Global Military Spending Goes Sky-High

By N. Gunasekaran

Already endangered by climate change and global warming, humanity’s survival is put further at risk due to the creeping militarism across the world. The ruling elites, in connivance with corporate economic powers, are squandering precious natural and human resources in order to strengthen their military capabilities. This is happening not only in developed countries like the US but also in developing nations like India. Due to the escalation of militarism, the age-old humanistic dream of global peace is still elusive in the 21st century.

Now, a strange logic lies behind the brute militarism and military aggression. This was well-explained by Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Obama: “The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace,” he declared. With this “noble” intention of preserving peace, the US spent nearly $3 trillion for the Iraq war and even now the Obama administration is sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. So far, not even a bit of peace is achieved in the region. On the contrary, due to the mounting tensions in the region, the military spending and investment to arms accumulation is constantly increasing and the armory of all Asian countries is ever expanding to the dangerous level.

India has allocated $31.71 billion to defense spending for the current fiscal year. It is an increase of 3.98% over the budget estimates of 2009-10. The money is being spent on modernization of Indian armed forces and to buy arms and fighter jets. Chinese military spending is rising every year and now it could top $85 billion, or 1.7% of gross domestic product. Japan’s military budget — estimated at $46.3 billion in 2008 — may be less than 1% of its GDP. (The United States spent $607 billion — more than 4% of its GDP — on military spending in 2008, the last year for which comparable data are available.)

The arms race has intensified in the Middle East. Military exports to the countries in this region have increased enormously. The world’s biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, spends nearly $33 billion on its military, while Gulf countries, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, have also increased their spending for the purchase of arms. It is estimated that the region accounted for 17% of all total global arms trade.

The aggressive militarism makes the military industrial complexes, armament industry and corporates in the weapon production to reap huge profits. For instance, the surge of troops by the US to Afghanistan would result in increased military spending and that would naturally benefit the military contractors. Similarly the modernization of Indian armed forces would be beneficial for Indian companies like Tata Motors Ltd., Larsen and Toubro Ltd., Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Ashok Leyland Ltd., and they would tie up with global defense equipment makers to supply combat vehicles and artillery equipment. Being the leading arms exporter, the US is selling weapons in tens of billions of dollars annually. It is doing business with many Asian countries including India, Pakistan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and Taiwan. To make Asia more militarized, the idea of creating “a global NATO” is constantly discussed in international forums.

Asia also is suffering from the growing nuclear menace. While the US accuses Iran of developing its nuclear device with no concrete evidence, its ally, Israel, has an estimated 200 nukes and it has already rejected international monitoring and controls of its atomic arsenal. A closer military relationship between the US and India has developed after both countries clinched the civilian nuclear agreement and another agreement for joint defense framework. This has increased arms sales to India by US companies. The US policy of containing China through developing cooperation with India has created distrust among other South Asian countries, including China and Pakistan, resulting in further intensification of the nuclear arms race in the region. So, nearly a fourth of the global population living in the Middle East and South Asia is under grave threat of nuclear confrontation. The insurgency-affected areas in Pak-Afghanistan have made it the most dangerous region thanks to the Afghan policy of the US.

The common belief that space would become the theatre for future wars is further squeezing the coffers of leading countries. China, India and Japan are entering space in a big way with a variety of space and research programs.

In the context of growing militarism, when the world spends some $1.46 trillion annually on the military, one wonders whether the common people should be just mute spectators of this dangerous game. They cannot afford to be silent. The historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote that “only 5% of those who died in the first world war were civilians; in the second, the figure increased to 66%” and today 80% to 90% of those affected by war are civilians. So the people have to resist this mad race.

Increased military spending not only increases the escalation of tensions, conflicts and wars, but it also results in severe cuts in welfare programs. The Obama administration froze discretionary domestic spending for programs such as education, nutrition, etc., while increasing funding for nuclear weapons production facilities. Such exercises are evident in all countries who increased their defense spending. So the strong peoples’ movements to safeguard the peoples’ right to lead a secure and decent life would be the fitting rebuttal to the barbaric militarism.

N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2010

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