Is a full-scale, successful invasion of the rest of the world by the US possible?

In answer to this fascinating and highly imaginative thread, I would like to turn the question on its head.

(Actually, given GWB’s eccentricities, it seems less hypothetical than the other one.)

OK. Let’s say some US President (Bush) just gets fed up with the rest of the world one day: “World, I’m tired of you. I’m tired of you not doing what I want and giving me everything I want. I’m tired of your endless doubts and discussions and funny-tasting cuisine and funny-sounding languages. THAT ENDS TODAY. No more countries, no more diplomacy, no more international affairs. One planet, one government, one President. It’s all US now. Let the invasion begin!”

(DC Comics fans: remember when Etrigan the Demon ran for President in '92, and his campaign showed him throttling an anthropomorphized world globe?)

Some of the advantages and disadvantages discussed in the other thread would also be at work here. Disadvantages: the rest of the world has some pretty formidable geography (mountain ranges, oceans, deserts, very long distances). Also, there would be a lot of partisan resistance, rogue remnants of conquered armies, suicide bombers, etc. It would also be very, very expensive, but that could be partially offset by all the resources we would capture. Advantages: most of the rest of the world is too plagued by poverty, inefficiency and lack of technology to oppose us, although it must be remembered that the world also has some wealthy, well-armed and technologically advanced countries. Whaddya think, take out those countries first?

(In case your brain is in shock from the audacious unlikelihood of this scenario, try another scenario: could the US successfully invade or hold Russia, China, or Europe? But please, make a crack at my original scenario before copping out.)

So you think that GWBush is going to pull a Hitler on the rest of the world? If you do, please bear in mind to what happened to the likes of Napoleon, Tojo, Hitler and Mousollini.
The US doesnt have to take over the world by force. It is doing a good enuf job of that with its businesses and products. Capitalism is much more effective and cost efficient.

Basically, no, in my limited opinion.

US weapons systems are generally superior to all but a handful of nations (if not all), and even then available in far greater quantities. However, the cost and lead time involved in producing these would make any drawn-out global war a logistically difficult process. The US would either have to phase a global war across a long period of time, giving opponents time to prepare themselves, or resort to cheaper mass-produced weapons, removing a large part of the technical advantage.

Stealth aircraft and aircraft carriers are certainly among the US’ key military advantages, but neither are invulnerable, nor available in sufficient numbers to fight on many fronts simultaneously. Were the US to attempt an invasion of Europe, or Asia, initial successes would likely become bogged down against the weight of numbers thrown against them.

Let’s wave a magic wand and remove nuclear weapons from the table. The presence of nuclear weapons makes an invasion of the UK, France, China or Russia impossible. I’m not clear how big the Indian and Pakistani arsenals are, but perhaps you could attack them since they probably only have theater range delivery systems and couldn’t hit the American continent easily. But the other countries could destroy dozens of US cities in the time it takes to reprogram the ICBMs or fly the bombers.

But even so, the scenario is impossible. Let’s just consider US conquest of Mexico. Can the US army defeat and destroy the Mexican army? Of course. But then what? How much is it going to cost to occupy Mexico? And the cost can’t be paid simply by handing over stacks of money. It will be paid in millions of citizens taken from productive jobs and put uniform, where instead of producing wealth are now consuming it. Of course, the scenario presumes that the US must cut all economic ties with all other countries. Even if we were just trying to conquer Mexico I imagine massive disruption of global trade as other countries impose sanctions. Since the US is the largest trading nation in the world, our economy will be shredded. We’d have to establish autarky first.

Now, the US has a whole continent to play with so autarky isn’t as hard on us as it would be for other countries. But the main reason the US is wealthy isn’t raw materials, it is trade and a trading culture. Cut that off, and the wealth that supports the US military withers.

End result, we invade Mexico, the country goes bankrupt, the world goes into a global depression, our soldiers eventually have to walk home when the army runs out of money.

