America’s military power: global policing or paranoia?

by Fabius Maximus
Summary:  The world watches the tragedy of a great nation pouring its wealth down the toilet. America and our allies have an immense superiority over other nations by almost every metric, yet we live in fear. Why? Is it psychological projection or paranoia? See this story in pictures.
American Military Fist
As the world leader, we have set an example that other nations follow — seeking security through an arms race and military action rather than diplomacy. Our motives are obscure. This probably will not end well for us or the world.

World military expenditures

From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. See their summary and their detailed report.
World Military Expenditures

Who spends the most?

This is the conventional graph. It is grossly misleading. Nations fight by alliances. The US stands with the  France, UK, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Italy, Australia, and Israel. Plus, under some circumstance, Saudi Arabia. That is 55% (or 59%) of total military spending. The big baddies we are told to fear are China (13%) and Russia (4%). Neither are likely to have substantial allies in a war. Even combined – which at present seems unlikely – they are grossly outspent.
Money is not everything in war. There are other important factors. The other major factor is experience – in which the US and its allies have an even larger margin of superiority.
See the data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: their summary and their detailed report.
Top 15 Countries for Military Expenditures - 2016

What is the trend in US military spending?

Team Trump and the Republicans in Congress will bring US military spending up to that of the peak years of the war on terror, with our troops fully engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of this will be spent on equipment — the new F-35 fighter, the new B-21 long-range bombermore and new atomic weapons, a massive expansion of the Navy, and a score of other programs.
It is raining money on the defense industry. See the big picture from DoD’s 2019 Budget Proposal.
DoD historical spending

The sun never sets on America’s chain of bases

American Military Bases

What are we defending against?

We are told that Russia is an expansionist nation, with vague but evil intentions. Which is proven by the Russia’s border wars. We have forgotten, but Russia’s leaders remember, our promises not to expand into Eastern Europe as Russia withdrew from it (details here). Russia’s leaders have acted to maintain friendly relations with the nations on their marches — as the US has done throughout its history.
We have invaded Latin American neighbors and overthrown their governments at will — often installing brutal tyrants. Here is a list; most of these actions are shameful. Plus we have a long history of interfering in other nations’ elections.
It takes hypocrisy on an epic scale to condemn Russia’s actions. It is a vivid example of the hypocrisy poisoning American politics.
As for China, their centuries-long history makes them look like pacifists by comparison with the history of America and the West. The exception is their conquest of Tibet in 1951 (Tibet has been part of China off-and-on since the end of the 9th century).
My guess is that the primary concern of both China and Russia is defense against the United States and its allies. We outgun them by almost every measure, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
We had an alliance with Libya, under which they stopped their development of nuclear weapons and destroyed their chemical weapons (details here). In return, western nations sponsored an insurrection that has wrecked the nation and brought jihadists to power. Its people enjoyed peace, stability, and prosperity. Now they have none of those.
With remarkably little provocation and using faked intelligence, we invaded and occupied Iraq. We attempted to install Ahmed Chalabi as a puppet leader. Our invasion destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure. The internal conflicts begun by our occupation still burn. We built “enduring bases” in Iraq from which to project power across the Middle East. Now those bases are mostly skeletons amidst the wreckage from the war.
Our leaders gave us another Big Lie as justification for invading Afghanistan. They never bothered to justify its occupation, or explained why the fantastic cost was worth the money and lives. Their descriptions of the gains are mostly more lies.
There is astonishingly little evidence to justify the new cold war which we have begun.

Why are we doing this?

“We see things not as they are, but as we are ourselves.”
— H. M. Tomlinson “The Gift” (1919).

We can only guess at why America is acting as we are. We are leading the world in an arms race – in which we are the most active in attacking others – saying that we are acting defensively – while we are the strongest and most secure nation.  Two concepts from psychology provide some perspective.
Psychological Projection

Psychological projection.

“Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harbouring hostile thoughts. {From the Britannica.}
We are arrogant and aggressive. We interfere with elections of allies, rivals, and foes. We invade, occupy, and wreck other nations. We overthrow elected governments and install tyrants. We leave a trail of wreckage around the world. How do we justify our actions, or even look in the mirror?
We project our true motives onto others. The darker our actions, the more evil we see our rivals.

Van Gogh's Wheatfield (1890)
Vincent van Gogh’s “Wheatfield with Crows.” This is how many Americans see the world.


We see ourselves as surrounded as enemies. In Latin America. In Africa (see the growth of Africom). In the Middle East. China. Russia. Rivals become enemies. Opposition to our national goals becomes indications of evil at work or even of existential threats to America. What does this reveal about us?


These are signs of a national spiritual illness, or perhaps a collective mental imbalance. Continuing to see any opposition as a need for military strength – or violence – risks creating the existential threat we fear.
If we continue to seek war, eventually we will get it. All wars are gambles. Often there are no winners.