On paper, the United States has the world’s most powerful military. It has the largest navy, the most modern and combat-tested army, and an air force unparalleled in its full-spectrum capabilities. On paper, the United States dominates every potential adversary on the land, sea, and in the air.
But of course, wars do not occur on paper. Location matters. Since the Civil War in the mid-19th century, Americans have fought most of their major wars across vast oceans. What matters when the shooting starts is not what U.S. military forces look like on paper, but how they stack up in the actual theater of war. Only a portion of the United States Navy, for example, is available for deployment at any given time. Of that, an even smaller fraction is available for operations in any single theater due to commitments around the world. Simply, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates and submarines needed in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean are not available for use in the western Pacific. In contrast, our adversaries generally fight closer to their own territories