They are asymmetric deals, where the US extends protection to a country, and gets influence in the country in return. It's buying friendship. This has worked very well in Europe and East Asia, because the commies were a shared fear, and in these regions at least the US has been mostly a reliable and considerate ally.

But you can't take that for granted. There is really no fundamental reason why Germany or South Korea should consider themselves "on the side" of the US. They could just as well position themselves more like, say, Brazil or India. Not hostile, just more distant from the US. Less likely to support US initiatives in areas of international politics or trade, more willing to take actions the US disapproves of. You can see a mild version of this in the case of France, where after de Gaulle the country decided to keep enough defense capability of its own, explicitly in order to keep some freedom to irritate the US from time to time.

In the grand scheme of things, the relationship between France and the US is extremely good. Most countries would consider themselves happy to have realtions with so much mutual trust, respect and cooperation. Not just militarily, but in wider international cooperation.You could go the road of "no implicit subsidies to the defense of our allies", but you'll find that relations like with France are going to be the best ones, and most countries (even friendly ones) will be less cooperative than that.

Perhaps that's a better deal for the US, perhaps it would even be a better deal for everyone. I am personally not much of an Atlanticist, I wouldn't mind looser ties with the US. But lots of knowledgeable people in the US and abroad do consider it a good deal for their own country, and you can't just ignore that side.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:36 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:Perhaps I am misreading you, but you seem to imply that the US spends that money as a gift to allies, as something altruistic. But many countries are US allies because the US spends so much money

Most US alliances are not about mutual military support. They are asymmetric deals, where the US extends protection to a country, and gets influence in the country in return. It's buying friendship. This has worked very well in Europe and East Asia, because the commies were a shared fear, and in these regions at least the US has been mostly a reliable and considerate ally.

But you can't take that for granted. There is really no fundamental reason why Germany or South Korea should consider themselves "on the side" of the US. They could just as well position themselves more like, say, Brazil or India. Not hostile, just more distant from the US. Less likely to support US initiatives in areas of international politics or trade, more willing to take actions the US disapproves of. You can see a mild version of this in the case of France, where after de Gaulle the country decided to keep enough defense capability of its own, explicitly in order to keep some freedom to irritate the US from time to time.

In the grand scheme of things, the relationship between France and the US is extremely good. Most countries would consider themselves happy to have realtions with so much mutual trust, respect and cooperation. Not just militarily, but in wider international cooperation.You could go the road of "no implicit subsidies to the defense of our allies", but you'll find that relations like with France are going to be the best ones, and most countries (even friendly ones) will be less cooperative than that.

Perhaps that's a better deal for the US, perhaps it would even be a better deal for everyone. I am personally not much of an Atlanticist, I wouldn't mind looser ties with the US. But lots of knowledgeable people in the US and abroad do consider it a good deal for their own country, and you can't just ignore that side.

I don't think any of it is altruistic; I know it is done because the US feels it gains something out of it, such as more influence on the development of world politics, the ability to pressure better copyright enforcement, or other things. And perhaps the power brokers at the top feel they are getting a good deal out of it, but I don't think that I, as an ordinary citizen, am getting the better part of this deal. I have to worry about politicians that want to institute the draft because military service is so wonderful or because we'd bogged ourselves down in one occupation too many (wonderful example of both: McCain). I have to live in a country where 20% of our budget is spent directly on the department of defense. I have to see our political process get stuck worrying about those fuckups we've gone and got ourselves mixed up in, with one party intent on seeing it as the best fuckup ever, and that we should keep fucking up as much as we can, while the other party zigzags between calling it an unacceptable fuckup and agreeing with the first party that it's truly a wonderful fuckup and we should do this kind of thing more often. I don't think that I, as an average American citizen, have gained much of anything out of this arrangement- and that's while having a degree with high employment rates in the defense industry.

To me, the citizens of Canada, or the UK, or Germany, or Japan, and so on- they are getting a far better deal. Maybe the rich and powerful in their nations aren't- I don't rightly know, and truth be told, I don't particularly care; if I had to concern myself with which geopolitical treaties benefited the rich and wealthy the most, it would hopefully be because I was one of them. If we couldn't bully their governments into occasionally enacting trade deals that favor our corporate interests? Sure, it might skim some money off the top of the economy, but I expect it wouldn't be enough of a hit to undo the military spending cuts that would accompany such.

As for forming alliances through the military umbrella, I feel that applies more strictly to nations such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia, who don't seem to particularly care for us much at all (nor us them really), but stay our allies because we keep tossing tanks and jets at them every now and then (yes, that's an oversimplification, but you know what I mean). The UK is our ally not because of the US' willingness to use our military to help them out, but because we have a history of positive relations, well connected economies, and not terribly divergent visions for the future of the world. That's why France still has good relations with the US despite the militaries being less intertwined, as you noted. That is why I expect weaker military cooperation with Germany, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan would still retain future good relations. As good as France? Perhaps not, but good enough for shared economic prosperity to continue.

Perhaps the best simplification of my argument would be along these lines: the oversized US military is like a hammer, and the US government has developed a tendency to see all world problems as nails. So long as the US military stays large enough to be able to handle any "nail" it encounters, this way of thinking will persist. I want that way of thinking to end, therefor, I want the military to be downsized. I am fully willing to deal with any of the global consequences that would result in such- a nuclear Japan, weakened alliances, more global conflicts, whatever- the US can not afford to maintain our global position as the world's policeman, so if these things will happen now, they'll happen from it later. I'd rather have them happen in a more controlled manner, where all parties are aware of what's happening, as opposed to Japan deciding to rush through a nuclear program after seeing the US fail to keep China out of Taiwan, or some equivalent "oh shit!" moment.

I'm not sure* if I've put a good face on my arguments in this post- but I'm not up to deleting it and starting over, and I don't think I did too bad a job. All the same, I'll just put an apology up front here in case I end up rephrasing or abandoning parts of what I've said.

