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Why is the U.S. military successful?

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;) Um, thanks for all the praise, guys. I very much suggest reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson for an interesting look at how war is conducted.

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An important point about the original question that should not be remain unstated:

If statist institutions by their very fact that they are statist, tend to be inefficient and difficult to adapt to change, what then, are the reasons why the US Army [...]

(emphasis mine)

The U.S. Army is not a statist institution. A statist institution would be one based on a wrong idea about what the legitimate role of the government is--something like the FAA, the NEA, Social Security, what have you. The branches of the U.S. military are institutions that ought to exist. They are perfectly rational institutions. The only things wrong about them are tax funding and a timid foreign policy, but neither of those is the military's fault.

(Now the important point has been stated.)

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??? In 2001, Afghanistan was preparing for war against the U.S. Currently, Afghanistan has a pro-American government that has no interest in making war.

We were discussing comparative military spending per GDP and per capita, not war-making per GDP or per capita. And, may I remind you, the spending comparison was a subject you brought up. Now last year Afghanistan received $4.4 billion in military aid from the U.S. I would suggest this $4.4 billion is a sum that Afghanistan was not getting from any country in the world prior to 2002, and that therefore, prior to 2002, Afghanistan would have ranked even lower vis-à-vis the U.S. in military spending.

I am not a Bush flack (although I may qualify as "starry-eyed") but I hereby suggest that the end of al-Qaeda is nigh.

Then let’s get specific. Will the termination of al Qaeda be completed under President Bush or President Rodham-Clinton?

Same god that helped the Soviets launch spaceships. Communism may be an irrational philosophy, but Communists are not always stupid. And the enemies of Communism are not always smart and sometimes they have bad luck.

This news must come as some disappointment to the worshippers of Minerva.

Now try to ask your question in the form "Which god was favoring the Muslims when they defeated ______?" I'll wonder what you'll come up with. ;)

The question yields a null result. Gods do not exist.

The U.S. Army is not a statist institution. A statist institution would be one based on a wrong idea about what the legitimate role of the government is--something like the FAA, the NEA, Social Security, what have you. The branches of the U.S. military are institutions that ought to exist. They are perfectly rational institutions. The only things wrong about them are tax funding and a timid foreign policy, but neither of those is the military's fault.

Just because we say a government-operated military ought to exist, it doesn't follow that such an institution is immune to the tendency to maximize expenditures and minimize production, which is a characteristic of all government bureaucracies.

Edited by Eric Mathis

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I meant double the current U.S. defense budget. I didn't say "If the U.S. had half of Al-Qaeda's budget..."

What difference does that make? Earlier you wrote, "My contention, though, is that even if Al-Qaeda had double the U.S. defense budget, the U.S. could still beat them. Rational people can make more out of a little money than death-worshipping savages out of a lot of money." Now if "rational people can make more out of a little money than death-worshipping savages," why does the "little money" have to be in the billions rather than the millions?

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But is it successful ? Are its services superior to other water services?

This thread, after all, is not about the size of the U.S. military but its superiority.

One major thing that might improve the US military is that if Congress and the President did not have to worry about socialist programs like Social Security and Medicaid, they could focus more energy and money on improvements to our military (not to mention winning wars). The fact that Bush is collapsing into socialism will do a great harm to the War on Terror.

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As such, money won't get results. However, assuming some minimal level of rationality, it can make a difference. The analogy in my mind is the concept of efficiency. (Not output, but output per unit of input.) Even the Al Quaeda is rational, in a "compartmentalized" sense.

As for comparing the US military budget and the Al Quaeda budget... I don't think that the output of the two organizations is commensurate. For that you would have to ask: what would the U.S. military have to spend to wreck the destruction that the Al Quaeda has done. So, for instance, one might ask: what would the U.S. need to spend to kill (say) 10,000 non-combatants?

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We were discussing comparative military spending per GDP and per capita, not war-making per GDP or per capita. And, may I remind you, the spending comparison was a subject you brought up.  Now last year Afghanistan received $4.4 billion in military aid from the U.S.  I would suggest this $4.4 billion is a sum that Afghanistan was not getting from any country in the world prior to 2002, and that therefore, prior to 2002, Afghanistan would have ranked even lower vis-à-vis the U.S. in military spending.

[sighing, trying to pe patient]

My point was that an Afghan had a greater portion of his earnings allocated for military purposes. (Note the wording: a greater portion of his earnings.) Say, the Afghan made $20, $10 of which was spent by the Taliban to train terrorists and otherwise prepare for war against America. At the same time, the American made $1000, $50 of which was spent on the military. See? The Afghan had half his earnings sunk into military expenses, while the American only one-twentieth.

