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Armed, Overbearing and Dangerous

May 3, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

US military spending is far too excessive for legitimate defense needs

Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations have argued that China’s military budget is excessive for the country’s legitimate defense needs. But US military spending is vastly greater than that of China or any other country. Indeed, Washington’s military budget for this year, including funding for the war in Afghanistan, is about six times Beijing’s official defense budget. Given that China is located in a region with multiple security concerns while the US neighborhood is extremely stable and peaceful, it would seem that it is US military spending that is excessive for legitimate defense needs.

Such an overcommitment of resources to the military is unhealthy both for the US domestic economic health and for minimizing international conflicts. It places an undue burden on US taxpayers while making other countries uneasy and suspicious.

US military spending is far too excessive for legitimate defense needs.”

A new infographic from the Cato Institute shows just how wildly out of proportion Washington’s military spending is to that of other countries. Perhaps the most striking statistic is that the US now accounts for 44 percent of all global military spending. Put another way, the US spends nearly as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. The outsized nature of such outlays is evident in other ways. Twenty percent of the US federal budget is devoted to military spending, while the average for US’ NATO allies is a mere 3.6 percent. Five percent of US annual GDP is allocated to the military, but for the NATO countries, Japan and China, it is well below 2 percent.

Washington’s exorbitant spending encourages allied countries to free ride on US security exertions and keep their own defense budgets lower than they might be otherwise, thereby freeing up financial resources for domestic priorities. Such a de facto subsidy understandably appeals to both the political leaders and the populations of those allies. However, that subsidy also encourages allied countries, especially the members of the European Union, to neglect security problems in their own region, expecting Washington to take care of them instead. And for nations that have an ambivalent or complicated relationship with the US, the effect of its bloated military spending is even more negative.

Big countries such as China, Russia and India have reason to wonder why US leaders give such …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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