* In a weird mood, I guess.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:18 pm UTC

Ah yes, that's an argument I can get behind. The benefits of "influence" are undoubtly real, but also unavoidably very opaque, and presuambly a lot of those beenfits don't go where you would have voted them to go. Even if it's a good deal for "the US", it might well be cost for most Americans and a boon for a subset.

Still, a few points: there's not that much money to gain. In the long run, we're talking 1 or 2 percent of GDP of savings. Perhaps 3 on the extreme. That's a lot of dollars when concentrated, but it's not the difference between US social services and those of some other countries. Those are mostly higher due to higher tax revenue (VAT, in particular) and lower healthcare costs. If the US cuts back significantly on military spending, it's not going to make a very noticable impact on most people's material lifestyle.

Second, even if you save that money, a significant part of it will simply go back to rich people. If they have enough influence on US politics to steer foreign policy in their favour, they also have the influence to require tax cuts instead. Support for the current US taxation levels is partially based on the foreign power that it buys. If you're not buying that power anymore, people (especially rich and powerful people) will favour lower taxes.

Overall, it's very possible that high military spending has little effect on most American people. Not positive, not negative. Most people don't pay much taxes, and working in the military is just another slightly dangerous job in the service of rich people, like being a taxi driver.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby sardia » Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:36 pm UTC

Your argument that the US should focus only on the conflicts that are most important has merit. That's why Obama's defense proposal involves shifting resources away from Europe to the Pacific Rim. This is in addition to cuts in the armed forces. However, the degree of reduction is something everyone is differing on.

Zamfir, I believe most of the savings in military spending is so the US has to borrow less money annually. I highly doubt that we'll see lower taxes due to less defense spending. Yes, I know Republicans are always looking to cut taxes and always propose yet another extension of the Bush tax cuts, but I believe that's separate from military reduction talks.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:11 pm UTC

Sardia, sure. But borrowed money is eventually paid for as well. Military spending, whether directly or by repaying loans in the long run, gets paid from federal general taxation. Which is in the US a highly progressive tax system.

I presume that this is not an accident: rich people in the US are willing to accept a fairly progressive taxation schedule for general taxes because a lot of that tax goes to the military, which they support more than many other government programs. Things like social security and medicare have less support from rich people, so they are paid from a more regressive tax system.

Ghostbear assumes that the benefits of a powerful US military mostly go to rich and powerful people, which might well be true. But in that case, those people will only accept large spending cuts to the military if a lot of the saved money goes back to them. Lower deficits are one method for that, since rich people will eventually end up paying for a large share of those deficits.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:33 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Still, a few points: there's not that much money to gain. In the long run, we're talking 1 or 2 percent of GDP of savings. Perhaps 3 on the extreme. That's a lot of dollars when concentrated, but it's not the difference between US social services and those of some other countries. Those are mostly higher due to higher tax revenue (VAT, in particular) and lower healthcare costs. If the US cuts back significantly on military spending, it's not going to make a very noticable impact on most people's material lifestyle.

Second, even if you save that money, a significant part of it will simply go back to rich people. If they have enough influence on US politics to steer foreign policy in their favour, they also have the influence to require tax cuts instead. Support for the current US taxation levels is partially based on the foreign power that it buys. If you're not buying that power anymore, people (especially rich and powerful people) will favour lower taxes.

That's certainly true as taken in a vacuum, but the reduction in spending would interact with many other factors. Take the debt debate we had recently- I don't know how much you knew of it, as you list yourself as being from the Netherlands- but the ideal debt reduction goal last summer was about $3-4 trillion over ten years. Cutting the military in half (as per my earlier post) would result in ~$3-3.5 trillion in saving over 10 years- the US would almost perfectly match up with the debt reduction goals. This would allow for less money to need to be cut from regulatory agencies, welfare services, research, education, and so on- that would have quite a significant effect, directly or indirectly, on most people living in the US. I suspect that if such a reduction were to happen, that would be the end result- it's the path of least resistance, meets many political talking points for both sides (lower the national debt! cut government spending! protect social security!).

Of course, I like to stick the land of the practical, and I highly doubt such a reduction will happen any time in the decades to come- the end result of relations with, and the rise of, China, will probably determine the chances of that. If we could make China into half the ally that any of the US' European allies are, for instance, both sides could do a rather noteworthy reduction in their militaries without shaking up the world's state of affairs much. Perhaps even less likely than the dramatic reduction on its own, but worth considering.

Looping back around a bit though- one thing governments seem loath to do is give up spending. The cost savings from a huge military reduction wouldn't be enough to fund something like a nationalized healthcare service, I agree there, but the reductions might serve as an impetus for the government to increase spending on welfare services along those lines, just like the UK did after WW2. Is this likely with current political attitudes in the US? No, the US has shifted further right in the past few decades than it had been, but enough of a shift to the left to accomplish that in the next few decades isn't completely implausible either. Recreate the 40's-60's, in a sense, and it'd be entirely plausible so long as the people of the left swing didn't drop the ball with another Vietnam level mistake.

Zamfir wrote:Overall, it's very possible that high military spending has little effect on most American people. Not positive, not negative. Most people don't pay much taxes, and working in the military is just another slightly dangerous job in the service of rich people, like being a taxi driver.

Eh.. I think the truth of this varies on how specifically you define it. Monetarily? Sure, that could very well be a fair assessment, I think I'd disagree with it slightly, but overall it's not too disagreeable. Where I do disagree on this is the overuse of our military on the global stage- that does negatively impact the lives of quite a few people- either through being involved directly in the conflicts (probably works out about 500k-1 million people for Iraq & Afghanistan), or through being the friends and families of those people. Now, those are the people affected by the military campaigns, not the spending- but the military campaigns are, in my eyes, the direct result of said military spending. To repeat my previous point, the government has grown to seeing the military as a hammer, and all the world's problems as nails.

