BBC analysis: Limits of US power showing

While I don’t agree entirely with the analysis (or sentiment) given in the March 19 BBC editorial I just read, I do believe that it’s conclusion — and, for that matter, it’s title — are spot on: “Iraq war shows limits of US power” (click on title to read).

In particular, the last three paragraphs sum up the point accurately, as well as provide a rationale defending it’s truth:

Above all, we have seen how hard it is for the Americans to deal with a few thousand lightly armed volunteers.

Germany’s 19th-Century Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said that great powers had to be very careful when they put their military strength to the test. Unless they are overwhelmingly successful, he meant, the perception will be that they have been defeated.

In spite of the new successes on the ground here, that is the long-term danger America faces.

I think the reference to Bismarck is a good one.  After the first Gulf War and America’s successful intervention in Bosnia, much of the world was in awe of American military might and the leaders of many world powers were contemplating their own relevance in steering the course of history.  (The conclusions of some of that contemplation showed themselves in the actions those nations took in the UN deliberations before the recent invasion of Iraq.)

The current struggle in Iraq is erasing the awe that had built up after those two previous conflicts, and the result is that the enemies and would-be enemies of the US are emboldened.  I hope the reforms and strategies of General Petraeus continue to bring improvements and, ultimately, a victory in Iraq.  But it is hard to see through it all to a world in which the world’s awe of our military might is restored — and coupled with the growing global disenchantment in our economic might, it seems that American prestige has become an endangered species.

Prophetically, we are told in Leviticus that a consequence of Israel’s national disobedience would be that God would “break the pride of your power” (Lev. 26:19).  I believe that breaking is coming to pass.

18 thoughts on “BBC analysis: Limits of US power showing

  1. Well, now you have my spleen going. Even though I’m a member of the church, I served in the Army during the early 70s, so I still have some emotional ties that are difficult to abandon.

    I agree every bit with the points you made. I have a slightly different take on the subject, however.

    Americans simply do not realize how small our military has become. The government shrunk the military after Vietnam. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the government shrunk the military again. After the first Persian Gulf war, we shrunk our military still further…

    The United States now has fewer than ten divisions to meet its global and domestic commitments. We simply do not have the military power to meet our demands. The reports of our military being ground down in Iraq are very real. Can you imagine that? Little Iraq?

    Meanwhile, Americans have become incredibly weak in their strength of will. Everything is suppose to be cheap and easy. If you can’t get a quick military victory, then wring your hands, and scream “disaster, disaster!” The weakness is so disgusting that it smells.

  2. Howdy, Steve, and I don’t think that you have a slightly different take at all. In fact, I agree with virtually everything that you said in your comment! In what way do you think we differ?

    You did not mention (though I think you would agree) that our leaders are weaker, as well. (Well, they are “Americans,” too, so I suppose you did mention them!)

    Rather than the approach taken during the days of WWII, when Americans back home were encouraged to sacrifice and scrimp and save to support our troops abroad, our leaders — perhaps understanding the limits of what modern Americans were able to stomach — have instead taken a course of telling us, “We’re the best! Don’t you worry, we’ll figure it out! Go out to the mall and buy something! Support America by using your credit card!”

    Consequently, as a report published today points out, more and more Americans are feeling detached from a war that their own country is fighting. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps. Very sad.

    So, anyway, I agree with what you are saying, Steve. While I can’t speak to the statistics concerning the size of our military, I’m sure that you have captured the overall pattern.

    Indeed, our pride of our power is being broken.

    Thanks for the comment!

    — Wallace Smith

  3. There are a lot of valid points presented by the article and the comment. Our military employs fewer men. We are struggling to impose lasting peace and stability in a foreign land. With that, I must include a big ‘however’.

    This current lack of immediate success and lower numbers are indicative of our weakening toward peacekeeping missions on foreign soil, not war making ability. Think of the nature of the mission. We’ve always heard that ‘boots on the ground are necessary to win a war’, but they are much more necessary for peacekeeping missions. A nation needs people out in the communities, keeping people safe and relating to their needs. They need to identify dangerous areas, as well as areas that need infrastructure to provide water, electricity, etc. That requires lots of manpower. In this matter, our reduced military size negatively affects our effectiveness.

