Best Defense

Hey, shut up about being the best military in the world, because we might not be (B)

Here are four reasons to put a sock in it.



Here are four reasons to put a sock in it:

— If the U.S. military is so good, why have we been mired in two wars for over a decade?

— The repeated statement by Defense Secretary Carter that we have “the best military in the world” tends to reinforce military thinking that it is doing just dandy and that civilians are to blame for our two quagmires. It is really all the fault of civilians?

— It also discourages the sober reflection that is needed to help our military move into the Information Age. It is the best military of the late Industrial Age. It may not be the best in the new age.

— It obscures an important question: How do you measure the quality of a military? Is it simply how much firepower you can deliver? We know it is not — but that is the trap the Royal Navy fell into in the 1930s when it invested in battleships at the expense of submarines and destroyers. General McChrystal argues sthat the measure of a military is how effective it is on a given day against an enemy. As the enemy adjusts, so will the degree of quality. So the measure of effectiveness varies constantly.

Photo credit: Imperial War Museums/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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