------------
Also, both of your posts occured while I was typing this, but I actually agree with Sardia- military savings, in the short term, are most likely going to be applied, either directly or indirectly, towards lowering the debt. The rich, powerful, and influential have enough sway to fight those reductions, but I don't think they'd be able to get enough favor to get lowered taxes (or similar) for themselves out of such an event. It's not a likely scenario either way though, but look at the current expected cuts- no one is even discussing using them to lower taxes, but instead to either reverse them completely (I hate those people, for the record) or to apply that saving towards lowering the debt.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:48 pm UTC

The 1-2% savings every year has huge effects long-term. Forget social services, imagine if $200B extra was spent every year ensuring that every child in the US had access to decent education. Just imagine how much extra the US would get from a more skilled workforce, how much could be saved in the prison system as a result, how much healthcare costs would decrease.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Deep_Thought » Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:12 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:If we could make China into half the ally that any of the US' European allies are, for instance, both sides could do a rather noteworthy reduction in their militaries without shaking up the world's state of affairs much. Perhaps even less likely than the dramatic reduction on its own, but worth considering.

It saddens me to say this, but I don't see China treading this path anytime soon. While I highly doubt they would ever directly threaten America, there are plenty of other potential flashpoints that they would be interested in if America was ever distracted enough. Taiwan is the most obvious, but there's the looming possibility of fights over land and resources elsewhere as well.

The cost savings from a huge military reduction wouldn't be enough to fund something like a nationalized healthcare service, I agree there, but the reductions might serve as an impetus for the government to increase spending on welfare services along those lines, just like the UK did after WW2.

The UK was pretty much flat-out broke after WW2. The decision to introduce the NHS wasn't seen as something that we got because military spending came down, but more as a reward for winning the war. It shocked many people as I understand it. I suspect the key was that back then medical treatment was far cheaper, as all the wonderful and wonderfully expensive technology we use today hadn't been invented, so it wasn't that much of an incremental cost (this is inference on my part, I have no citation).

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:24 pm UTC

The 1-2% savings every year has huge effects long-term. Forget social services, imagine if $200B extra was spent every year ensuring that every child in the US had access to decent education. Just imagine how much extra the US would get from a more skilled workforce, how much could be saved in the prison system as a result, how much healthcare costs would decrease.

If 200 billion makes such a difference, why not raise taxes and spent it anyway? Military spending is not preventing that. The US used to spend a higher percentage of their GDP on defense during nearly every year from 1940 to the mid-90s, so they can clearly sustain the current levels of spending.

If people currently are not willing to raise taxes in return for more education or healthcare, why should they change their minds once military spending is lower? You can't just assume "if we cut spending on X, there will be more money for Y". If there is not enough political support for Y, then cutting X will not create that support.
Ghostbear wrote:Where I do disagree on this is the overuse of our military on the global stage- that does negatively impact the lives of quite a few people- either through being involved directly in the conflicts (probably works out about 500k-1 million people for Iraq & Afghanistan), or through being the friends and families of those people. Now, those are the people affected by the military campaigns, not the spending- but the military campaigns are, in my eyes, the direct result of said military spending. To repeat my previous point, the government has grown to seeing the military as a hammer, and all the world's problems as nails.

Sure, US military force is bad for loads of people worldwide. No disagreement there. The question is, why does the US have this amount of force anyway? Because it is beneficial to lots of Americans? Because it is beneficial to some small but powerful cliques in the US? Because Americans (both powerful and ordinary) are mistaken about the benefits? Reality is probably a bit of all three.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:30 pm UTC

Plus people in Britain (from what I've seen) tend to be more 'it's his time' than 'spend everything keeping my terminal grandfather alive and in pain another month!'

Seriously, that's probably the biggest reason US healthcare is so expensive.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby kiklion » Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:49 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Plus people in Britain (from what I've seen) tend to be more 'it's his time' than 'spend everything keeping my terminal grandfather alive and in pain another month!'

Seriously, that's probably the biggest reason US healthcare is so expensive.


I have seen this as well, and it infuriates me to no end. It is why my father and I have each other as our 'healthcare power of attorney' because neither of us would want to see our family destroyed by poverty due to dragging out a painful existence, and we know the others in our family wouldn't be able to make that decision.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:52 pm UTC

Deep_Thought wrote:It saddens me to say this, but I don't see China treading this path anytime soon. While I highly doubt they would ever directly threaten America, there are plenty of other potential flashpoints that they would be interested in if America was ever distracted enough. Taiwan is the most obvious, but there's the looming possibility of fights over land and resources elsewhere as well.

Oh, no doubt there- I don't consider it likely, but then again, many things that are unlikely do end up happening; it'd just take a sufficiently charismatic and competent figure to bring it about. Nixon almost single-handedly normalized relations between the US and China initially- I suspect many people back then thought of them and Russia as eternal enemies. Taiwan would be a sticking point, but eventually all the powerful Chinese people that consider Taiwan theirs- and remember a time when it was- will die off. Some of those that replace them will feel the same, but not all, and so on and so on. We could end up with a Falklands or Gibraltar esque situation, but I suspect that it's something they'll grow to accept, if only because they'll have to- even ignoring the US, the rest of East Asia would probably react quite poorly to a conquest of Taiwan. And the US will always have nukes to back up our promises to them- we won't sacrifice SF for Taiwan, but China won't sacrifice Shanghai or Hong Kong for it either.

Deep_Thought wrote:The UK was pretty much flat-out broke after WW2. The decision to introduce the NHS wasn't seen as something that we got because military spending came down, but more as a reward for winning the war. It shocked many people as I understand it. I suspect the key was that back then medical treatment was far cheaper, as all the wonderful and wonderfully expensive technology we use today hadn't been invented, so it wasn't that much of an incremental cost (this is inference on my part, I have no citation).

My understanding from my reading on the matter- and I could be wrong- was that the UK government feared that cutting the military spending with nothing to fill it in would destroy their already fragile post-war economy, so they made the NHS to fill up some of the gap, as a new "great works" project. I doubt they expected it to be as popular as it ended up being, and I believe it wasn't talked about much publicly before they decided on it, so I wouldn't be surprised if many people were shocked by it.

