Perspective on American Defense Budget

The 2015 (fiscal year) American defense budget is approximately 600 billion.

If the American defense budget were a state’s GDP, it would be ranked twentyfirst in the world.

Rank Country 2017
1 United States 19,417.14
2 China 11,795.30
3 Japan 4,841.22
4 Germany 3,423.29
5 United Kingdom 2,496.76
6 India 2,454.46
7 France 2,420.44
8 Brazil 2,140.94
9 Italy 1,807.43
10 Canada 1,600.27
11 Russia 1,560.71
12 Korea 1,498.07
13 Australia 1,359.72
14 Spain 1,232.44
15 Indonesia 1,020.52
16 Mexico 987.303
17 Turkey 793.698
18 Netherlands 762.694
19 Saudi Arabia 707.379
20 Switzerland 659.368
21 United States Defense Budget 650
22 Argentina 628.935
23 Taiwan Province of China 566.757
24 Sweden 507.046
25 Poland 482.92
26 Belgium 462.715
27 Thailand 432.898
28 United Arab Emirates 407.21
29 Nigeria 400.621
30 Norway 391.959
31 Austria 383.509
32 Islamic Republic of Iran 368.488
33 Israel 339.99
34 Hong Kong SAR 332.266
35 Philippines 329.716
36 South Africa 317.568
37 Malaysia 309.86
38 Colombia 306.439
39 Denmark 304.216
40 Ireland 294.193
41 Singapore 291.86
42 Venezuela 251.589
43 Chile 251.22
44 Bangladesh 248.853
45 Finland 234.524
46 Vietnam 215.829
47 Peru 207.072
48 Portugal 202.77
49 New Zealand 198.043
50 Czech Republic 196.068
51 Greece 193.1
52 Romania 189.79
53 Iraq 189.432
54 Algeria 173.947
55 Qatar 173.649
56 Kazakhstan 157.878
57 Kuwait 126.971
58 Hungary 125.297
59 Angola 122.365
60 Sudan 115.874
61 Morocco 105.623
62 Puerto Rico 99.727
63 Ecuador 97.362
64 Ukraine 95.934
65 Slovak Republic 89.134
66 Sri Lanka 84.023
67 Ethiopia 78.384
68 Dominican Republic 76.85
69 Kenya 75.099
70 Myanmar 72.368
71 Oman 71.325
72 Guatemala 70.943
73 Uzbekistan 68.324
74 Luxembourg 59.997
75 Costa Rica 59.796
76 Panama 59.486
77 Uruguay 58.123
78 Belarus 54.689
79 Libya 54.411
80 Lebanon 53.915
81 Bulgaria 52.291
82 Tanzania 51.194
83 Croatia 50.084
84 Macao SAR 45.728
85 Slovenia 43.503
86 Lithuania 42.826
87 Ghana 42.753
88 Turkmenistan 42.355
89 Democratic Republic of the Congo 41.098
90 Jordan 40.506
91 Tunisia 40.289
92 Bolivia 39.267
93 Azerbaijan 38.583
94 Serbia 37.739
95 Côte d’Ivoire 36.873
96 Bahrain 34.31
97 Cameroon 29.547
98 Paraguay 28.743
99 Latvia 27.795
100 El Salvador 27.548
101 Yemen 27.189
102 Uganda 27.174
103 Estonia 23.422
104 Nepal 23.316
105 Zambia 23.137
106 Iceland 22.97
107 Honduras 21.79
108 Trinidad and Tobago 21.748
109 Papua New Guinea 21.189
110 Cambodia 20.953
111 Afghanistan 20.57
112 Cyprus 19.648
113 Bosnia and Herzegovina 16.78
114 Botswana 15.564
115 Senegal 15.431
116 Zimbabwe 15.285
117 Lao P.D.R. 14.971
118 Mali 14.344
119 Jamaica 14.272
120 Gabon 14.208
121 Nicaragua 13.748
122 Georgia 13.723
123 Brunei Darussalam 12.326
124 Albania 12.294
125 Burkina Faso 12.258
126 Mauritius 12.245
127 Namibia 11.765
128 Equatorial Guinea 11.686
129 Mozambique 11.17
130 Malta 11.164
131 FYR Macedonia 10.951
132 Armenia 10.741
133 Madagascar 10.372
134 Mongolia 10.271
135 Chad 9.636
136 The Bahamas 9.172
137 Rwanda 8.918
138 Benin 8.792
139 Republic of Congo 8.341
140 Haiti 7.897
141 Niger 7.674
142 Moldova 7.409
143 Tajikistan 7.242
144 Guinea 6.936
145 Kyrgyz Republic 6.854
146 Kosovo 6.809
147 Malawi 6.182
148 Eritrea 6.051
149 Mauritania 5.063
150 Fiji 4.869
151 South Sudan 4.812
152 Barbados 4.759
153 Togo 4.554
154 Montenegro 4.185
155 Sierra Leone 4.088
156 Swaziland 3.938
157 Suriname 3.641
158 Guyana 3.591
159 Maldives 3.578
160 Burundi 3.384
161 Timor-Leste 2.727
162 Lesotho 2.439
163 Bhutan 2.308
164 Liberia 2.215
165 Djibouti 2.088
166 Central African Republic 1.992
167 Belize 1.829
168 Cabo Verde 1.637
169 San Marino 1.551
170 Seychelles 1.475
171 Antigua and Barbuda 1.454
172 St. Lucia 1.428
173 Solomon Islands 1.245
174 Guinea-Bissau 1.166
175 Grenada 1.089
176 The Gambia 1.041
177 St. Kitts and Nevis 0.951
178 Samoa 0.843
179 Vanuatu 0.829
180 St. Vincent and the Grenadines 0.809
181 Comoros 0.654
182 Dominica 0.539
183 Tonga 0.422
184 São Tomé and Príncipe 0.355
185 Micronesia 0.334
186 Palau 0.315
187 Marshall Islands 0.188
188 Kiribati 0.173
189 Nauru 0.114
190 Tuvalu 0.036
191 Egypt n/a
192 Pakistan n/a
193 Syria n/a

