This short piece offers some thoughts on the dubious advantages of military superiority. For example, during the 1991 Persian Gulf War the U.S. was able to pulverize Iraq, but the outcome was politically indecisive.

"After a point, increasing destructive potential does not translate into increased security. In fact, quite the opposite is true."

Since the beginning of civilization, military power has been the primary instrument nation-states have used to control and dominate each other. With the growth of technology, the destructiveness of military force has reached apocalyptic proportions. As has been amply demonstrated in the twentieth century, the use of military violence exacts a huge toll on the societies of both sides in a conflict. War, and preparations for it, waste massive resources and brutalize the human spirit.

Today the use of military force is irrational. After a point, increasing destructive potential does not translate into increased security. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Military force is an antiquated method of wielding power. It is arguably useful only in situations where one side possesses clear military superiority, like the U.S. now does over the rest of the world. But even then, its utility is doubtful. Look, for example, at the indecisive outcomes of our wars with North Vietnam and Iraq.

In the last few years we have seen a disturbing development in military tactics. During the Gulf War the U.S. was able to drop over 88,000 tons of explosives on Iraq with little risk to its own forces. This approach was perfected in the 1999 campaign against the Serbs, where not one U.S. pilot was killed during eleven weeks of bombing.

Now the technologically advanced nations of the world can prosecute wars and inflict massive casualties on their Third World enemies without taking casualties of their own. Perhaps more importantly, the technology of remote control warfare has overcome the natural human resistance to killing other people. It's much easier to target blips on a computer screen than blow someone's head off in a face-to-face battlefield confrontation.

May 2001






The Illusions of Military Power
A conservative foreign policy expert traces changing perceptions of the utility of military force from Vietnam through the first Clinton administration.

Why War Fails
Comments from Howard Zinn about how modern wars are not only immoral, but inevitably fail to achieve their stated objectives.

World Order after the Lebanon War
A short commentary on the ineffectiveness of military warfare when used against non-state adversaries, made even more apparent by the failures in Iraq and Lebanon (in 2006).
Libertarians opposed to interventionism.

War Resisters League
Founded in 1923, WRL is an activist group that "affirms that all war is a crime against humanity." Opposes not only war, but also the roots of war: social injustice and the culture of violence (war toys, sexism, ROTC, etc.). Good people with maximum integrity.

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