Measuring Military Effectiveness

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The new Pew Research Center survey we cited the other day on waning public support for the war in Afghanistan is crammed with lots of interesting data. But this chart stopped us short. It asked the public if cutting the military’s size would reduce its effectiveness.

Battleland is no pollster, but isn’t that kind of like asking if reducing the size of your house would make it less effective?

In the crude debate now underway over military spending, the right believes more spending is better, while the left believes less spending is better. And, of course, Pew’s results reflect that knee-jerk reaction. D’oh.

But, to get back to the house analogy, isn’t the real question: more effective at what? Battleland doesn’t want a castle by the shore if a beach cottage is what it really desires. Battleland urges pollsters to stop asking questions like this, and get to the heart of the matter with precision-guided queries more like this:

Are we asking the military to do too much? If you think so, what missions should it give up, or accept more risk to accomplish? If you think it’s doing too little, how much more money do you think it would take for the nation to have an adequate defense?

That’s the debate we’ve yet to have. The budget crunch is going to force us to start throwing missions overboard (or, even worse, retain them and pretend we can do them). Best we start the debate while there’s still time to affect the outcome.