    In straight up war making, where one nation (or a group of nations’) leviathan force confronts another, America remains unmatched. I need not mention our nuclear weapons capability (which has in use caused the capitulation of one nation and in threat has surely changed the policies of others). Also, their future use is viewed negatively by the whole world, so we will assume they won’t be used. What’s left?

    First, We have the premier tank in the world. The M1-Abrams is unmatched in its capability and battle-tested success. In fact, I would venture to say that because it has been so successful, it has not needed replacement. And therefore, its successor may be getting extended design time which would increase lethality beyond what we can imagine.

    Secondly, we have the only two fifth-generation fighter jets in the world between the F-22 and the F-35. In scenarios and training exercises, their kill rates are on the order of 80-0 or 100-1 (with the one being a reactivated plane that the F-35 was not made aware of). Through my schooling, I was privileged to attend a presentation by a representative of Skunkworks. He spoke about the F-35. It was, unquestionably, impressive beyond belief. If you would like to hear the whole story, please ask. I’d love to explain it all.

    Finally, I’d like to touch on the current doctrine of the military. They are continuing to pursue policies that remove as many men from the fighting role as possible (I’ve argued that will decrease our peacekeeping effectiveness, but could potentially increase our resolve in leviathan-style conflicts). Congress has mandated that a third of the Army’s ground vehicles be unmanned or completely autonomous by 2015. To people in my field, this is a great technical challenge and a huge source of funding. But, for the future of the military, it fundamentally changes the way we will fight future wars. My military history professor said, “Democracies do not fight long wars well.” This is because the populous typically lacks a resolve to sustain casualties and big price tags. With the direction that the military is going, the need to stomach casualties in future wars will decrease, but the need to stomach steep price tags will rise.

    My final thought questions how far along we are in this transitional process. Our military has shown an ability to accomplish big tasks with few casualties. Think in context of history (yes, I’m sorry to ignore the current humanitarian concerns, but for the sake of analyzing the direction and effectiveness of the United States Armed Forces, I’m going to do it). They effectively conquered a nation and occupied it with a hostile and nonsubmissive populous for five years and only had 4000 soldiers killed. This analysis, in the context of history, is probably the only time you will hear that statistic spoken with the word “only” in the sentence. But it must be seen as that.

    I think to view the wars in the Middle East as a show of our weakened military strength is a fundamental misunderstanding of the military structure and a misrepresentation of the conflict in the context of history. Much more indicative of our downfall is economic troubles. Through the reasoning I just presented, economic troubles lead to problems in modern military doctrine, which lead to decreased effectiveness. That is what we need to be worried about.

  4. Howdy, Mike —

    Agreeing with so much of what you said (and I really do), it hurts to disagree so substantively with your ultimate analysis.

    Our “military might” must encompass much more than our ability to break things and kill people, although that is a fundamental element. Were that the only criterion, you would be correct — we are not lacking here, yet. As long as we can buy the stuff for bullets and fuel (and continue to pay the salaries of our innovators in the science of killing people and breaking things), we’re good to go.

    Also — again, by those measures — I would agree that our time in Iraq has been amazingly successful. But these measures are not sufficiently or ultimately the judge of such things. Our “military might” is measured by more than our ability to kill or break — it is measured by our ability to use that military to impose our will and achieve our ends. And it is in this area that our pride is beginning to be broken now, even before the economic side of the equation has fully come into play.

    On the measures of breaking things and killing the other guys, we can proclaim “Mission Accomplished!” But why are we still there? Because we have not achieved our ends. If we leave now, there is good reason to believe that Iraq will be more dangerous to us than it was before we intervened. It is more than the “humanitarian concerns” to which you refer — it is whether we’ve left the U.S. safer or more at risk because of our actions. And it is not a fundamental misunderstanding of the military structure to say that the final verdict of this exercise, success or failure, is still in doubt. (And I’m not saying that all the signs point to failure, yet, as would some.)

