The purpose of this article is to put into perspective matters of military strategy regarding the maintenance of the armed forces of the United States. I know that some people like to use the term “invasion” to describe the situation regarding crossings of our southern border. But we can discuss issues related to immigration services elsewhere. Here we will focus on the military purposes for which the nations of the world normally raise and maintain armies.
First, let’s look at what the United States Constitution provides for:
Article I, Section 8 names among the powers of Congress, “To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years.” And the next power it names for Congress is, “To provide and maintain a Navy.”
Events of the 20th century seem to have changed our perspective on the matter. But note that the Founders specifically intended for the United States to not maintain a perpetual standing army. The existence of the army is explicitly subject to periodic review and approval by Congress. But note also that no such restriction is placed upon the navy. Both of these items are interesting and may be relevant.
Military actions of the 20th century have left imbedded in our national psyche certain images and fears. We see them in the stories and movies that still come out once in a while. For example, Red Dawn was a 1980s story about a Soviet invasion of the United States after a nuclear war. And the television series, Man in the High Castle portrays a hypothetical alternative aftermath to World War II wherein Germany and Japan win the war and then invade and control the Eastern and Western regions of the United States.
Invasion of our homeland is a scary prospect. After all, look what happened to Poland, Russia, China, and the Philippines at the start of World War II. The fear of this happening keeps certain fans of the military, especially those “specialists” who are the internet war gamers playing the latest release of their favorite games, and movie goers, fantasizing about hypothetical situations.
But how realistic are these particular fantasies?
First of all, it’s difficult to imagine the aftermath of atomic war leaving anybody on either side wanting to march their armies halfway around the world, across oceans, starving, with supply lines already decimated, to take over and administer somebody else’s vast territory and defiant people. So Red Dawn is absolutely pure fantasy.
So let’s look at World War II:
In the case of both Germany and Japan, their primary goal was to acquire resources – raw materials for industrialization and to feed themselves. In the case of Japan, it was because they are an island nation with very few resources of their own to fuel industrialization and modernization. In the case of Germany, it was because they had been economically devastated by the Great Depression and they wanted to expand their domain primarily into the rich and nearby lands of the Slavic people – Poland and Russia. And they wanted to eliminate France and Britain as potential interlopers into their plans.
In both cases, attempting to take over the North American continent would do them no good. Because taking over implies administering the region. And doing that across vast oceans isn’t something either one of them had on their agendas.
The idea of an evil military force “taking over the world” sounds good in fantasy stories. But nobody ever even considers doing that in practice in the real world. Even Great Britain, who actually, in effect, owned a good portion of the world, didn’t just swoop into each region and take over with their military. They played local factions off of one another and gamed the local systems so that they came out on the winning side.
Contrary to fears at the time, and despite certain incidents that still get cited, Japan was never really a credible threat to the continental United States. Yes, they attacked the Pacific Northwest with balloon-launched incendiaries and explosives. But they only managed to do with the few 30 pound bombs that made it across the Pacific a couple instances of a fraction of the kind of damage that hundreds of lightning storms do every year anyway. Their armies were far too busy taking over and managing territory on a continent closer to home that had the resources they actually wanted. They had no interest in trying to reach across the Pacific Ocean and manage territory over here. The only reason they attacked Pearl Harbor was that they thought it would keep us from interfering with their plans on their side of the Pacific.
Likewise, Germany had no interest in managing North America. They wanted contiguous land in an empire of Europe. (Kind of like they have now as the center of the European Union.) Their danger to the United States was by sea with their submarines to keep us at bay while they did had their way with their neighbors.
To that end, they were making plans to be able to attack us, but by air, with a long range bomber. But then, we had plans for one of those, too, even before we got into the war. The difference was that our B-36 eventually became a reality. Their intercontinental bomber did not.
So, there was no planned or potential invasion of the United States during World War II.
To answer speculation that there were such plans or desires, military enthusiasts, hobbyists, and gamers often cite Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of the Imperial Japanese Navy as countered them by saying, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” This famed and fabled Yamamoto quote is used to hype up the feelings of people who imagine themselves taking up their rifles and shotguns and defending the beaches of our Western shores. But it’s really just a fantasy that militia devotees like to dream about, because, in addition to the fact that the invasion wasn’t going to happen, there is no evidence that Yamamoto even ever said it. What Yamamoto did know and understand very well was the industrial potential of the United States. And that is what actually eventually won the war in the Pacific.
