I was thinking about this while reading a report on the Jane’s Defence server. It seems that the US defense budget was 46% of global military spending in 2003. It’s is expected to equal the rest of the world’s combined expenditure in 2006.
I wonder about these totals. The numbers from this page from 2003 indicate that the US defense budget was 49% of the global total even back then. This page at GlobalSecurity.org pretty much agrees with that, even though some of the figures are different. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out that we’ve passed the halfway mark already.
There are a few observations that I can make about all of this. One is that all of this money that America is spending isn’t directly tied into present military capability. The US leads the world in R&D spending, including military technology. (The US accounted for 89% of all R&D dollars in 2003. It may have changed since then.) A significant amount of this cash is going towards projects to ensure that a future belligerent will have little chance to destroy the US, even if the present rosy economic climate dissolves in the future.
Don’t agree? We’ve already seen some evidence of the technology gap. Unless something drastic happens to change this state of affairs, and unless it happens very soon, this disparity in ability is only going to get even more obvious.
Another thing that springs to mind is that the Socialist welfare programs that our European friends find so worthwhile must be even more damaging than I thought. For decades the countries that are now trying to unite under the European Union banner have slashed defense budgets to the bone in order to bribe their voters, but they still can’t match the US in either prosperity or growth. Considering that one of the major reasons for their ever-shrinking international influence is their inability to exert control over catastrophic and unforeseen events, I would have hoped that they could at least say that they managed to buy something meaningful by mortgaging their place in future history.
It’s important to put all of this in the proper perspective. Most of the recent increases in US military spending are directly linked to the War on Terror. Specifically the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Projecting power is expensive, there’s no denying that. It’s just that the rest of the world has taken a look at the figures and decided that it would be more cost effective to only buy what you need to defend your own borders. The US has run the same numbers and decided that it would be too costly to leave it to someone else.