    We have — to this point, at least — failed to force our will upon our enemies. Should this failure become a permanent fact, it is certainly reasonable to question our military strength, even if the economic support behind the tanks is still strong. (BTW, “peacekeeping” is, at its most fundamental, the forcible suppression of hostilities and thus within the scope of the a military’s objectives, at least in its initial stages.)

    There are many ways one could define and measure “military strength,” and I would say that is one of the most fundamental: our ability to impose our will on other nations. To say that our experience in Iraq is not exposing some weakness in that area is to work from a dangerously narrow point of view. (And please note: I write this as someone who is generally sympathetic to our Commander in Chief, our outstanding military, and our whole purpose for being in Iraq in the first place — and who is admittedly less sympathetic to those who critique the war in knee-jerk fashion or who seem to want the US to fail.) We may be stronger than we have ever been in one sense, but in another sense, if the requirements of victory in this day and age have so fundamentally shifted, then a broader approach to evaluation is in order.

    For instance, you seem to want to disassociate considerations of military doctrine from the task of evaluating a nation’s military strength. But ultimately this is irrational: given how absolutely crucial military doctrine is to the success or failure of every single military mission, how in the world could we exclude a consideration of military doctrine from an evaluation of military strength? Seen properly, isn’t a consideration of military doctrine essential to completely assessing a nation’s military strength? (And in this sense, the placement of General Petraeus has been a welcome improvement — one that I hope will continue to grow.)

    The economics is certainly one dangerous ingredient in the ultimate breaking of our pride in our power — both our financial power and our military, just as you have said. But it is naive to assume it is the only factor, looking at the facts so far. And the Iraq experience, even granting its many unheralded successes, provides unavoidable facts in this regard.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Mike!

    — Wallace Smith

  5. mikesmullings

    I failed to adequately present what I’m trying to say, so I’d like a chance to clarify. I think the confusion comes when we try to define what ‘victory’ is in a static manner. You’ve stated correctly (thank you Clausewitz) that the military is an extension of the political arm of a nation. It is a means by which to impose one nation’s will upon others. And I agree with you completely that given our current political objectives, our military is failing to prove that it can do just that. But here is where I try to make a distinction. Too often, the line of logic goes like this:
    1. Our military is failing to impose our specific political will upon specific others in this specific case.
    2. Therefore, our military strength is weakened.
    This is where the statements stop, but the next implication that follows in the minds of many is:
    3. We will be less able to achieve victory in any future conflict.

    Many people think this war directly reflects our ability to achieve any military victory for any political purpose. I am arguing that it only reflects on our ability to attain a victory in one specific category of political desires. We struggle at the very thing that armies have struggled with throughout all of history: pacifying occupied foreign lands without slaughtering them or splitting them up and shipping them across the world into slavery. That we are now in danger, say, of an invading nation conquering us is not a logical conclusion from these facts.

    Future conflicts will dictate their own terms of victory. If we are invaded, victory will surely be initially defined as repelling the invasion. I have faith in our ability to do so. It will probably then be defined as conquering the invading nation and displacing their rulers. I have faith in our ability to do that as well. If their populous is highly aggravated by our occupation and we desire utter pacification and a rebuilt nation, THEN the weaknesses displayed currently will likely come into play on our ability to succeed. (This is where we think Iraq instead of, for example, the more compliant post-WWII Japanese)

    The most likely result is that we will pick the political desires on which to exercise military might more carefully in the future. We won’t attempt again the very thing that history tells us we will almost certainly fail in. And in those dissimilar future missions, any extent of failure in Iraq will not necessarily be indicative of our chance of success.

