Professor Bainbridge quotes at length an essay by Andrew Bacevich in today's Wall Street Journal which concludes a) we are over-extended in Iraq and Afghanistan, and b) Bush's choices are "stark". Those choice are: bring the troops home and use "other means" to battle terrorism, or grow the Army. Professor Bainbridge would be willing to raise taxes to build an 18 division Army.
If we are over-extended, and we might not be yet, I think there is a third option. Thomas Barnett laid out a plan for overhauling our armed forces in "The Pentagon's New Map ." I have read the book twice, so convincing are his arguments.
In Barnett's view, post-cold war terror wars require small, tactic teams like SEALs and Rangers to inflict massive damage quickly, anywhere in the world, then large police forces filled with armed social workers, for lack of a better term, to establish democracy.
Barnett's view is that America's main export to the world is security--not steel, entertainment, or food. The world buys security--protection--from the US by financing our debt. Once we realign our military to meet the real security needs of those nations still fighting globalization--think of the Taliban--we can treat security as the commodity it is.
On the other hand, I'm not sure we're over-extended, and here's why: I have a theory that as soon as something is generally accepted, it is no longer true. A good example is gasoline prices. In May and June, people were saying that prices would fall as soon as x, y, and z happened. By July, "experts" were saying that we just to need to get used to $2.00 a gallon regular. In late September, economists predicted that high oil prices of $50+ a barrell were here to stay. Others were saying the world is about to run out of oil--Paul Krugman among them. About that time, I noticed that people in line at Quik Trip were no longer complaining about the gas prices--they accepted $2 gasoline. (But no one counters Krugman like Krugman.)
What happened? Well, whatever happened caused OPEC to cut production today in order to boost crude oil prices, and the price of oil still dropped.
If everyone would just accept the fact that Iraq will never be settled and that our military is woeful over-stretched, everything will be just fine.