American Exceptionalism

| Wed Oct. 20, 2010 11:40 AM EDT

Britain, unlike the U.S., has decided that if spending needs to be cut then the military has to bear some of the burden:

Though defence chiefs said today they will still have significant expeditionary forces, they will not be able to intervene on the scale of recent years. According to new defence planning assumptions, UK forces will be able to carry out one enduring brigade-level operation with up to 6,500 personnel, compared to the 10,000 now in Afghanistan, plus two smaller interventions, at any one time.

....The construction, mainly in Scottish shipyards, of two aircraft carriers — the largest ships ever built for the navy — will go ahead even though there will be no planes to fly from them until 2020 at the earliest. That is because the existing fleet of Harriers will be scrapped immediately and an as yet unknown number of US Joint Strike Fighters due to replace them will not be ready for another 10 years.

Only one of those carriers will actually be commissioned, though. Apparently penalty clauses in the contracts makes it more expensive to scrap the carriers than to build them, so they'll finish both and then mothball one of them immediately.

There's no big lesson here, though I think a lot of Americans might be surprised to hear just how constrained the British forces will become. Despite British claims, the fact is that right now the United States has virtually the only expeditionary force left on the planet. Other countries can defend themselves, or send troops across a border, but there's almost no capacity left for projecting force any further than that anywhere in the world. This is one area where American exceptionalism is truly a fact.

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