Posted: May 12th, 2012 | Author: Tom van der Made | Filed under: Economics, Government, International Relations, Military, National economy | Tags: balance, budget, China, defence, economic recession, economy, expenditure, military expenses, priorities, US, world power
As the issue has been brought up in my previous blog, (India; one of the big boys), the current topic will further question the issue of military expenditure.
Victor Davis Hanson, writer for the National Review, has stated that in times of economic crisis, there are two general rules of budgetary reform, first, to scale back expenditures rather than raise taxes, and, second, to look at defence for some of the deepest cuts. The question is when nations decide not to reduce but further increase military spending during an economic crisis, what will be the impact on economic growth and development or other economic areas such as international debt and corruption?
Could the money invested in to military expenses be better off spent on other priorities? What are and should be the priorities in this time and day? These questions should concern everyone around the world. As the34th US President, Dwight David Eisenhower, former five-star General in the United States Army during World War II, mentioned in 1953, “This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children”.
Despite the economic recession affecting most parts of the globe, the world’s military spending continued to grow last year, however, only by 0,3 per cent, exceeding $1.7 trillion. Out of the $1,7 trillion, the US accounted for more than two-fifths. This was revealed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which provides the latest study of world military spending.
The US’ spending is higher today than at any time since the height of World War II. The Pentagon spends more on war than all fifty American states combined spend on health, education, welfare and safety. In general, the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 50% of the world’s total military expenditure.
Over the last 13 years, countries have been steadily increasing their military spending. The US still spends five times as much as China on military expenditure, which could indicate that the US wants to overwhelmingly stay ahead of all the other countries, and stay as the most dominant power in the Pacific and around the world. A poll conducted by CBS News/ New York Times in April of this year registered that 52% of the participants would like to see cut backs in military spending over Medicare and Social Security. Suggested is that countries should be confronting the real on-going and more direct threats concerning the people, such as climate change, hunger, health and human right violations. As reported on the website of RT, a global news broadcasting channel, since 9/11, the US Department of Defence spent around $1trillion on weaponry for troops in Iraq in Afghanistan. Have the post 9/11 fears faded?
In addition, a reality that is making things worse is that most wars have been fought in precisely those countries, like Afghanistan, that could least afford them. For example, according to the World Bank, when it comes to the discussion of Afghanistan’s economy, it is impossible to examine it without giving equal consideration to the difficult security and political situations that overshadow all activities in the country.
As mentioned in the blog, “India; one of the big boys”, military spending has now made India a world actor to be listened to. This is result of India being recognised by the world as both an economic and a military power. Then in this example, reduced military spending would keep India from achieving this status. However, like India, many countries despite their economic development, still struggle with issues such as poverty, signifying that the economic prosperity is not for everyone. This suggests that the economic growth should be put back into nations as to support benefits for the society, not to increase military spending. Does the society face a trade-off between perceived national security needs, international prestige and domestic economic growth?
For the people, spending on health, education and economic growth are perceived as more directly beneficial. Besides, especially in this time of financial struggle, it can be suggested that addressing these issues should be in fact, the priorities in this day and time.
Is too much money being spent making sure the world remains at peace and for nations to keep their super power status up? Most likely, yes. Are the consequences of not having a powerful military significant? Yes. Is it worth it? That remains the question to be answered. What can be stated is that some countries such as the US and China have a vast economy, and without the military spending of the past 65 years, they might not. However, how much money is being spent is perhaps a lot less important than spending it well.