Now, if Afghanistan is getting lots of military aid, that will allow the Afghan to spend more of his $20 on bread and butter &c. He can keep $18 and only give $2 to the military because the rest of the military spending is provided by America. Add to that the fact that his earnings might have increased thanks to his newly-gained economic freedom--let's say he makes $30 now--and what you get is a drop of military spending rate from one-half ($10 / $20) to one-fifteenth ($2 / $30).

The numbers are only there for illustration, of course--the real figures may be very different--but the direction of the change will be the same regardless of what they actually are: the 2001 ratio is GREATER than the 2005 one.

Get it so far?

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The U.S. Army is not a statist institution. A statist institution would be one based on a wrong idea about what the legitimate role of the government is--something like the FAA, the NEA, Social Security, what have you. The branches of the U.S. military are institutions that ought to exist. They are perfectly rational institutions. The only things wrong about them are tax funding and a timid foreign policy, but neither of those is the military's fault.

Thank you very much for this clarification.

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[sighing, trying to pe patient]

My point was that an Afghan had a greater portion of his earnings allocated for military purposes. (Note the wording: a greater portion of his earnings.)

The numbers are only there for illustration, of course--the real figures may be very different--but the direction of the change will be the same regardless of what they actually are: the 2001 ratio is GREATER than the 2005 one.

I’d be very interested in seeing evidence for your assertion that the average Afghan in 2001 had a “greater portion of his earnings allocated for military purposes.”

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In military planning, size and superiority go hand in hand. 

That's not really true. It was a long time ago, but today's American military is trying to do more with less. I.e. trying to have far superior technology so that we can use less of our troops. Example- Our U.S forces are, arguably, much better, and more effective, than they were in WWII. Yet, currently we have about HALF the amount of troops that we did then. But, because of the quality of soldiers and new technology we can accomplish more with less. So size is not always a factor.

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That's not really true.  It was a long time ago, but today's American military is trying to do more with less.  I.e.  trying to have far superior technology so that we can use less of our troops.  Example- Our U.S forces are, arguably, much better, and more effective, than they were in WWII.  Yet, currently we have about HALF the amount of troops that we did then.  But, because of the quality of soldiers and new technology we can accomplish more with less.  So size is not always a factor.

I was not referring merely to manpower.

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I’d be very interested in seeing evidence for your assertion that the average Afghan in 2001 had a “greater portion of his earnings allocated for military purposes.”

Read my post above.

Tell me when you have understood it; then we can continue the discussion.

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Read my post above.

Tell me when you have understood it; then we can continue the discussion.

I understood your claim both the first and second time I read it:

"My point was that an Afghan had a greater portion of his earnings allocated for military purposes."

The problem is not understanding the claim but authenticating it.

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I was not referring merely to manpower.

What other measure of the "size" of an army is there? Does the U.S. have a "bigger" army than China because we spend more money on it? No, China has a "bigger" army than we do because they have more troops.

We all know that Tilly's defeat by Gustav II Adolf at Breitenfeld was just a fluke. Not to mention the military success of the Prussians, who regularly defeated much larger forces via superior training. Oh, and during WWII Japan conquered almost all of CHINA, and we ALL know the relative size of their two militaries.

Let's not even start on the British Empire. One dinky little island ruled almost all of the civilized world for Pete's sake.

Another excellent book on this subject is 1632 by Eric Flint. Oh, I just finished reading David Weber's We Few, which was also fairly good. David Weber, John Ringo, Eric Flint (and to a lesser extent Robert Asprin) are all military-strategy buffs that pit brains against brawn consistantly in their books. Money and manpower do not determine battlefield success. Strategy, tactics, equipment, willpower, those are your real deciding factors.

Real toughness is in the mind.

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What other measure of the "size" of an army is there?  Does the U.S. have a "bigger" army than China because we spend more money on it?  No, China has a "bigger" army than we do because they have more troops

Size is no longer measured merely in terms of number of troops. Government and private intelligence analysts, such as Jane’s Defence Weekly, have long placed greater emphasis on strategic weapons systems than personnel in uniform. Thus, a more meaningful measure of the size of a nation's air power would be the number of advanced bombers at readiness than the number of people enlisted in the air force. During the late stages of the Cold War, the Soviet navy had more sailors than the U.S., but most of its fleet was rusting in dry dock.

Edited by Eric Mathis

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