No one can seriously debate Robert Koehler’s Another Voice overall conclusion that war is hell. That does not mean, however, that his specific allegations are correct.
Koehler questioned the merits of maintaining a strong U.S. military, despite numerous valid reasons for doing so. These range from preserving our freedom of navigation in international waters being threatened by a hostile power with annexation, for example the Western Pacific, to restraining and eliminating hostile forces, for example terrorist groups in the Middle East who attacked us on 9/11 and wish to do so again. There is also the need to deter near peer adversaries like China and Russia. The ancient Roman general Vegetius’ Latin nostrum, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” – If You Want Peace, Prepare For War – is as true today as it was centuries ago.
If we examine American history, we find examples of what happens when our military is relatively weak. During the final decade of the 18th century, about a third of our federal budget went to tribute payments to the Barbary pirates to cease attacking and seizing American ships on the high seas. Much more recently, Pearl Harbor and a brutal Pacific war caused untold casualties and destruction, in part because some lack of preparation by our government and Pacific fleet led Imperial Japan to believe that the United States could be overwhelmed by one large, successful attack. Our intelligence failures prior to 9/11 and the Iraq War would not have been averted by a less competent military with fewer resources.