Keep in mind that this doesn’t even include the vast intelligence apparatus created after 9/11.

All data are in current, USD. The scale is billions.

You can see the original data here.

 

 

American Versus Russian Intervention

Excellent WaPo piece about American intervention by Simon Waxman.

The point of the article is to lend understanding about why Putin supported a Trump presidency, but what I found most insightful was his point about Putin and Syria.

Of course, Putin does not oppose militant humanitarianism for idealistic reasons. He, too, claims to be a militant humanitarian. In justifying Russian policies toward Syria and Ukraine, Putin and his supporters have explicitly relied on arguments the Clinton administration used in Kosovo. If NATO can stumble into Yugoslavia’s civil war, why can’t Russia do the same in Syria? Indeed, Russia is Syria’s ally, sworn by treaty to protect its government. And if Saddam Hussein’s genocide against Kurds was a reason to violently unseat him from power, then why shouldn’t Russia protect persecuted ethnic Russians, as it has claimed to do in Georgia and Ukraine? If there is a principled difference between the Clinton and Putin approaches to militant humanitarianism, it is that the latter is essentially conservative, seeking to preserve the status quo or restore the status quo ante, and the former is transformative, attempting to build new states along lines preferred by U.S. politicians and strategists.

The rest can be read here.

His homepage is here.

 

BBC interview with North Korean Diplomat

They are not Iran. They have no ideology they want to export.

They want the regime to survive.

As Vice-Foreign Minister Han made clear to me, North Korea has learned the lessons from recent history, in particular the US-led attempts at regime change in Iraq and Libya.

 

“If the balance of power is not there, then the outbreak of war is imminent and unavoidable.”

 

“If one side has nukes and the other side doesn’t, and they’re on bad terms, war will inevitably break out,” he said.

 

“This is the lesson shown by the reality of the countries in the Middle East, including Libya and Syria where people are suffering from great misfortune.”

I’m not defending the regime (they aren’t the sort of government I want to be ruled by) yet if America does want to fix this issue it should address it’s post-cold war foreign policy first, NK foreign policy second.

From a third party view, NK foreign policy appears to be rational.

You can read the rest here.

Background on Policy Options for a Nuclear North Korea.

With the end of “strategic patience,” I wanted to direct attention to Doug Bandow’s recent work on the North Korea problem. Nothing about the paper is libertarian (I think the stock libertarian response would be that a nuclear North Korea is either 1) rational NK policy to preserve the regime or 2) none of America’s business) but the paper is the one of the best introductions to how complicated the situation is.

Below is the introduction. A longer read but it is so well written you can get through it within one sitting.