Zamfir wrote:If people currently are not willing to raise taxes in return for more education or healthcare, why should they change their minds once military spending is lower? You can't just assume "if we cut spending on X, there will be more money for Y". If there is not enough political support for Y, then cutting X will not create that support.

I think this is a hope for a double-pass, at least on my part (can't speak for CorruptUser)- if we can muster up the legislative support to cut military spending, then we can hope that we'd have the same legislative support to redirect that funding to education or healthcare or research. Raising taxes is completely anathema to the republican party right now (the reasons for such, and the merits, or lack thereof, better saved for a different topic), so the support for raising taxes for those services- even if it exists, or could be made to exist- won't be there legislatively. Redirecting funds, however, is very acceptable to both parties, if they can be convinced to accept cutting funds to something else.

Zamfir wrote:Sure, US military force is bad for loads of people worldwide. No disagreement there. The question is, why does the US have this amount of force anyway? Because it is beneficial to lots of Americans? Because it is beneficial to some small but powerful cliques in the US? Because Americans (both powerful and ordinary) are mistaken about the benefits? Reality is probably a bit of all three.

I agree that it's probably a bit of all three, but I suspect it's also a fourth- a historical trend that exacerbated itself over the years. Having an oversized military made a lot more sense during the Cold War than it does today- perhaps not in a practical manner, but based off of what people actually believed the Soviets were willing to do, it wasn't so crazy. The people who make the decisions about our military, or for funding the military all grew up during that era, so they'll have a similar mentality. It was only last year, I believe, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had zero members who had served during Vietnam. That would still leave another 15-20 years (assuming a linear trend, and depending on how strictly you define things) before it will be made up of members who did not serve during the Cold War.

Many members of congress and the various presidents will be the same- politicians are notoriously quite a bit older than the population average; a senator that just died recently was old enough to have been part of the KKK before doing such was an automatic political death sentence, Obama is considered a very young president but he's already in his 50's and grew up during the Cold War, both major party candidates in 2004 were in or "dodged" Vietnam. The average member of congress is ~60 years old. Just as the military will be lead by people applying experience from an era where a larger military might have made sense, the government will be made up the same types of people.

Old mentalities die slowly. In the end, the people that make these decisions are just that: people- their opinions on how the military should run will be determined by their experiences, no matter how incompatible those experiences are with the modern situation.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby omgryebread » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:59 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:To me, the citizens of Canada, or the UK, or Germany, or Japan, and so on- they are getting a far better deal. Maybe the rich and powerful in their nations aren't- I don't rightly know, and truth be told, I don't particularly care; if I had to concern myself with which geopolitical treaties benefited the rich and wealthy the most, it would hopefully be because I was one of them. If we couldn't bully their governments into occasionally enacting trade deals that favor our corporate interests? Sure, it might skim some money off the top of the economy, but I expect it wouldn't be enough of a hit to undo the military spending cuts that would accompany such.
That's probably the best summation of the line of thought in the thread I disagree with most.

Firstly, spending is not a zero-sum game. If we spent less on defending Canada, it's not entirely clear that we'd gain 100% of that back in value. Even assuming Canada matched the support we withdrew, we would still take a hit in value, since Canada would be able to spend less on other things, which would indirectly hurt our economy. Yes, we'd gain overall, but it wouldn't be totally proportional to the decreased spending.

Canada though is an easy case. I can think of three situations in which it's not so easy. South Korea is one. If we spent less on defending South Korea, it's pretty clear they'd need to spend a lot more on defense. That would mean less on improving their economy. Their economy is already very good, so that's not a huge issue in the immediate future, but with Korea, it's best to assume their economy will have an inevitable financial crisis. South Korea should be spending on their economy like it's worse than it is right now to prepare for reunification. For plenty of reasons, a strong Korean economy is good for us.

The next is highly assymetric situations, like Taiwan vs. China, Eastern Europe vs. Russia, Israel vs. the whole world, and even more hypothetical situations like India vs. Pakistan and India vs. China. Especially on the first of those, we don't really have a side, but I'd like to think our strong military presence is somewhat of a discouragement to starting large scale wars at all. Taiwan cannot match China's military no matter what they do. Not defending Taiwan (explicitly, by providing arms, and implicitly, by being super strong and having forces in East Asia) would not be forcing Taiwan to spend more, it would be giving up Taiwan entirely.

Finally, there's peacekeeping. Having a relatively stable Africa is good for the entire world, including us. No sub-Saharan country besides South Africa has the money to keep itself secure. The AU is starting to fill the peacekeeping role, and we should encourage it, but it cannot and at this point, will not, provide the level of security the international community (read: America and Friends) can. For example, the support we give Uganda in fighting the LRA is good for Uganda, which is good for the regional security, which is good for the entire world, including America.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Deep_Thought » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:57 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:My understanding from my reading on the matter- and I could be wrong- was that the UK government feared that cutting the military spending with nothing to fill it in would destroy their already fragile post-war economy, so they made the NHS to fill up some of the gap, as a new "great works" project.

I was not aware of this, I will investigate further (When I say will, I mean maybe. If I remember. When I get the time. Etc.) Thanks!

omgryebread wrote:Firstly, spending is not a zero-sum game. If we spent less on defending Canada, it's not entirely clear that we'd gain 100% of that back in value.

I think you may be confusing spending and the economy as a whole here. The US might not gain 100% back in value, but it also might gain far more. By spending so much on defence the US Government ensures that a large part of the US economy is dedicated to producing weapons. If you cut that spending, the people employed and raw materials used might end up put to better uses, like building cars or medical equipment or TVs or whatever. They might also end up unemployed and unused. It's very hard to exactly predict what would happen here. Canada, or whoever else, might end up buying US arms so not much might change at all.

omgryebread wrote:with Korea, it's best to assume their economy will have an inevitable financial crisis. South Korea should be spending on their economy like it's worse than it is right now to prepare for reunification.

