Who Really Spends the Most on Their Armed Forces?

The Guardian has some revealing infographics:

Yep, the United States spent a staggering $607bn (£402 bn) on defence in 2008. Currently engaged in what will likely be the longest ground war in US history in Afghanistan. Harbourer of thousands of nuclear weapons. 1.5m soldiers. Fleets of aircrafts, bombs and seemingly endless amounts of military technology.

The defence budgets of the other top nine countries can be neatly accommodated inside the US budget.

So the US is an aggressive, war-mongeringing military machine, right? And the numbers prove it. But is that true? Is that the whole picture?

First of all, the enormity of the US military budget is not just down to a powerful military-industrial complex. America is a rich country. In fact, it’s vastly rich. So its budget is bound to dwarf the others.

It doesn’t seem fair to not factor in the wealth of a country when assessing its military budget. So, if you take military budgets as a proportion of each country’s GDP, a very different picture emerges.

The US is knocked down into 8th place by such nations as Jordan, Burundi and Georgia. The UK plunges to 29th. Why are these other nations spending so much on their military?

Read More in the Guardian

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  • sam w

    This is pretty silly. All it tells us is that underdeveloped countries spend a greater part of their GDP on defense. If your GDP is much lower than the US's, but you still have substantial defense needs, than yes, naturally, your military expenditures are going to be bigger as a percentage of GDP. In all likelihood, you could similarly find underdeveloped countries whose welfare expenditures as a percentage of GDP exceed those of France or Sweden.

    Further, the military expenditures of some of the countries listed, particularly Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are only possible *because of* US military aid.

    • Matt

      absolutely right, except that in saudi arabia (as opposed to jordan, which does receive heavy military aid from usa) the reason is more related to the fact that they are in an unstable environment and that their gdp is largely disposable – it comes from oil and lands directly in the lap of the govt, meaning they have enough gdp to take care of the needs of their citizens and spend a huge amount on the military.

      the list of ten big spenders by gdp is full of countries that are in remarkably strange situations, either because they're oil rich countries that live outside of the normal means, they are in highly valuable geopolitical territory and therefore involved in a slow-moving game of Risk, or they're very small nations (meaning that they have to spend a high proportion of gdp just to cover the military basics). the question to ask is: why is the usa in that list of countries? it sticks out like a sore thumb.

      more to the point, the initial post implies that the USA economy dwarfs that of the countries compared to. not the case – USA economy is either similar to, or smaller than, say, that of UK + Germany + Japan + France, who collectively spend about a third of the amount on the military as the USA.

      • Synapse

        Even so, according to the proportion, the US only spends twice the percent of the budget that the UK does.

        • Matt

          firstly, twice as much per capita is a huge amount more.

          secondly, uk itself is already a big military spender. it is a country of 60 million people which wants to play a big role in several invasions around the world, while maintaining troop presence in several friendly countries. uk also has one of the biggest navies in the world.

          thirdly, uk and usa funnel a lot of hidden money into their military potential, providing all kinds of financial aid to military contractors.

    • tonyviner

      I am not sure I would call what is happening in Myanmar 'defense'. Only if you consider the Holocaust Germany's way of defending themselves from the Jews of Europe does this logic make sense. All I am saying is that we need not mince words, let's call a spade a spade. Defense Department? I don't think Orwell meant for us to try to make his book come true.

  • http://twitter.com/sciamachy Sciamachy

    Probably scared shitless of the guys with 1.5m soldiers & enough nukes to blow the solar system away, I'd say. If your neighbour has a huge army, you need one too, or you become his bitch.

  • 5by5

    So an underdeveloped dictatorship spends more money in per capita income on military crap than the U.S.

    I fail to see how this excuses the mindboggling waste of it all.

    Moreover, why in flipping hell would we seek to emulate such a country? Shouldn't we be moving on to some sort of BETTER way of living, than the relentless paranoia exhibited by some tin pot dictator??

    We can destroy the entire Earth six times over. When will we finally feel “safe”? When is it enough?

    The whole thing is just LAME. If we took even one year's worth of DOD budget and spent it on humanitarian aid instead, how much more secure would we be with that many more new FRIENDS in the world? For heaven's sake, if we spent it on the space program instead, hell, we'd already have colonies on Mars by now.

    Time for the human race to grow the hell up already.

    • tonyviner

      No.

    • true_liberal

      The US spends lots more on education, humanitarian aid, & various welfare programs than almost any other country. The problem is – we don't get much bang for the buck. So much of the aid is wasted through bureaucracy and other inefficiencies. Private schools & charities in general are way more efficient.

  • nemoide

    I think this is a pretty interesting article. If nothing else it makes the USA's warlike tendencies seem less fanatical than those of other countries..

    Although I remember learning that roughly half of all tax revenue goes towards defense, which is still a discomforting info-nugget.

  • nemoide

    I think this is a pretty interesting article. If nothing else it makes the USA's warlike tendencies seem less fanatical than those of other countries..

    Although I remember learning that roughly half of all tax revenue goes towards defense, which is still a discomforting info-nugget.

  • Polymorpheous

    technology ain't cheap

  • emperorreagan

    This list makes the US spending look even more insane. You have to bust out the comparisons to third world batshit dictatorships to try to say, yeah, the US spending as a percentage of GDP isn't nearly ridiculous as Myanmar's? The US isn't as bad as a bunch of countries that spend tons on their military in no small part because of internal threats/trying to keep their own people in line, like the Saudis?

    I am not buying the justification that article tries to make.

  • emperorreagan

    This list makes the US spending look even more insane. You have to bust out the comparisons to third world batshit dictatorships to try to say, yeah, the US spending as a percentage of GDP isn't nearly ridiculous as Myanmar's? The US isn't as bad as a bunch of countries that spend tons on their military in no small part because of internal threats/trying to keep their own people in line, like the Saudis?

    I am not buying the justification that article tries to make.

  • Hadrian999

    come on people the ability to bomb the shit out of people around the world is way more important than
    education , health care, or developing our own energy resources.

  • GoodDoktorBad

    De-population seems to be the goal here, or is it the result?

    “…..ashes, ashes, we all fall down”

    Happy Easter………..

  • ADM

    The real question is how much does it cost to keep the Taleban combat effective? Significantly less than the billions spent by the US/UK & Coalition would be my guess, AKs and IEDs come cheap…

  • true_liberal

    The US spends lots more on education, humanitarian aid, & various welfare programs than almost any other country. The problem is – we don't get much bang for the buck. So much of the aid is wasted through bureaucracy and other inefficiencies. Private schools & charities in general are way more efficient.

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