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When Was The Last Time That Ground Wars Actually Did The USA Any Good?

With an article like this, I can foresee outraged comments coming in, insisting upon apologies, demanding to know what I think gives me the right to question the courage of American soldiers who put their lives on the line, and so on.

For generations, such bluster has been a favorite tactic of those favoring massive military spending. Mixing up compassion for the struggles of individual soldiers with economic indulgence for the military as a whole has been a very effective tactic, stunting what should be a vigorous public debate about what we all pay to keep the military as huge as it is – a debate that should be especially strong at this point in the year, right after Tax Day.

Support Our Troops is not a coherent foreign policy, however, and it certainly isn’t a military strategy. It’s a cheap political maneuver of misdirection, a nonsensical circular argument that America needs a big military with lots of soldiers because America needs to support its soldiers.

It pulls at the nationalist heartstrings, though, and so yesterday, Americans witnessed members of Congress trot out the familiar Support Our Troops lines in favor of a new piece of legislation, the POSTURE Act, which would increase the number of ground troops in the Army and Marine Corps by 67,000 soldiers from currently planned levels.

we don't need a big armyU.S. Representative Renee Ellmers sounded the call to panic, warning that, “We are on the track to have the smallest size Army since the end of World War II!”

Why does the United States now need to have an army of ground soldiers as big as it had during World War II? What use do we have for such an expensive government program?

Over the last few decades, a large ground army has done very little practical good for the United States. In Afghanistan, American soldiers on the ground fought for years against the Taliban – and failed to defeat that much smaller armed force. Just today, the Taliban launched an attack in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan.

In Iraq, a large invasion by American soldiers was unleashed to deal with a security threat that actually didn’t exist at all – mythical huge arsenals of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Ground soldiers stayed in Iraq for years and years, and with their efforts only ended up provoking the creation of the Islamic State.

America’s big armies were completely impotent on September 11, 2001. They were powerless to stop the terrorist attacks of that day.

U.S. Representative Steve Russell rose to the floor of the House to insist that we need large armies of ground troops because we’re likely to need them to go fight against the Russians, the Chinese, and the Islamic State: “We see Russians reigniting the cold war, Iranians destabilizing the Middle East, North Koreans firing nuclear missiles with the aim to range the United States, and Islamic jihadist death-cult extremists committing acts of barbarity akin to the Middle Ages! We also see tensions rising with our trading partner, China, and the seeds of potential unrest in the Pacific! What does the President and this Congress intend to do if we do not act to prepare for this dangerous world?”

If the Shock and Awe of America’s big armies couldn’t even defeat the Taliban or stabilize Iraq after the invasion there, what hope would we have in using them in a ground war against Russia or China? What kind of crazy politician thinks we ought to be pursuing that strategy?

A crazy politician like Congressman Steve Knight, apparently. Representative Knight wants to grow the number of Americans soldiers so large that it could fight ground wars against both the Russians AND the Chinese – at the same time. Knight proposed the following test for American military readiness: “Can we fight on two fronts?”

To justify this extravagant militarism, Representative Chris Gibson swooped in with the Support Our Troops excuse. Soldiers suffer, he said, when the size of America’s armies shrinks. “All of this has impacts on families, it has impacts on traumatic brain injury potential, and also post-traumatic stress!” warned Gibson.

For the record, having a small army doesn’t create post-traumatic stress. Having a small army doesn’t create traumatic brain injuries. Having a small army doesn’t impact military families.

Sending soldiers off to fight in wars causes post-traumatic stress.

Sending soldiers off to fight in wars causes traumatic brain injuries.

Sending soldiers off to fight in wars impacts military families.

For decades, political leaders have been telling Americans that what we need to deal with the chaotic, violent aftermath of war is to wage more war. We sent ground soldiers off to battle with Iraqis in order to protect Big Oil, and then we got violent blowback. In response, we sent ground soldiers off to battle with Iraqis and Afghans, and now the world is seeing violent blowback from that.

