Percent of World Military Spending.
September 1, 2001 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Percent of World Military Spending. The US and its allies dwarf the rest of the world in what it spends on defense. On the one hand I see the need to bring overwhelming force in a conflict and I think just having it is in itself stabilizing. But I can also see money and resources put to better use elsewhere (e.g. healthcare, education, basic research) the effects of which I think might even do more to affect global peace and prosperity than any loss that may obtain from a reduced defense budget. (other Thoughts of the Fortnight by J. Bradford DeLong including this draft he presented with Larry Summers! at the Fed symposium in Jackson Hole :)
posted by kliuless (36 comments total)
oops, that's Thoughts of the Fortnight.
posted by kliuless at 5:06 AM on September 1, 2001

Why are some US-friendly countries listed separately? For example, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland are full NATO members. Isn't that ally enough for these purposes? And several of the other countries -- Brazil, Egypt, and Kuwait, for example -- aren't enemies of the US, are they? The US went to war for Kuwait just a few years ago and still maintains a large force there.

So what's a country got to do to be an ally?
posted by pracowity at 5:37 AM on September 1, 2001

this graph helped me to deduce what i already knew. thanks for the .....information.
posted by clavdivs at 8:01 AM on September 1, 2001

Here's another chart (scroll down). I don't like how they all lump "allies" together -- I'd like to see this broken down by country only.
posted by muckster at 8:05 AM on September 1, 2001

> Here's another chart (scroll down).

That one's pretty funny, too. Why is Cuba a "rogue" nation? Don't bring up ancient history; the US used to be a rogue state in British eyes. I mean now. What's Cuba doing now that makes it a rogue?

(But I do agree with what I suppose the original point is: the US spends far, far too much on war toys for bloodthirsty boys.)
posted by pracowity at 8:13 AM on September 1, 2001

There's an old saying that there's nothing more expensive than having the second best military.

A superb military is a threat; the best military is hardly ever used. When you downgrade your military preparedness, you will find yourself fighting more wars (because your enemies are less afraid of you).

I'm not so sure that the military we have now is the one we need; we still maintain several divisions in Germany, though it's no longer obvious why we do. (Our troops are guarding the border between East Germany and West Germany, now both part of the same nation.)

But I'm not convinced that we need less military than we have. There is no doubt in my mind, for instance, that we need a Navy the size of the one we have. The US Navy keeps the world's sea lanes safe, and for a country as dependent on international trade as the US, that is vital.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:22 AM on September 1, 2001

What wins wars are technology and man power. United States has both. The problem with spending is that the US is always prepared (or supposedly) for a two theater of war scenerio. I don't think the military should cut back on intel or R&D but on the actual number of weapons, planes and tanks produced. Just have enough arms on hand to sustain a conflict for however long it would take to get factories online and building war toys. This could already be what's happening, though I doubt it.
posted by geoff. at 8:32 AM on September 1, 2001

an armed society is a polite society. enough sedd!.
posted by billybob at 8:33 AM on September 1, 2001

Geoff, asking "how many jets do you need for a single war?" is like asking "how long is a piece of string?"

The actual practice has been that the US military professed a "two war" strategy as a way of making sure it really had enough weapons for one major war which lasted for a long time. Modern weapons can't be built rapidly; the days of building thousands of aircraft per year (as in 1944) are long gone. In any war from now on, you fight with what you have at the beginning of the conflict.

Between the Gulf War and the bombing of Serbia, the US actually ran through most of its stockpile of Tomahawk cruise missiles. We're in the process of rebuilding the supply now. That was "two wars", but it wasn't "two major wars."
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:51 AM on September 1, 2001

Just for fun, we should spend *all* our money on the military. Just see how big we can get it, you know? It's like going to and seeing how expensive you can make a computer...
posted by whatnotever at 9:05 AM on September 1, 2001

We could always move our money, diverting just a bit of it to other areas and still be #1.
posted by mathowie at 9:25 AM on September 1, 2001

Wouldn't you get pretty much the exact same graph if instead of military spending it was percent of money spent on cable TV, Hamburgers, weight loss products, Health Care, Education, Movies, Music, whatever?

The US and many of its allies are some of the richest nations in the world. Of course we spend more. Military spending as a percentage of GNP would provide a more interesting comparison, and even then...
posted by willnot at 10:11 AM on September 1, 2001

All this says is "the richest nations spend most money".

