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The U.S. Military Index: The Next War

When it comes to addressing threats such as the nuclear ambitions of Iran or North Korea, American officials are fond of saying that "all options are on the table." But given the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, how credible is it to assume that the United States could successfully conduct another major military operation ...

When it comes to addressing threats such as the nuclear ambitions of Iran or North Korea, American officials are fond of saying that "all options are on the table." But given the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, how credible is it to assume that the United States could successfully conduct another major military operation somewhere else in the world today? According to the index’s officers, not very.

Asked whether it was reasonable or unreasonable to expect the U.S. military to successfully wage another major war at this time, 80 percent of the officers say that it is unreasonable. The officers were also asked about four specific hot spots — Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the Taiwan Strait — and how prepared they believe the United States is to successfully fight a major combat operation there, were a war to break out today. Using a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning that the United States is fully prepared and 1 meaning that the United States is unable to execute such a mission, the officers put America’s preparedness for war against Iran at just 4.5. The average readiness score for America’s armed forces to go to war in those four hot spots was 4.8.

Of course, any future conflict could strain some parts of the military more than others. How burdensome any war is for a particular service depends on the adversary, the geography of the conflict, the strategy U.S. commanders adopt, and a host of other factors. One is the level of readiness of the services today. When asked to grade the readiness of each of the military services, again on a 10-point scale, the officers judged the Army’s readiness to be the worst, with an average score of just 4.7. The Navy and Air Force fared the best, with scores of 6.8 and 6.6, respectively. The Marine Corps, which along with the Army shares the bulk of the burden in Iraq and Afghanistan, scored just above an average level of readiness, at 5.7. It’s a reminder that, in war, it is easier to talk tough than it is to deliver.

Download the complete U.S. Military Index data:

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