The U.S. strides the globe as a colossus, stronger than any other state and more dominant than any empire at any time in human history. The entire militaries of “rogue” states have less total firepower than one American carrier group while terrorist groups create more popular angst than extreme danger. The U.S. faces no existential threat like it did during World War II and the Cold War.
Nevertheless, the call continues to go out from otherwise limited government conservatives for a bigger military. Spending as much as the rest of the world on the military isn’t enough. Nor is spending more, in real terms, than during the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold Wars. Neoconservative intellectuals and hawkish Republican politicians alike insist that the Pentagon needs more money, troops, and weapons. For something. Or everything.
Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with defense. The Constitution authorizes the national government to act in the “common defense” — of America, not the rest of the world. None of the founders imagined that the U.S. would become Globocop, busy protecting populous and prosperous allies (international social welfare) and attempting to rebuild failed societies (foreign social engineering).
Indeed, 9/11 demonstrated that the Department of Defense is lousy at defense. Most of America’s armed forces are deployed for offensive operations on behalf of other nations. Congress ended up creating the Department of Homeland Security to actually protect America.
Washington’s current globe-spanning alliances would seem to be sufficient burden for even a committed internationalist, but some self-professed conservatives continue to find new tasks for U.S. troops. Which, of course, requires an ever larger military.
For instance, John Guardiano points to North Korea’s latest misbehavior as demonstrating “the need for a much bigger and modernized U.S. Army and Marine Corps.” Why? Guardiano explains, “to occupy and rebuild North Korea when it implodes, as it inevitably will.” At least he admits that this would be no mean task: “we likely will have to occupy and rebuild the country just as we have done in Iraq and are now doing in Afghanistan. And that will require a lot of boots on the ground.”
Egads! How could defense planners have missed this? Normally the elimination of a heavily-militarized adversary threatening an American ally would reduce U.S. defense requirements. But not here.
Instead, the American people have to add yet another client state. Under the theory that only the U.S. can do anything in the world, it apparently has become America’s job to fix a country which Washington did not defeat in war and with which Washington did not have an alliance (or even diplomatic relations), even though that nation’s wealthy neighbors have more at stake in regional security.
Just as God is concerned about even a single sparrow falling to earth, the U.S. must be concerned about even a single adversary falling apart.
Of course, what Guardiano wants the American military to do has nothing to do with America’s defense. Moreover, he’s assuming an inevitable collapse of the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As many people have been doing for years. And as they have been doing equally long for Cuba. Alas, those extra divisions Guardiano wants to raise might end up sitting around a long time before receiving their call to action.