In my opinion, the only way to conquer the rest of the world (and even this is a slim possibility) would be to create many alliances with a world gone collectively insane. Then you can crush one country at a time with your alliance of a dozen powerful ones. Once the rest of the world is subdued, you approach 11 of the 12 allies and say “Let’s take out number 12!” Using this approach you can take out a few of the most powerful countries before the rest figure out what’s going on and all unite against you. At that point, you just have to hope you’ve still got enough resources left to take them all out at once.

As an example, I cite my last game of Risk played two nights ago. There were a few alliances to take out certain players, and I was knocked out quickly, as was another guy. Two of the remaining three decided to knock out the last one, but as one of them was busy trying to crush the third, the other turned on his ally and smashed him out of the game in a turn. At that point, he was spread so thin that the last one came in and won. Amazing game, but that’s about how you’d have to play your allies to win. Even then it’s still chancy.

Here’s a more interesting scenario… if you could choose three or four permanent allies and take on the rest of the world, who would you take? Disallowing nukes, of course. Me, I’d take Canada, the UK, Japan, and Russia (in that order). Canada to make sure we don’t have to wage war on the longest undefended border in the world, the UK because of their excellent military and strategic position for Europe, Japan because of their strategic position in regards to the rest of Asia (it’s harder to invade an island), and Russian for the sheer mass and population. I think I could beat the rest of the world with an alliance like that.

-Psi Cop

The U.S. is having a hard time massing enough troops to invade Iraq. There is ZERO chance that the U.S. could invade Europe or Asia.

There is debate in the U.S. military as to whether or not it’s able to maintain a ‘two front’ war. A world invasion would require about a 50-front war. It’s not even remotely feasible.

If the U.S. turned despotic and started literally threatening Europe, or China, or Japan, the rest of the world would start to ally against it. Military budgets would skyrocket, and nuclear weapons would be threatened to keep the U.S. at bay while the other countries of the world re-armed.

Even if you limit the scope severely you find that the U.S.'s ability to actually invade and occupy a large, powerful country is extremely limited.

The U.S. military can defeat any military on the planet. It can strike anywhere, establish air superiority over anyone it wants to (although Europe would put up a good fight, and so would Japan), and it can attack and destroy infrastructure wherever it wanted to.

But that is very different from occupation, as the huge buildup for the Iraq war indicates.

Nope. No. Und Nein.

Y’all forget one thing: the American public would never stand for it.

Congress would revoke the War Powers act faster than you can get a beer at a drive through liquor store. The ‘CINC’ wouldn’t get beyond the sneezing stage of a Kleenex invasion if anyone had their wits about them.

Yes, Congress still acts on behalf of the people. I know (from the bad end) from direct response.

I don’t know. The Romans pretty much conquered the known world of their time. Perhaps a similar approach. Conquer, but offer advantages to being under the US umbrella. Nulcear weapons in other countries would make it hard. It would depend on how much pain the US would be willing to endure.

The big difference is that the rest of the world was incapable of organizing against the Romans.

If you could take away world media so that Europe had no idea what the U.S. was doing, then certainly the U.S. could invade Canada and Mexico, and eventually take over all of the Americas. Then they could slowly work their way around the world, one bit at a time, consolidating power and winning over or killing the indigenous population as they went.

In the modern world, if the U.S. invaded Canada or Mexico, you’d see a repeat of what happened after WWII when the Soviet Union became expansionist. The rest of the world would start arming, forming defensive pacts, setting up early warning systems, etc.

We couldn’t take over the world, but we could take over the middle east quite easily. Frankly I don’t see what we’re waiting for.

Yes - but not by government but by business.

Your information sources. Or look here.

Your food sources.


So are you saying that Israel in 4BC had no mass communciation?

You have a point about that. How about if we initiated a first strike nucular* attack? We could incapacitate all the major cities in the world, and then go after what was left. Would anything be left?

*assumed to be started by GW Bush, hence the spelling.

