April 28, 2003


American Power Moves Beyond the Mere Super (GREGG EASTERBROOK, April 27, 2003, NY Times)
Stealth drones, G.P.S.-guided smart munitions that hit precisely where aimed; antitank bombs that guide themselves; space-relayed data links that allow individual squad leaders to know exactly where American and opposition forces are during battle--the United States military rolled out all this advanced technology, and more, in its lightning conquest of Iraq. No other military is even close to the United States. The American military is now the strongest the world has ever known, both in absolute terms and relative to other nations; stronger than the Wehrmacht in 1940, stronger than the legions at the height of Roman power. For years to come, no other nation is likely even to try to rival American might.

Which means: the global arms race is over, with the United States the undisputed heavyweight champion. Other nations are not even trying to match American armed force, because they are so far behind they have no chance of catching up. The great-powers arms race, in progress for centuries, has ended with the rest of the world conceding triumph to the United States.

Now only a nuclear state, like, perhaps, North Korea, has any military leverage against the winner.

Paradoxically, the runaway American victory in the conventional arms race might inspire a new round of proliferation of atomic weapons. With no hope of matching the United States plane for plane, more countries may seek atomic weapons to gain deterrence.

North Korea might have been moved last week to declare that it has an atomic bomb by the knowledge that it has no hope of resisting American conventional power. If it becomes generally believed that possession of even a few nuclear munitions is enough to render North Korea immune from American military force, other nations--Iran is an obvious next candidate--may place renewed emphasis on building them. [...]

The American edge does not render its forces invincible: the expensive Apache attack helicopter, for example, fared poorly against routine small-arms fire in Iraq. More important, overwhelming power hardly insures that the United States will get its way in world affairs. Force is just one aspect of international relations, while experience has shown that military power can solve only military problems, not political ones.

North Korea now stares into the barrel of the strongest military ever assembled, and yet may be able to defy the United States, owing to nuclear deterrence. As the global arms race ends with the United States so far ahead no other nation even tries to be America's rival, the result may be a world in which Washington has historically unparalleled power, but often cannot use it.

Bunk. We have to use it just to prevent this possibility. Obtaining nuclear weapons must be seen to be a trigger for war, not a shield from it. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 28, 2003 8:24 AM
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