In a post I mentioned that the US military budget will soon equal 50% of all defense spending on the planet. (If we haven’t already passed that particular milestone.)
Keith, the author of the excellent gunblog Anthroblogogy, has left a comment asking why this is so. He wonders if it’s due to a sudden and massive US increase in spending, or if it is simply the result of a gradual decline in foreign military budgets.
I think it’s clear that the major reason for these figures is due to the decline of most of the military forces in the world. Just to cite the example with which I’m most familiar, Canada has allowed all of their forces to simply rust away. It’s gotten so bad that they’re buying crappy, worn out submarines that clearly pose more danger to their crews than they ever would to a potential enemy. This is simply unbelievable when one considers that these purchases were supposed to be for front-line weapons, the most advanced in their fleet!
China is seen by many people to be the next big enemy. I suppose they are, if for no other reason than there simply isn’t any other candidate. Much hay has been made about the way that they keep increasing their defense budget every year, but few people mention that it’s still only 1/8 of what the US spends. A subject that’s discussed even less frequently is how the majority of the Chinese weapon systems are antiquated when compared to those of the West, and these systems would have to be replaced or upgraded before they could hope to stand against US forces. This post from Strategypage.com points out that the Chinese are still trying to match the Japanese in combat ability. It would take a great deal of time for the Chinese to achieve force parity with the US even if they could match us dollar for dollar.
This doesn’t mean that the rest of the world’s militaries are no threat, of course. But it does mean that we’re seeing something that’s never happened before. The US is a military power that could, conceivably, conquer the majority of the world using military force but which deliberately chooses to avoid doing so. This is simply astounding, not that the US refuses to use its overwhelming might but that the rest of the free world trusts us enough to hand us the chance.