The State of the Military: America Has the Most Technologically Formidable Military in History, Yet the Burdens of Serving as Global Policeman Have Left Our Nation Perilously Undefended

Article excerpt

For years, our national leaders and the media have told us that the United States is the last global superpower. Understandably, this has been a source of security and pride for many Americans. But in light of recent events this claim deserves some scrutiny--not only as to whether we are a superpower, let alone the only one, but also as to whether we should be one.

An important reality check took place on the morning of April 27, when the White House frantically mobilized to deal with what appeared to be a repeat of the 9/11 attacks. President Bush was hustled down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, a secure underground bunker. Vice President Cheney was spirited away to an undisclosed location. Batteries of anti-aircraft missiles were primed; armed Secret Service agents were deployed around the White House grounds; and a Black Hawk helicopter was dispatched to confront the menace that had appeared on the radar.

As it turned out, the "menace" that had prompted this frenzied activity was an unusually dense and fast-moving cloud system that had materialized 30 miles south of Washington. This incident offered foreign newspapers plenty of cause for mirth. One Indian paper gleefully described how the cloud had sent President Bush "ducking for cover." A Scottish tabloid treated its readers to the headline, "Bush Runs From a Fluffy Cloud."

This isn't exactly the reaction we should expect from the top leadership echelon of the "sole remaining superpower." After all, the president has at his command the most fearsome military arsenal the world has ever seen, as well as the world's most technologically sophisticated intelligence services. Washington is riddled with security barriers, patrolled by heavily armed security personnel, and guarded by elite military assets. There is no doubt that the government over which Mr. Bush presides is able--as one high-ranking military official told reporter Bob Woodward--to "export death and destruction to the four corners of the earth in the defense of our great nation."

Shortly after the White House scare came another sobering reality check, this one indicating that the policy of exporting "death and destruction to the four corners of the earth" has severely eroded our ability to defend our homeland.

A classified report submitted to Congress by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded that "the concentration of American troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan limits the Pentagon's ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts," reported the New York Times. General Myers warned that the military confronts a "moderate" risk in its mission to protect the United States, and a "moderate, but trending toward significant" risk in preventing conflicts, including surprise attacks. Some senior military officials expressed concern that the report's findings could be perceived "by adversaries as an admission of vulnerability, and be seen as an invitation to adventurism that could lead to war," noted the Times.

While no earthly power could be considered invulnerable, it is clear that our nation remains excessively vulnerable, despite its much-vaunted superpower status.

From Republic to Superpower

A superpower is a state with the ability to influence events or project power on a global scale. This implies an entity with a huge economy, a large population, and strong armed forces, including air and space power and a considerable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (specifically, nuclear weapons).

During the period known as the Cold War, much of the world was aligned with either the U.S. or the Soviet Union, both of which were classified as superpowers. Although the Soviet Union had a first-rate arsenal, its economy was moribund, and its totalitarian ruling ideology had little if any international appeal. The United States, however, certainly measured up to this definition. …