    As a nation, enforcing political will through military might gives one major predicament. If people keep standing up against it, we really only have two options: kill them or essentially ‘imprison’ them. Imprisonment can be interpreted many ways depending on the scale. It could be physical detainment of individuals. It could be isolation of a nation from weapons suppliers and materials to manufacture their own. This predicament is why America is a free nation. The colonists who rebelled against the crown kept standing up and fighting. The Continental Army didn’t win huge victories on the battlefield. Their largest accomplishments on a day-to-day basis was getting away so they could live to fight another day. Attrition is the strategy. If enough people keep standing up, military might alone can’t stop them. You can kill or imprison everybody that stands up today, but if the rest of them stand up tomorrow, you have to kill or imprison all of them too. Repeat this process until all the millions that compose the masses are dead or imprisoned. It simply doesn’t work mathematically.

    I digress too much, and get a little too abstract and theoretical for my tastes. The applications of that, along with the distinction it creates between various conflicts is probably much more clear in my mind than how I’ve stated it.

    Allow me to wrap up a response to your last two paragraphs quickly. I want to clarify that I’m not trying to dissociate military doctrine from military strength. The direction of military doctrine does drastically affect our ability to achieve each objective that it approaches. I’m pointing out that it may make us more capable to succeed in certain military goals as opposed to others. I’m sure the military is doing things daily to work on increasing our effectiveness at the current task. However, things like mandating a percentage of unmanned/autonomous ground vehicles does not seem to aid us as much as other things could for the current task. But the point is really less applicable to success in specific tasks. Mainly, I wanted to point out that it adjusts the balance of political consideration of military use. It shifts more of the concern away from the loss of lives and to the economic aspects. As more and more military vehicles don’t possess boots (just millions of dollars of equipment), I would expect to see this shift. As wars lengthen and democracies discuss the extent of their resolve, this shift from discussing losses of life to discussing economic concerns becomes important to those proceedings. This shift away from boots may not help us in a situation similar to Iraq… but I didn’t really intend it to be applicable to that. It was mostly an observation that was kind of used to support my “economic problems worry me more” idea. It probably didn’t fit very well where I put it in my comment.

    Thank you for responding to my comment in such a manner. I very much appreciate discussion, especially when it makes me reconsider my own ideas and approaches to a topic. Also, thank you for giving me a chance to clarify what I’m trying to say. I think we do really agree on most of what we think… It’s just what we say that we have issues with. 🙂

    (Oh, in my final read through of everything before submitting this, I realized that I want to back off of one statement I made: “I think to view the wars in the Middle East as a show of our weakened military strength is a fundamental misunderstanding of the military structure and a misrepresentation of the conflict in the context of history.” This was an improper sole use of the word “strength” and does not capture the more nuanced position I was trying to present. It needs to be aided with something like “strength in all cases that it would be used”. I’m not sure exactly how to fix it, but I hope the idea is more clear now.)

  6. Howdy, again, Mike, and thanks again for a clear and well-reasoned post. I think you have communicated your thoughts wonderfully (as best I can tell without reading your mind!), so no apologies necessary. Actually, while (as I mentioned) I do not agree with everything in the BBC analysis, I do think it makes some valid points, and what you have said here backs those points up well.

    As you mentioned, I really don’t think we disagree. I will only add a few things (points which, again, I do not think contradict anything you have said). If I didn’t, how could I keep my reputation for being a verbose overexplainer? 🙂

    (1) In your three lines of logic, I, personally, would not follow to the third statement, though a modified version of the third statement might see me more accepting.

    (2) If it is a changing state of our military capability that results in a narrowing of the “political desires” we choose to fight over, then I would see that as a diminishing of military strength.

    (3) Military strength is also a product of how our military is perceived, allowing us in the past to merely rattle our saber to get results. I do believe that the experience of Iraq, unless it improves, will powerfully reduce our ability to get results from saber rattling (in fact, I believe it already has).

    (4) Military strength is a relative thing in one respect. Even if we grow in our capabilities, if our enemies grow faster in learning to counter us or defeat us, then the result is, for all intents and purposes, a diminishing and a loss of the ultimate factor in judgment: the ability to win.

