The Military Industrial Complex
It’s important to realize just how vastly bloated the scale of U.S. Military spending is.
The first figure compares officially reported (and incomplete) US defense spending for 2011 ($739.3 billion) to the rest of the top ten defense spenders (also as officially reported): They are China, the UK, France, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India and Brazil—in that order. See the budget numbers at the link: note that not one breaks the $100 billion threshold, let alone coming anywhere close to the US. Added all together, the nine come to roughly two-thirds of the US amount, showing not balance but imbalance.
However, the contraposition of US spending to these nine is a bit odd; it suggests there is some sort of analytical comparison to be made between the US and these nine countries, other than that they are the next nine in spending levels. It would make more sense to compare US spending to that of opponents, or at least potential opponents. Assuming for the moment that China and Russia are “potential opponents” (an assumption often made by Cold Warriors with a hangover or others with no great respect for the ability of US policy makers to learn to live with regional powers or even a future superpower), the combined total for China ($89.8 billion) and Russia ($52.7 billion) comes to $142.5 billion.
Consider how puny that $142.5 billion is compared to the US’s $739.3 billion. Showing that relationship in a bar graph would almost seem to be a conscious act in diminishing China and Russia or bloating US spending. That, nonetheless, is the appropriate comparison. Moreover, adjusting it for the defense budgets of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Somalia or anyone else won’t change a thing. Not one of the latter breaks the $10 billion barrier, and if you add the defense related spending not officially reported (including for the US), the basic relationship in these spending totals will not likely change: The US spends roughly five times what these other countries spend.
In other words, the US defense budget is not just dominant; it is operating at a level completely independent of the perceived threat. In the nineteenth century, the Royal Navy sized itself to the fleets of Britain’s two most powerful potential enemies; America’s defense budget strategists declare it will be “doomsday” if we size to anything less than five times China and Russia combined.
America could cut its military spending in half and still so dramatically outspend the entire rest of the world that there would still be no functional comparison.