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Does the U.S. Really Have the Strongest Military?

Does the U.S. Really Have the Strongest Military?

Maybe not.  Probably not.

One President after another brags that America has the strongest military in the world – even those presidents unwilling to use it when necessary.  Consequently, the “strongest military in the world” has not won a war since World War II – unless you count our incursions into Panama and Belize (In case you do not recall those brief battles, we ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and put down a Commie effort to topple the U.S.-friendly government in Belize).

The theory that the U.S. still has the strongest military on earth may no longer be true. 

And that is significant in terms of overall world leadership.  President Teddy Roosevelt put it simply – “speak softly and carry a big stick.”  That “stick” is the military.

No nation can exert world economic, political or moral leadership without superior military capability.  Successful diplomacy is predicated on the military option – as a credible threat or a reality.

During occasional dinners with President Reagan’s Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger some years ago, he would convey to me that America needed a “two war capability” to maintain world leadership and national security. 

He said that if we were in a war in the Middle East – and only had the military resources to fight one war – every other adversarial nation – such as Russia, China, North Korea and even Cuba – would engage in international expansionism and aggression against the interests of the United States. 

Weinberg feared back then that America was losing its two-war capability – hence the Reagan military build-up and arms race with Russia, our most dangerous adversary at the time.  The strategy was successful – and the old Soviet Union was dismantled.  For a period, the United States military was far superior to any other nation on earth.

Today, many military experts believe that we have ceded military dominance to China.  They have a larger Navy and Air Force than the United States.  While we have a number of warships in the Asian waters, China has more than enough ballistic capability to take them out of commission within minutes.

The folks at the Pentagon – who run various war scenarios through their computers – have made an alarming assessment. 

In a full-scale war with China, we would likely lose.  That’s right.  The allegedly most powerful military on earth cannot be guaranteed to win a war against one enemy – much less more than one.

Military experts also contend that Iran has developed such a large modern military, that it would be too costly for the United States to engage in a real war with Tehran.

For several decades, the United States lacked the will to EFFECTIVELY engage our military. This resulted in long wars of attrition, but no victories.  Today, we appear to lack more than the will – but the very resources.  Every nation on earth – allies and adversaries – now know that America cannot even make a credible threat of military action to enforce our national policies.

The Chinese can and will continue to build man-made island military installations and claim hegemony over the South China Sea.  They can crush the democracy movement in Hong Kong with impunity.   Despite our longstanding defense treaty with Taiwan – both China and Taiwan know that the U.S. does not have the resolve or the ability to stop any China aggression.

Russia can extend its influence in the Middle East without fear of American reprisal.  North Korea and Iran can pursue their nuclear ambitions – knowing that we will not be able to stop them.  They ignore all agreements because they know we cannot enforce them.

As a nation, America can debate and bluster in the diplomatic venues. But we are no longer the nation with the biggest stick.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Ben

    I think it’s safe to say that America ceded the “moral leadership” during the Vietnam War and culminating with the second Iraq War.
    I think the key of not being able to win two wars, is not to engage in the first war to begin with. I deplore trump with all my being, and although he increased civilian Iraqi deaths by 300% over Obama, I did agree with him in that there is no reason for us to engage in needless, endless wars. Most of our issues today are the result in needless intervention, proxy wars, and meddling in foreign affairs to “further our interest” that back fired .. I’ll point out Iran, since you made mention of them.

    • Larry P Horist

      Are you saying there is never a time to go to war — that their is no such thing as St. Augustine’s “just war”? We should have just sent Japan a protest note after attacking Pearl Harbor? I would agree with you that we have failed apply Augustine’s principles. Building on them, I would say that a war must serve a noble and just purpose. The interests of the United States should be clear. Also, a war should never be carried out to maintain a status quo or achieve some short-term temporary purpose. Once we commit life and treasure, we need to be fully committed to a total victory. There is no reason why the Afghan War — in which my grandson died — should have continued for so many years. If we do not envision a victory, then we should not be engaged. It started with Korea. We should have followed Gen. McArthur and solidified the peninsula as an ally.

      Vietnam was a colossal mistake by Truman, who drew the Communist “containment line” off shore southeast Asia — giving China the impress that the southeast Asian nations were ceded to their influence and hegemony. He belated reversed that policy with the “domino theory” that one SE Asian nation after another would fall to Communism.

      • Angelika griffin

        I agree with you fully, but democrats will never stop wars, once started under whoever was President at the time, democrats DON’T stop them for $$$$$$$$$$$$$$…President Trump did the right thing to stop what was on-going as he walked into the Oval, but now we see what mr. biden did already – bombed Syria..!!! It won’t take long and we will be embroiled yet again, other Grand Parents will lose their Grand Children, sorry for your Loss. I feel BAD for our Military once again.

