The bigger-equals-better approach seems to rest on the belief that such extraordinary military power offers a guarantee of national security.
History says otherwise. Just consider the value of overwhelming military power in these examples. First, on Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacked the United States with an order of battle that consisted of 19 terrorists armed with box cutters, and four hijacked aircraft. The entire 9-11 operation is estimated to have cost al Qaeda $300,000 to $400,000 and, as correctly noted by President-elect Trump during his recent 60 Minutes interview, “we’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East” reacting to these attacks.
Despite overwhelming military superiority since day one, the U.S. is still in Afghanistan and Iraq, where advanced laser-guided weapons, Air Force B-1 bombers, the world’s best special forces, and every conceivable military advantage has not been able to deter or destroy our determined enemies to give up the fight.
The lesson is simple enough – the side with the most weapons and soldiers does not always win. The war theorist Carl von Clausewitz describes the danger of comparing figures of strength and concluding that will be enough to determine a path victory. He states, “that would be a kind of war by algebra.” Clausewitz repeatedly emphasizes the role of human passions, emotions, and the play of chance in war. America’s frustrations fighting radical Islamic terrorists around the globe for the past 15 years serve only to underscore this timeless strategic truth.