    (5) Your pointing out the many elements that factor into the support and application of military power is well done and worth noting. Part of the tragedy that may be tied up in the fulfillment of prophecy might be owning the greatest military force ever seen on paper, while lacking the freedom, funds, resources, and will to use it to defend us when we need it most, resulting in our running from enemies we were once able to easily defeat (Deut. 28:25; Lev. 26:17, 36-37).

    Thanks, again, Mike, for a great discussion! All of it good stuff and worth reading a couple of times. 🙂

    — Wallace Smith

  7. Dear Mr. Smith (and Mike and Other Fellow Respondents):

    Perhaps I can shed some light on this whole discussion…

    In college I had the privilege to have an International Relations class with Gene Hogberg, who had done so much analysis for so long of current events from a biblical perspective. Our textbook was POLITICS AMONG NATIONS: THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER AND PEACE by (the now deceased) “realist” political scientist Hans J. Morgenthau (the spelling may be a bit off on that last name).

    Dr. Morgenthau pointed out that there are two kinds of imperialism (and American imperialism has fit the pattern as much as any other brand has): military imperialism and cultural imperialism. The first is not enough to secure ultimate victory, no matter how relatively strong or how sophisticated one’s military is. It is not enough to suppress an opponent by force or intimidation. One must also convince the opponent that one’s way of life is superior to his. It was not just our military might and deterrence or even our economic strength that finished the Cold War; it was the perception that our Capitalist culture was superior to that of the Communists. North Korea is still North Korea (for example) because that point has not been made to North Korea’s leadership.

    Even with a reduced military, we can do more with less in Iraq militarily (in terms of ultimate human cost) than ever before in history. It is winning the peace that is now the critical battle. And there, I submit, the U.S. is singularly unequipped to win, despite all the physical good that we have been able to do in those areas where we have had control. And the more corrupt our culture becomes, the less equipped we will become as cultural imperialists. That is why “the pride of our power” can and will be broken, unless we address our culture’s lacks even ahead of our military’s.

    Despite our tremendous technological advantages, we can also be worn down by attrition, just as we were in Vietnam. (Sorry to open that can of worms, but Ho Cho Minh DID say – originally to the French, I believe – that “we” would kill ten of “them” for every one they killed of “us”, and in the end, it is “we” who would tire of it.) And no number of F-whatevers and M-whatevers will remove the centuries-old schisms in Islam, the Gordian knot of Middle Eastern politics, or the willingness of people to fight and die for such things. Can we offer something better culturally in such people’s eyes? That remains to be seen, and I’m not holding my breath.

    שלום
    יוחנן רכב

  8. Brian

    Mr. Smith:

    I believe that you have misapplied and misunderstood the quoted scripture. The Bible says the PRIDE of the power is to be broken. I do not believe the PRIDE of the US has been broken…yet. We can argue about declining military strength, etc. but until the PRIDE of this country (President Bush especially) is smashed, we will continue to have the arrogance that God hates.

    BTW, why not just denounce the Iraqi War? This is not a just war, ordained by God. The Church of God (yes, I mean the LCG) should be condemning it…but the silence is deafening.

  9. Thanks to you both, Mr. Wheeler and Brian, for your comments! Let me respond briefly:

    Mr. Wheeler: Good observations. I have often thought that were I a run-of-the-mill Arab (a stretch of the imagination, I know), the idea of adopting what the US calls “freedom” would be hard to disassociate from images of Brittany Spears and MTV videos and the question of what would happen to my daughters’ morality.

    Brian: While I do not fundamentally disagree with the point of your first paragraph (although, I do suspect that the prophecy will see its greatest fulfillment after Mr. Bush has left office rather than before, regardless of who succeeds him), I will say you misunderstand me if you think I have misapplied the scripture, and if I have miscommunicated my meaning, then I apologize. If we were still able to achieve our desired ends through the use of our power, then whence would be the broken pride? Part of the process of breaking the pride of our power is seeing our power fail to achieve our ends — and as I have argued, the definitive measure of one’s power is the ability to achieve one’s ends. The two are connected, and not as disjoint as you seem to indicate.

