Are the roles of militaries changing

Normally a military is associated with defense from other militaries, offensive actions against other countries (usually to gain natural resources or land) and domestic oppression of civilians.

However as the world becomes more human rights friendly and more democratic (which it has) it seems those objectives are going down. Plus MAD type scenarios seem to remove the chance of a full scale war since any of the countries can push a button and kill millions or cause trillions in property and economic damage, which will negate whatever benefits conquering another nation’s natural resources would provide. Plus at the same time the world is becoming more anti-war, and a war to conquer natural resources could lead to economic sanctions which would do more economic damage than the war would be worth.

So, is this a trend of the militaries of the world losing their objectives? It seems the democratic peace theory shows offensive and defensive militaries are losing their purpose. Plus conquering nations for natural resources isn’t really a winning proposition as much as it was. And domestic oppression is less common due to more demand for civil/human rights. If so, what is the result and future?

Will more and more countries have smaller or no militaries? As it stands, I think the world spends about 1 trillion on all of our militaries (out of about 60 trillion global GDP). However health care spending is probably about 6-8 trillion globally. Global education spending is probably 3-4 trillion. So as it stands the world already spends far more on education and health care than we do on militaries.

Will militaries move to more non-traditional roles? The fact that the US and Haitian military are trying to rebuild and provide humanitarian aid brought this issue up. The US military seems to be doing more “nation building” or humanitarian work than I would assume they did in the past.

MAD just means that countries with nukes are less likely to go to war with each other directly. It doesn’t stop proxy wars like Korea or Vietnam, and it also doesn’t stop those with nukes from beating up on those without, like the US in Iraq. While I’d love for it to be true, I don’t see war going out of style any time soon.

Currently, it is still a unipolar world. MAD does not apply to all countries, since not all countries have nukes.

Is it? The U.S. grabbed an oil-rich country just a few years ago. No economic sanctions yet, nor forthcoming.

The role of militaries is expanding, but I think you also need to look at what’s shrinking. Over the past 30 years, there has been an enormous push toward privatization, thus shrinking the public sector. Meanwhile, at least in the U.S., the budget of the military has continued to grow.

Again, not sure that that is really the case.

Perhaps, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. This has been concurrent with an unprecedented privatization of warfare, making the economic incentives for war even greater than they were before. Not only are resource wars still happening, now wars themselves can be a source of great profit. Hardly an auspicious development.

is Chinese military losing their objectives? I don’t think so. And if that’s the case, can Japanese military lose their objectives? How about Russian or American? Regardless of side shows in the Middle East, the underlying logic of the major nations standing ready to defend themselves from other major nations will not change. The balance of power still works, on each level of national power. E.g. on the highest level there is the Chinese-Japanese standoff, on a lower level there is Israel-Egypt or Saudi-Iran case and if you look hard enough you will find something like Venezuela-Columbia.

It is true that in historical terms, we’re currently at a lull in wars. We have three hots wars going (in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka) and, without trying to minimize the suffering of people in those countries, those wars are pretty small ones when compared to modern wars. Moreover, two were started by the same country (the United States) so it seems if we could just get the USA to cool down a bit, there’d only be one war in the entire world.

However, I find it risky to conclude that war itself is on its way out. Bluntly, no one knows what the future will bring. We can make claims about the economic motivations for war steadily decreasing, but no one knows what economic events will happen in the future. Five years ago, nobody predicted that a few floundering homeowners in California would cause a worldwide economic crisis. Small events can shift the world economy.

In addition, I don’t quite agree with Karl Marx that all wars are based on economics. Historic seems to speak otherwise.

Lastly, getting the United States to not wage war will be difficult. The problem is that we have a huge military-industrial complex which has gained tremendous power, exactly as President Eisenhower warned. Millions of people and dozens of corporations depend for their livelihood on the existence of this. But the American taxpayers might start to get grouchy about paying a quarter-trillion dollars a year for it if it didn’t do anything. Thus, logically, certain powerful people have a strong motivation to start wars from time to time, in order to keep up public support for the military. Ever since the USA first established a standing army in the 1840’s, we’ve been starting wars at least once per generation. (With a short break in the early 20th century when Germany started wars for us.)

There’s a whole slew of wars waging in Africa, surely?

Few organizations can match the US military in terms of rapidly responding to a crisis anywhere in the world with an enormous amount of personnel and equipment. It’s only natural that we would utilize that capability in order to provide assistance as well as asskicking throughout the world.

Don’t be silly. If it’s not Americans or Tigers involved in the violence, then it doesn’t count. Just ignore Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Algeria, Yemen, Mexico, Colombia, Burma, Chechnya, India, Nigeria… You get the point.

Yes, but liberal democracies rarely go to war with each other. The number of liberal democracies has gone from about 40 to 90 in the last few decades. As that number goes up, fewer nations will have domestic oppression and international wars.