Saturday, October 08, 2011

Why the United States Needs an Out-Sized Military

As a means of negotiation, a war conducted by rational actors continues until both sides come to a mutual understanding of the other's military strength and willingness to continue fighting. Once this mutual understanding is reached, negotiations will be pursued by both sides and may be satisfactorily concluded.

Military strength and political willingness, though both necessary, may to a certain extent be substituted for the other in a given war. In the Vietnam War, for instance, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese made up for their lack of equipment by a willingness to continue the war for as long as it took. The current U.S. military posture is an example of the other side. We have overwhelming military strength, because we do have sufficient political willingness.

In short, the U.S. needs an out-sized military so it can win a war with a minimum of political commitment. If we face an opponent who can withstand our initial onslaught, we lose.

4 Comments:

Blogger Yoel Natan said...

I think Vietnam was more about Americans' unwillingness to kill another million or two more Vietnamese to win the war. The US killed two million, and said enough if enough. As far a geo-political concerns went, Vietnam was about as important at the time as N Korea was a little earlier, which isn't saying much. Neither country really helped the Communist world much, nor the free world. Translation: not worth us killing a million or two people to keep it free.

Some conservatives like to say the communists killed another million after the US left, so we should have stayed, but if the US had stayed, it would have meant another million or two dead before it was all over. You also have to note that the US legalized abortion around the same year we left Vietnam, so while we ending our killing in Vietnam, we as a nation started killing in the US itself. How much killing can one nation do? Further, the north Vietnamese ought to be blamed rather than the US.

3:20 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

You've just restated the thesis. The U.S. was unwilling to expand the conflict as needed, so we lost despite our overwhelming force.

With regards to the North Vietnamese, the real problem was that they had two armies: the guerrilla army and the main force NVA. We would constantly reorganize our forces to meet the immediate threat, which is when they would switch which army was leading the attack. When we were prepared for guerrilla warfare, we'd face main force units. When we were prepared for conventional warfare, we'd face guerrillas. We spent our time reorganizing instead of fighting.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Yoel Natan said...

No, I didn't restate the thesis. I didn't argue for an out-sized military so we can win with one punch, and also I didn't way we lost in Vietnam.

The Communists didn't win Vietnam, and neither did we lose. I think that to win, something must confer an advantage to the winner, and having Vietnam didn't help the Capitalists or the Communists either way. Similar to Cuba, Vietnam just drained the Communist bloc of money and manpower. The same thing happened with the the English empire--it drained resources until the British people said enough is enough.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

I apologize, I meant premise, not thesis.

The North Vietnamese communists achieved exactly what they wanted. They achieved a nationalist/communist regime over the whole of Vietnam (and controlling interest in some neighboring states to boot). They did not do it at the time and cost which they desired, but that is a universal condition of warfare--how many wars were intended to be "over by Christmas" after all?

10:00 PM  

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