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.

 

 

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.

Still the best piece on Islamic/Arab terrorism.

Fareed Zakaria’s classic Newsweek essay, “The Politics of Rage: Why do they hate us?” is still the best discussion of the roots of Arab terrorism.

Here is one bit of this work.

America thinks of modernity as all good–and it has been almost all good for America. But for the Arab world, modernity has been one failure after another. Each path followed–socialism, secularism, nationalism–has turned into a dead end. While other countries adjusted to their failures, Arab regimes got stuck in their ways. And those that reformed economically could not bring themselves to ease up politically. The Shah of Iran, the Middle Eastern ruler who tried to move his country into the modern era fastest, reaped the most violent reaction in the Iranian revolution of 1979. But even the shah’s modernization–compared, for example, with the East Asian approach of hard work, investment and thrift–was an attempt to buy modernization with oil wealth.

 

It turns out that modernization takes more than strongmen and oil money. Importing foreign stuff–Cadillacs, Gulfstreams and McDonald’s–is easy. Importing the inner stuffings of modern society–a free market, political parties, accountability and the rule of law–is difficult and dangerous. The gulf states, for example, have gotten modernization lite, with the goods and even the workers imported from abroad. Nothing was homegrown; nothing is even now. As for politics, the gulf governments offered their people a bargain: we will bribe you with wealth, but in return let us stay in power. It was the inverse slogan of the American revolution–no taxation, but no representation either.

 

The new age of globalization has hit the Arab world in a very strange way. Its societies are open enough to be disrupted by modernity, but not so open that they can ride the wave. They see the television shows, the fast foods and the fizzy drinks. But they don’t see genuine liberalization in the society, with increased opportunities and greater openness. Globalization in the Arab world is the critic’s caricature of globalization–a slew of Western products and billboards with little else. For some in their societies it means more things to buy. For the regimes it is an unsettling, dangerous phenomenon. As a result, the people they rule can look at globalization but for the most part not touch it.

For the most part still current and instructive. Do read the entire thing here.

Obama The Restrainer?

There is a discussion over at War On The Rocks regarding Obama’s foreign policy legacy.

Paul Miller of the Clements Center for National Security at The University of Texas at Austin argues

…In his [Obama] eagerness to avoid making Bush’s mistakes, he made a whole new set of mistakes. He over-interpreted the recent past, fabricating the myth about a hyper-interventionist establishment. As a result, he overreacted to the situation he inherited in 2009 and, crucially, never adjusted during his eight years in office. In this sense and others, he contrasts starkly with Bush, who made major changes in his second term. The result is that Obama retrenched when he should have engaged. He oversaw the collapse of order across the Middle East and the resurgence of great power rivalry in Europe while mismanaging two wars and reducing America’s military posture abroad to its smallest footprint since World War II. Despite the paeans of Obama’s admirers, this is not a foreign policy legacy future presidents will want to emulate.

Trevor Thrall and John Glaser, both of the CATO institute counter this interpretation, writing

There were many things to dislike about American foreign policy during the Obama years, but too much restraint simply was not one of them. Miller is right to argue that Obama bucked the conventional wisdom in Washington far less often than he himself claimed, but Miller fails to mention that the worst flaws of Obama’s foreign policy — an overreliance on military intervention and overconfidence in the ability of the United States to control political outcomes abroad — were simply carryovers from the Bush administration.

To be sure, Obama was not the one who invaded Afghanistan or Iraq, but he embraced and expanded the global war on terrorism in every other dimension. On his watch, Obama participated in regime change in Libya, ordered a massive increase in a global drone campaign, provided material support to Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen, and escalated (and later maintained) open-ended nation building and internal defense efforts in Afghanistan. Obama was many things, but a restrainer he was not.

My interpretation of this sort of discussion, which has been ongoing for at least the past 5 years, is that those who argue that Obama was a restrainer are confusing a lack of leadership with a foreign policy ideology. All Presidents must work within the system but no one who subscribes to the restraint outlook on foreign policy would have gotten involved in places like Libya, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, or Yemen.

Here is Paul’s original essay.

Trevor and John’s response can be found here.

Long reads but highly recommended.

The roots of populism

Subtitle is “The phenomenon is a wholesale suspicion of the principle of representation itself.”

Here is the most informative line,

Populisms represent what we could call the “democracy of suspicion” whereby the apparatuses of representation (the parliamentary system, the parliamentary “class,” the elite, their pet experts and so on) are subject to hostility, precisely for not being representative enough or, more significantly, for being mere “representatives” in the first place.

Excellent read and a refreshing break from the populism = racism work you see so often.

All populism, regardless of time or geographical context, is a confidence in the “people” and a skepticism in experts. This sentiment is always there yet it needs some sort of social or economic issue to get it up off the ground. In Latin America it has been economic. In America it has been demographics. In Europe, both.

You can read the entire thing here.

PS, this article won the Hennessy prize for essay writing on British politics. It’s author is Thomas Osborne.

Trump the Militarist

In light of the proposed increase in military spending, I decided to share Stephen Wertheim’s recent WaPo piece “Quit calling Donald Trump an isolationist. He’s worse than that.”

Here is one bit.

Trump is no isolationist, whether caricatured or actual. Rather than seeking to withdraw from the world, he vows to exploit it. Far from limiting the area of war, he threatens ruthless violence against globe-spanning adversaries and glorifies martial victory. In short, the president is a militarist.

He also writes,

Facing a vicious world, Trump promises to turn the tables, not turn his back. He talks of grabbing wealth from other countries, most vividly in his mantra to “take the oil” in Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he said in a speech at the CIA. Trump may be posturing, but the posture is militaristic. To announce a lust for oil, to chest-thump about torture, to envisage military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue — these do not achieve strategic objectives so much as exalt brute force. “I’m the most militaristic person there is,” Trump said in the primaries. Perhaps he was telling the truth.

