Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Comparison as the Thief of Joy: Military Spending Edition

The quote "comparison is the thief of joy" is all about envy, right?  Because the comparative method has given much joy to me over the years and much career success.  Plus my students loved my comparing of apples and oranges.

Anyhow, I saw this figure today and I could not help but think comparatively:

From a Canadian perspective, is the glass half full or half empty? Rather than thinking in terms of % of GDP, which is a silly indicator in many ways (hey, we look better because our economy tanked), how about how much is being spent compared to friends and foes.  Canada spends Just a bit less than Iran?  Canada is in a much safer region.  Canada spends less than Brazil?  Well, Brazil's defense/GDP isn't great, but it is a BRIC and regional power and all that.  Canada spends less than South Korea?  Of course.  That Canada spends just about the same as Israel is kind of fun--small territory, small population but intense threat environment and large domestic role vs large territory, larger population (not that large) and few real conventional military threats.  So, maybe Canada spends a fair amount after all? Should it spend more?  Probably.  Should it spend 2%?  No.  Should we actually focus on what is being bought and for what?  Definitely.

Germany spends a fair amount, 9th, but what does it get for its defence euro?  Not a ready force, that's for certain.  Is it that they don't spent money on readiness, making sure their planes can fly, their ships can sail, etc?  Or is that they spend it poorly.  Something I will ask when I visit this spring.

Japan spends more than Germany?  And now is increasingly spending on big stuff--a bigger F35 buy (so they can put some on their ships--the fiction of not having aircraft carriers is going to die soon), more anti-missile stuff, etc.  Some of the new purchases really push the whole "defense only" stance.  What does Japan really need aircraft carriers for?  Hmmm.  Interesting times.

US spends more than the rest of the top ten, more or less, right?  With great power comes great defense budgets.  This is not a story of other countries spending too little and the US defending the planet, but the US having its own logic of spending, driven partly by a desire to influence things around the world and partly by this whole Congress thing.  And, yes, US defense spending is a subsidy to Boeing and other companies that compete in civilian sectors.

Anyhow, we didn't justify our case selection for the Dave/Phil/Steve project based on size of spending, but we do have 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16 as cases.  We aren't looking at autocracies (so no China, Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia), and we didn't exclude countries with smaller militaries and smaller budgets (New Zealand, Belgium, etc).  The one country that we probably should have included?  Nope, not Italy--if their defense attache can't get permission to talk to me, going there ain't going to work out, but India. Maybe in the next project.

1 comment:

Tom Williams said...

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