Courtesy Reuters

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

Last year, the U.S. military looked something like this: it had 1,380,000 troops, a budget of some $279 billion, and featured 10 active Army and three active Marine Corps divisions, about 20 active and reserve air wings, and 11 active aircraft carriers. Its forces drove m-1 tanks, flew F-15 and F-16 fighters and F-117 bombers, and sailed Nimitz-class carriers. They were organized into unified and specified commands, governed primarily by the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.

Ten years earlier -- with the Soviet Union still standing and the Gulf War soon to begin -- the picture was strangely similar. The U.S. military had slightly over two million troops. With a budget of $382.5 billion (in today's dollars), it had 18 active Army and 3 active Marine Corps divisions, 36 active and reserve air wings, and 14 carriers. Its troops drove m-1 tanks, flew F-15 and F-16 fighters and F-117 bombers, and

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

Subscribe
  • Eliot A. Cohen is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
  • More By Eliot A. Cohen