13 April 2012

Chart of the Day: World Military Spending


  1. The current Pax Americana depends on our continued high level of military spending and our demonstrated willingness to use our power.

    The world is at peace only because our American Empire enforces that peace. We also keep the world's shipping lanes and so maintain the world's economy.

    All told, American (ie our) military spending is an absolute good.

    1. "The world is at peace..." Where does this writer live? The US has been at war since Oct. 2001, 80% of casualties in our wars are women and children, the low estimate of Asian deaths as a direct result of American arms is 1.5 million, the high guesstimate is 4 million. We have a good count of the 6000+ uniformed US soldiers killed, not so good count of US contractors and no count at all of the children killed.
      The Universe does not forget the killing of children - lots of Americans are going to hell with lots of money.

    2. Pax Americana? Wow, perhaps on your street. I wonder how those 2 - 4 millions of Asians and their families feel about this Pax. 80% of America's kind of war casualties are women and children. Iraq is littered with spent DU - cancers, birth defects. Afghanistan poppy crop is now over 10,000 metric tons, 180 metric tons the single yr. the Taliban controlled the crop. 3700 tons the yr Pax Americana got there. I think it is why the invasion plan was on Bush's desk 3 days before 9/11 - we needed the dope. How does 60% (the DEA says only 4% of the crop gets to the USA) of that crop get to America anyway - hippies with back pacs sneaking on jets? Camels? Old VW buses driving across Asia?

  2. I look at that chart and I want to cry. My wife, who is French, looks at the chart and feels comforted.

  3. pedex

    Depnds on your frame of reference.


    Gets really interesting if you go back to the "good old days"...


  4. I look at that chart and think of mountain goats. The top male goat in the herd spends so much time protecting his mating privledges with the female goats that he doesn't have time to eat and fatten up to survive the winter.

  5. @ sykes

    Even accepting that the US military isn't larger than it needs to be, that isn't evidence
    that we aren't overpaying for it.


    Given historical precedent and human nature, as bad as you may think things are now, odds favor a world without any military superpowers being even worse.

  6. I'd say the amount is much higher depending on how you define "military spending". For example, nuclear weapons on not in the military budget but the Atomic Energy agency. Also, National Security Agency is de fact military and the CIA drone air force and the maintenance of 800(?) military bases is not in the military budget and the State Dept. contract army, etc. etc. I'd say total military 'related' budget is well beyond a trillion dollars a year. Makes you wonder what all the fuss was about TARP?

  7. sykes.1 is right, but it's time to permit the rest of the world to take responsibility for its own security. Our military has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to mobilize and deploy massive force to anywhere in the world within a short period. So, if we do want to intervene on behalf of an ally or a strategic-value nation (e.g. Kuwait), we can do so without a foreign based force. We should withdraw our forces, except for strategic positions and deployments. We should focus the majority of military development on defensive and neutralization technologies.

  8. "The world is at peace only because our American Empire enforces that peace."

    The last I checked, the "American Empire" was running deficits of $1+ trillion a year. How many years do you figure the "Empire" can keep that up?

  9. big difference between "defense" and economic warfare backed by force

    How many nations has the US given the Guatamala treatment in order to help a multinational corporation or corporations rape a particular nation and then lie about underlying reasonings? It is a bunch isn't it? So some of you are saying if it isn't us it will be someone else? BS, and history shows it. The US has overthrown more than 30 govt's since WW II and basically zero had anything to do with keeping the peace or self defense or the defense of others. Take present day Iran for example, once again the US is applying sanctions and covert ops just like it did before. We have used this same formula over and over again. Any pretense of some moral high ground is BS. It is might makes right and we kill people just cause we can, get over it.

  10. The real story of global dominance would be revealed by intelligence spending. These are the people who put politicians in place, not only in the third world but in Europe and the United States.

    It is the incredible power of US intelligence and military that has given rise to the global dominance of (for example) Intel, Microsoft and Apple. Don't forget that your cool little iphone is recording your every movement in a hidden file or that Apple were bust in the late '90s before Microsoft bailed them out.

  11. Or more to the point, what factors are at play that Europe can no longer defend itself, but must rely on American power?

  12. But pedex, what about the data?

    Do you have any that contradicts the links I provided?

  13. US intelligence spending is part of the DoD budget and runs about ~$80B annually, or about 12% of the total DoD budget, although I think it went down a bit. Probably because we’ve achieved worldwide saturation of Apple stores. Check Wikipedia or Federation of American Scientists for their entries on the United States intelligence budget.

    A quite dismaying aspect of that graph is what’s behind it: thanks to our budget situation (~$1.3T deficit), US military spending is financed entirely through debt, the US Treasury Red Debit Card.

  14. @ John M

    what about the data? you mean the data that has zero context and thus no meaning?

  15. Or more to the point, what factors are at play that Europe can no longer defend itself, but must rely on American power?

    There is only one country that Europe might not be able to defend itself against, and that would be the US.

    Look at that chart again. The UK, France and Germany are all on it. Add in Benelux etc and "Europe" is the #2 power by a long way.