Instead of building up armies that are the size of what the USA had during World War II, and sending them off to battle even more people, in even more nations, how about we try a different strategy this time?

How about, this time, instead of escalating our violent response, we choose not to indulge in a new round of war?

Really, the United States is not being invaded. There isn’t a single U.S. village under enemy occupation.

There are problems of violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, but those are problems that our last round of wars created. So, how about we stop digging the hole even deeper?

The reasonable policy is to deal with truly dangerous flareups where they occur, but put more work into political solutions that, bit by bit, diminish the violent echoes of our wasteful wars. The reasonable policy is to stop the aggressive militarism that’s created new enemies for the United States. The reasonable policy is to stop training so many Americans to kill and to be killed, and find more useful work for them instead.

Building a more peaceful foreign policy isn’t an insult to soldiers. It keeps them safe. Shrinking the size of our armies doesn’t hurt military families. It reunites them.

Acting tough is an easy posture for politicians to resort to when they’re up for re-election. We need political leaders who are wise enough not to take the easy path, and smart enough to see that our nation’s wars have caused more problems than they have solved.

A POSTURE Act from Congress doesn’t do anyone any good.

America needs less posing, and more critical thinking.

7 thoughts on “When Was The Last Time That Ground Wars Actually Did The USA Any Good?”

  1. Jon sanders says:

    I have often wondered why proponents of military spending increases never seem to address present defense spending levels and how THAT money is being used. Reports I have read from multiple sources indicate the U.S.’s defense spending is greater than the next several countries combined.

  2. ella says:

    It seems that one big problem is more that our existing military has old, out-dated weapons and machinery to work with. It was said that one reason the American war ship in the Baltic Sea did not react to the Russian planes buzzing them, was that they did not have aircraft that were worthy to fly the mission. For some reason maintaining equipment has gone by the wayside. Then again we have cut our military to the bare minimum since Obama has been in office and that is something that Obama is, for some reason, looking at now. But first, get the machinery repaired or replaced to save the lives of those who do go into combat. It would be so nice to actually have 20 years of peace.

    1. J Clifford says:

      Wait, Ella. Do you really think that the only problem with the war in Iraq was that the military had outdated equipment?

      Are you trying to suggest that if only the military had better equipment, the Taliban would have been defeated?


    2. Jon sanders says:

      Ella, I would be interested in your take on my comments above. WHERE is all the money we’re already spending on defense going? And why is the GOP take on the already-astronomical defense budget never discussed by those who simply want defense spending to take an even greater portion of our income than it does now?

  3. Jon sanders says:

    As a matter of interest, the overall defense budget in 2007 was $560BB. In 2016 the same budget item was $585BB. Even taking inflation into consideration, that’s a bunch of money. Certainly one would think that room could be found to maintain equipment in a reasonably good state of repair.

  4. Dave says:

    Peregrin, your argument is well made here and I completely agree. I would add that we will be bearing the expense of policing the world as long as both Democrats and Republicans run the country. The U.S. desperately needs a viable third party to challenge the militaristic designs of Washington, and the Dept. of Defense should be about just that — defense.

  5. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    Ground wars are things of the past. Back during the diesel age, they were the way to go. Then, the nuclear, cyber, and bio ages happened. Drone and air warfare is the current age of warfare. Airstrips rather than soldiers on the ground are how wars are conducted now. Countries like Iran, Iraq, Leabanon, Russia, and Syria get this new age of war. Even the EU and NATO get this. Unmanned drones have replaced soldiers and that is a good thing.

    I’m personally a non-interventionist, but I still recognize drones as a better option than soldiers for waging wars. I wished we didn’t have to go to all these unneeded, unecessary, counterproductive, worthless, harmful, shooting ourselves in the foot wars, but at least we should recognize not to go the brining a physical army to fight in the age of unmanned drone warfare is completely and utterly stupid.

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