America’s military power: global policing or paranoia?

Summary:  The world watches the tragedy of a great nation pouring its wealth down the toilet. America and our allies have an immense superiority over other nations by almost every metric, yet we live in fear. Why? Is it psychological projection or paranoia? See this story in pictures.

American Military Fist

As the world leader, we have set an example that other nations follow — seeking security through an arms race and military action rather than diplomacy. Our motives are obscure. This probably will not end well for us or the world.

World military expenditures

From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. See their summary and their detailed report.

World Military Expenditures

Who spends the most?

This is the conventional graph. It is grossly misleading. Nations fight by alliances. The US stands with the  France, UK, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Italy, Australia, and Israel. Plus, under some circumstance, Saudi Arabia. That is 55% (or 59%) of total military spending. The big baddies we are told to fear are China (13%) and Russia (4%). Neither are likely to have substantial allies in a war. Even combined – which at present seems unlikely – they are grossly outspent.

Money is not everything in war. There are other important factors. The other major factor is experience – in which the US and its allies have an even larger margin of superiority.

See the data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: their summary and their detailed report.

Top 15 Countries for Military Expenditures - 2016

What is the trend in US military spending?

Team Trump and the Republicans in Congress will bring US military spending up to that of the peak years of the war on terror, with our troops fully engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of this will be spent on equipment — the new F-35 fighter, the new B-21 long-range bomber, more and new atomic weapons, a massive expansion of the Navy, and a score of other programs.

See the big picture from DoD’s 2019 Budget Proposal. This explains why the news media overflows with stories about our evil enemies, and almost nothing about the dark aspects of America’s role in the world (e.g., see what our four decades of involvement in Afghanistan has done for its women).

Note: DoD’s numbers grossly understate our actual spending, much of which is in other accounts. For a more complete picture see America’s National Security Budget Nearing $1.2 Trillion at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

DoD historical spending

The sun never sets on America’s chain of bases

American Military Bases

What are we defending against?

“Mr. President, if that’s what you want there is only one way to get it. That is to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the country.”

— Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s advice to Truman about starting the Cold War. Truman did so in his famous speech on 12 March 1947. From Put yourself in Marshall’s place by James Warburg (he helped develop the US WWII propaganda programs).

We are told that Russia is an expansionist nation, with vague but evil intentions. Which is proven by the Russia’s border wars. We have forgotten, but Russia’s leaders remember, our promises not to expand into Eastern Europe as Russia withdrew from it (details here). Russia’s leaders have acted to maintain friendly relations with the nations on their marches — as the US has done throughout its history.

We have invaded Latin American neighbors and overthrown their governments at will — often installing brutal tyrants. Here is a list; most of these actions are shameful. Plus we have a long history of interfering in other nations’ elections. We created South Vietnam, supported its tyrannical government (fixed elections, etc), devastated both North and South with bombs and chemicals. Now our foe is a “partner” to whom we give military funding (see page 28 of the SecDef’s 2019 budget summary).

It takes hypocrisy on an epic scale to condemn Russia’s actions. It is a vivid example of the hypocrisy poisoning American politics.

As for China, their centuries-long history makes them look like pacifists by comparison with the history of America and the West. The exception is their conquest of Tibet in 1951 (Tibet has been part of China off-and-on since the end of the 9th century).

My guess is that the primary concern of both China and Russia is defense against the United States and its allies. We outgun them by almost every measure, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

We had an alliance with Libya, under which they stopped their development of nuclear weapons and destroyed their chemical weapons (details here). In return, western nations sponsored an insurrection that has wrecked the nation and brought jihadists to power. Its people enjoyed peace, stability, and prosperity. Now they have none of those.

With remarkably little provocation and using faked intelligence, we invaded and occupied Iraq. We attempted to install Ahmed Chalabi as a puppet leader. Our invasion destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure. The internal conflicts begun by our occupation still burn. We built “enduring bases” in Iraq from which to project power across the Middle East. Now those bases are mostly skeletons amidst the wreckage from the war.

Our leaders gave us another Big Lie as justification for invading Afghanistan. They never bothered to justify its occupation, or explained why the fantastic cost was worth the money and lives. Their descriptions of the gains are mostly more lies.

There is astonishingly little evidence to justify the new cold war which we have begun.

Why are we doing this?

“We see things not as they are, but as we are ourselves.”
— H. M. Tomlinson “The Gift” (1919).

The actions of the defense industry and senior military officers are logical. They are working their “rice bowls.” Their magic has worked. Money is raining upon the defense industry. The first Cold War was a gold mine. The second, based on building new and bigger weapons, will also make fortunes for the fortunate few.

But why does the American public fall for this game again? We are leading the world in an arms race – in which we are the most active in attacking others – while saying that we are acting defensively – although we are the strongest and most secure nation.  Two concepts from psychology provide some perspective on this question.

Psychological Projection

Psychological projection.

“Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harbouring hostile thoughts. {From the Britannica.}

We are arrogant and aggressive. We interfere with elections of allies, rivals, and foes. We invade, occupy, and wreck other nations. We overthrow elected governments and install tyrants. We leave a trail of wreckage around the world. How do we justify our actions, or even look in the mirror?