What would a similar graph showing amount of money spent on healthcare (or televisions) show?

I guess the idea is to illustrate the lack of any threat, but grouping all the allies together assumes that the USA is going to protect everyone else which seems less and less likely the more we hear from Bush. It also illustrates the cost of the overwhelming force approach that the west (1) prefers for military and industrial reasons and (2) is required to use because of the "no mortality" attitude of the general population.

But as a plain graph, with no analysis, it looks pretty silly. Doesn't one expect better of Berkeley?

Does anyone have a link to that old diagram with all the squares? Can't even remember what it's about exactly (come on, someone must be psychic...)

One final comment - money doesn't just dissappear when it's spent. It goes round and round. So spending oodes on arms means that lots of people in the arms industry get paid wages which means they can buy health insurance, for example. Ye gods. I'm starting to sound like an old man.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:16 AM on September 1, 2001

Oh, the "draft" link is quite interesting. Thanks!
posted by andrew cooke at 10:19 AM on September 1, 2001

Why is Cuba a "rogue" nation? Don't bring up ancient history.

Why ISN'T China a rouge nation?
posted by Rastafari at 10:46 AM on September 1, 2001

(heh) "Red" China is a "rouge" nation!
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2001

The graph has little meaning by itself as it does not factor in US's huge economy, size, wealth, etc. The US dwarfs all the other nations in any measurable criteria pretty much.

For example, if the US produces 60% of the world's GDP, it would only be proportional to account for 60% of what the world spends on defense.
posted by Witold at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2001

who is the US defending itself against, mainly?
posted by elle at 12:54 PM on September 1, 2001

Elle, in this day and age, by the time an enemy pops up it's too late to build a military from scratch. We're defending ourselves against the possibility that a serious enemy might appear tomorrow, or next week, or next year. (In 1986 the idea that we'd be fighting a war against Iraq four years later was preposterous; the US was aiding Iraq in its war against Iran in 1986.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:07 PM on September 1, 2001

Does anyone have a list of the countries that (most likely) have nuclear weapons?

Those would be our potential enemies, even if they are our friends now. Wars are very unpredictable.
posted by chaz at 1:45 PM on September 1, 2001

elle, the US fights unpopular wars in far-off countries. For all the yapping Bush and Clinton spouted off about not being the world’s cop, that is exactly what the US does.

witold, The US produces 23% of the world’s GDP.

world GDP: $40,700t
US GDP: $9,255t

chaz, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, United States, North Korea stopped their nuclear development, South Africa voluntarily dismantled their bombs. Several ex-USSR countries gave up their nuke capabilities. Isreal has a large stockpile of nukes given to them by the US. They’re the largest nuclear power in the Middle East. The US had an arsenal in Turkey, since dismantled.

Why can’t some of this money given to the comparably grossly under-funded Department of Education, instead of in the 80s, buying Hussien’s chemical weapons? Why didn’t Bush give teachers a raise instead of funding a genocide?
posted by raaka at 2:00 PM on September 1, 2001

yes, i realise that it's a defensive measure. i was kind of fishing for a specific answer, since i just saw this headline. obviously, the entire world is building their armed forces with the US in mind. i don't know how near the top of the list china is in terms of threat against the US, i'd guess it's pretty high. what other nation would make the US concede to chinese forces such that it could build its armed forces against it? since china is so far up the list, this spending is suspiciously redundant. i know the US probably has an edge in this deal, like allowing more potential development comparing to what china will get at its end, not to mention the US's technological superiority as insurance of exploiting that potential more fully and more efficiently. still, the redundance is that the US is sufficiently far ahead of all the rest to not have to make deals with the very nations it's defending against to spend more. thoughts?
posted by elle at 2:10 PM on September 1, 2001


Military expenditures - percent of GDP for US: 3.2%. This is in line with most countries. (Source: CIA World Factbook)

In this area, it is probably better to be safe than sorry. And given that everyone hates US's guts in the world, it would be nice to be as prepared as we reasonably can.

Additionally, maybe if some of those countries actually spend more money on their defense, we wouldn't be stuck bailing them out. (ex. Desert Storm: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and company.)

