Challenging global military spending


The Global Day of Action Against Military Spending is being marked today, April 12th. Last year the world military budget was US$1,630 billion, with America well ahead of other nations. It spent US$698 billion, six times its nearest rival China on US$114 billion. Adding to the scandal, the US spends 20 times as much on its military as it does on economic aid to other nations.

If only a fraction of global military spending was diverted into achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) we’d be there fairly quickly. The world has made some progress towards MDG Goal One: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The number of people living under the poverty line of $1.25 a day has declined from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion. But on the other hand, it is estimated the recent economic crisis has pushed an extra 64 million people into extreme poverty. And around 24,000 children under the age of five die every day from mainly preventable causes – lack of access to adequate food, clean water and basic medicines.

This imbalance between military spending and development assistance is hard to overcome because the US war industry is now so big, and has so much lobbying impact in Washington, that no US president dares to cut the Defence budget.

By the way, New Zealand allocated NZ$2.85 billion to Defence for 2010/11 fiscal year. New Zealand ranks 30th in terms of per capita military expenditure which is above both the global median and global average. Our NZ aid budget did not do as well, with only NZ$525 million allocated for 2010/11.

8 Comments Posted

  1. Yeah pretty disgusting considering a fraction of that budget could solve Americas homeless problem, but you gotta admit the A10 Tank Killer with its GAU8 30mm cannon is an awesome bit of military kit, well worth the money. God bless America and the GAU8.

  2. The US never really de-militerized after WWII and this is shown in the huge debt the US is carrying. Its all going to end in the next 10 years don’t expect any fixes from Washington DC. The two party system is unable to deal with the structual change and the Fed can’t print for ever, well they can but eventually you Idiots in the rest of the world will stop accepting US dollars. Of course technically there is no reason to stop the US from pointing its huge military at countries like NZ and forcing you to accept the US dollars.

    One more month then I am out of the NY area and off to quiet up state NY. Should be able to buy 20 Acres of land up there for nothing and I will spend the next 20 years watching Rome fall. I didn’t want to be in Rome when it was collapsing the bread and circus crowd can become unpredictable when you take away the bread and circuses.

  3. A great post Keith.

    If even a fraction of that military spend was used for humanitarian efforts instead of for killing people, we would have far less suffering in the World.

    There was no excuse for Viet-Nam, and there has been no adequate excuse since the end of the Cold War. The end is coming and its name is deficit.

    I totally agree BJ. Another solution would be to implement renewables so there is less reliance on oil and thus less reason to go to war.

    I watched a John Pilger documentary last week which had a bit where an American attack helicopter killed some Reuters Journalists and a couple of children got killed as well when Iraqis went to load the dead into a van. An American foot soldier tried to save one of the Iraqi children and was admonished by his commander. The gunship pilots joked about the dying children and the fact that an Army vehicle was driving over the dead. They congratulated themselves for the murders. It made me cry.

  4. The US Military is the employer of choice for the right-wing of the US and the employer of last resort for the youth of the country.

    It is a channel through which a great deal of corporate welfare flows.

    There was no excuse for Viet-Nam, and there has been no adequate excuse since the end of the Cold War. The end is coming and its name is deficit.

    AGAIN I point out that if you want to demolish this juggernaut (among many) the key is to remove the fractional-reserve and fiat nature of currency, which destroys the bankers ability to control nations AND the ability to easily borrow the money that supports such belligerent behemoths. Borrowing that kicks the can down the road to our children’s children.

    The schwerpunkt is financial. This is an excellent post Keith. Pull people’s attention to the fact of what is spent on these things.


  5. So lets spell this out: when USA starts a war, say in Iraq Part 1&2, Afghanistan, Libya, etc their weapons industry benefit more from a long drawn out mismanaged affair than they do from a fast effective war. Add to that the US corporations handed the jobs of rebuilding infrastructure in those countries. Oh and I guess we shouldn’t leave out the resources- they strangely only support democracy for citizens of countries with oil, gas pipe lines or other strategic benefits?! Shall we overthrow Sudan, North Korea, maybe Zimbabwe? Nah. Boring.

    The taxpayers of America and the citizens of the world are being mugged on a grand scale! The worst part is that our media would rather focus on real hard core controversy like that crazy Charlie Sheen or the latest ipad release. How can we oppose a system that controls what the public think? NZ has armed forces in Afghanistan, US Spy domes right here in NZ (damaged by brave NZ citizens), Free trade deals being made with US that force us to obey their laws, US lobbyists constantly pushing our politicians to remove our ban on nuclear ships (see Wikileaks), etc, etc. We should be mad as hell and not take it any more!

  6. Thanks for this Keith, it is always good to be reminded about how incredibly bad international priorities are.

    While I definitely think our spending on aid is abysmal I was privileged to talk to Commodore Ross Smith, who is responsible for managing the New Zealand fleet, on a recent plane trip. I was impressed by his descriptions of how efficiently our armed forces are managed, especially compared to the hugely wasteful US services. It is probably useful to remember that our armed forces also contribute to UN activities and emergency support. I am concerned about our activities in Afghanistan, however.

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