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 military strength.
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?
Nonetheless, America 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 profit.
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.

Repeated Failures

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.

Easy Wins

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 Failures

Bill Clinton's 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 other side.
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 2021.
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.

The Costs

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 General Dynamics.
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.

The Scoreboard

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.

WW2: Won
Vietnam: Lost
Cambodia: Lost
1990 Gulf War: Won
Afghanistan: Lost
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.
December 2022


november 2022