    • Martin

      Sorry Ben, but meddling is being done by other countries like Iran, China, Russia. Obama gave Iran the keys to continue building its nuclear infrastructure as well as appease other totalitarian regimes. America appears as a soft touch and it will not be long before totalitarian states, as well as despots, commit more power, grabs with the collateral evil you equate to the USA with ceding their ‘Moral Leadership’ in Vietnam and Iraq war. Enjoy your politics of seeing Iran continue to wage destruction in Yemen through the Houthi’s, Lebanon continue it’s downward spiral thanks to Hezbollah’s. Yes, appeasement works. The destruction of Syria by Asad was because there was NO big stick. ISIS got a foothold because the West intervened too late and was weak afraid of being Islamaphobic and continues.

      • Ben

        First I’d like to extend my sincere condolences on the loss of your grandson. Far to many of our best and brightest have been killed and broken both physically and mentally because of this war. I work with many young men that are still struggling with PTSD from their time fighting.

        Nice straw man argument. I didn’t saw there was never a time to go war. I said, we should take steps to avoid going to war. In fact it’s telling that you have to go back 80 years for an example of a “just” war. There was no reason for the Korean, Vietnam, or Iraq ( 1 or2) wars. All were cases of us meddling to “protect our interests”. As trump said, we can’t be the worlds police. ( I can’t believe I actually agree with something he said )
        Time after time, looking out for our self interests has had far reaching and long standing consequences. Let neighbors police their neighbors, with us getting involved as a last resort.

      • Be

        If only America’s CIA hadn’t overthrown Iran’s democratically elected President.
        What if we had minded our own business and not trained and armed Bin Laden?
        Almost all of the problems in Latin America are due to our foreign policy.
        ISIS took hold BECAUSE of the west, not because of the west’s inaction. There was stability prior to our intervention in an unnecessary, unjust, and poorly planned war.
        If there is a need for intervention, let their neighbors take care of it. As trump said, “ there’s no reason to be the world’s police”

  2. Anonymous

    Weak greedy politicians r what weaken this country

  3. Rat Wrangler

    The U.S. could have a strong military again. Back when it was strong, the wealthiest 1% of Americans held 8% of the nation’s total wealth, and we taxed them at a much higher rate than we do now. Now that same group holds over 42% of the nation’s wealth, but we are only taxing the bulk of that at 15%-20%, rather than the 37% bracket these people are in. I did some quick calculations, based on government numbers, and figured that if we taxed the people in the highest bracket at 37% for all their income, including stock dividends and options, the government would bring in another 11.9 trillion dollars. That should be more than sufficient to build a strong military presence.

  4. JoeyP

    Who WROTE this GARBAGE piece? . . . The Chinese have JUNK for planes and SHIPS, and our MISSILES are MORE than CAPABLE of wiping the CHINESE off the FACE of the EARTH. However, we need to get this POLITICAL correctness out of our MILITARY and OFF the BATTLEFIELD or we WILL lose these wars. Other countries (including RUSSIA, China, IRAN, etc.) know it would be a losing BATTLE (albeit with HEAVY losses on BOTH sides, ESPECIALLY the Chinese with their INFERIOR equipment) to TAKE ON the U.S. military – and they KNOW it!

    • Ben

      Political correctness ? Like racially integrated troops? The military has always been at the forefront of social change.
      When I served, we had both men and women of all nationalities, social and political leanings working together for the good of our Nation. Seemed like a win then and seems like a win now.
      Political correctness is simply taking into account other people’s feelings and perspectives before you speak or act. Essentially the golden rule you learned in kindergarten.

      • Larry P Horist

        Ben … You are correct in believing that the military should be fully integrated. It actually was until the very racist and white supremacist Woodrow Wilson segregated the military and the Executive Branch with the help of FDR — who kept the military segregated throughout WW II. Actually, there was a bit of integration despite the reluctance of FDR and initially Truman. Eisenhower integrated the Tuskegee Airmen in the air force — having white and black on the same planes. Truman ordered the integrations after three years in office … and largely because he was a afraid of losing the black vote. The NAACP was proposing a major march on Washington. He won the election, but interestingly, he did not move swiftly in actually implementing his own order. The military was largely segregated until Eisenhower took action in his first term and fully implemented Truman’s Executive Order.

        • Ben

          Larry. Ummm.. thank you for confirming my post.. I guess

  5. Anonymous

    Don’t worry, Larry. Diversity is our greatest strength. As for China, they literally own half our Congress and, now, our Executive Branch.

  6. Angelika griffin

    Not much longer, we know “who” works from behind the scene – o’bama – just remember what shape our Military was in as he finally had to go, now he’s back….It will be very EASY for chyna to take us over, and they make sure NO shots will be fired….!!!

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