Huh? Why exactly is it inevitable that Korea will have a financial crisis? At least more so than any other capitalist country? Reunification is not a sure thing, even in the long term, as the implicit costs terrify the hell out of the South.

omgryebread wrote:Especially on the first of those, we don't really have a side...Taiwan cannot match China's military no matter what they do. Not defending Taiwan...would be giving up Taiwan entirely.

I disagree strongly with your first point. The US chose long ago that it was on Taiwan's side. Going back on that now would be a huge loss of face and lead other nations to seriously think about whether they can depend on the US for defence. As to the second, right now China would find it pretty hard to take Taiwan by force because, as I understand it, they do not currently have a suitable amphibious assault fleet that could land sufficient numbers of troops on Taiwan. But, in the long term, you are certainly correct.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:08 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:Firstly, spending is not a zero-sum game. If we spent less on defending Canada, it's not entirely clear that we'd gain 100% of that back in value. Even assuming Canada matched the support we withdrew, we would still take a hit in value, since Canada would be able to spend less on other things, which would indirectly hurt our economy. Yes, we'd gain overall, but it wouldn't be totally proportional to the decreased spending.

Sure, we might get less back in savings than we were spending, but we'd still be getting something back- I don't see this as much of a refutation. Gaining overall is still gaining overall.

omgryebread wrote:Canada though is an easy case. I can think of three situations in which it's not so easy. South Korea is one. If we spent less on defending South Korea, it's pretty clear they'd need to spend a lot more on defense. That would mean less on improving their economy. Their economy is already very good, so that's not a huge issue in the immediate future, but with Korea, it's best to assume their economy will have an inevitable financial crisis. South Korea should be spending on their economy like it's worse than it is right now to prepare for reunification. For plenty of reasons, a strong Korean economy is good for us.

I highly doubt there is going to be any Korean unification. If there is, South Korea will almost certainly not be able to pull it off on their own, even absent any military spending on their behalf- Germany still hasn't solved all of its reunifcation problems yet, after 20 years, despite their economies and populations being far less different than North & South Korea's are from each other. All of that aside: why should the US be indirectly paying for Korean Reunification?

omgryebread wrote:Finally, there's peacekeeping. Having a relatively stable Africa is good for the entire world, including us. No sub-Saharan country besides South Africa has the money to keep itself secure. The AU is starting to fill the peacekeeping role, and we should encourage it, but it cannot and at this point, will not, provide the level of security the international community (read: America and Friends) can. For example, the support we give Uganda in fighting the LRA is good for Uganda, which is good for the regional security, which is good for the entire world, including America.

If it's so good for the entire world, then the entire world can help pay for it. The US can pay our share, and so can the EU, and China, and India, and Russia, and north Africa, and everyone else. If some of them don't see it as worth it, then the rest can band together to pick up the slack, if it's still worth it to them.

I don't think Africa is a particularly good counterpoint overall though- it is my understanding that France, at least, also heavily involves itself in peacekeeping in Africa- it's a great example of how the world can get by just fine without the US handling everything military for them.

omgryebread wrote:The next is highly assymetric situations, like Taiwan vs. China, Eastern Europe vs. Russia, Israel vs. the whole world, and even more hypothetical situations like India vs. Pakistan and India vs. China. Especially on the first of those, we don't really have a side, but I'd like to think our strong military presence is somewhat of a discouragement to starting large scale wars at all. Taiwan cannot match China's military no matter what they do. Not defending Taiwan (explicitly, by providing arms, and implicitly, by being super strong and having forces in East Asia) would not be forcing Taiwan to spend more, it would be giving up Taiwan entirely.

First, lowered military spending wouldn't amount to giving up on Taiwan- I have pointed out (several times) that even a dramatic reduction would still allow the US to meet most of it's global goals. Even in the worst case scenario, the US still has nukes, and can easily say "touch Taiwan and the world goes to shit". Crazy? Sure, but that's not a bluff many countries will willing attempt to call. Taiwan could easily develop their own nukes as well- China would be forced (out of pure self preservation) to leave them alone after that- and it wouldn't cost us a dime either! Furthermore, Taiwan doesn't need to fend off the entire Chinese military- it just needs to make it cost prohibitive for China to attack them.

But, before you go and quote snipe that to off topic land: "It would be giving up Taiwan entirely" And? So what if we give up on Taiwan. If they can't keep themselves safe, and the rest of their allies aren't willing to chip in to keep them safe if the US isn't able to handle all of it- then I'm fine with that. The rest of the world isn't helpless, and can take care of themselves without the US to tie its shoelaces for it. Actions have consequences, and I'm completely willing to accept the global consequences of a weaker US military- you paint far too much of a doom and gloom scenario for such, I feel, but even if that doom and gloom is true, you know what? I'm OK with it. Why? Partly because the US will not be able to maintain the world's policeman role indefinitely- no nation has stayed at the top of the world without drifting back down eventually. It is better to have the rest of the world fill the vacuum left by a weaker US military now, in a controlled and known manner, than to have it happen in a chaotic manner.

You seem to be assuming I'm arguing for complete isolation, which I am not- cutting the US military in half would still leave us as the most powerful armed nation in the world. A lot of good can still be accomplished with that- we just couldn't butt into every conflict that interests us willy-nilly. Which is exactly what I want- Iraq & Afghanistan were fuckups- a combination of not being necessary and not being properly planned out. A weaker military could still handle those conflicts (simultaneously even!), but would be forced to ask "Do we need to be involved here?" and afterwards "What do we need to accomplish here, and how long can we afford to stay to accomplish that?" instead of saying "Well, if it goes bad, it doesn't matter, because we can still dominate the rest of the world militarily". Nobody bothered thinking through those conflicts because they had no pressing need to do so. Limitations can often bring out many great ideas, and the lack of limitations can lead to intellectual laziness.