In my opinion, there should be no US Dept of Education. Money should be dispursed directly to states (or never collected by the US govt in the first place). DoE is a useless (and costly) intermediary.
posted by Witold at 4:03 PM on September 1, 2001

responding to other posts: no country in the world could defeat the united states in a war. however, terrorists could probably really shake things up with strategic and domestic attacks (nukes in suitcases, i'd guess)

the united states' military exists, among other reasons, to support global capitalism. the pressure to keep the military where it is comes not from taxpayers but defense contractors and international corporations. what happens if workers striked against nike in a violent manner? we'd have an aircraft carrier there in like three days. i'm too tired to elaborate on this point, but try reading some of michael parenti's books.

michael parenti - "against empire"
posted by antimarx at 12:03 AM on September 2, 2001

> In my opinion, there should be no US Dept of Education.
> Money should be dispursed directly to states (or never
> collected by the US govt in the first place). DoE is a
> useless (and costly) intermediary.

That's what I always say about the military: just let me keep the money and buy my own weapons, damn it. I'll show them farrenners what fer! And screw the US Dept of Education! In fact, screw the state and local guvmint education authorities, too! Let me spend that there edumication money the way I want to spend it!
posted by pracowity at 4:59 AM on September 2, 2001

the will to engage is more important then overwhelming military hardware. (plus a good USO show)
posted by clavdivs at 9:19 AM on September 2, 2001

Sorry, clavdivs, that's not correct. It isn't your willingness to fight which deters others from starting wars with you, it's the probability that you'd win which does so. No-one is going to fight against someone when they have a 95% chance of losing.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:15 AM on September 2, 2001

steven: more accurate is not going to war when they know they have a 95% chance of losing.
posted by antimarx at 9:01 PM on September 2, 2001

And please remember that providing for the common defense of our nation is one of the fundamental responsibilities as written in the U.S. Constitution. Our government often embarks on wasteful sprees, and grows entrenched bureaucracies, and sprouts too many departments, division, bureas, and clerkships, but the ability to defend & maintain our sovereignity and ensure that our nation exists as free as it does (& has for over two centuries) is a moral and practical imperative.

DoD spends too much? Possibly. Better than NOT spending enough? Absolutely.
posted by davidmsc at 9:19 PM on September 2, 2001

>>Why didn’t Bush give teachers a raise instead of funding a genocide?

Hahaha, I love the way you put that! making the incongruities salient is always a good thing in my book....

BTW Raaka, what's with the name change? I rather liked the whimsical-yet-commanding moniker "capt.crackpipe"....
posted by johnb at 11:05 PM on September 2, 2001

Another factor, Steven, is understanding the US's willingness to be involved in various global conflicts. No one will attack the United States directly, but if the conflict is between 2 non-aligned states that potentially could escalate and drag in an ally, or could threaten significant US interests, the warring party does not consider the size and strength of the US military, but more whether or not the US will use it, or to what degree.
posted by chaz at 12:55 AM on September 3, 2001

Chaz, both are important, but if you don't have a reasonable military then you won't be deciding whether to use it.

No-one is too worried about the government of Tonga intervening in the affairs of other nations militarily.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:17 AM on September 3, 2001

"No-one is going" (iraq, david, vietnam, masada, korea, yom kippur,confederate states) ((true, having the hardware to back the will is important))
posted by clavdivs at 7:58 PM on September 3, 2001

Currently, the USA is the only country believed to be capable of a major amphibious assault on another nation. Russia once had this capability, but recently lost it.

If we lose this capability, our geopolitical situation is irrepairably harmed.

Moreover, we are currently at great risk of losing this capability due to insufficient military spending:

-Newport is the only shipyard in the United States capable of building nuclear aircraft carriers. If they stop building carriers, the talent will go elsewhere, and there will be no shipyard in the United States capable of building nuclear aircraft carriers.

-Newport and Bath are the only two shipyards in the United States capable of building nuclear submarines. The same holds true for them.

-The winner of the JSF contract will most likely be left the sole surviving fighter manufacturer in the United States. I'm sure the Pentagon would love to buy from the Eurofighter consortium :rolleyes:

-The JSF will, in the very near future, be forced to fill every single role aside from sub-hunting aboard aircraft carriers. We've tried to replace the F-14 before (F-18, anyone?), with little to no success. And now the JSF is supposed to, with admittedly limited radar range, missile range, and dogfight capability?

We need more military spending, my friends.
posted by Ptrin at 11:35 AM on September 4, 2001

"the USA is the only country believed to be capable of a major amphibious assault on another nation" chiner has a nice little invasion flotilla. nothing fancy, nothing huge. but enough for a nice show.
posted by clavdivs at 6:26 PM on September 4, 2001

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