The United States spends more on armed forces than do all other countries combined; the resulting arsenal is more than a match for any opposing power and for nearly any conceivable coalition of foes. No one disputes that American military supremacy is an international reality. But our military has become vulnerable in a way that is obvious to everyone associated with it yet rarely acknowledged by politicians and probably not appreciated by much of the public. The military's people, its equipment, its supplies and spare parts, its logistics systems, and all its other assets are under pressure they cannot sustain. Everything has been operating on an emergency basis for more than two years, with no end to the emergency in sight. The situation was serious before the invasion of Iraq; now it is acute.
A dozen years ago, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States was freed from the threat that had driven its military planning throughout the preceding decades. In the 1990s scores of bases were closed, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers were demobilized. When the first President Bush launched the Gulf War against Iraq, two million Americans were on active military duty. When the second President Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, the active-duty "end strength," or head count, was only 1.4 million. Total military spending also fell, though much less dramatically, at the end of the first Bush Administration and during Bill Clinton's first term.