DeceMber 1st, 2022 | DEVON KASH
The Myth Of American Military Might
The U.S. has lost a majority of its major military conflicts.
Had it not been for the
Manhattan Project and the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, American military might would have never been made into a
20th Century mythos. Since WW2, America's military victories have
been few and far between. Under a microscope, this brings into
question the world's misdirected belief in American superiority and
In August of 1945, two
nuclear detonations set the stage for the end of WW2 and the future
of America as a global superpower. Decades later, America would beat
the Soviets in the race to the Moon and nuclear armament would become
more common. Today, America is challenged by China, Russia and the
Middle East and nuclear proliferation is still a problem. Pax
Americana is ending, but the question of over-exaggerated military
prowess begs another question: was America's golden age driven by a
false perception of American military might and superiority?
had a golden age and both the Manhattan Project and the space race
are testaments to what was an age of greatness. However, in
hindsight, much of it was driven by the perception that America was
unstoppable as a military force in the world. The post-war boom of
the 1950s grew from the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding
America's new found military power and ability to ward off external
threats. By ending WW2, America won its seat at the table.
From then on, America
would build upon the idea that it was the leading global superpower,
but it would also learn the capitalistic benefits of warring for
By 1950, America found
itself in a new war between North and South Korea—a remnant of WW2.
The war ended in an armistice in 1953, but tensions between the two
would carry on forever afterwards. There is no telling if the South
would have successfully stopped the invasion without American
intervention, but the war can be considered successful from the
perspective that the North was stopped. This would be the last
successful U.S. intervention or war that Americans could take credit
for. From the perspective of resolving anything, North Korea is still
a threat in 2022.
After Korea, the
Vietnam war would start and stretch into 1977 and involve five U.S.
presidents. By 1973, after raging for almost twenty years, Americans
wanted out and morale was low. Americans finally withdrew from the
war and the U.S. Senate barred any further interventions from the
Nixon administration. The Vietnam war was eventually lost, Saigon
fell to communists and Americans were left weary of war. Prior to
that, both Kennedy and Johnson attempted to escalate the war, but
their efforts amounted to heavier casualties and more losses.
In 1961, Kennedy
sponsored the failed Bay Of Pigs invasion and further damaged
relations with the Soviet Union. After that, Johnson had a small
victory in the Dominican Civil War.
By the 1960s, the small
victories became less frequent. The Cambodian Civil War, defended by
the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Vietnam and France was a failure,
leading to another victory by communists.
In 1982, the U.S. and
allies launched a failed campaign in the Lebanon Civil War. Following
the failed intervention, the U.S., under Ronald Reagan, would go on
to launch a series of successful wars and invasions against weak
adversaries in Grenada and Libya. This would bolster America's faith
in its military power, but would aggravate tensions and hostilities
around the world for ages to come.
Reagan's joint invasion
of Granada was finished in a few days and resulted in only 19 U.S
casualties. Forces from Grenada and Cuba were significantly
outnumbered by U.S. forces, 7,300 to 1,900. In 1986, Reagan launched
a day-long bombing attack in Libya that was called a success after it
killed 40 Libyans. It was in response to a terrorist bombing in
Berlin that was blamed on Muammar Gaddafi.
In 1987, Reagan sank
several Iranian tankers in a “tanker war” in the Persian Gulf
between Iran and Iraq.
His predecessor, George
H.W. Bush, went on to wage a successful invasion of Panama,
out-gunning Panama's forces by 30,000 to 16,000. Panama's military
was poorly equipped, poorly trained and the invasion lasted one month
before U.S. forces captured and deposed Manuel Noriega with fewer
than 30 casualties. In the same year, 1990, Bush went on to defend
Kuwait from Iraq's invasion. After being criticized for waging an
illegal war based on false pretenses in Panama, Bush showed
reluctance in waging a full-scale invasion of Iraq.
The job would
eventually be completed by his son in 2003. The invasion lasted less
than two months and resulted with insurgents and ISIS taking control
of parts of Iraq under Barack Obama. Insurgency and bloody conflict
are recurrent in Iraq to this day and the war's results are
debatable, despite Bush's declaration of victory following the easy
defeat of Saddam Hussein's weak military. The U.S. had 139
casualties, Iraq had more than 14,000.
Before the second Bush,
Clinton joined Poland and Argentina in a successful effort to reverse
a coup in Haiti and then joined several allies against Yugoslavia in
1998 during the Kosovo war. In Kosovo, the U.S. lost 3 soldiers and
Yugoslavia lost more than 2,000—in Haiti, the U.S. had one
casualty, Haiti had more than 300. In both cases, the opponents were
heavily out-gunned by U.S. forces and allies.
More And Ongoing
intervention in Bosnia, largely viewed as a distraction from his own
sex scandal, was a failure and had no substantial result for the
region. America's war in Afghanistan was a failure that spanned
twenty years and ended with the country falling back under the
control of the Taliban. America's intervention in Yemen started in
2002 and is ongoing today, with 4,000 deaths and counting on the
In both Yemen and
Afghanistan, the opponents are poorly equipped and out-gunned, but
have managed to successfully ward off invaders and U.S. efforts to
stabilize the regions. The U.S. finally withdrew from Afghanistan in
The U.S. and its allies
have failed to bring peace to Somalia after 15 years of combat,
insurgency and civil war. Further American failures have mounted in
Syria following civil war and crisis, as well as with rising tensions
with Russia. The war in Syria has been ongoing since 2014.
America's “war on
terror” has continued to rage in Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Libya
without any meaningful and substantial results.
Post-911, the U.S. has
spent an estimated
$8 trillion on wars they have mostly lost, $2 trillion of which has
been spent in Afghanistan. More than half of the U.S. Department Of
Defense's budget is spent on paying contractors, and the Pentagon has
spent an estimated $14 trillion on building defences since the war in
Afghanistan, with one half of payments
to contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and
Adjusted for inflation,
the war in Vietnam cost the U.S. $1 trillion.
The human cost in
Afghanistan was 2,500 American serviceman, not including the more
than 3,800 U.S. civilians and contractors who died there. More than
47,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan and more than 4,600
civilians have been killed in Syria, more than 30,000 in Iraq, 150 in
Somalia and 200 in Yemen and Libya.
Not including all the
easy wins where opponents were heavily out-gunned by U.S. forces, the
U.S. has lost or retreated from 4 out of 6 major conflicts in the
past 100 years.
1990 Gulf War: Won
2003 Iraq War: Lost
(victory was falsely declared)
We can debate other
wars and their severity and whether they should count, but the major
conflicts listed above involved large countries, or conflicts with
significant firepower and forces on the ground that encompassed and
involved a whole nation. All of them lasted longer than one month.
The results of the
Korean War are debatable, as North Korea remains a significant
nuclear threat today and tensions have continued between the North
and South. The war was a success only from the perspective that it
stopped the North's invasion of the South. The war ended with an
armistice after a stalemate, without a significant military victory
by either side.
The Crumbling Myth
The myth of American
military might has faded, not only around the world, but among
American leaders. This is evident by Russia's moves against Ukraine
and America's reluctance to get involved in a conflict with Russia.
With Russia and China becoming more belligerent, the guise of
American superiority may crumble further, resulting in the eventual
end of the current world order.