    I love how deep fried Republicans claim that Reagan "defeated" the USSR by making it go broke via defence spending. Then insist on upping defence spending even as the US goes broke on it.

  16. What I like is how everyone believes that China is telling the truth in how much it spends on the military. Yep very believable that a country that has 3 million people in uniform and a standing Army of 2.25 million, doesn't spend even twice as much as the UK that doesn't even have 250,000 people in uniform, ICBMs (which China has)or Ballistic missile subs (Which China has).

    Check out pages 31 and 32 of this 2009 report:

    From the report:

    "Moreover, China’s published military budget does not include major categories of expenditure. China’s legislature does not have an oversight process for the PLA budget. Although academic experts and outside analysts may disagree about the exact amount of military expenditure in China, almost all arrive at the same conclusion: Beijing significantly under-reports its military expenditures."

    In 2009 it as estimated that China actually spent between 105 to 150 Billion using 2007 prices and exchange rates.

    Now as to the UK, France and the other EU countries they do not have the major expense of Strategic Nuclear forces to pay for. Instead they live under the umbrella of the US Strategic Defense system. You know you save alot of money when you do not have to buy and maintain ICBM's, Ballistic Missile subs and Bombers.

  17. Boballab,

    The UK and France have ballistic missile submarines.

  18. #15 pedex,

    Well given this all started with you objecting to Sykes' comment about the World being at peace, to which I responded with data showing that compared to past and recent World history, the World is relatively at peace, what context do you have in mind?

    Do you have anything substantive to say about the data I linked to or any alternative data to point to?

  19. You know you save alot of money when you do not have to buy and maintain ICBM's, Ballistic Missile subs and Bombers.

    An obvious conclusion is that the US could save a lot of money by getting rid of most of theirs, which are overkill (in the literal sense). In fact a lot of people have suggested that, but pride (apparently) forbids not being able to wipe out any enemy ten times over.

    BTW, I'm astounded you could lecture us on not realising China's figures are duff, which is pretty well known, without yourself knowing France has an independent nuclear capability.(They also have the major part in a space program, so could develop IBCMs extremely quickly if needed.)

    Even doubling China's figure would put it behind a combined Europe.

  20. #20

    BTW, I'm astounded you don't know the French nuclear arsenal is NOT INDEPENDENT of the US. Since the 1970's and through the 1980's the French have used US R&D to modernize their arsenal:

    "For a decade and half the United States has provided substantial covert assistance to the nuclear forces of France"

    So much for that claim of an independent nuclear force. Their entire modern arsenal is based on research given to them by the US.

    Same with the UK:

    "The British have been in the forefront of countries urging controls on proliferation; in general, their sensitive technology in nuclear and missile fields has not been made available to outsiders. In many cases, it is based on technology received from the US and could not legitimately be passed on without US permission."


    So those numbers for the European countries are artificially low because they get the benefit of US research and technology without putting as much investment into them.

  21. Puhleeze. I don't think you know what independent nuclear force means. It doesn't mean that they can't work together at all.

    The US Marines used Harrier Jump Jets, but that doesn't mean the Marines are "dependent" on the British.

    The French and US share research because they are allies. Allies help each other. Or were all those French tests in the Pacific on behalf of the US?

    (I never said the British force was independent. Operationally it is, but technically it hasn't been for a long time.)

    The military budgets of Europe are not "artificially low". The outlier is the US, not the rest of the world.

  22. Roger,

    I remember and article in the NYT about 10 years ago that asked if the world needed a police force. The answer was yes, and it was by default the USA.

    Leaving that aside, your chart is dishonest because it doesn't consider military spending as a percent of GDP. At $15 trillion the USA is still the world's largest economy.

    The USA's military spending as a percent of GDP is around 4.8%. Saudi Arabia =10%, Israel = 6.5%, Iraq =6%, Russia =4%, France =2.3%. There's lots of smaller countries that spend larger portions of their GDP on their military than we do.

    Personally I'm okay with trimming our military spending given the state of our economy, but IMO, your chart is total crap. You have to consider GDP, (and you know that Roger)


  23. This thread begs the question of correlation vs. causation. The causation advocates, who claim that U.S. military dominance causes world peace, must believe that the U.S. is exceptional in human history. That our military dominance is the "good" kind of imperialism, while all previous dominant military powers were "bad," e.g., Britain, Germany, France, etc.

    The 1948 General Agreement on Tariff and Trade, which preceded the World Trade Organization, and provided the first formal non-military mechanism for nations to resolve trade disputes could parsimoniously explain more peaceable relations between nations.

  24. @ #24

    and the definition of war has been warped in a huge way as well

    acts the US considers acts of war are not acts of war when the US commits them nor is the fallout and collateral damage caused by its actions included as war deaths


    strip out real GDP minus the 30%+ fudge factor aka hedonics and see what you get, might as well add ALL the US related war machine spending in the tally as well and things look far different..........

    just like when it comes to killing, the US is very good at lying to itself about its economic situation as well

  25. #24

    Wow, that signed piece of paper must be "exceptional in human history."