I think the US might be able to defeat the rest of the world (that is, breaking everyone’s toys and assassinating their leaders), but taking it over? Never. Do you have any idea how many troops it would take to occupy a country like Mexico alone? Much less Russia, China, India, Europe as a whole… impossible. You can’t just march in one end of a country and march out the other when you’re done. Even if every American (~280 million) was physically able to fight, it would be mathematically impossible to subdue ~5.75 billion people and still have enough people left behind in the States to, you know, run the country or make bombs.

Just a short note before I go back and read up and maybe participate in this thread too:

**tclouie, ** in all my time here on the SDMB, I’ve never had a thread a) get as long as the one I started about the US being invaded, or b) ever had anyone spin off a thread that I started. The fact that you called it “fascinating and highly imaginative” also tickles me pink.

Thanks! I’m flattered and humbled.

Now I’m going to go read. :slight_smile:

“How about if we initiated a first strike nucular* attack?”
I think Russia has enough nukes to withstand a first strike and retaliate massively.

Even in a hypothetical world without nukes it’s still impossible. Remember that the US couldn’t defeat North Vietnam with half a million troops. Forget the rest of the world. I don’t think the US could conquer just China even with a full-blooded military expansion. The Chinese will simply use their vast quantitiative edge to blunt the US qualitiative edge. And occupying any part of China against guerilla troops would be a nightmare.

Well, I would be one of the many insurgents covertly working to bring down the government of the US, if they started trying it. I can’t believe that I would be alone.

“I will preserve, protect and defend The Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” And I meant it. So did a lot of other people.

World conquest would be impossible even without that, though. Every conquest would be another source of discord, and a better reason for enemies to use nukes, gas, disease, dirty bombs, and any other means of retaliation. My comment in the other threads about “Operation Spoilsport” are quintuple in significance, too. If you don’t take out the nuke countries first, they will come after you together. If you do, one of them, at least will take the defeat badly, and the Chesapeake will have a new, round bay, just off Great Falls.

“Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”

It’s good advice.


“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” ~ Sun-tzu ~

Two words: biological warfare. With our vast resources in the field of biomedical research, we have the ability to engineer some nasty viruses and/or bacteria. Much more elegant and potentially less collateral damage than nukes, if done right.

Step 1: Create a virus that looks like a naturally occuring, highly contagious variant but splice in some genes to give it an extra deadly punch and increase its survivability in the environment.
Step 2: Covertly immunize our own population against the bioengineered bug by placing attenuated versions of it into the tetanus innoculations that we all receive every 10 years or so…within 15 years most of the population will have immunity to it.
Step 3: After the U.S. population is sufficiently immune, agents will travel to every nation on Earth and simultaneously release the virus. Within weeks, the populations of these nations will be dead or wish they were.
Step 4: The U.S. military will spread throughout the globe to provide humanitarian relief to the survivors, collect wepons left behind by the dead armies and help rebuild governing bodies (completely subservient to U.S. interests, of course).
This would accomplish the goal set forth in the OP and would be relatively casualty-free on the U.S. side. Yes, it would destroy the world economy and thereby severely impact our own. And worse, it would be the greatest crime against humanity in the history of the universe.

And at the risk of being a fear-monger: I believe a great number of nations have or will soon have the ability to attempt something like this. And I don’t say this as a reader of Tom Clancy, I say this as a scientist who has engineered a virus or two in his time and knows how relatively easy it can be…if I can do it, anyone can.

Don’t you think the world would be very suspicious of a sudden,massive outbreak of a lethal disease everywhere in the world except the US. It would almost certainly lead to nuclear retaliation.

BTW your last paragraph is very sobering. If what you say is true the long-run prospects for human civilization aren’t very good. What happens , for instance, if a doomsday cult which wants to kill everyone off gets its hands on such technology? Hopefully it’s still beyond the reach of small groups today but who knows about 50 years from now?

So do I, unfortunately…

:smiley: I got this reference. Thousands wouldn’t.