Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 Post–Global Military Expenditures

As I noted in POLI 1140 today, your blog assignment for this week is to write a post related to anything in Chapters 1 or 2 of the Mingst and Arreguin-Toft textbook. You have until midnight, Friday January 20 to publish your post. Here is an example of what I would consider to be a good post–format, content, and length.

Military Expenditures as percentage of GDP

On p. 3 of Chapter 1 of the text (in the Thinking Theoretically section), the authors write:

In brief, realism posits that states exist in an anarchic international system. Each state bases its policies on an interpretation of national interest defined in terms of power.

While there are many types of power–economic, political, prestige, etc.,–the most important source of power and the one which states generally seek to increase as much as possible, is military power. Because of anarchy, realists believe that states are constantly concerned about their security. States that feel more insecure seek to increase their power, thereby increasing the sizes of their military, all else being equal. It would be interesting to find out which states spend a lot on their military, and which states spend less. Fortunately, has compiled the data for us. In their most recent summary of global military expenditures (from 2011), we find some interesting data. I have copied the top 20 (in terms of absolute dollars spent) in the table below. For a list of all countries, click on the link above.

WORLD Gross Domestic Product Military Spending
State GDP rank % GDP
rank Military spending
WORLD $70,155,374,950,000.00

United States $14,120,000,000,000.00 2 5.20% 25 $741,200,000,000.00
China $8,818,000,000,000.00 3 4.30% 23 $380,000,000,000.00
India $3,680,000,000,000.00 5 2.50% 62 $92,000,000,000.00
Russia $2,116,000,000,000.00 8 3.90% 27 $82,500,000,000.00
Saudi Arabia $590,900,000,000.00 23 10.00% 3 $59,090,000,000.00
France $2,094,000,000,000.00 9 2.60% 57 $54,444,000,000.00
United Kingdom $2,123,000,000,000.00 7 2.40% 63 $50,952,000,000.00
Turkey $879,900,000,000.00 17 5.30% 16 $46,634,700,000.00
Germany $2,815,000,000,000.00 6 1.50% 102 $42,225,000,000.00
Korea, South $1,362,000,000,000.00 13 2.70% 53 $36,774,000,000.00
Brazil $2,010,000,000,000.00 10 1.70% 89 $34,170,000,000.00
Japan $4,149,000,000,000.00 4 0.80% 150 $33,192,000,000.00
Italy $1,737,000,000,000.00 11 1.80% 86 $31,266,000,000.00
Indonesia $960,200,000,000.00 16 3.00% 47 $28,806,000,000.00
Iran $825,900,000,000.00 19 2.50% 60 $20,647,500,000.00
Spain $1,359,000,000,000.00 14 1.20% 122 $16,308,000,000.00
Taiwan $734,300,000,000.00 20 2.20% 68 $16,154,600,000.00
Israel $206,900,000,000.00 51 7.30% 6 $15,103,700,000.00
Greece $332,900,000,000.00 35 4.30% 24 $14,314,700,000.00
Canada $1,277,000,000,000.00 15 1.10% 127 $14,047,000,000.00

It is no surprise that the United States leads all countries in military spending, given that it is the world’s largest economy. Last year the USA officially spend about 3/4 of a trillion (that’s with a “T”) dollars on the military.  That amounted to approximately 5.2% of total GDP. In other words, for every dollar that every US citizen earned last year, one nickel went to defense spending. What about other countries? Well, some interesting findings are:

  1. Canada spent only 1.1% of its GDP on military spending, the lowest percentage of any country except for Japan. (Japan, by the way, has been constrained constitutionally from building up its military.) The only other country that’s in Canada’s neighbourhood, with respect to proportional spending on defense, is Spain. What these countries share in common is that they are relatively stable, secure, and safe democracies in relatively safe neighbourhoods–North America and Europe, respectively. Canada, given that it has only one neighbour, and a very friendly one at that, has no need to spend more on defense.
  2. The two highest-spending countries (in % terms) are Saudi Arabia (10%!!) and Israel (7.3%). Saudi Arabia, it would seem, spends a lot of its oil wealth on the military. It seems rather strange  that Saudi Arabia spends so much, given that it is relatively secure from external threat and also maintains the US as a strong ally (for petroleum-related reasons). Saudi Arabia, however, is a highly authoritarian regime and most likely spends the money on military-related matters to maintain domestic peace and control. Israel’s expenditures, on the other hand, are entirely unremarkable given Israel’s neighbourhood and the fact that it has been involved in several wars since its founding in 1948.
  3. Finally, whereas in previous years the US spent more than all other countries combined, China’s rise as an economic power has led to a concomitant rise in its military expenditures. This is maybe why many in the US are concerned about China’s increasing power.

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