In short: A dramatically reduced US military can still accomplish our important goals around the world- protecting NATO, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, ensuring regional peace in violent areas, and helping out our allies- and all our current oversized military accomplishes is some concessions out of our allies (that doesn't seem to help the average citizen much), and causing the US government to be overly willing to use the military to solve problems. We wouldn't need to worry about our ability to protect our allies until we started cutting the military down to something like 1/4 or 1/8 its current size- even then, it would still be stupidly powerful, and capable of protecting many of them or involving itself in global important global conflicts. If you see involvement in global affairs as necessary- fine, but you need to attack *this* point, and argue that a dramatically reduced military (along with military build up at our allies) could not handle these matters, because this what I was originally talking about with the quote of mine, if you go back far enough.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Deep_Thought » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:29 pm UTC

While I do agree with you in general Ghostbear, it is worth remembering that long periods of "World Peace" in the past have been associated with one dominant player who has a military that absolutely dwarfs anyone else. Hence the terms Pax Romana, and perhaps more relevant Pax Britannica.

It might be possible that the world can still be relatively peaceful if other militaries pick up the slack of reduced US spending. History tends to suggest otherwise, but on the other hand history didn't have nukes or a world economy that's so interdependent that if one factory in Thailand gets flooded the price of hard-drives everywhere starts rising.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:53 pm UTC

Deep_Thought wrote:While I do agree with you in general Ghostbear, it is worth remembering that long periods of "World Peace" in the past have been associated with one dominant player who has a military that absolutely dwarfs anyone else. Hence the terms Pax Romana, and perhaps more relevant Pax Britannica.

It might be possible that the world can still be relatively peaceful if other militaries pick up the slack of reduced US spending. History tends to suggest otherwise, but on the other hand history didn't have nukes or a world economy that's so interdependent that if one factory in Thailand gets flooded the price of hard-drives everywhere starts rising.

And the ends of those periods have been overwhelmingly violent- Pax Britannia ended with two world wars, and included several civil wars and bloody revolutions on the side. The fall of Rome wasn't too pretty either. Pax Americana will end eventually too, and if our allies are still reliant on us, then they will have a very real chance of being ended in the process themselves. If they are self sufficient, then they will have a very real chance of surviving the process.

NATO members would probably survive- there aren't any real looming threats in their vicinity, but a collapse of Pax Americana would likely lead to either a Chinese or Indian supremacy (other options: Arab mega state, resurgent Russia, Brazil, or even Indonesia, perhaps others as well!), which could pose a very real threat to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and so on. If those nations have not figured out how to fend for themselves with the US out of the picture, then they could be in a very real danger, and it could be hugely violent for everyone. And so long as they are able to lean on the US as much as they are, they won't be able to figure out how to defend themselves without us either- it's the easiest path available to them, and humans are very poor about planning for the future when they can be lazy now (e.g. ipv6 implementation, oil replacement, IE6 migration...).

Further, by over-relying on the US to provide that defense, they are slowly weakening the US, and accelerating the end of Pax Americana, while still not preparing themselves for that eventuality. I want world peace as much as anyone, but relying on one super military to handle it is unsustainable. I do feel that by slowly weaning the US' allies off of its military, the end result will be better for just about everyone involved. To repeat- a controlled descent is much safer than a chaotic dive. Imagine the world's reaction if, out of nowhere, China did invade Taiwan, and the US was incapable (or perhaps, unwilling) to protect them: the resultant chaos would be huge- Japan & South Korea could very well start nuclear programs overnight in that scenario, while being forced to dramatically increase their military spending in order to perform a quick buildup. If they know ahead of time, they'll have years, or even decades, to adjust- better for their economy and ours.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ibid » Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:42 pm UTC

I still think you're underestimating the value of your military, particularly with regards to allies.

Consider for example the case of "more efficient use of raw materials". You may have heard of the controversial Keystone Pipeline. Thing is, while that project isn't popular (anywhere, near as I can tell), it is indicative of a certain trend. That is, Canadian oil flows nigh exclusively to the states. Similarly the U.S. takes the lion's share for various metals (nickel, copper, cobalt, iron, etc.) and medical isotopes, as well as uranium. In part, of course, this is due to the fact that the U.S. is a huge, easily accessible market. However, this is not the whole story. Many other buyers (China and Brazil in particular) have expressed interest, and Chinese investment in Canadian resources has shot up recently. Nonetheless, the government tends to look more favourably upon infrastructure (such as the Keystone Pipeline) designed to transport materials to the U.S., than it does to infrastructure designed to transport to coastal areas, where they can be sold to whomever bids highest. This is a direct, obvious result of the fact that for many years the United States has provided the security necessary for our economy to prosper. In frat-boy terms, we owe you a solid. In the long term a turn away from providing that safety will most likely result in an increase in materials costs, as other nations orient their infrastructure more according to markets rather than according to a pro-american foreign policy.

Now, as I said before, in recent years you certainly have spent WAY too much on it, and essentially gone haring off in directions nobody wants. Therefore, I think the reductions proposed are entirely reasonable and justified. But reducing to half over a relatively short period? It will be seen as the fall of the American dominance not only militarily, but economically and diplomatically. Indeed, it may well result in a backlash as other countries feel the United States has suddenly stopped providing services, but the infrastructure for other countries to pay their share has already been built, and the service 'paid for'. Reductions? Certainly, everybody thinks that is entirely reasonable. Sudden withdrawal from your role providing an umbrella? Don't expect the same level of pre-eminence when other countries are deciding where to orient their economies.

In short your attitude of "other countries should just deal with it" fails to take into account that other countries would have to overhaul much of their infrastructure and economic policy which was designed specifically towards U.S. interests. The world isn't free-loading off your greatness.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:07 pm UTC

Ibid wrote:Consider for example the case of "more efficient use of raw materials". You may have heard of the controversial Keystone Pipeline. Thing is, while that project isn't popular (anywhere, near as I can tell), it is indicative of a certain trend. That is, Canadian oil flows nigh exclusively to the states. Similarly the U.S. takes the lion's share for various metals (nickel, copper, cobalt, iron, etc.) and medical isotopes, as well as uranium. In part, of course, this is due to the fact that the U.S. is a huge, easily accessible market. However, this is not the whole story. Many other buyers (China and Brazil in particular) have expressed interest, and Chinese investment in Canadian resources has shot up recently. Nonetheless, the government tends to look more favourably upon infrastructure (such as the Keystone Pipeline) designed to transport materials to the U.S., than it does to infrastructure designed to transport to coastal areas, where they can be sold to whomever bids highest. This is a direct, obvious result of the fact that for many years the United States has provided the security necessary for our economy to prosper. In frat-boy terms, we owe you a solid. In the long term a turn away from providing that safety will most likely result in an increase in materials costs, as other nations orient their infrastructure more according to markets rather than according to a pro-american foreign policy.

