For a short time following the tragic events of the September 11th, 2001, the people of the United States found unity behind a singular cause: rooting out those responsible for the heinous attack and ensuring they could never launch another on the U.S. or its allies. Soon, that unity would once again give way to bickering about the execution of what would become the Global War on Terror, and now, nearly two decades later, the American military finds itself in a difficult predicament. With more assets and a larger footprint than any other military on the planet, the U.S. Armed Forces have entered what could be characterized (somewhat dispassionately) as a slump. Navy collisions, aircraft crashes, training requirements not being met, all despite a larger defense budget than the next three nations combined.

That massive defense spending figure is often touted by those on the Left as they appeal for more extensive social programs on the home front, often bringing up that cost comparison between the United States and the nations widely considered to be its peers and competitors… but then, that’s the problem. While the United States does indeed have competitors, when it comes to the global defense initiative, the United States doesn’t actually have any peers, at least not in terms of investment or in obligation.

With both NATO and the United Nations leaning heavily on the military and financial backing of the United States, America finds itself in the precarious position of both lamenting its role as a global police force and leveraging it for what one could argue is necessary diplomatic gain. America’s military serves as a stabilizing presence in regions throughout the world that remain relegated to the back pages of your local newspaper — but that stability matters not just in terms of cultivating local relationships, but on the world’s stage for the purposes of social credibility and maintaining the security of the shipping commerce so much of the global economy is reliant on. America’s military presence is so expansive that when Green Berets were killed in Niger, America’s response was, “we have troops in Africa?” America has maintained a deployed presence in different regions of Africa for years — in large part because the Global War on Terror truly is a global endeavor.

If the trends of this year continue, the United States will drop more ordnance on Afghanistan in 2018 than in any year prior, yet American headlines are no longer inundated with reports of the ongoing fight, and the headlines outlets do run often go ignored. U.S. troops are being deployed to Europe as a deterrent force to prevent Russia from annexing any further territories unabated, the U.S. Navy has ships steaming in figure eights throughout the Pacific, just standing by for the possibility of an offensive ballistic missile launch. Americans are fighting in countries other Americans have never heard of, but much of the expense we opt to ignore when it comes to defense is because of Americans standing by in and around countries others don’t often think about — their very presence serving as the deterrent that prevents those regions of the world from becoming the next tragedy laden trending topic.