The more time I spend in the Army, the more I realize it is a contingency organization. That is, it prepares to do something it (or at least its civilian leaders) doesn't really want to do. Our armed forces are effective inasmuch as they can prevent war. In the event that war does break out, we must be ready to win decisively.
In summary, we are like the benevolent bully in the schoolyard of planet Earth.
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, "speak softly and carry a big stick." Good show, Theodore.
The United States Army has publicly adopted that mantra into its mission, strategies, and tactics in a few ways:
First, we invest heavily into our Armed Forces because we realize that excellence in military matters can secure our interests. The American People deserve much credit for taking the military so seriously, as I have written about.
Second, the United States has entered into multi-national partnerships that promote peace through a unified, deterrent military force. NATO is a perfect example of how nations with common ideals can prevent aggression by simply swinging around the big stick during batting practice.
Certainly the United States bears the heaviest burden among NATO nations. It is our prerogative, then, to influence its direction most. The more we train and fight cooperatively with allied armies, the more clearly we tell our enemies that it isn't prudent to start mess with any of our partners.
Third, we have effectively branded the American Soldier as the best warrior money can buy. Certainly it is expensive to train, equip, and stand up a Soldier. But it has proven worth the resources. The brand is successful on the home front, too, and helps ensure that the public will continue to support the Army, its personnel, and its mission.
Some folks wonder rather vociferously if we overspend on our armed forces. Surely we don't need to be 100 times better than the next best. We are like the New York Yankees in a little league.
But every dollar spent on the margin is more insurance that our force will not have to engage in larger wars. Sure, we are fighting two wars now, but how many other conflicts would we invite if our enemies saw cracks in the armor?
Just in case they start getting cocky, we are ready to fight.