Northeast Asia is perhaps the world’s most dangerous flashpoint, with three neighboring nuclear powers, one the highly unpredictable and confrontational North Korea. For nearly a quarter century the United States has alternated between engagement and containment in attempting to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons.

 

Unfortunately, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has accelerated its nuclear and missile programs since Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011. Washington has responded with both bilateral and multilateral sanctions, but they appear to have only strengthened the Kim regime’s determination to develop a sizeable nuclear arsenal. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has grown increasingly frustrated with its nominal ally, but the PRC continues to provide the DPRK with regime-sustaining energy and food aid.

 

The United States and South Korea, in turn, have grown frustrated with Beijing, which is widely seen as the solution to the North Korea problem. However, the Obama administration’s approach has generally been to lecture the PRC, insisting that it follow American priorities. Unsurprisingly, successive Chinese leaders have balked.

 

China does possess an unusual degree of influence in Pyongyang, but Beijing fears an unstable DPRK more than a nuclear DPRK. From China’s standpoint, the possible consequences of a North Korean collapse—loose nukes, mass refugee flows, conflict spilling over its border— could be high. The Chinese leadership also blames Washington for creating a threatening security environment that discourages North Korean denuclearization.

 

Thus, the United States should change tactics. Instead of attempting to dictate, the United States must persuade the Chinese leadership that it is in the PRC’s interest to assist America and U.S. allies. That requires addressing China’s concerns by, for instance, more effectively engaging the North with a peace offer, offering to ameliorate the costs of a North Korean collapse to Beijing, and providing credible assurances that Washington would not turn a united Korea into another U.S. military outpost directed at the PRC’s containment.

 

Such a diplomatic initiative still would face strong resistance in Beijing. But it may be the best alternative available.

 

Recreating China’s Imagined Empire

That is the title of Ian Johnson’s review of Howard W. French’s Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power. 

 

Regarding Chinese policy of cliaming owndership of South China Sea, Johnson writes

China’s leaders have not directly discussed theses actions, but broadly say that their claims are based on history. The argument is simple: because Chinese ships once sailed here, the reefs and shoals are Chinese. but as French puts it:

 

“These historical claims are not worth exploring because of any legal power they might possess. Almost all non-Chinese experts agree that claiming distant waters are one’s own “historic waterway” is not something that international law or conventions governing the sea either contemplate or permit…

 

The merit our attention instead because of how they speak to China’s ambivalence about the international system itself, and to the continuing resonance of a certain imperial perspective – tian xia.”

My view is that Chinese behavior in the SCS is mostly a form of balancing American military policy, but Johnson’s review is an interesting exploration of how China’s behavior is shaped by its history.

It is gated, but you can read the review here.

Russian Advisers Help Taliban in Contested Province

Russia’s role in Afghanistan was questioned again Tuesday when the provincial police chief in Uruzgan told Afghan media that intelligence reports showed visiting Russian generals were providing Taliban militants with weapons and training.

 

“Eleven Russians, including two women, dressed in doctor’s uniforms and guarded by four armed Taliban, along with an Afghan translator, have been spotted in various parts of the province,” Ghulam Farooq Sangari, Uruzgan police chief, told VOA’s Afghan service. “They have been enticing people against the government, providing training and teaching how to assemble land mines.”

The reporting is by Noor Zahid. You can read the rest of the article here.

Does the 54 billion already exist?

The $54 billion defense spending increase the White House has proposed is a sign that President Trump intends to keep his promise to rebuild the military. Yet simply increasing the defense budget will not be enough. The president must fundamentally reshape the way Washington approaches defense spending if he hopes to be successful.

 

Our defense budget is a sieve for congressional pet projects, special interest contracts, and social engineering programs. Pumping more fuel into the tank is little use if you don’t patch the holes in the bottom first.

There is more than enough money already allocated to make American “safer.” The US military, just like any large institution, is grossly inefficient and rent seeking is rampant.

You can read the rest here. The author is James Hasson.

Some of the best fear mongering of 2017…

“Chemical safety isn’t the only failure. The Transportation Security Administration, our most direct answer to the 9/11 hijackings, missed 95 percent of weapons and mock explosives smuggled through in a 2015 test, and it now faces $80 million in cuts under President Trump’s proposed budget (flight security fees would increase, but the money would go to the border wall). The biodefense sensors DHS deployed after the 2001 anthrax attacks don’t work reliably, and as Steven Brill reported in the Atlantic, nearly half of the thousands of hospitals that hold radioactive materials suitable for a dirty bomb have inadequate security.”