    To think, all those centuries of warfare eliminated by one stroke of the pen.

    At least, unlike Pedex, you agree that in relative terms, we are in a period of remarkable peace.

  26. Mark, "Look at that chart again. The UK, France and Germany are all on it. Add in Benelux etc and "Europe" is the #2 power by a long way."

    You really don't have a clue of what you are talking about, do you?

    The only reason they don't have a perceived need to defend themselves at home, is nobody is planning on invading them.

    Their ability to project force into other parts of the world, e.g.,, Afghanistan, is completely nil.

    In your fantasy world, where military force is not needed and we can all just "talk nice to each other" and I guess munch popcorn while we watch third-world dictators slaughter their own populations, I suppose this doesn't matter.

    "I love how deep fried Republicans claim that Reagan "defeated" the USSR by making it go broke via defence spending. Then insist on upping defence spending even as the US goes broke on it."

    Can you mix up more ideas in one paragraph if you tried? Seriously, what do you think was the impetus for the demise of the Soviet Union? On second though, don't bother. I'm just not that interested in your canned rhetoric.

  27. The only reason they don't have a perceived need to defend themselves at home, is nobody is planning on invading them.

    And you think this is bad thing? Why, if no-one is going to attack them would they spend money on force projection – in order to go looking for enemies?

    Who do you think is planning on invading the US any time soon? It's "defence" spending is predicated on multiple foreign wars not on defending itself.

    Since WWII the US has freed exactly how many dictatorships? Korea was left under a military dictatorship into the 80's. Vietnam failed. Iraq might last, I suppose. Afghanistan won't. Grenada! Woohoo, we have one. In that time it pulled down several democracies (Iran, Chile). It's a lovely story that you are fighting to save the world. Outside the US no-one much believes it though.

  28. Andy: Most peaceful periods in history around the world are dependent on the presence of a dominant power. You do not have to be a moralist to argue that this is true or not, this is a historically observed fact. The chain of causation is rather simple: a dominant power has overwhelming force, so few states bother to challenge them, which limits conflict. Whether the state is "good" or "bad" has nothing to do with it.

  29. Mark, I'm not going to bother with the mindless strawmen you've engaged in (this is more informative of the level at which you are able to think, than about your ability to raid legitimate issues), but if you look at the numbers most of US spending is going entitlement spending, not military. If you wanted to balance your budget, and most of the money was being spent say on clothes, the fix isn't to reduce movie theatre expenditures, same goes here.

    The US and European budgets are out of balance more because of runaway at-home spending on social services, and not because of excess military spending. It's just a fact, you can cry about that if you like, make excuses, or even lie with statistics. Still a fact.

    Europe doesn't have any money to spend on its own military because as a percentage of its budget, more is going towards social services, and there is very little left over for military, R&D, etc. after that is accounted for.

    Regarding the US and "saving the world", that is one of the strawmen that I referred to. I said above the US was responding to economic and military threats, I didn't say much about their policy being driven by the need to "right wrongs". The intervention in Iraq and the Middle East for example, are driven more by the perceived need to "keep the oil flowing", and since Europe is the primary benefactor of keeping that oil flowing, it's hard to argue they aren't a beneficiary of that.

    We spend as much as we do on the military, because the consequences of nobody in the world capable of projecting power against those who can't be reasoned with would be socially, politically and economically disastrous.

    If you want to argue against military spending, especially that aimed at projecting force into regions of the world that are destablized, yes it is true that a primary mission of such military projections is aimed at humanitarian needs, rather than selfish goals (like the perceived threat of protecting the US economy from the impact of the collapse of the European one, were Middle Oil cut off).

    These work best as a concerted world effort (e.g. UN lead), but with the US the only country able to project meaningful force, like with Afghanistan, which is a UN effort, they all turn into a generally US effort. I'm not any more happy about this state of affairs that you are, and perceive this less as a US superpower status, than the unwillingness of European countries to grow up and play their part in stabilizing the world.

    In any case, if you are arguing for more spending at home and less on military, what you are doing de facto is placing the lives of your own citizens above the two billion or so earning $2 per day living under generally despotic rulership. It's a completely and utterly selfish choice that Europeans have chosen to make, especially given that most of the problems we are experiencing in the world (esp Africa) are ultimately the consequences of extremely corrupt and immoral colonization practices by the European hegemony to start with.

    "We can't afford it" is a cop out, it allows you to exercise very expensive social programs at home while condemning others to rot in hell, regardless of what flowery language you choose to make to defend your choices.

  30. @ Carrick

    "Humanitarian needs" ???

    ya, ok so out of the 30 plus governments the US has overthrown since WW II some of which were democratic btw how many of those were for humanitarian needs rather than for the needs of corporations like the United Fruit company? Or some other corporation?

    How is covert and overt operations by the US in more than 100 nations at the moment humanitarian given our wholesale killing in some of these areas?

    Furthermore you also fail to take note of how many times the US has purposefully destabilized nations in order to create a casus belli to step in and intervene "officially" with military force. Cui bono?