We project our true motives onto others. The darker our actions, the more evil we see our rivals.

Van Gogh's Wheatfield (1890)
Vincent van Gogh’s “Wheatfield with Crows.” This is how many Americans see the world.

Paranoia.

We see ourselves as surrounded as enemies. In Latin America. In Africa (see the growth of Africom). In the Middle East. China. Russia. Rivals become enemies. Opposition to our national goals becomes indications of evil at work or even of existential threats to America. What does this reveal about us?

Conclusions.

These are signs of a national spiritual illness, or perhaps a collective mental imbalance. Continuing to see any opposition as a need for military strength – or violence – risks creating the existential threat we fear.

If we continue to seek war, eventually we will get it. All wars are gambles. Often there are no winners.

For more information

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Books to remind us of our lost history

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Timothy Weiner.

Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse.

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Available at Amazon.
Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam
Available at Amazon.

13 thoughts on “America’s military power: global policing or paranoia?

  1. Good updated distillation of where things are. DDE warned us 57 years ago about the concentration of power even then coalescing, but when adding the manipulation of the media to propagandize or distract, the resultant entity is formidable.

    But there seems to be a deeper reason, seen on the individual level. Or maybe it’s the same thing, just looking at it from the ground up. After all, we continue to vote in the elites that continue this track. I see fear in relatives and acquaintances that seems disproportional to the risks around them. Not sure how to explain it, but your diagnosis of projection, even on the individual level seems a good one.

  2. It’s not about paranoia or projection. It’s about the globalists who have taken control of our country. They see all nations as threats because they’re intent on creating a world government that allows no dissenting parties. Looking at your map of US military deployment, they’ve made much progress.

    Very little of what the American gov’t does today is for the benefit of the American nation.

    1. Gunner,

      “It’s about the globalists who have taken control of our country”

      Elections are held every two years. Nobody has “taken control of our country.” That is the excuse of peons whining about the big scary bad guys.

      In any case, that is not my question. Why do Americans so are gullible as to believe propaganda about the new cold war?

    2. GunnerQ is exactly correct. How many links to articles and research would you like on the subject of the lack of government accountability, Larry Kummer? How much proof would you like that, on the national level, you have absolutely no influence on the course of events? This isn’t even debatable any more. It’s proven fact.

      We have a government of the plutocrats, by the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats.

    3. Old Fat Guy,

      Elections are held every two years. If we can’t be bothered to work the political process, we have no right to complain. We are not clients in the American restaurant, whining that the quality of the food does not match our awesomeness.

      On the other hand, we are first rate at excuses. We should replace e pluribus unum on coins with a new national motto: “Inculpabilis in Aeternum” (Forever Blameless!).

    4. Old Fat Guy,

      “Voting might make a little difference. ”

      Too silly to warrant reply. But historians will remember us for our first-rate excuses, and our gutless preemptive surrender when facing far better odds than those our predecessors fought and won.

  3. Legacy of Ashes was a real eye opener for me when I read it a number of years ago. I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it. It is especially appropriate considering the sanctimonious comments about Russian meddling. Thanks for another enlightening post.

  4. Well-put conclusions. However, it is worth re-reading the opening paragraph of Chapter 17 in James F. Dunnigan’s comprehensive How to Make War. The chapter entitled Who Wins thus begins:
    “Nobody wins, but this is often forgotten. Wars are easy to start, expensive to continue and difficult to stop. Wars often begin when someone feels victory is assured. The fighting continues largely because of national and personal pride. Wars end when one or both sides are devastated, demoralized or rarely, suddenly enlightened by the absurdity of it all.”

    1. Sun Village,

      “Nobody wins,”

      Wow. That’s bizarrely false. Not only is there often a winner in the sense of one defeating another, but there are often “winners” in the sense of beneficiaries of war. War, for those societies that are good at it, is the most profitable activity.

    2. “War, for those societies that are good at it, is the most profitable activity.”

      Like the Romans? It worked out really well for them in the end, didn’t it? Empires based on conquest and expansion are always doomed when they run out of people to rob and/or when the reach the limit of their ability to control what they have stolen.

      Additionally, war absolutely does not work out well for the /society/. It works out well for those few people who profit from the war.

  5. “Wow. That’s bizarrely false. Not only is there often a winner in the sense of one defeating another, but there are often “winners” in the sense of beneficiaries of war. War, for those societies that are good at it, is the most profitable activity.”

    Yeah, I guess the only reason we haven’t had thermonuclear war is because nobody’s figured out how to make a profit from it.

    1. Kent,

      “I guess the only reason we haven’t had thermonuclear war”

      That’s moving the goalposts. Your original statement was about about “war.” The world haa had lots of those since America nuked Japan. See Wikipedia’s long list of wars 1945-1989, 1990-2002, 2003-2010, and 2011 – now.

      Those Wikipedia summary pages don’t give the body count. Here is a list of the seven biggest wars since WWII in terms of deaths, totaling 19 million dead — just a rough estimate, of course.

      Many of those wars had clear winners in the sense of victors. Many had clear winners in the sense of those benefiting from the war. Which is probably why we still have wars.

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