Consult www.sipri.org to access the most comprehensive database I am aware of concerning worldwide military expenditures by nation. It will come as no surprise that the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, as always, shows how much more superpower U.S.A. spends per year than any other country on earth. Here are 2015’s biggest spenders. Note that numbers 2, 3, and 4 combined do not equal the U.S. total.
- United States … $596 billion
- China ……….…. $215 billion
- Saudi Arabia .… $87 billion
- Russia ………….. $66 billion
Even my rusty math skills bring that total to nearly $1 trillion. In one year. Four countries. Why is all that spending necessary? Russia appears to want to keep some of its former territories in line, by fear of bombardment and/or invasion. Saudi Arabia has lately been bombing Yemen into a rock pile, perhaps to inflict fear in Iran. China has Taiwan and Japan to keep in check. And of course the United States needs to keep world markets open and free flowing, no matter the cost of human life, no matter the level of severity of the threat; and regimes, we have to monitor regimes and decide which we ill support and which we will support the overthrow of.
Because particular governmental entities ebb and flow between friend and foe—see Egypt and Iraq as easy examples—both sides of most conflicts around the globe are armed with American made weapons. [We were pleased to arm Saddam Hussein in his 10-year, no decision against Iran; we were just as happy to arm Afghani Taliban also for a decade against those pesky Russians.] Miscellaneous countries also buy our airplanes, helicopters, and ammunition.
We buy their oil and lease their land to build bases of all kinds and sizes. Thus, in too many parts of today’s world, the culture of war is more natural than no war. A child born in Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia in the last 10 years has no concept of what living without war means. Our bombs teach them more about their way of life than any textbook ever could, assuming they even go to some semblance of a school.
Democracy and Defense Debt
It is not unpatriotic to question the amount of U.S. tax dollars spent on defense and international security assistance ($676 Billion) . According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities this figure “reflects the underlying costs of the Defense Department. The total also includes the cost of supporting operations in Afghanistan and other related activities, described as Overseas Contingency Operations in the budget, funding for which totaled $74 billion in 2015.” See:
The World Bank publishes a list of countries worldwide and the percentage of Gross Domestic Product spent on military affairs. America comes in at 2%. Consider the places below that spend 0% of GDP on military spending. Zero. [Although I admit to cherry picking this list, it I as representative as it is awesome.]
Antigua Aruba Bahamas Barbados Bermuda Cayman Islands Curacao French Polynesia Greenland Monaco Samoa St. Kitts St. Lucia St. Martin
Aruba doesn’t spend one florin on defense. It, as all places noted above, approximates a semblance of paradise. Is it paradox or irony that these dream destinations boast friendliness and welcome yet no hostile power invades them because they are “jealous of their freedom and way of life”?
Two Different Worlds
When I was in Vietnam I had two R&Rs to Hong Kong, which by the way also spends nil on defense. Twice I fled the jungle for four days of rest and relaxation in the Orient’s version of New York City. I remember one day buying a pack of cigarettes and naively leaving too many Hong Kong dollars on the counter. The cashier nearly fell running after me to return the money. Looking back, the juxtaposition of war and peace was more than a little confusing.
It was difficult returning to my outfit after my first R&R. The second return was brutal–so much had happened in between “vacations.” I never thought of desertion or anything like that, but I think I was much more aware of the futility of the war. I can’t say I matured in Vietnam, but I can say I experienced more of the world during those short trips to Hong Kong.
I wonder if that young guy sitting across from me at the bar in the Grand Hotel was a VC or NVA soldier on R&R.