Lots and Lots of Guns

How is my military research week going, you ask? Quite well, thanks. Very interesting stuff so far. I’ve been learning about the chain of command and the various ranks in each branch. (The Army and the Navy both have a rank called “captain” but they’re at totally different levels; attention generals, this sort of confusion is inconvenient for me, please fix it).

Besides that, I’ve also been learning about just how powerful the US Armed Forces really are.

I knew, of course, that the United States is considered a superpower on the world stage. But I’d also heard a lot of stuff about strained budgets, China gaining on us, etc., and I guess I sort of assumed that our position had eroded somewhat.

Take a look at the graph below. The bars indicate military expenditure by country, in 2010. Not per capita, not a percentage of GDP, just raw money pumped into the armed forces.

Military Expenditures by Country

If you look at the full table of data, the US spends more on its military than the next nineteen countries combined.

The US has eleven aircraft carriers. The rest of the world, collectively, has nine.

The US has 3 million troops. China, with over three times our population, has only 4.5 million.

The US has over 3,000 fighter plans. Our closest rival in that statistic, Russia, has less than half.

I mean, damn.

Now, despite being a blue-blooded bleeding-heart latte-sipping liberal, I generally see this force dominance as a good thing. Yes, the US has used its power in many, many ways that I’m not happy about. But generally, if someone’s going to have this kind of military dominance, I’m sure as hell glad it’s not China or Russia.

Unfortunately, there are some other areas where the US isn’t so dominant. Education comes to mind. This USA Today article from last year says “Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.” Since the military in a democracy is ultimately accountable to the people, this is a problem. Stupid People Controlling Big Guns is generally not what we want to see.

More as it develops…

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4 responses to “Lots and Lots of Guns

  1. “Stupid People Controlling Big Guns is generally not what we want to see.”

    LOL! Hear hear!

  2. The only thing as scary as stupid people controlling big guns is stupid people controlling all the money.

    I mean, it’s good the more trigger happy countries don’t have this kind of military power (looking at you, africa and middle east), but I often wonder is it really necessary for the US to spend THAT much?

    I mean, would taking a fraction of that money and putting it towards better free education, would it really make a difference in our military standing since we already have such a huge lead?

    I worry that if something were to happen that would cripple our military power, the other countries would eagerly jump up to crush us out of spite.

    • Should the defense budget be cut? It’s a good question, and questions like that are one reason I started doing this research in the first place. If you’re going to cut, the next question is: where? What specific objectives do we have for the two additional aircraft carriers we’re building now (for example)? Which cuts put our troops in more danger, and which are relatively safe? I’d like to know the answers to more of those questions.

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