    Also, our stance on military action and warfare is not only crystal clear, but we have received quite a bit of flak and angry letters for it. There are more important issues at stake in the controversial Iraq War than whether or not the politicians on either side of the debate that surrounds it are honest and sincere in their stances and statements. As I have said before: A nation that will not come under the shed blood of Jesus Christ will continue to experience the shed blood of its sons and daughters. Iraq is not the first such experience, and unless America begins seeking its God, Iraq will not be the last such experience. God would rather America not rely on itself or engage in ANY war — He would rather the nation turn to Him, who would fight for us. The talking heads on the cable news channels can discuss the “issues” all day long, but God has commissioned us with a deeper message that transcends political positioning and policy statements.

    If you are hearing silence, I humbly suggest that you are tuned in to the wrong place on your dial. 🙂

    Thanks for writing in, both of you!

  10. Brian

    You reply in generalities, but sorry- but please show me one article (or one sermon) where LCG has explicitly denounced the Iraqi War and condemned our leaders for waging an unjust war. I read all the literature and am familiar with the sermons, but have not seen/heard it yet.

    As for the PRIDE of the power, the emphasis in scripture is on the pride, not failing power, which is a fruit of pride. Yes of course they are related, but the fundamental problem is PRIDE. Failure of power comes from a basic spiritual deficiency- PRIDE. Perhaps you can also show me an article (or sermon) where LCG has denounced the wrong PRIDE of our President (not not just condemn the “liberal judges”). Isn’t the “whole head” sick?

  11. Howdy, again, Brian —

    Forgive me for pointing something out (and I do not want to make any assumptions), but you seem to be very invested in the idea that our President is somehow the source of much of our problems. Both of your posts seem particularly aimed at him and his pride. Is not the problem with the nation? With the sins of its citizens, as well as its President? Is there a particular reason you are focused on the President? If you think that any sins that may or may not have been involved with taking us into Iraq somehow outweigh the many horrific sins that have otherwise insinuated themselves into our nation, I’m afraid that I would have to question that judgment. And if you think Leviticus 26:19 is speaking of a President’s pride and not of a consequence related to the sins of the entire nation, then I would say that you need to read Leviticus 26 again and get the broader context.

    Perhaps related to this point, you seem to have a specific objection to this war. Why don’t our condemning comments on war, itself, satisfy you? Why do you continue to describe *this* war as “unjust”? What wars in this world do you see as “just”? In those “just” wars, were the killings not sin?

    Again, I do not want to assume, but your constant reference to an “unjust war” sounds like what is normally spoken by the war’s political opponents. And while history will sort out the political realities behind the war and its initial motivations (and contrary to the beliefs of either side in that debate, the truth is still being sorted out), the spiritual reality is that God wants people looking to Him to protect them, not to their own ability to hate, kill, or murder their fellow man. We address this aspect (and surely you have seen this in our literature) because REGARDLESS of humanity’s ultimate historical just/unjust verdict on the war in Iraq, the spiritual truths, which we proclaim, are not dependent on that verdict.

    Also, you are a bit off in your second paragraph. The “emphasis in scripture” is on the nation’s sins and disobedience to God’s laws, and the breaking of the pride of our power is not offered as a solution, it is described as a consequence of our sins. The fundamental problem is sin, and that scripture does not say that the failure of power comes from pride (though pride is among the sins that are the problem). It tells us that the pride in our power is going to be broken by God. Often in scripture, the way in which a people’s pride in something is broken by God is by allowing that something to fail.

    While we should all (that is, not just President Bush, but blog writers and commenters, like you and me, too) repent of pride, and pride is among the sins that is harming our country, God is NOT saying specifically in Leviticus 26:19,the verse I quoted, “Repent of pride.” He is saying, “I will break your pride” — that is, He is going to break our pride. That’s an important difference. He is saying that because of our disdain for his commands, He is going to punish us by breaking our pride. And often such pride is broken by showing that the object of that pride (our power) is not quite all that we think it to be.

