Massive and Unacceptable Damage

Ian Andrew Bell (
Thu, 14 May 1998 19:55:24 -0700


"A country's potential to cause massive and unacceptable
damage on any adversary is the real measure of its military
power. That is also the best insurance against war."

I think that this is an interesting quote -- so interesting I've used it
twice -- and wanted to talk about it a little more, in context of the
United States of Uh-merica.

In my "Da Bomb" message 5 minutes ago I said that the prospect of losing a
paltry 5,000 soldiers and 1 aircraft carrier might be enough to keep the
USA from entering a potential conflict with India. I firmly believe this,
and I think it applies to any war. Since Vietnam no administration has had
the courage to belly up to the bar with all their military might like, say,
the UK did in 1982. The US have picked their fights. Grenada, Panama,
East Africa, The Baltics, and Iraq.

By far, Iraq posed the most credible threat at first glance. But
tactically they were easy to outmaneouvre with air power and a few
well-placed Special Ops guys in downtown Baghdad. And while the US
asserted such an effective campaign to control the impact of the media on
how the war was perceived at home, they were still forced to cow-tow to
paranoia at home that red-blooded American boys would be arriving home in
bodybags by the droves.

So what's the threshold? 500? A ship? 4 planes? $200 million? What is
acceptable to the American Public?

Is it possible that in this new multipolar world that the major world
powers can be threatened and pushed around by pint-sized bullies like India
with large conventional military forces? Can these also-rans operate free
from the fear of atomic assault by the Big Three, knowing full well that
rendering even the enemy extinct with a couple of well-placed nukes isn't
palateable to the home viewer or to the International Community?

Is it possible that the meagre losses of the Gulf War and other lead-ups
have conditioned the American public to believe that any war can be won
with virtually NO losses; and any war that can't be won overwhelmingly
isn't worth fighting?

Pause for thought. Maybe this explains why the US continues to pour
hundreds of billions into the ability to project massive force beyond their
shores, when smaller complements have proven effective even with what we
previously referred to "acceptable casualties". I'll bet if you asked the
USMC they'd agree with me, but in fact is the US Military really big enough
to acheive the US government's international agenda as the global police
force? Maybe not, as India may well prove.


Ian Andrew Bell
BC TEL Interactive (604) 482-5708

"Make it idiot proof and someone will make a better idiot."