The left hand — Barely half of all Americans believe the U.S. is the world’s No. 1 military power, according to a February Gallup poll.*
The right hand — Here’s a graph the top seven military spenders in the world. Guess which country is the big blue bar on the left:
*Gallup, I should note, worded the poll question — “Do you think the U.S. is No. 1 in the world militarily, or that it is only one of several leading military powers?” — in a way that biases the answers.
While our military spending accounts for 43 percent of all military spending in the world, I can understand how someone would look at that question and be tempted to respond that the U.S. is “one of several leading military powers.” We did fight our last two wars — Iraq and Afghanistan — with the assistance of military coalitions.
But I do think there are important policy implications here. With defense spending cuts on the way in Washington, perception of the state of U.S. military might could be just as important as reality.