    I hope this helps to clarify things! Thanks for your comment.

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  12. Dear Mr. Smith and Brian,

    It’s worth pointing out that simply to denounce the War in Iraq (or any other war the U.S. might be involved in), *without any qualifiers*, would be to deny that God’s promises to carnal Israel, and in particular to carnal Ephraim and Manasseh, have any relevance. Yet they are *end-time* promises. Here’s one:

    > (Deuteronomy 33:17 ESV) A firstborn bull — he [Joseph] has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox; with them he shall gore the peoples, all of them, to the ends of the earth; they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.

    [Did you know that the British Empire ruled over an order of magnitude (more precisely, eight times) more people than the U.S. did when this prophecy saw its greatest fulfillment: in World War II? And few today realize how almost evenly matched Greater Germany and the U.S. were then, even in population (80 million versus 100 million).]

    One of the hardest things for people (even Church of God members) to understand about God is that what God allows, and sometimes what God backs, and what God approves are not always the same thing. Spiritually, we can point out that “from the beginning it was not so” that men learn to kill each other in war. But because of the hardness of men’s hearts in this present evil world, we can also point out that if carnal Israel obeys God carnally, then it will defeat its enemies carnally; if it disobeys God carnally, then it will be defeated by its enemies carnally. Those are the terms that God Himself, not we, laid down. The only escape clause involves coming out of the world entirely as a truly Christian nation (or as truly Christian individuals) and letting Him fight for His own. What goes on in this or that particular war is not the biblical issue; how it affects the fulfillment of prophecy long-term is. Who are we to say anything different from all this? And so far as I know, we don’t.

    I don’t mean to help drag this thread out forever, but I think this much needs to be added.

    שלום
    יוחנן רכב

  13. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler, and thanks.

    While I reserve judgment in the details, I can say that I do agree with what you are saying. Most recently, I have commented that the fact that God used pretty, pagan women to lead Samson around (Judges 14:2-4) does not place God’s approval on seeking pretty, pagan wives.

    I would add one more category to your “what God Xs” list between allows and backs: “what God manages.” The list you have provided is part of a point that I have tried to make with some for a long time.

    Thanks for the insights.

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  14. Wow… as a military man still serving in todays army, a combat medic with an Infantry Battalion, I have seen first hand the battlefields that are both Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Only someone who didn’t know the differences between types of warfare would draw a conclussion that the US might was dwindling.
    Bosnia was mentioned as a success, however I most point out that we are still engaged in Bosnia, our forces are still there some 15 years later.
    References were made about the first Persian Gulf war. I would like to say that in that conflict our one and only purpose was to drive an Army out of a neighboring one. There was no attempt to stand and fight with those thugs then.
    Given that premise would it not have been better to “wax” their Armies this time around and just pull out and leave them to rebuild themselves?
    We stay and we try to do the right thing for the people who ment us no harm, and instead of th knowledgable people reporting that, they decide to dare criticise us for something that they are either incapable of or ill equipped to handle.
    I recon the next conflict we have we should just demolish the opposition and then let those who remain alive try and rebuild themselves. But, then what would the headlines say. “America no better than the rest of us!”
    No thanks, I would rather be good and look bad, then be bad and look good like so many we see today. Good book or no good book.
    And, on a parting note- do you think it would be wise to underestimate the power that is the US Military. I think it is fine if they want to do that and then try something- the real shoch and awe hasn’t even been seen from us.

    DB

  15. Howdy, and thanks Mr. Reese, both for your comment and your willingness to serve.

    I do not think that the state of things we see ourselves in right now in Iraq, in and of itself, indicates a “dwindling”. It should be clear even to the most casual observer that the task in which we are currently engaged is significantly different from the tasks that were before us in Bosnia and in the first Gulf War. (By the way, Bosnia was only brought up due to its effect on other country’s assessments of our military ability.) The task we have taken on in Iraq is huge, and, personally, it seems to me that those who are quick to say that we should just pull out ignore not only the reality of what would happen to Iraq and her people if we did, but also what the consequences would be for our nation, the effect on our enemies’ attitudes and mindsets, etc. Personally, I agree with your sentiment that should we take the so-called easy path of demolish and let them pick up the pieces, not only would we be untrue to our natures and “no better” than the rest, but we would be making a bad situation worse instead of better.