The US military could be reduced many, many times over and still be sufficient to meet the defense needs of the US & Canada by themselves.

Ibid wrote:Now, as I said before, in recent years you certainly have spent WAY too much on it, and essentially gone haring off in directions nobody wants. Therefore, I think the reductions proposed are entirely reasonable and justified. But reducing to half over a relatively short period?

Where did I ever say a short period? Nothing happens overnight, and I have never intended for them to cut the military down in half right now, or overnight- such a reduction would have to be done gradually, perhaps over a decade, or even longer!

Ibid wrote:It will be seen as the fall of the American dominance not only militarily, but economically and diplomatically. Indeed, it may well result in a backlash as other countries feel the United States has suddenly stopped providing services, but the infrastructure for other countries to pay their share has already been built, and the service 'paid for'. Reductions? Certainly, everybody thinks that is entirely reasonable. Sudden withdrawal from your role providing an umbrella? Don't expect the same level of pre-eminence when other countries are deciding where to orient their economies.

In short your attitude of "other countries should just deal with it" fails to take into account that other countries would have to overhaul much of their infrastructure and economic policy which was designed specifically towards U.S. interests. The world isn't free-loading off your greatness.

This part of your post leads me to wonder if you read my prior post at all- I have specifically addressed this in response to Deep Thought. They will need to adjust to this eventually, regardless of if they- or the US- want to. It would be better (for everyone) for that to happen in a controlled fashion. It will happen eventually no matter what- no country can stay at the top of the world indefinitely. You have misconstrued my argument if you think I'm saying we just go ahead and say "Oh, by the way, Taiwan? Yeah, we're leaving in two weeks, sorry." out of nowhere. If all you think we can't do it suddenly, then I agree with you. If you think we can't do it at all, then I disagree. I'm not an isolationist.

I have also gone into some detail on how I think even said dramatic reduction would still allow the US to meet most, if not all, of it's global defense obligations. So, no, I don't think I'm at all underestimating the value of a military or allies. We can accomplish the goals we need to with our allies without having a $700 billion a year military, or even one at $500 billion a year. A $700 billion a year military just lets the government be lazy when deciding if a conflict is worth it, and lets all the defense contractors stay happy with their giant piles of money, while letting our many allies save money on their own defense. I have no interest in maintaining any of those, because it does not benefit me or many of my fellow citizens in any amount comparable to its cost.

Also, sorry if I have seemed rude in this response- I don't intend to, but I just feel I've already addressed these points in some way or another, so that might have given an unintended rude "tint" to the post.

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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ibid » Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:36 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:The US military could be reduced many, many times over and still be sufficient to meet the defense needs of the US & Canada by themselves.


Yes, but I was only using Canada because it's the example I know best. It's more about meeting the needs of every country who has done the same thing. So instead of U.S. and Canada, it's U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico, etc., etc..


Ghostbear wrote:
Ibid wrote:Now, as I said before, in recent years you certainly have spent WAY too much on it, and essentially gone haring off in directions nobody wants. Therefore, I think the reductions proposed are entirely reasonable and justified. But reducing to half over a relatively short period?

Where did I ever say a short period? Nothing happens overnight, and I have never intended for them to cut the military down in half right now, or overnight- such a reduction would have to be done gradually, perhaps over a decade, or even longer!


A decade is a fairly short timeframe here actually. Keep in mind that the shift in power TO the U.S. is generally thought to have occurred over the course of 50 years, and that there has been 50 years of infrastructure built since the U.S. began being the main provider of those services. Even if you are actually advocating such a slow withdrawal, then this is a brilliant first step.

Ghostbear wrote:This part of your post leads me to wonder if you read my prior post at all- I have specifically addressed this in response to Deep Thought. They will need to adjust to this eventually, regardless of if they- or the US- want to. It would be better (for everyone) for that to happen in a controlled fashion. It will happen eventually no matter what- no country can stay at the top of the world indefinitely. You have misconstrued my argument if you think I'm saying we just go ahead and say "Oh, by the way, Taiwan? Yeah, we're leaving in two weeks, sorry." out of nowhere. If all you think we can't do it suddenly, then I agree with you. If you think we can't do it at all, then I disagree. I'm not an isolationist.

I have also gone into some detail on how I think even said dramatic reduction would still allow the US to meet most, if not all, of it's global defense obligations. So, no, I don't think I'm at all underestimating the value of a military or allies. We can accomplish the goals we need to with our allies without having a $700 billion a year military, or even one at $500 billion a year. A $700 billion a year military just lets the government be lazy when deciding if a conflict is worth it, and lets all the defense contractors stay happy with their giant piles of money, while letting our many allies save money on their own defense. I have no interest in maintaining any of those, because it does not benefit me or many of my fellow citizens in any amount comparable to its cost.


The idea that "it's gonna happen someday so why wait" could also be applied to the extinction of the human race. Just because something will eventually fail does not mean it is a good idea to start screwing it over right now. And like I said, I agree that defence contractors make too much money, and that the over-large military has either been the cause of, or the result of, a congress that went war-happy. My main disagreement is that letting your allies save money on their own defence has not benefited you or your fellow citizens. I believe Zamfir said it best when he mentioned that if you have cuts on the level you're talking about, most of your relations will look like your relations with France. Not terrible, but hardly the U.S. centric model many places currently follow.

Ghostbear wrote:Also, sorry if I have seemed rude in this response- I don't intend to, but I just feel I've already addressed these points in some way or another, so that might have given an unintended rude "tint" to the post.