Okay. So much for history. Hypothetically, who could invade us now?
I think that, for obvious reasons, and despite several semi-popular movies, we need to eliminate from our hypothetical the aftermath of a nuclear war. Because our attackers would be vaporized and have nothing of a homeland to attack from.
But even under the ridiculous assumption that atomic weapons would not be used if the United States were to be invaded, or that our attackers could survive a counterstrike, how could it happen? And what would it take for someone to do it?
Neither Canada nor Mexico have either the resources or the incentive to try an invasion of the United States, so it would have to be by sea. But we span the entire continent, from ocean to ocean, with more than 3,000 miles of open water across the Atlantic and more than 5,000 miles across the Pacific between us and any potential invaders.
So who? Maybe Russia? Or China?
The creeping world-take-over Communist ideology of the Soviet Union is dead and long gone, so they’re out. And China only claims to be Communist for China’s sake. It never did have ideological expansionist claims on the rest of the world beyond a few close neighbors. Besides, it’s given up on real ideological communism anyway. And now, for practical, economic, and historical reasons, it’s even at odds with some of its former buddies like Vietnam. (It seems weird to consider that, if, for some odd reason we did go to war with China in Asia, we would probably have Vietnam on our side.)
Anyone else? Someone in the Middle East, perhaps? No. Someone over there might set off a bomb here or there. But invade North America? No. They can’t even effectively invade Israel.
So there is no reason why or practical way that our most likely enemies would invade us.
But to put the last nail in the coffin of the question, let’s do a little simple arithmetic on what it would take:
We do at least have a good baseline for comparison, in the one time in world history that a sea-based invasion force landed for the purpose of taking over a continent. And it was successful. In all, twelve allied nations got together to invade Europe in 1944. They landed a little over 150,000 troops on beaches in France.
So let’s go with that number. Let’s assume that 150,000 troops are going to start out from Beijing or Vladivostok or somewhere for the purpose of invading the United States. And the U.S. Army and Marine Corps (and/or maybe those shiny eyed militia members with their rifles behind their blades of grass) is going to be here to take care of them. Right?
Well, World War II troop carrying Liberty Ships each carrying 500 soldiers were about 400 feet long. So the first thing they’ll need is a fleet of 300 of those ships. That’s a 25 mile long string of ships set end to end even if they leave no space between them that they would have to build and keep in a harbor somewhere while they got ready.
This isn’t 1942. So they’re not hiding out in the Pacific somewhere where we can’t see them. consider what we can see from orbit. We can see anything in any harbor on the entire planet that’s bigger than a wharf rat. So we could watch them for weeks or months as they amass their troops. And we could watch them for months or years before that as they build their fleet. And traveling at a good 30 knots across the sea, they’d take a whole week to get here.
Okay. So you get the picture.
Enough nonsense speculation about someone invading the United States.
The U.S. Navy and Air Force would have them sunk in their own harbors within 5 minutes of them weighing anchor.
If any nation tried to invade the United States, neither the U.S. Army nor the U.S. Marine Corps would even have to get out of bed before the enemy’s entire force was obliterated. And those militia members who are all set to stand behind their blades of grass and defend our nation from foreign invaders wouldn’t even know about it until they read about it on Facebook that afternoon.
Nobody’s going to invade us.
It’s not gonna happen.
A foreign invasion of the continental United States hasn’t been a real possibility for over two centuries.
Once we got that kerfuffle settled with Britain between 1812 to 1814, it became impossible.
Whether we’ve been right or wrong in each instance ever since then, we’ve only ever used troops as a means of force projection, first against Mexico, then against the indigenous tribes in our newly acquired West, then against Spain, and then in the World Wars and other struggles around the globe.
As far as danger to our homeland is concerned, we can consider an address given by Abraham Lincoln to a group of students in his home town of Springfield, Illinois in 1838, twenty three years before he became President:
From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.