    I also believe that our experience in Iraq suffers more from negative spin than it does from positive spin (not that it doesn’t receive both). On one hand, as Mike said way up further in these comments, given what we have accomplished and are attempting to accomplish, it is amazing that our losses have not been greater, and it is a credit to our military.

    However, I have read nothing to tell me that the point made by the BBC analysis is incorrect. Given the anti-American bias often shown by some of the reporting from overseas (let alone the reporting on our own shores), it gives me no pleasure to say so, and there are elements of the analysis that, as I said at the beginning, I do not agree with. But the final analysis they present seems to me to be fundamentally correct — in particular, I refer to the final section subtitled “Long-term danger.”

    Yes, I do believe we still have the most powerful, best armed, best trained, and most technologically advanced military that the world has ever known. But in my reckoning of things, “military might” is a measure that depends on many factors, of which these are only a subset, as I discussed in earlier comments. [For the record, BTW, my post mentioned the reduced global awe of our military might, not our might, itself, but be that as it may, this is still a good discussion.] I have no doubt that we can still “bring the hurt” like nobody’s business (and like nobody else). And I also have no doubt that, like you say, it would be horribly unwise to risk underestimating the U.S. military.

    But we would also have to say that, after Iraq, there are now more who would take that risk than there were before Iraq — and that does mean something. However far our limits might be above the other nations of the world, for the first time in a long while those limits are on display, and I believe we will have harder times ahead due to that revelation.

    The battleship named after Bismarck may not have lasted long, but I believe that the truth of his insight, given in the post above, will continue to prove true in the experience we have ahead of us.

    Thanks, again, Mr. Reese, for taking the time to comment! It is appreciated, as is your service to us all.

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  16. Mr Smith,

    Well, we don’t have a disagreement. When I said that I had a “different take,” I was referring to my military backgound. Even though I left the Army 30+ years ago, I still keep track of my old unit through their website.

    I know that we’re not suppose to turn your website into a public discussion board, so forgive me… but Mike is way off in some of his comments. This “our military is so sophisticated, that we don’t need many troops” is completely out of whack with reality.

    The truth is that the United States suffers from strategic overstretch. We simply do not have the forces to confront more than one regional conflict at a time. Our military is being ground into the dirt by little Iraq. And that includes everything from troop morale to equipment breakdowns.

    What would happen if two or more conflicts broke out simultaneously? The United States simply doesn’t have “the stuff” to meet our global commitments. That’s a fact.

    The bottom line is, Americans want things cheap and easy. Otherwise, cut and run.

    The pride of our power is broken. If the controversy over Iraq doesn’t prove that, then I don’t know what will. Our people are so steeped in sin – from top to bottom – that they are disconnected from everything except their own selves.

  17. Howdy, again, Steve —

    I think your points are to be heeded, though I don’t think Mike really thinks we don’t need many troops. And our technological advances have reduced the number of troops we do need for many objectives, though obviously not as much as Mr. Rumsfeld, et al. had hoped.

    Was it Eisenhower who originally set the U.S. objective of being able to carry on major operations in far multiple, far removed conflicts? While I would not be one to call Iraq and Afghanistan anything other than “major conflicts”, still — like you — I think that the decisions that have been made by policymakers since the 80s are beginning to show.

    Of course, as we know and as you said: the problem is not one of policy, it is one of sin. And the solution will not be one of policy, it will be one of repentance. Let us continue to pray for and work for that repentance.

    Thanks, again, Steve!

  18. Pingback: 2008 in Prophetic Review « Thoughts En Route

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