Maybe the threat of terrorism isn’t as grave as we make it out to be? Maybe it is all threat inflation?

You can read the article here.

The title is “I write thrillers. My research showed me how easily terrorists can strike us.”

What Trump Calls Strength, China Calls Stupidity

That is the title of James Palmer’s recent FP piece.

Here is one bit

Trump might have thought he was signaling a bold willingness to use force to his visitor, but China regards U.S. military might as early U.S. statesman Elbridge Gerry once did the prospect of standing army: “Like a standing member; an excellent assurance of domestic tranquillity, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.” China’s happy to gradually extend power elsewhere, especially in its own neighborhood. But it hasn’t gone to war for 38 years, since the last spasms of the Maoist era produced a blundering invasion of Vietnam in 1979. (In that time frame, the United States has gone to war in well over a dozen countries, and Russia in close to a dozen.) Beijing views Washington’s scatter-shot, flip-flop approach to foreign policy — especially in the post-Cold War era — as destabilizing, foolish … and useful.

 

As with all of American blundering in the Middle East, China is the biggest beneficiary of the recent airstrikes in Syria. Not only does it divert attention away from the “region of the future,” it also heightens the suspicions of potential regional rivals, Russia and China. If you want to know why geopolitics has returned, the American use of force in nonstrategic areas is a start.

You can read the rest here.

 

 

Don’t escalate the fight against ISIS.

 

President Trump has identified ISIS as his highest priority and, acting accordingly, has deployed 1,000 Marines to Syria, pledged future support to Iraq, and requested an additional 5 billion dollars to help escalate the fight.

 

There are good reasons for the United States to be concerned with ISIS. At its height, some estimated that ISIS controlled approximately 35,000 thousand square miles including such major cities as Mosul, Ramdi, Falluja, and Raqqa. Outside of the Middle East they have inspired similar style caliphates, such as Boko Haram, as well as terrorist attacks against the west.

 

Yet, it is still not clear that it is in America’s interest to get furthered involved in this fight. This is because there are other groups in the region who have a stronger incentive to defeat ISIS and, by most metrics, appear to be doing just that.

 

According to IHS Conflict Monitor, ISIS lost approximately a quarter of its territory in 2016. Ramdi and Falluja were recaptured and ISIS is on the verge of losing Mosul and Raqqa. Their reduction in territory was accompanied by an estimated loss of 50,000 fighters.

 

Their financial problems are mounting as well. It has been reported that the Caliphate’s monthly revenue and oil production are down 30 percent and salaries have been cut nearly in half.

 

All of this has resulted in a lowered morale, an increase in infighting, and a rise in desertions.

 

American air strikes certainly played a role in creating this situation, yet it is probably not in America’s interest to get furthered involved in the conflict. ISIS is already battling a long list of enemies in the region that include the Assad regime, the Russian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Iranian, and Turkish governments, the Kurds, various Sunni rebel groups, Hezbollah, and basically most of the Muslim population at this point. All of these groups have different reasons for getting involved in the conflict, and at times their regional interests conflict with one another, yet all have an interest in defeating ISIS. Despite the complicated politics of the region, they have been working together to do this. To give just a few examples, Russia and Turkey have fought together in Al Bab, Iran has deployed its military to support the Assad regime and Iraqi government, and a variety of local militias which include Arabs, Syrian Christians, Turkmen, and Kurds are working together in taking back Raqqa.

 

ISIS poses the biggest threat to the region, not America. Therefore, it should be the regional forces that take the lead in defeating them, not some country on the other side of the world. Despite not always being well coordinated, this is what is happening. The Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian governments as well as the various local non-state entities have all made serious advances into former ISIS territory and have seriously reduced ISIS ranks. With the momentum for an ISIS defeat growing, the United States may be tempted to rush in and tip the balance, but it would be wise not to interfere. Further American involvement would reduce the incentive of the local forces to continue their fight against the organization as well as possibly producing unintended consequences. It was after all the American invasion of Iraq and the de-Ba’athification of the Baathist regime that lead to the creation of ISIS in the first place. There is no way to know how an American escalation of the fight will complicate the current conflict and with ISIS on the ropes, the United States would be wise to leave well enough alone and continue to let the local powers take the lead in defeating ISIS.

 

Brian Clark is a foreign policy researcher living in Beijing, China. He blogs about international politics at www.managinghistory.com