No offense taken, it's a subtle difference. Deep_Thought has been arguing for the military effects, I've been arguing for the economic and diplomatic effects, and in particular attacking your premise that the U.S. has been subsidizing the rest of the world.
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Re: Smaller US military (yay!)

Postby Ghostbear » Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:08 am UTC

Ibid wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:The US military could be reduced many, many times over and still be sufficient to meet the defense needs of the US & Canada by themselves.

Yes, but I was only using Canada because it's the example I know best. It's more about meeting the needs of every country who has done the same thing. So instead of U.S. and Canada, it's U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico, etc., etc..

Fair point, that was a poor rebuttal on my behalf. If you'll forgive me though, I'm going to have to try to come back to this specific point later (hopefully after I've gotten some sleep- bed time soon). Considering my poor response before, I want to be sure I've thought about it more before I use my mulligan. I think some of my comments at the very bottom might encapsulate a response to this actually, not sure. I'll see what I think later.

Ibid wrote:A decade is a fairly short timeframe here actually. Keep in mind that the shift in power TO the U.S. is generally thought to have occurred over the course of 50 years, and that there has been 50 years of infrastructure built since the U.S. began being the main provider of those services. Even if you are actually advocating such a slow withdrawal, then this is a brilliant first step.

I disagree on this- just because the reliance has been built over over the course of many decades doesn't mean it can't be weaned off over a much shorter time scale- especially as I'm not talking about complete self reliance. I'm talking about something along the lines of France having two aircraft carriers instead of one- it'd take time to get the budget needed for it to pass, and then time to build it, and then time to get it through sea trials, but not anywhere near 50 years (for comparison, the Gerald R. Ford class carriers for the US will take about six years to build the first ship, with many all new design features) . Five years, optimistically, could be plausible I feel, though not likely that quick either. Closer to a decade would seem reasonable, and probably no longer than 15 years or so.

Ibid wrote:The idea that "it's gonna happen someday so why wait" could also be applied to the extinction of the human race.

I strongly disagree on this comparison- the extinction of the human race is highly unlikely to happen anytime during our lifetimes or the foreseeable future (essentially only with one of those near-asteroids having an actual collision with Terra or a nuclear war). In contrast, the end of Pax Americana is very capable of happening during the next 100 years. The human race has shown itself- in a collective sense- to be abjectly terrible at preparing for the future. Weaning the western aligned world off of the US' military would help prepare them for this eventuality, lowering the expected chaos and violence for it's occurrence.

Ibid wrote:I believe Zamfir said it best when he mentioned that if you have cuts on the level you're talking about, most of your relations will look like your relations with France. Not terrible, but hardly the U.S. centric model many places currently follow.

Maybe we just have different views on the world, but I, personally, would be 100% fine with most of the US' alliances being along the lines of our current relations with France. Even absent the military part of our alliance, the US would likely maintain very impressive relations with Canada and the UK (and perhaps Australia and New Zealand, though I think they'd be hurt somewhat more by the lack of military cooperation- which, again, isn't what I'm calling for either- I'm not an isolationist). The allies that would likely be lost would be ones like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Ibid wrote:Just because something will eventually fail does not mean it is a good idea to start screwing it over right now. And like I said, I agree that defence contractors make too much money, and that the over-large military has either been the cause of, or the result of, a congress that went war-happy. My main disagreement is that letting your allies save money on their own defence has not benefited you or your fellow citizens.

I had to rearrange this to the bottom of my reply because it seems to me that this is the crutch of our disagreement, and thus deserves to be the bit to stand out the most (actually, I'm somewhat tempted to just delete everything above this and just focus on this one bit). This is something I do very strongly feel was addressed with Zamfir, but to rehash (and perhaps we'll find some new sticking points! :)); I have never denied that there are benefits to the US for subsidizing our allies' defense. There are boons- geopolitical (Saudi Arabia doesn't fuck with Israel), economic (the UK, among others, intends to use F-35 for their next fighter jet), trade (many nations now have stronger copyright protection that laws favored by the US) or others (I can't think of something that doesn't fall into those categories at the moment, but I'm sure there are many examples)- but I very much do not feel that the vast majority of US citizens are getting back anything comparable to what we are paying for it. I pay with taxes, with stress (stress isn't the best word here, but "worries" doesn't work any better either- basically the list of things I gave in the first paragraph here), and with political and cultural shifts. That monetary cost doesn't come out of a vacuum, and very much impacts me through some combination of worse social services, regulatory funding, higher taxes and greater sovereign debt.

Does the US, collectively, gain overall from this situation? Perhaps, but I expect a lot of it is just latent attitudes that have not gone away- some rich, powerful and/or influential people might be getting a good return on this investment, but not I. I do not feel I (nor most citizens) benefit from this overall economically, and I do not feel we benefit from it overall socially, and I do not feel we benefit from it overall politically. Some might, but on average, I very much believe it does not work in our favor. There is a huge opportunity cost to that military budget- what could the US do with an extra $350 billion a year to work with in the budget? Even the laziest action- writing a check to every man, woman, and child for $1,000 (with still money left over for another 40 million people- and that's including the whole population, not just citizens)- would be rather impressive (and a nice first step towards a guaranteed minimum income!). Due to that, you can't look at just the boons that we avail ourselves to with that military, you need to determine what the US could be getting with the same amount of money elsewhere.

Also- I still stand by my earlier statement that even in a situation with a huge US military reduction, the US could still meet its defense and alliance goals. So long as that is true- and I only recall Zamfir and Vaniver disagreeing with me on it at all- all of the above is moot, because it wouldn't come into play anyway. A $350 billion military is going to be a very capable one, and with smart cuts (as opposed to the dumb cuts I hypothesized) could very well retain the majority of our force projection capability.This is basically the central part of the argument, so I think it's worth reinforcing on my end. I want to shift some more of the burden to our allies, but not all of it. In the end, I am willing to sacrifice those "boons" if need be in order to accomplish those reductions, but I do not think huge reductions would require that sacrifice. It is a small but important distinction.


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