The Incredible Shrinking Army: A Problem?

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page questions why the Obama administration is “rolling in dough when it comes to entitlements” but cites “fiscal challenges” as its reason for shrinking the defense budget.

“It is hubris and bad policy to assume the U.S. will never again fight another lengthy, manpower-intensive war that begins abruptly and requires a swift response—think of Korea or Kuwait. Critics of Iraq often claim it was a ‘war of choice,’ but the reality of these cuts is that it will leave the next Commander in Chief with far fewer choices to deter aggression or respond to a threat.”

“The steep reduction in manpower and equipment is an invitation to unexpected aggression … The purpose of fielding a large Army is to minimize the temptations for aggression.”


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  • EricFromTheHill

    What an outdated and ridiculous assertion. It’s abundantly obvious that our most likely enemies don’t care about the size of our army and would attack if we boasted ten million strong. If they did they research they’d also know that more can now be accomplished with fewer troops. Seems like the editorial board found something convenient to pander to the neocon right-wing and doesn’t care the slightest bit about presenting reality as it is. That’s the modern WSJ.

  • John Citizen

    The problem too many people do understand is that the total number of men under arms is somewhat irrelevant (not totally irrelevant, but not the best metric). Armies do not find as simply mass numbers of people. They fight as units. The majority of our 400-500k Army soldiers are not combat forces. That is, while they are soldiers in the US Army who have gone through boot camp and in theory can shoot a rifle, they are mechanics, computer specialists, technicians, translators, intelligence specialists, clerks, cooks, human resources specialists, accounting/finance specialists, etc. The number of combat units we have and where they are located around the globe is what matters. And that number is remarkably low. The standard combat unit in the Army today is a brigade–and today’s brigades are larger and more capable than yesteryear’s. They are sort of mini-divisions to those who understand military hierarchy. But there are only so many. It may surprise many to know that in Europe, where you would think–according to isolationists left and right–we have a million men and thousands of tanks, we have two brigades and zero tanks. Yes, zero. One brigade is made up of paratroopers and the other has light vehicles that were designed for Iraq (called Strykers–they are most definitely not tanks). There are 20-some US-owned tanks that are part of a NATO training camp in Germany. They are by no means a combat force. So, while its obviously true we have a large military and spend a mind-boggling amount on defense, what we have to show for that is pretty weak sauce. At least in Europe. Keep in mind, Putin has up to 50,000 troops and 1,000 tanks along the border with Ukraine. Earlier, he surged over 100,000 troops before the invasion of Crimea. Poland just asked for 10,000 NATO combat troops on its soil. Contrary to what Bill Maher or Rand Paul say, the United States does not have close to 10,000 *combat* ground troops in Europe (and, again, has zero combat tanks).

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