Do read the whole thing.

Trump and Russia: The Right Way to Manage Relations

That is the name of an essay from the March/April edition of the Foreign Affairs.

Here is it’s opening

 

Relations between the United States and Russia are broken,and each side has a vastly different assessment of what went wrong. U.S. officials point to the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and the bloody covert war Russian forces are waging in eastern Ukraine. They note the Kremlin’s suppression of civil society at home, its reckless brandishing of nuclear weapons, and its military provocations toward U.S. allies and partners in Europe. They highlight Russia’s military intervention in Syria aimed at propping up Bashar al-Assad’s brutal dictatorship. And they call attention to an unprecedented attempt through a Kremlin-backed hacking and disinformation campaign to interfere with the U.S. presidential election last November.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his circle view things differently. In Ukraine, Moscow sees itself as merely pushing back against the relentless geopolitical expansion of the United States, NATO, and the EU. They point out that Washington and its allies have deployed troops right up to the Russian border. They claim that the United States has repeatedly intervened in Russian domestic politics and contend, falsely, that former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even incited antigovernment protests in Moscow in December 2011. And they maintain that the United States is meddling in Syria to overthrow a legitimate government, in just the latest example of its unilateral attempts to topple regimes it doesn’t like.

Informative and objective throughout. Highly recommended.

China and the World. Dealing With a Reluctant Power

Very good read at FA on the American behavior towards the Chinese attempts at charting its own path to great power status.

Here is one bit.

Most important, China is a disruptive power but not a revolutionary one. Its size, wealth, and assertive foreign policy lead it to demand significant changes to existing institutions, but it does not seek to overturn the current international order wholesale. Just half a century ago, Mao Zedong’s China did indeed offer a distinctly revolutionary vision of world politics and China’s role in it. Today, in contrast, Beijing doggedly pursues its national interests and territorial claims yet lacks a coherent alternative to the prevailing system and is actually a member of nearly every one of the existing major institutions. Yet China is a reluctant stakeholder—inside the tent, but still ambivalent and often dissatisfied.

Interesting throughout and highly recommended.

My takeaway (although not the main point of the paper) was that China doesn’t want to remake the world in it’s image. The parallel international architecture that China is building is to hedge against the American mission to liberalize the world. Whereas the United States has a “civilizing” dimension to its foreign policy, China just wants to do business.

The author is Evan A. Feigenbaum

 

 

 

Paul Pillar on America in the Middle East

National Interest has a wonderful article penned by Paul Pillar titled “How Donald Trump Should Transform America’s Middle East Policy.”

He states the quite obvious that

An immense share of the blood and treasure the United States has lost overseas in the past couple of decades has been in the Middle East, an expenditure that has not brought proportionate benefits.

You can rattle off the failures easily, from the Iraq invasion to the dithering in Syria. Obama’s Pivot to Asia, which was based on an interpretation of America being over-involved in the Middle East, was a good start in addressing our poorly formulated regional policy. Yet, a significant chunk of his foreign policy legacy will be defined by his inability to disentangle America from Middle Eastern politics. This includes Libya, Yemen, Syria, ISIL, Iran, the Arab Awakening, Peace Process, etc..

What is to be done? The US still has interests in the Middle East, but they should be better defined and more limited. Moving forward, his recommendations include

…the initial principle that the new administration should observe in making policy toward the region is the Hippocratic one of first doing no harm. A second principle is to keep costs and risks commensurate with prospective gains to U.S. interests. A third is to recognize that not all problems, even heart-rending ones, are solvable, and that if they are, the United States is not always best suited to solve them. Often the interests and objectives of other players in the region are better engaged, and this sometimes means taking advantage of the balancing of conflicting interests.

Highly recommended that you read the entire thing (quickly as it will soon be gated).

 

President Obama’s biggest failures.

At the National Interest, Daniel R. DePetris has a piece where he discusses “…the five biggest failures that will at least partially color President Obama’s two terms..”

The list includes

  1. Guantanamo Remains Open
  2. No Mideast Peace Deal
  3. The Syria Red Line
  4. Partisanship Got Worse
  5. A Nation that Remains At War

It is a curious list as you hear very little about Guantanamo, all Presidents fail at the peace process, Republicans decided on day 1 to oppose every aspect of his agenda, and most civilians don’t feel as if they are at war (I’m not convinced that the average voter is aware or even cares about Obama’s light footprint strategy).

Syria is expected, as during the Obama administration over 11 percent of their population were killed and the refugee problem was the biggest threat to the EU project of the past 20 years. But I think his association with Syria will be the tragedy of what happened there and not the “red line” as argued by Daniel. I think the future way we frame Syria will be that Obama was callous and allowed it to happen which is not fair to him but that isn’t the point of Daniel’s list.

Oddly left off the list is the return to geopolitics in Ukraine and the South China Sea, ISIL, the failure of TPP, and what I consider his biggest foreign policy blunder, Libya.

In Libya, it was one policy mistake after another. If 9/11 meant domestic institutions replaced power distributions as America’s biggest security concern, why create a failed state? Why overturn a regime which actually cooperated with the United States on its various weapons program, complicating our credibility with nuclear powers or aspiring nuclear powers. It seems obvious to me that Libya damaged our credibility more than the “red line” ever did. Lastly, if the list is to correctly identify what failures will color the legacy of the Obama administration once he leaves office, Benghazi will also play a role in cementing “all things Libya” as his biggest policy debacle aboard.