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by inoljt

Military Spending Doesn’t Equal Military Strength

3:21 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

One of the great themes in American politics involves national security. Right-wing hawks argue that America must increase military spending to protect itself from its enemies. This is a very common theme, and it works. America spends five dollars on military spending for every dollar that China (ranked #2 in military spending) does. It spends ten dollars for every dollar on the military that Russia (ranked #3) spends.

But this doesn’t mean that America will win the next big war. If you look at history, military spending seems to have little correlation with military strength. There are tons and tons of examples of one country soundly winning a war against another country which outspent it militarily. These examples aren’t obscure. They’re some of the most famous events in world history.

Take the Roman Empire in the late fourth century. The Roman Empire arguably had the highest military budget of any entity in the world at the time. Military spending by the Romans certainly vastly outnumbered military spending by the barbarian tribes to their north.

We all know what happened next, however. The declining, decadent empire was repeatedly invaded and defeated by those tribes. Rome was sacked multiple times. The Western Roman Empire fell in 476.

Let’s take another example. The major regional powers of the West during the seventh century were the Byzantine and Persian Empires, locked in perpetual conflict. Nobody paid attention to the desert tribes in the Arabian Peninsula. Certainly nobody looking at their military budget. Yet those desert tribes had one thing that the Byzantines and Persians didn’t have: they had God. A century later the Islamic Caliphate, with its tiny amount of military spending, had destroyed the Persians and broken the Byzantines.

Then there were the Mongolians, who carved out the largest land empire the world has seen. Every single foe the Mongolians initially defeated – the Arabs, the Chinese, the Eastern Europeans, the Persians, the Russians – probably had a higher military budget. Yet as the Mongolian state grew and Mongolian military budgets with it, military success decreased conspicuously. Kublai Khan outspent the Japanese only to watch his fleet founder in a tsunami.


But things have changed, you might say. Today is the age of guns and atom bombs. No longer can a tribe of barbarian horseman topple an empire. Today the country with a higher military budget generally has the upper hand.

Which is why the United States, for instance, won the Vietnam War.

Military spending does do a lot of useful things. It helps the technology that a country’s soldiers have, for instance. But military spending provides no guarantee about the quality of those soldiers. It couldn’t make enlisted peasants able to resist Mongolian horse-archers. It couldn’t make the American elite willing to send their sons to die in Vietnam. That’s a lesson that many people would prefer to ignore.


by inoljt

Why Don’t Hmong-Americans Vote Republican?

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Perhaps no group in America has suffered more from Communism than the Hmong community.

The CIA first recruited the Hmong, impoverished tribes living in the hills of Southeast Asia, to help fight the Communists in Vietnam and Laos. When the Communists won in Vietnam and then Laos, the Hmong were persecuted and sent to camps for their anti-communist role. Eventually many found their way as refugees to the United States. They faced opposition from the Clinton administration, but strong support from Republicans enabled most to come to America as immigrants.

How do the Hmong vote?

It’s not always easy to pick out the voting patterns of smaller communities, like the Hmong. One has to take account of many confounding factors, ranging from participation rates to the voting patterns of other communities.

Nevertheless, it seems pretty clear that the Hmong vote Democratic.

There are several lines of evidence behind this statement. Firstly, Hmong elected officials – individuals such as former Minnesota State Representative Cy Thao and former Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua – belong to the Democratic Party. Secondly, Democratic candidates tend to attend official Hmong events. For instance, only Democratic candidate Al Franken attended this Hmong townhall meeting; Republican candidate Norm Coleman was invited but declined the invitation.

Finally, polls indicate that the Hmong vote Democratic. This poll found that 57% of Hmong identify as Democrats, while a mere 4% identify as Republicans. Done before the 2008 presidential election, it also showed Democrat Barack Obama gaining 65% of the Hmong vote, to Republican John McCain’s 4% support.

Those are some pretty stunning numbers. Even if the poll is badly flawed, or has a very leftward bias, it seems safe to say that the Hmong are a strong Democratic constituency.

There is a good reason for this; the Hmong community is quite poor. Indeed, 30.2% of Hmong-Americans receive public assistance income, more than triple the rate amongst Americans overall. Democratic economic policies tend to favor the poor more, and this is a strong draw for the Hmong.

But it’s still quite shocking that the draw of the Democratic Party’s economic policies is so strong as to produce a 57-4 registration advantage among the Hmong. One would think that the Republican Party would do better. After all, Republican lobbying is the reason why many Hmong are today in America, instead of refugee camps in Thailand.

Moreover, the Democratic Party is closer ideologically to the Communist Party which the Hmong fought for decades. This is why Cubans and Vietnamese-Americans, also refugees from Commmunist persecution, vote Republican. And the Hmong have certainly suffered from Communism; Democratic Hmong politicians Cy Thao and Mee Moua both had families who came from Thailand refugee camps.

The ultimate irony is that the very economic policies which put the Democratic Party closer on the ideological spectrum to the Communist Party are the reason why the Hmong vote Democratic.